When I travel, I prefer an Airbnb to call home. It is more than a place to sleep. It is somewhere to spend time and experience the culture of your destination. I have some tips I have learned over the years when booking an Airbnb. I am going to share three steps to booking your dream Airbnb which include how I use the search filter to find a space I love, read the reviews smart, and consider my cost options before booking.
I book the AirBnB by considering what I need to have a good stay, and making sure the parameters I am searching match that need. On our recent trip to Scandinavia, we went with the sweetest couple we adore. That made for a rental search for four people. I set my filters to the following when searching for the Airbnb spaces we stayed in. I have included some notes to explain my choices also.
If I want to get to know the people renting to you when traveling, I am down for sharing a space. But with two couples, we needed our own space.
Research the best time of year to go to your destination first.
I entered four. Sometimes I would put six to weed out the couch-bed setups we didn’t want. You will want to be comfortable during your stay, so make sure everyone will fit! We all wanted to have a comfy place to come back to after a long day of walking.
Two bedroom. Since we were traveling with another couple, we were searching for a two bedroom place with doors. This way, people could sleep in or get up as early as they wanted. These parameters proved rather difficult. But we honestly only had to budge a little in the Copenhagen Airbnb. It was worth it because of the sweet old building and ambiance of the space. A heads up, sometimes people consider living rooms, bedrooms.
For two couples, our requirements were two full, or larger, beds. Pull out couches were not ideal. This is sort of hard to narrow down. The Airbnb posting can say two beds with two bedrooms, and what it really means is a one bedroom apartment with a pull out couch. Look closely at the photos of each listing you might like to confirm the beds are to your expectation. I was looking to make sure the beds were adequate and not, for example, in the middle of the living room, or better yet, in the kitchen! We did settle for a pull out couch in Copenhagen because the good spots were getting snatched up.
At least one. I watch out to see if it is detached somehow.
We wanted a kitchen because eating out was going to be expensive. We needed parking on the premise for our road trip nights. You may also want to look for details you might not immediately consider, like air conditioning or heating. We stayed in an Airbnb in Colorado during some of the hottest days of the summer. I failed to check if there was air conditioning before booking. Being from Arizona, I hadn’t considered there may not be AC!
Personally, I want to be able to walk to at least a few landmarks that are on my list from the Airbnb and to yummy food for any meal. It is especially important to me that I can walk to get a breakfast of local coffee (or honey latte!) and a pastry. I usually start by searching the landmarks I want to see. Then I find out the availability and price of the Airbnb options nearby. This is my first taste of learning the geography and “lay of the land”.
Researching the destination’s area is probably my favorite part. I’m starting to learn about the place we’re going to get to see in real life. I love getting comfortable enough to navigate a new city and this is my crash course. Airbnb doesn’t narrow placement down for you too well, but it is close enough to gauge the options. When researching, see where the closest light rail or train stop is. Make sure to read through the comments and the house manual on the listing to know how long it takes to walk to public transit or the airport. I will message any questions I have to rentals that look amazing, but aren’t quite selling me on proximity to public transit yet. I’m willing to walk a few miles with all of my stuff if the place is stellar.
Do your arrival prep ahead of time. Research the route to your Airbnb before it’s time to navigate there whether by car, foot, or public transit. We often screenshot pictures of the driving and walking maps. This is just in case we have an issue and data or wifi aren’t working for us. We also usually download the Google maps to our phones for the areas we’ll be in and star good spots or landmarks along the way. A lesson learned: at an Airbnb we had to find at midnight in Bergen, there was a simpler route to take when leaving by car. But, that didn’t become obvious until we could survey everything in daylight the next morning. On our arrival night, we just turned on the GPS and went. It was a little more confusing than it needed to be finding our spot because we didn’t check ahead of time.
If there aren’t at least a few reviews, 5 to 10 minimum, I hesitate clicking that “heart” button. I don’t want to get my hopes up about a place that might be a scam, and will auto cancel my reservation as we’re boarding our flight. I did take a chance on our space in Oslo. It had barely any reviews. It met all of my other requirements so well, and our options had dissolved so quickly as I was deciding. I just went for it. If you ever take a chance like I did, have a few backup plans in case they cancel on you. But for us, it was a great experience! No comments might just mean it is a new listing. It may be a great deal at that point because the owner needs reviews before they can charge what they want to.
I also read the comments to get a feel for how many people might have said their reservation was cancelled right before the trip. Auto-cancellation is real and it happened to us a week before we took off to Venice a couple years ago. It was during peak season and there was a 99% occupancy rate in the city the nights we were staying. In a panic I snatched some of the last few beds in the city that were less than our mortgage, in a hostel. To be fair it was a nice hostel. But my husband and I were in separate bunk beds with 12 of our favorite strangers in a room in the city of love. Have a backup plan if you take the chance on a space that has few or no reviews.
In addition to considering reviews, I try to ask one question of the host before I book. It could even be something like “what is your favorite restaurant nearby” or “what are the best directions for getting from the airport to your home”. I’d like to make sure a real person is offering feedback in a timely manner. If I like what they said, and feel good about the items on my list being met, I’m finally ready to book.
Cost is either first or last on my list. Not because it doesn’t matter, but because of supply and demand. If you are booking after a ton of the properties have already been taken, there is no point trying to filter out the high dollar options. You can see the full spread of costs and not be overwhelmed. It’s just the reality of seeing what a cute, comfy, enjoyable place would cost. When I am planning plenty far in advance, this is one of the first filters I set to my ideal price. However, I definitely explore a little more expensive options too. I’d rather splurge one night and get a cheaper place the next than have all mediocre experiences based on cost. Since we had a few travel days in Scandinavia where we would be arriving close to midnight and leaving before check out, I booked the cheapest options I could find that met my minimum requirements. Then we splurged a little for Airbnbs we were spending a few days at, and were really going to enjoy the amenities of.
The places that might be quirky and less expensive, but still reliable because of reviews, are the places you come back with funny stories about. In Bergen, we were trying to find our Airbnb on a road that seemed to not allow cars at midnight. It was also on the top of a very steep hill, which we spent some time on trying to find the acceptable parking spot near the Airbnb. We slept in the fourth floor attic at the top of a narrow spiral staircase. When we woke up, we were greeted by the most ridiculous fuchsia pink rose wallpaper. Those are some funny stories, but not where I want to hang out for three days.
You can be booking your dream Airbnb too, if you know how to look for it. The strategy I have shared has helped us find some amazing spaces that I will remember forever. I hope you find the search experience a fun challenge and enjoy your stay even more once you finally walk through the door! Comment below if you have any questions or want to share your memorable Airbnb experience, good or bad!