Spring Break is imminent and summer’s wide expanse is very nearly tangible, so we turn to our most-beloved budget travel site – Airbnb. Airbnb, for those of you who have been living under a rock (or for those of you who have a pre-paid suite at every Hilton on the continent) is a website where home owners rent out their houses to travellers and holiday-makers, usually for a fraction of the price of the average hotel room.
If you can deal with drawers filled with a stranger’s underwear, and are willing to embrace the ‘lived in’ look with open arms – Airbnb is something of a God-send. That being said, those with a kinder budget shouldn’t rule out the site either, as there are plenty of boutique experiences and high-end properties on offer – 2 nights in a 18th century castle, anyone?
The universal appeal of Airbnb is the unique experience that comes with it. Say goodbye to predictable nights at the Holiday Inn, wondering if anyone will notice if you steal that tiny bottle of wine from the minibar. Airbnb offers a rare chance to live like a local, in an authentic property, which is often in a prime location. If you can get over the, initially odd, why-am-I-creeping-around-someone-else’s-house sensation, then the rest of your trip should be a plain-sailing. So, without further ado, I present my tips to mastering art of the millennial treasure that is, Airbnb…
Location, Location, LocationIf you’re frantically searching for a place to crash during a quick city break, take heed: choose your location wisely! When you do a general search Airbnb properties, the results can sometimes be overwhelming; especially if you are looking in a major city. The worst thing you can do is to get lured in by an attractively cheap price per-night, only to get there and realise, whilst the apartment you’re staying in is technically in Paris, it’s located in an arrondissement miles away from the city centre. To avoid such problems, pay particular attention to the map feature, which shows you all the properties available, their prices, and most importantly – specifically where they are located.
Whilst the interaction you have with your Host will vary widely depending on which property you choose, it’s always a good idea to touch base with your Host, at least once! Aside from the obvious benefits of getting to know your Host (someone to have as an emergency point of contact, to answer any queries, fix any practical problems etc.) a good Host can offer so much more: an authentic guide with sought-after local knowledge, someone to share a beer with, even a travel companion during your stay! They don’t need to be your new BFF, but having a chat with your Host is key for Airbnb success.
If you don’t ask you don’t get.
Although this seems like a really obvious point, it’s vital that you do your research and ask questions before clicking ‘book’. There have been plenty of times when I have been caught out because I didn’t look closely enough at the properly description, or the price of the cleaning fee! If you’re not sure about something – message the Host, even if you think it’s a stupid question. Trust me, it’s so much better to ASK before you book than to arrive at the property and realise there’s only one shower located literally right next to your bed, in a tiny apartment which you have to share with the Host’s flatmate. Save the yourself the *awks* and ask away.
It’s written in the stars…
Scrolling through the reviews of the property you are considering, though tedious, is an essential part of securing a great place to stay. Go with your gut, if you think that the reviews look suspiciously contrived, keep looking. Be wary of new listings with no reviews whatsoever, whilst these can be great (the price is often slightly lower) they are also a risk. When deciding between two places, it’s always worth going with a property that’s rated a few stars higher, even if it means paying that little bit extra. It’s important to remember that, unlike most conventional holiday listings, there is no guarantee that what you see on Airbnb is what you’ll get. Don’t let this put you off though, I have yet to be seriously disappointed or ripped-off. Read what people have to say, search around, and let the stars be your guide!
Mi casa es su casa?
When staying in an Airbnb property, be aware of what you have access to as a guest, and what is out of bounds. Don’t forget, you’re staying in someone else’s home – it’s not a shower cap and hotel soap free for all! Usually, the Host will have a list called ‘what’s included’ on their page, so let this guide you about what’s ok to use. Generally, Hosts will provide basic amnesties such as towels, tea and coffee etc. for their guests. However, all Airbnb properties are different. Whilst some Hosts (the best kind) have an open fridge policy, others will be more specific about what they willing to share and what they would rather you avoid. Bear in mind that your Host will be rating you as a guest, and their judgment will affect which Hosts will have you to stay in the future. Trust and decency are the core values which allow businesses like Airbnb to exist, so if you’re going to use Airbnb, be willing to respect those principles! *slowly puts down expensive bottle of shampoo*