Today I am sharing everything you need to know about Airbnb, including how to book a place to stay, pick an experience, and how to get started as a host.
I have learned a lot about Airbnb as I traveled around the world. I have stayed in over a dozen Airbnbs and done a wide variety of Airbnb experiences. My parents use Airbnb as the booking platform for their small inn in Maine. After receiving lots of questions about Airbnb on Instagram, I decided to pull all the information together into one blog post.
What is Airbnb?
Airbnb is a website that offers accommodations and travel experiences. The platform connects homeowners and people looking to book accommodations for when they travel. Often using Airbnb saves travelers money and gives them the opportunity to stay in a full home or apartment with more space and amenities than just a hotel room.
Terms to Know
Most luxurious homes are given the label Airbnb Plus. These homes are verified for quality and design.
Airbnb Super Hosts
Super hosts are people who meet a big list of criteria, they respond to questions quickly, have high reviews, and have hosted a certain number of guests.
Airbnb experiences are tours hosted by locals. Sometimes these experiences are tours with tour companies, and sometimes they are more private tours with passionate locals.
What to Know about Airbnb
Staying in an Airbnb vs. Hotel vs. Hostel
I love Airbnb because you get more space for your money than you would at a hotel. Plus the accommodations are nicer than a hostel. Usually, I start by pricing things out to see if it makes more sense to stay at an Airbnb or a hotel. If I am traveling with friends, I usually prefer to get an Airbnb since we can get much more space for our money and we will have our own living room and kitchen to use.
How to book an Airbnb:
The Airbnb site has a powerful search engine and you can customize your search. Pick your dates, select a city, and add in information regarding the number of guests. Then pick stays or experiences.
– The listings will show up along with a map showing where each one is. You can zoom in on a specific location to drill down your search.
– What kind of accommodations are you looking for? You can find entire homes and private rooms within homes. If it is a private room within a home, it might be run like an inn (like my parents’ inn) or it might be an apartment where each guest has a private room. To use these search criteria just click on “type of place”.
– What amenities do you need? I always look for a private bathroom, wifi, and a washing machine. Some properties have pools, parking, and fireplaces. These options are listed under “amenities” after you click on “more filters”.
– Check the location, and consider transportation options. Sure, I loved staying in a tiny bungalow outside Sydney, but getting to and from the bungalow from the city was expensive since it wasn’t accessible via public transportation. I had to cancel an airbnb in Sardinia because it was a holiday and I couldn’t get a taxi to take me there.
– Read the reviews. I never stay at an airbnb unless there are a bunch of reviews.
Download the Airbnb App
I don’t have data when I travel internationally, but the app downloads all of the information that I need about my trip. It’s super convenient and I never need to worry about connecting to wifi to find the address or check-in instructions. Everything automatically updates and saves when I am on wifi.
How to check into an Airbnb
Meeting the Host
If you are staying in someone’s home, you will probably meet them to receive keys. The host will use Airbnb’s chat function to message you and to arrange a check-in time.
Self check-in means that you check-in without meeting the Airbnb host. This is very common. Usually, self check-in involves pick up the keys out of a lockbox. Sometimes people get very creative when it comes to hiding the lockboxes. I’ve had to find them in parking garages and in alleyways – always provide photos of the lockbox location. These lockboxes have codes that you use to open them, and then you grab the keys and let yourself in.
What to Know About Staying at an Airbnb
Use common sense.
You review the host and they can review you. You are staying in someone’s home, be respectful, and don’t leave a big mess behind. Don’t be disruptive to neighbors in the building.
Communicate regarding check-in and check out.
Always let your host know when you will be arriving, especially if you meeting up with the host to get keys or if you are staying at their home.
Don’t be wasteful. Don’t leave the air conditioner on, lights on, or water running when you aren’t there.
There is a check out time.
The one thing that can be very annoying about staying at an Airbnb is that there is a checkout time, and unlike staying at a hotel, you can’t just leave your bags at the front desk. In some cases, you might be able to store your bags after you check out, but usually, you need to have everything out at checkout time.
There is a check-in time too.
When I was arriving in Auckland at 5:30 am I booked an Airbnb for the night before I arrived so that I had a place to crash once I landed and I didn’t need to worry about luggage storage. You can’t check-in whenever you want, and you usually can’t store your bags at the home before your check-in time.
The the cancelation policy.
Be sure to review the cancelation policy since they vary.
What to know about Airbnb Experiences
You will find a mix of everything! I’ve done yoga in front of the Eiffel Tower, biked through vineyards in New Zealand, met koalas in Sydney, and sailed along the coast of Sardinia.
Sometimes the experiences are very small or private tours with a person who is passionate about a specific topic, like the history of London, sailing, or secret bars in Ho Chi Minh. But, tour companies also use the airbnb experience a marketing platform, which can be disappointing. When that happens you might think you are joining a four-person tour but end up on a 16-person tour.
The best experiences that I have done are small intimate adventures. I had a blast when Annie took me of a private tour of hidden bars and restaurants in Ho Chi Minh. A photographer named Davide took photos for me in Florence and I will cherish them. When I went to a cooking class at a farm in Tuscany I felt like Isabella and Francesco welcomed me into their family, and the group of us in the class got along so well that we all met up again and are still in touch.
I have never had a bad Airbnb Experience, but some just weren’t as special as others.
How to book an Airbnb Experience
Use the search function to select your dates and location.
Make sure you double check the location on the map, sometimes the search results also list “nearby” experiences, that might be a couple of hours away.
If you cancel an Airbnb Experience at least 24 hours in advance, you get a refund.
Read the reviews, I only book an experience if there are several reviews and the vast majority of them are positive.
Tips for Airbnb Hosts
Test everything out.
Take a shower and you might realize that the shower curtain is too short to prevent water from going everywhere when you take a shower. Spent a night in the bedroom and you can learn that you need black out curtains or a white noise machine to block the sound of the street below.
Make it easy to find everything.
I don’t want to search through your home to find the things that I need. If you list a washing machine as an amenity, leave the detergent out. Don’t hide the ironing board and iron. If it’s cold leave an extra blanket out.
Bathmats really are necessary.
If you don’t provide a bathmat, water will get all over the bathroom floor. It’s annoying, and someone could slip and fall.
Please provide more than one towel per guest.
Airbnb says just one towel is needed, but it’s nice to have at least a hand towel in addition. If someone is staying more than two nights, you might want to leave more towels or replace dirty towels.
Little extras are appreciated.
Simple gestures like having a brita pitcher filled with water and milk for coffee in the fridge are really appreciated. Women really appreciate having a bottle of conditioner in addition to the shampoo.
Provide beach towels if you are on the beach.
If you are in a beach area, provide a beach towel, otherwise, your guests will probably bring your white towels to the beach.
Leave instructions for appliances.
Dish washers, washing machines, dryers, and coffee machines can be very different. It’s smart to leave out instructions for these appliances so that people know how to use them correctly. This helps the guests and also helps prevent them from breaking your appliances. Washing machines and dryers are very different around the world. Most Americans don’t realize that elsewhere in the world dyers have water tank they need to empty. Explain how much soap to use.
Don’t go crazy with area recommendations.
Just share the best of the best instead of a list of every business in town.
Getting Started as an Airbnb Host
This information comes from my sister who uses airbnb as the booking platform of the inn in Maine that she owns with my parents.
First, you need to create a space that is welcoming to guests, and make sure that it has the right set of amenities. Most people want a private space with their own bathroom.
Turn the space into a guest room. Empty the closets, buy fresh bedding,
Create a sense of style for the space.
Find a way to separate your personal belongings. Assume that people will go through your things if you leave them out, you may want to remove your belongs from the space or lock them in a closet.
Determine a check in and check out policy. How are you going to meet the guests to hand over and pick up keys? Self check in is very popular, and it often preferred since guests arrival times can change due to flight delays and traffic.
Add your personal touch. Airbnb encourages hosts to share information on things to do in the area. You might want to make a digital guide or a typed up guide that you leave in rooms.
Check out other listings in your area. See what the pricing is like. See what the accommodations and amenities are like. You want to create a competitive listing.
Create an Airbnb account. Post photos of the entire space, and write a detailed description. People want to understand what they will be experiencing. List out the size of the bed, information on WiFi, parking, kitchen access, and the proximity to parking and public transportation. Be clear about which spaces are included in the accommodations, let them know if common spaces are open to guests or not. Submit your listing.
In order to get more bookings, you are going to need reviews. Either get people you know to book a stay to help you get going or price the listing at a lower amount to attract guests. Once you have positive reviews and become a super host it is easier to get bookings because you appear higher in the search results.
I think that covers everything you need to know about Airbnb, but if I missed anything let me know in the comments!