I like AirBnB. It enables people to travel affordably and safely. As promised in my last post, here are some things I’ve learned about finding safe, affordable and comfortable lodging using AirBnB. Some of these suggestions also apply to other web sites that enable you to book directly with the owner of a vacation rental.
Finding an appropriate rental
Begin by going to AirBnB.com. If it’s your first visit you may want to sign in and create an account. Doing so will allow you to bookmark on the site the places that you want to consider. I’ve never received any promotional emails or text messages from AirBnB so I think there’s no reason to avoid giving them my email address and mobile phone number.
At the top of the search screen enter the location where you want to stay and the dates you’ll be there. Many places are available for as short a rental period as one night so any time span can be searched. A new screen will open asking if you want an entire house or apartment, a private room in someone’s home, or a shared room; you can also specify the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you require. You will see a slider that allows you to narrow the options offered by price. It will show you the average price in that area. By moving it left or right you decrease or increase the number of properties to be offered.
A selection of places that meet your criteria will be shown next, with a photo submitted by the host and a thumbnail photo of the host. When you click on a place that interests you a new page will open that shows photographs of that rental and provides more detailed information about the rental. There will also be a moveable map showing the area of the search; clicking on a red balloon opens the property indicated.
Read each property description carefully and give some thought to the issues that are important to you. For example, I really like to have a clothes washer in places I rent so I always look for that. AirBnB provides a great amount of information but it’s likely that you will have questions for the host. On the right side you’ll find a red rectangle to click that provides almost-instant communication with the host. Ask as many questions as you can think of before committing to the booking.
One factor that I consider very carefully is the cancellation policy chosen by the host. Click here to see the various policies. You’ll find the policy in the “About this listing” section pertaining to each property. I always choose a property that allows me to cancel without penalty.
When you’ve found a property you want to rent, click the red “Request to Book” button. That will send a text message and email to the host. Usually you’ll have your reply very quickly. It is required that the rent be paid immediately after the owner accepts your reservation. A small amount for AirBnB’s fee is also charged at that time.
Following your stay you will be asked to give feedback regarding the property and the host. It’s AirBnB’s policy to rank the properties with the best reviews first so that they are the first ones you’ll see in that location. There are many more stacked up behind those on the first screen.
Fire escapes are rarely found in Europe. Buildings are built of stone and often they are centuries old. One tiny apartment I rented had no windows. Most places have only one stairway. Keep this in mind when considering properties.
If you want to stay in the center of a major city you may wish to consider the safety of the neighborhood, particularly if you plan to be stay out late in the evenings. Google has photographed many streets around the world. When you search for a particular street address on maps.google.com a photograph of the building is likely to appear in the upper left corner of the screen. Clicking that opens a street view that you can use to “tour” the neighborhood. If you know what that neighborhood is called you might also try googling that name in news.google.com.
By clicking on the photo of the host you’ll see all the comments past visitors have written. It’s important to read carefully the reviews of the host before renting. Choose hosts who have lots of good reviews and longer track records. Women traveling alone may want to consider only females or couples as “hosts.” Keep in mind that the host will have keys to the property you occupy.
Calling on AirBnB when things aren’t as they should be.
Here’s a link to the Help Center on the AirBnB website. It is a much better source of information about your safety that what I’ve written here. I particularly like the company’s policy of always being available by phone if something isn’t the way you expect or want it to be. I’ve never had to call them.
This is not a complete list of factors to consider when choosing a rental. It’s just advice based on my own experience. A google search will turn up many articles and blog posts with more information and other points to consider.
I have no connection with AirBnB other than as a satisfied user of their service.
Resources: Michael and Debbie Campbell have become the “poster children” for boomers traveling the world via AirBnB. Read their blog, Senior Nomads, by clicking here.
If you’ve considered renting your empty apartment, cottage or guest room, you may enjoy reading this article which recently ran in the New York Times about the financial benefits for retirees who rent their empty rooms.
The picture at the top shows the scene just around the corner from my Airbnb rental in Quimper, France.