If you have not caught onto the AirBnB wave because you have yet to try it, and are interested in trying it, read on to make your experience an enjoyable one and almost fuck-up free.
If you have not caught onto the AirBnB wave because you think you’re above a home-sharing service, shame on you, just go ahead and exit out of this website cause you’re basic af and you should probably go drink bleach.
If you have caught onto the AirBnB wave and didn’t like it, word, I get you, but read on and use these tips to improve your experience.
If you have caught onto the AirBnB wave and enjoy it and already know the below tips and tricks, you get a Non-Basic Medal of Honor. Work it, bitch.
As someone who both hosts four listings on AirBnB and uses the service when I travel, I know how it feels on either end. This post will teach you how to use AirBnB, offer you my experiences on the good, the bad, and the awkward, and tips to avoid those last two.
Throughout this post you’ll also see links for various AirBnBs that I recommend.
1) Create a profile. What does that consist of?
Email, password, and phone number.
Use an actual email that you check often, not that fake email you use to sign up for things. This will be how AirBnB hosts will communicate with you and you’ll need to be able to access it right away. These emails will also be sent to the phone number you provide.
I don’t use my full name because I’m also a host and don’t want creeps trolling the website stalking me on Facebook and shit. I just use my first initial “K”. But if you’re not a host, I recommend using your actual name. You don’t need to put your real last name. Why is that important to anyone?
I didn’t fill in this section because…who cares? But you can put your interests there if you want to. I would probably do this if you don’t have any reviews yet and want the host to know a little bit about you.
School, Work, Verified ID
I didn’t fill in any of this information because I don’t really like people knowing how to find me, and places I frequent. Again, I’m paranoid af. But as a host, I do appreciate knowing some concrete information about a person IF you do not have any reviews and I want to validate that you’re a real person without an outrageous criminal record. The more verifications you have, the better.
I have read various articles regarding racism on AirBnB. Disclaimer: I’m not Black so I’m not sure what that feels like and I’m not 100% sure if that’s real and can’t speak on that. As a host, I personally don’t give a shit what color you are: black, yellow, brown, pink, purple, all money is green, ya feel me? You could be a Teletubbie and I would still take your money. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think that’s pretty much the general consensus for pro-hosts out there.
(But to any racists hosts out there: all my Black customers have been more friendly, grateful, polite, and less needy than anyone else I’ve had to interact with. So….think about it.)
However, I have denied people straight up off of their pictures and not because of their skin color. Here’s what not to do:
- Dimly lit photos
DENY. I can barely see you; your house has no lighting. How do I know you’re not in hiding somewhere and trying to start a meth lab in my house for the weekend? HOW DO I KNOW? Also your face looks hella ominous IN THE DARK. Can we get some light up in here, please?
- Multiple people in your photos
Chica, which one is you? How do I know? Why do I care what your friends look like? How many people are you tryna have up in here? Are you about to have a party? Even if you’re traveling with multiple people, YOU DON’T NEED TO HAVE ALL OF THEM IN YOUR PROFILE PIC. I don’t need to see your entire sorority, or your boyfriend, or your girlfriend, or your child, I don’t care. (The little children in your pic are kinda cute though, especially if you’re a dad or grandpa, but again, not necessary or preferable)
- No photo
Are you a criminal? Is that why you have no photo? Are you trying to hide? How do I know I shouldn’t shoot you the second you arrive on my doorstep for trespassing? How do I know? HOW DO I KNOW? Show yourself!!! I need to know who is coming up in my house!
- Dog photos
I’ve approved people with dog photos, but was straight up like, “Don’t bring that dog in my house, please.” This is just a bad idea in general, and this girl with the dog in her photo had to exchange multiple messages with me and I had to validate her through other means so skip this if you want your experience to be a good one.
- Funny photos
I’m not sure why you would want a picture of a Mortal Combat character or a snake or you and girlfriends having beers or making funny faces with your boyfriend (all real examples), but like all that shit is not cute. Any photo with a lot of commotion is generally not welcome and I’m not sure if I want you in my house, actually.
Here’s what I like:
- Brightly lit photos
Ohhhh, there you are! I can see your face! Yes I can see who you are and who will be showing up on my doorstep, welcome! Welcome!
- Linked-In photos
My photo is my Linked-In photo. It’s what I would show to an employer. It’s brightly lit, just of my face, and I’m dressed in neutral colors and professionally. It gives the impression that, “I’m safe. I’m not here to mess up your house because I’m a professional and take dignity in my appearance, as I will to your house that you’re so graciously letting me stay in.” It’s also just me here. You’re only speaking with one person.
- Face photos
I’m not interested if you’re fat or skinny or what outfit you’re wearing. I just want to see your face because I need to be able to recognize a person that comes into my house. (And also a picture to report to the authorities should you do something crazy, but if you’re not here for that, don’t worry about this.)
Save the resting bitch face for your Instagram. Smiles come off as friendly and inviting and don’t make you look like a demon.
2) Choosing a place to stay
You’re a fool if you think AirBnB is only someone’s house. Many local hotels list their rooms on AirBnB but at a better rate than the ones listed online. Often times hotels have to pay the websites for their referrals, AirBnB does not require that. Therefore, they can charge you less for a room.
You can book anything on AirBnb. An entire house, a hotel, a room, a couch, an air mattress, a tent, a boat, a tree-house, a castle, a floor, a tipi, a trailer, a spaceship. Like anything. Sometimes I’ve wanted to visit a place JUST cause of the AirBnB listing. Like a tree-house in the middle of the jungle in Thailand? Fuck yea! JK sounds like malaria.
Anyway, the great thing is AirBnB has these things called FILTERS.
I’ll explain each one below:
City, Dates, and Number of Guests
Self-explanatory. Understand that the number of guests you put are the ONLY people who should bring into an AirBnB.
Options are Entire Home, Private Room, or Shared Room. What you choose all depends on the type of experience you wish to have.
I’ve never done a Shared Room, I’m not into that. I don’t do hostels (maybe I have a couple of times, but I hate them), there’s no way I’m gonna do a shared room. I’m paranoid, I don’t like to keep my passport and shit around people.
So I can’t give you any advice here except to avoid this probably.
Entire home/apt means that you won’t have any shared spaces with anyone and, depending on the set up, minimal contact with your host. I use this when I’m coming with a group of more than 2, or with my boyfriend and want a lot of privacy, or my mom or someone who probably isn’t used to living in a shared space. This is also where you can book hotel rooms, private condos, private guesthouses, yachts, tree-houses, etc. etc.
Dining room of an Austin AirBnB
If I want a local experience or if I’m on a budget, I always choose Private Room, which is exactly that, just a private room in someone’s house. You may or may not have to share a bathroom but that SHOULD be listed in the description (but it isn’t always so ask for this.) The benefits of this are that you have an on-site concierge and built in playmate at your disposal. The downside is that this space is not exclusively yours and you need to be respectful of that. But in my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the awkwardness of sharing a space with someone.
Outside the window of our Actual Paris AirBnB
For example, I was traveling alone in Berlin and wanted something cheap and in the city. But I also wanted some company because traveling alone is lonely (I don’t give a shit what you say, solo travelers, it’s a lonely experience.) Anyway, so I booked with a guy who got really excellent reviews and everyone said he was super friendly. So obv I got there with a bottle of wine and was like “What up bra, wanna give me a tour around Berlin?” And he was like “uhm, sure?” After a 3 hour free walking tour, we’re drunkenly rolling around in the grass in front of the Berlin dome, listening to live music and feeling the limestone of the buildings, trying to be one with nature and connect with the elements of the city, having the deepest conversations that you would only have with someone you’ve known for years. Never would I have gotten to see the city through his eyes, nor earned a friend. I would have just gone through Berlin without actually seeing it or experiencing it.
Picture taken on free walking AirBnB Berlin tour
Or the time I stayed in Miami to attend Art Basel, but ended up drinking cortados in Little Cuba and later wandering into a block party drinking free beers on the streets of Wynwood with my AirBnB host and now really good friend whom I meet up with every time I’m in Miami. He’s even bought a few of my art pieces years later. (I highly recommend this AirBnB by the way. Check out Miami post. Link to come later.)
Across the street from my Actual Miami AirBnB
Or the time my AirBnB host picked up me and 2 friends from the airport at midnight, then took us for a traditional Malaysian dinner in downtown Kuala Lumpur underneath the Petronus Towers while we poured over their wedding album and answered their questions about President Obama.
From the rooftop infinity pool of my Actual Malaysia AirBnB
I have had probably 20 experiences like this that I could share with you off the top of my head. And all because I booked a “private room,” so don’t be scared to do so. You’ll come back home with some awesome stories, almost guaranteed.
Options: Superhost and Instant Book
It’s important to note that all of the above have been “Superhosts.” A Superhost is someone who has had 12 consecutive 5 star reviews in a 3-4 month period and has an above 90% response rate. I try to always book a Superhost because they have experience, know what to expect, and aim to please. Especially if it’s your first time using AirBnB, I recommend going with a Superhost and you SHOULD have a smooth experience. You can check this option in the FILTERS section also.
Instant Book means you don’t need to wait for an approval from the host. Your inquiry is automatically accepted. I use this when I’m in a hurry and can’t wait for a host to approve my inquiry. Most hotels use this option.
If you’re going somewhere on a strict budget, use the price range scale to set it at what’s the maximum amount you’ll pay for something. I usually don’t use this at first because I generally want to see what is being offered in a place. Eventually I’ll set a price that I’m comfortable with based off of the listings I’ve seen and my budget.
If you absolutely need 2 separate bedrooms or 2 separate beds use this filter. Otherwise it’s not always necessary.
When you travel internationally, it is important to check “Wifi.” I made the mistake once of not doing that and booked a place that had no Wifi and had to cancel my reservation. But I also have a tiger mom that needs me to check in once a day to make sure I’m alive so it’s necessary for me to have access to the Internet at least once a day. If this isn’t important to you, then don’t use this filter. There are a list of other amenities that you can check if it’s required for you, but for me, nothing else other than Wifi is necessary.
Neighborhoods and Property Type
You can sort your listing by neighborhood and property type. I personally don’t give a shit if I’m staying in a house or apartment or condo, I usually choose a place based off of their pictures and their reviews. If that’s important to you, then use this filter.
View from outside of my room in my Actual San Juan del Sur AirBnB
If you want to stay in a certain neighborhood, also use this filter. I generally don’t. I use the map to the right and try to find where the nearest homes are to where I want to stay. You don’t want to spend your time or money traveling to the sites, you want to be as near as possible to the action. So I use the map more than I would the “Neighborhood” filter. HOWEVER, once you find a listing, you should check what neighborhood they are in before you book. Put that neighborhood into Google and see what the reviews say. That way you know if the neighborhood is safe. You’ll definitely get a feel for it from the Trip Advisor reviews.
I had a friend who did not check this and ended up booking a BnB in the redlight district of Turkey. Later she checked Google and sure enough everyone online had warned travelers from staying in this area because of all the prostitutes. DO NOT JUST TRUST THE REVIEWS ON AIRBNB, use Google and Trip Advisor to cross check.
3) Check the reviews
The reviews are mostly important to check whether the person you’re going to stay with (or have in your home) is an actual person and if they’re clean or not. Most people will remark on the hygiene of the place, location, and whether the host was friendly or not. Short reviews are not helpful because they are probably lies. Things such as, “K is friendly,” is not a good review. It probably means they couldn’t find anything better to say about the place, so that’s just what they put.
Look for a lot of reviews saying the same thing so that multiple people have cross-checked the place. Also, when someone really enjoys a place, they will put more effort into their reviews, so look for the lengthy ones.
4) Writing your host
Once you’ve found the place you want to stay in you’ll need to message your host. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. You need to include:
- A salutation.
Something as simple as “Hey!” A lot of people are rude as fuck and forget to even greet me. Like where’s your mother so I can slap her for not teaching you good manners. Do you write emails without a salutation? NO, so don’t do that here.
- Who you’re traveling with
You don’t need to include names here, but age groups and sex are kind of important when it comes to a host figuring out who is going to sleep where, how many beds are necessary, and who she/he should expect coming through the door (who to look for).
- Why you’re traveling
This is important so the host knows how long you’ll be in the house, if he/she should expect to interact with you, to what extent the interactions will be, and if he/she has any tips to tell you about your traveling event. You should also include if there are special amenities you might need.
- A compliment
It’s always nice to compliment a host’s home and tell them why you chose their place out of all of the others. It will give you an edge up on getting accepted. Everyone would prefer a nice person than a shitty person to be staying in his or her home.
- Here’s an example:
Good: “Hey K! My brother and his girlfriend and I are coming to your city to attend a festival. We’re mostly looking for a place to sleep. My brother and his girlfriend will need a separate bed. Do you have one? Your home is in a great location and looks really clean! We love it! Hopefully, we’ll see you soon!”
Bad: “Where are you located? Need a place to stay near convention center.”
The first example comes off as friendly and forthcoming with information. Her question also helped the host understand their expectations on the living situation. The second example is requiring me to provide information without giving me any and I’m denying you off the bat because you’re rude and inconsiderate. Like greet me, bitch. Bow down.
5) What to expect and what not to expect
You’ll need to adjust your expectations according to the description and price you’re paying for a listing. If you booked an entire home/apartment that is normally a hotel, you should expect hotel-service. If you booked an entire home/apartment that is someone’s house, you should not expect hotel-service. Someone is kindly letting you stay in his or her house. Remember they are doing YOU a favor, not the other way around. There are plenty of travelers out there grateful for a cheap and clean bed to lay their heads down on. And are especially grateful if directions have been spelled out clearly and leave the place happy and in good shape.
However, so many uppity people have rented my entire house and expected me to practically wipe their ass. YOU DON’T PAY ME ENOUGH. For $99/night for a 3-bedroom house, you should just be grateful you have all that room, now stfu. One lady complained about my paints being out near my canvas. Hello, I live here. This is MY home. I don’t accommodate my life to please you, I’m just out of town at the moment and am giving you a cheap alternative to have your entire family in my place. How about YOU’RE WELCOME. Now get the fuck outta my house and don’t come back.
Another man rented just a bedroom for $49/night and complained about the possibility of snakes being in the backyard, because he hears there are snakes in Texas. And when I asked him if he saw a snake, he said no.
You can’t pay me enough to deal with a person like this.
Or another couple, who never stopped in to show their faces to me and stumbled in at 3AM (of which I don’t give a shit, come home whenever you feel like, I’m not your mom) complained because I left for work early and didn’t leave them a note and were upset that they had to tip toe around the house because they thought I was asleep. Huh? Are we married? Do I need to give you my entire calendar of events? Like, you’re supposed to be respectful, and if you don’t want to be GETAHOTEL GETAHOTEL GETAHOTEL.
On the other hand, I’ve met people who are so enjoyable that we spend the entire weekend together because they’re just so fun and looking to have a local experience (of which I’m happy to take them around). I’ve had an Irish chef stay here and cook me a full meal. I’ve had a marathon runner run his race, and then took him downtown to get sloshed after.
I’ve had people stop in for festivals and send me pictures on my personal cell phone to show me what a great time they’ve had or leave me gifts for my hospitality. The list goes on. It’s all about the attitude that you bring into a home that will determine your experience.
HOWEVER, there are some listings out there that pump up their place to be amazing, but they’re just not. The pictures don’t match the actual place, there’s a smell, there’s something they didn’t tell you about, you don’t feel like the place matches the value of which you paid. In this case, COMPLAIN! Which brings us to the next section.
6) Leaving a review
The review process has some weird psychological undertones. For example, the person you are staying with will know it’s you reviewing them; therefore people are scared to leave bad reviews for fear of sounding impolite. I used to be like that. I’m not anymore. That helps no one. You need to be very honest in your reviews. Like you paid for this, did you get what you expected? And did your expectations match up with their description of their place online? Was it hard to find? Help other people out with things like this in your review. It also helps the host improve.
If there is something that wasn’t serious enough to write in the review, you can write it in the box that says “something to share with AirBnB about your experience” so that it’s not publicly on someone’s review profile, but at least they know to improve. For example: a couple came to visit me and remarked privately that there weren’t any parking slots available in my complex. It was a festival weekend so a lot of people were in town and something like a public parking slot is out of my control and was an appropriate comment to leave in the private remarks section. It’s something I have noted and alert people of when they book my place and are looking for places to park during festival weekends.
Or once I stayed in someone’s home in Nicaragua and there was a bat in the room. Is that something I wrote in the review? NO. Because did they on purpose put the fucking bat in the room? No. It just is what it is. Some things are out of a hosts control and you should not blame them for it. A suggestion that I did make public was that there are 3 doors in the front of the house, you need to knock on the first door, because the other 2 don’t open into anything. That alerts the host and other people looking to stay here of how to improve the experience so that other people won’t have to run past all the doors knocking on every one like a crazy person and waking up the neighbors like I did.
Outside of my Actual Granada AirBnB
If you had an amazing experience and the host went above and beyond SAY SO IN YOUR REVIEW. It helps the host and shows gratitude for your stay. Once I stayed with this Italian painter in Mexico and she had a lemon tree growing just outside the window of my room. A fucking lemon tree with the most massive lemons growing out of it. The cuteness factor just exploded. Not only was her house immaculately decorated, she treated me like I was her own daughter, made me coffee, gave me a map of the city, ordered my taxi, AND she had a lemon tree. Obv I wrote all that down on her review and we still send emails to each other to this day.
Rooftop patio of my Actual San Miguel de Allende AirBnB
In conclusion, I know this all sounds like a lot. But that’s what traveling is, a lot, and requires research if you want to tailor your experiences to be enjoyable. Millions of people do it, you can too. If you don’t feel like doing it, go be basic and stay in an all-inclusive resort and have a vanilla ass experience. If not, unlock Level AirBnB Master in your non-basic travel game and prepare to set your experiences on fire.