Over the years, we’ve encountered it all with AirBNB. Nearly every experience has been wonderful or at the very least satisfactory. However, there have been a handful of occasions that were far from acceptable. Through these experiences we’ve learned exactly what to look for and what steps to take to end up with what we want.
Booking the Perfect AirBNB
The Basic Information
First research the city you’re visiting so you know exactly where you want to stay. This step is very important. You want to be as close to the centre as possible if you only have a couple of days. Or if you’re only staying for one night, you might want to stay near the train/bus station. Once you find the area you want to stay, find out how far away from that area you can (or are willing) to go and set your boundaries.
Make sure to put in the currency of your country, it makes it easier on your brain.
Search the place you want to stay and input all relevant information such as:
- Number of Guests (This is very important because we have found that some countries they charge per person. You’ll think you found a great deal and suddenly see the price double when you add a second guest.)
- Price per night/month (within your budget)
- Amenities you desire (such as wifi, kitchen, pool, etc..)
Open the map (little tab on the top right side) and zoom into the area you want to stay. This will show you what is available at your selected dates. If there aren’t many options, un-check an amenity or two that you can live without. If that doesn’t work, increase your budget a little or expand the map. In the case that none of these give better options, you might want to consider other options such as Booking.com. You don’t want to settle for something just to end up disappointed.
Read the Reviews; They Matter!
When you have found a couple of options, make sure there are reviews of the property. We never go lower than 3 stars. If you have higher standards than us, be as picky as you want, but always read the reviews to clarify a rating. Some people complain about things that are out of the control of the owner or they simply expected way more than what they paid for.
We always check reviews for the state of the Wifi. A property can say they have WiFi but when you get there it doesn’t work at all. This happens more than you might expect.
Also, check for disputes between the host and the renter, how did the host handle the dispute? Are they attacking the renter or belittling them? Again, this happens from time to time. We never book with someone who shows that kind of unwarranted attitude.
Don’t Fall for Tricks
Another thing to take into consideration is the notice that “50% of homes are already booked up for your dates!” You’ll find this on a lot of sites, ignore it, they’re just trying to scare you into making a quick decision. Watch out for the label “Rare Find” as well. This means that the property is usually booked out of their available dates. But you aren’t shown how often the property is listed. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s special or better in any way. It’s just another sales gimmick.
Moving on. Make sure to look at the pictures, is there enough light in the room? If photos are poor quality or low light, the host might be trying to hide something. Or maybe the room is just dark. Does this bother you? Only choose places that make you feel welcome. Every person is different and will find a different home to suit their needs. Narrow the search to 3 or 4 choices, and compare them all. What is missing out of each one, which bed looks more comfortable, which one has raving reviews, etc.
Ask All the Questions
At this point, you can contact the host and ask any question about their place that you are unsure of. Perhaps they mentioned something that they have but it is not in the photos. One that we always ask about specifically is the Wifi. If someone in the reviews complained the Wifi didn’t work well 2 years ago, we will contact the host and ask if it’s been fixed. As digital nomads we need good WiFi.
Another great question to ask is where exactly the property is located. The map maker is a general location and the address is often not on the listing. Sometimes it is a different address completely and you don’t get the correct location until you book. Knowing the specific location is important. You don’t want to book a place “located in the heart of the historic Old Town” only to find your bedroom overlooking a busy intersection. As well, it helps knowing how far away things like restaurants, shops, landmarks, museums, etc., are.
After you get a response (good hosts will get back within the hour), its time to make your decision. If your planning on visiting soon, you will want to make it quickly. Otherwise, feel free to ask more questions, or click the heart on the picture to save it for later. Waiting too long can result in someone else booking your choice.
However, I suggest looking again a short time later. After looking at all of these places, your mind gets crazy and you need a break. Come back with a clear mind to make the decision. I know this sounds crazy, but poor accommodation can really ruin your trip, like this one we had in Bratislava.
Always contact the host through the AirBNB message system, never through e-mail of phone. If something goes wrong you want to be able to show AirBNB the conversation that you had. This prevents the issue of your word against theirs.
Ready to book? First read the cancellation rules of your booking:
- Flexible Cancellation – Full refund up to 24 hours before your trip;
- Moderate Cancellation- Full refund up to 5 days prior to your trip;
- Strict Cancellation- Refund within 48 hours of making the reservation;
- Super Strict Cancellation- is very rare;
- Long Term Cancellation- For bookings over 30 days, the first 30 days are non-refundable.
AirBNB Service Fees are refundable 3 times a year. If you cancel more than this (unlikely), you lose the service fee regardless of cancellation policy.
Does this policy work for you? Yes – Book it / No – Look for another property, or wait until you are ready to book.
When your reservation is complete and you are satisfied with everything, you will get an email about 48 hours before regarding check-in. This is where the host will meet you somewhere, (being at the address or a coffee shop nearby to make life easy). Or they give you the check-in details and you can check in with the doorman or a code at the door.
Make sure to save or screenshot the check-in instructions and address if you don’t have a phone or SIM card. Look up the best way to get to your accommodation (taxi, bus, walking) and save the map, so when you get off your flight, bus, train you are ready to go.
Arriving at your Accommodation
Check out the place thoroughly when you get in. Make sure everything that you wanted and booked is accurate as it is explained in the listing. You need to make any complaints within the first 24 hours of checking in, or AirBNB can’t do anything to help you. Check the WiFi connection, check that the bed has pillows and blankets, towels, everything works, etc. I know it sounds silly but people will try to get away with a lot of these things. The WiFi gets me all the time! I read reviews where they say, ‘the WiFi didn’t work, but I guess it doesn’t matter…’
It Does Matter.
You paid for something and you should get what you pay for. Now I am not saying to complain about every little thin, like a missing a wine bottle opener or a throw pillow from the couch. But anything major — such as hot water or WiFi — that needs to be dealt with.
If there is something small, contact the host of the property, or talk to them directly if they are there and see if it can be fixed. Wifi, hot water, missing towels etc. Most of the time they are willing to help and fix the problem right away…
If everything looks good, drop your bags, settle in, and have a kick-ass vacation!
If it is something major, check out this post of what to do when your AirBNB goes wrong.
If You Need to Change or Cancel
If you need to change your dates because, let’s face it, life happens, it’s really easy. You can check to see how much you will be charged before you actually change or cancel your AirBNB booking.
Open your reservation, scroll down just under title and click on Change or Cancel Reservation. It will bring you to another page where you can pick to Change Reservation or Cancel Reservation.
Cancelling your Reservation
Click the Cancel button. This will bring you to the Cancel Reservation page and inform you of the rules of the property and how much money you will get back — if any. At this point, you can make the decision to cancel or not. If something has come up you can always contact the host and ask if they will give you a break due to unforeseen circumstances. This doesn’t always work, but it’s worth asking!
Changing your Reservation
Click the Change Reservation button. On the next page, input your new dates and see what the charges are going to be. Sometimes it is cheaper overall, but sometimes there is a glitch in the system and AirBNB charges a ridiculous amount. If the numbers look good, go ahead and send the request.
Now, this is only a request for the host, they make the final decision. If they don’t allow the change, you have little say. If the price difference is unusually high or doesn’t make sense; contact the host and see if they can make the changes on their end. Or contact AirBNB if you suspect a system issue.