Airbnb is one of the largest accommodation providers in the world. Founded in 2008, this San Francisco-based company has properties in more than 34,000 cities in 190 countries. The popular website offers a wide range of choices that include rooms, apartments, houses, villas, and castles.
I started using Airbnb a few years ago when looking for family stays of one week or longer in Australia. I found a number of things about Airbnb to be quite appealing: payment by credit card; a choice of cancel policies that are clearly defined; a 24-hour resolution policy for unexpected issues upon arrival. In addition, each property follows the same listing format that defines the space, amenities, prices, and a general description.
I just recently made a two-week reservation for an apartment overlooking the Douro River in Porto, Portugal. This is our twelfth stay using Airbnb. So far we have been satisfied with our choices, however, there is always some risk involved. Here are a few things that I have learned along the way:
1. It works best for stays of at least one week or when traveling with a larger group. It can definitely save you money, make you feel like a local and provide the extra space and cooking facilities that will provide that “at home” feeling. However, it takes time and patience to use, and there is always, at a minimum, the Airbnb service fee if you cancel.
2. Decide on your parameters (ours always include free WiFi and a private apartment) and then be ready to spend many hours perusing the website for just the right place.
3. Once you find something of interest, pay particular attention to the total number of reviews and ratings—the more the better; 50 or more is good. Then read them to get a feel for the place and pay attention to anything negative for follow-up. The owner and renter both conduct reviews separately after each stay.
4. Add the price of cleaning and the booking fee into the nightly rate, so you are making an accurate comparison when looking at other sites.
5. Once I decide that I like a property, I have my husband do a review to see if I missed anything. He’s good at deciding if the location is convenient and is partial to large windows with expansive views. A second opinion is always a good idea.
6. There is a convenient place on the website for inquiries and introductions to the owner. I like to do this, and the owner will typically hold it for 24 hours after you express an interest.
7. Look for locations with a lot of photos and study them carefully. Many properties offer a dozen or more—if there are just a few, I pass on the property. Pictures can be deceptive, but you can also learn a lot from them.
8. Cancellation policies vary: strict, moderate and flexible. I try to avoid strict, but I feel that the other two are fair. When I make Airbnb reservations, my plans are firm, barring an emergency. For hotel stays and reservations that are easily changed, I typically go to Booking.com or direct to the hotel website.
9. Start your search as early as possible, especially, if you are traveling during peak travel season.
Having said all this, I have not always followed my own advice.
The Top 4 Airbnb Locations You Have to Add To Your Bucket List
1. One of our favorite Airbnb finds was a chalet in the mountains of Switzerland overlooking the Thunersee. There were only two reviews (good ones), and it was perched above the town on a mountain that could mean a very steep hike to get there. However, the view was spectacular, and the owner answered every question to my satisfaction (we could ride the local bus and avoid the uphill walk). It was still a risk, but one we were glad we took. Here is the website to “Studio mit Blick auf See und Berge.”
2. Another excellent place was in Sydney, Australia; it had a balcony, pleasant view, and great host. It was kind of a no-brainer because it had more than one-hundred reviews with a five-star (best) average. Here is the website to “Central+Surrey Hills+Views.”
3. In Melbourne, Australia we rented a comfortable two-bedroom apartment with a great view of the city. “Beautiful City + Park Views + Pool” with its 80+ five-star reviews can be found here.
4. One of the more unusual places we rented was a studio apartment at the edge of Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. It overlooked colorful canyons and ridges that dated back 65 million years. We even had a lesson in Triassic paleontology from our delightful host, Bob. Here is the website.
What are your experiences with Airbnb? Any favorite places to recommend?
Related Post: The Top 6 Travel Destinations That Are Calling Me Back
- The Beginner’s Guide to Using Airbnb - July 19, 2016
- The Top 6 Travel Destinations That Are Calling Me Back - December 30, 2015