Booking a holiday and deciding whether to book a hotel or an Airbnb

Suraj and I went to Barcelona a few months ago, and we decided to experience booking our accommodation through Airbnb. I’d heard of it before, because one of my friends is an Airbnb host.

We did some research, looked for some places and narrowed down our search by looking at reviews. It was an interesting experience! We’d definitely do it again, but now that we’ve experienced it once, we’re wiser about what to look out for, or ask about, before finalising a booking. I’ve shared some of these below.

Tips for booking accommodation through Airbnb

How to make choosing an Airbnb host easier

  • know what you want, and use the filters to help narrow down the results of your search
  • don’t be scared to ask questions – if the host replies, it’s great, and if they don’t; maybe that will help you narrow down the shortlist of potential hosts
  • read the reviews in order to suss out the host and the experience of those who have rented previously

Location, location, location

  • when you know where you’re going, reach out and ask about any known cultural differences re how housing is described e.g. in Spain, they number their floors differently so the second floor, may actually mean the fourth floor
  • have a plan a, b and c in case you are unable to book the place you like the most

When you need to think about booking and why

  • don’t leave it too late because booking an Airbnb isn’t like booking a hotel – the customer requests a booking and the host has the right to refuse, so you may not get something booked as quickly as you would if you booked a hotel room online
  • contact Airbnb to find out if it’s permitted for the host to rent their space, and if not, what the consequences might be for you if you/they get found out while you’re there
  • get in touch with the host directly before you book and get a feel for them, how it will work, if they will be staying there or vacating their home for you, and if it’s the latter, where they’ll sleep, when they’ll be in, when they eat etc.

Sussing out some of the thing listed above may take time, hence it’s best to start looking sooner rather than later.

Rent, fees and cancellation policies

  • ask the host if there’ll be any additional rental taxes
  • ask the host if there will be any additional fees e.g. to clean the place after you’ve left etc.
  • all costs should be paid through the Airbnb site and nothing should be paid in cash, before or after your stay
  • be familiar with the host’s cancellation policies because they vary

Timings, confirmed plans and being considerate

  • be clear about when you’ll arrive and when you’ll leave, and if you’re unsure tell the host and explain why
  • if your timings are pretty certain, be punctual so that the host can plan, prepare and return accordingly
  • if you haven’t got the space to yourself, and you’re sharing with the host or other guests, share your confirmed plans to make things like, using the bathroom, smoother for everyone
  • find out what the host expects in terms of cleaning up, cooking, if they need quiet time etc.

Making ‘checking in’ as smooth as possible

  • make sure you find out the full address of the Airbnb before you get there
  • find out if the host will meet you somewhere and take you to your accommodation, and if not, perhaps ask for a photo of the property from the outside, or for landmarks, so you know how to get there if you’re walking
  • if someone is meeting you when you arrive, ask them to send you a current photo of them, so you know who to look out for
  • if you’re meeting the host before you go to the property, how they will contact you i.e. will you have a mobile with roaming switched on, and if not, how will you ensure that you are in the right place, at the right time, or contact each other if someone’s running late

Unrealistic expectations?

I’m not sure if hosts bother to share tips about the area they live in, but we would have really appreciated it they had done a few things to make our stay even better.

In my mind, they live there, so they will know little things that can make all the difference to the visitor, especially if they’re only staying for a short period of time.

Knowing the information that we found out later, would have helped us save some time and money, which would have probably resulted in us rating the host better, and recommending them to others. Some of these things are:-

  • knowing a bit about buying a T10 ticket
  • having access to a small (free) map upon arrival
  • clearly labeling or stating which things can be used
  • stating whether or not we should drink the tap water from their home
  • a heads up about how long hot water lasts
  • there was no duvet on the bed, so we had a look, found one, covered it and used it, but we weren’t sure if the host would be OK with that or not
  • the host sent her friend to take us to the flat, but she didn’t have the time to take us all the way to the property, and she couldn’t remember the full address, and we hadn’t been given it beforehand either

Next time we use Airbnb

Whether the expectations above are unrealistic or not, we know what we need to find out beforehand, to ensure that we have a better stay.

Have you used Airbnb before? I’d love to hear how your experience was.

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