Airbnb has completely changed the way I travel! If you've never heard of this site, you are missing out. It's loaded with travel inspiration and you can seriously spend the next few hours marveling at places that people call home... and are willing to rent out to you.
Airbnb started in San Francisco in 2008 as an easy way to connect travelers with hosts who wanted to rent out their spare bedroom or air mattress - similar to a bed and breakfast concept. Airbnb has now expanded to 192 countries and you can rent anything from your typical city condo to beach villas, tree houses, yachts, castles, airstreams and even igloos! Ironically it's actually rare to find an air mattress for rent these days.
My first Airbnb rental was in Bangkok a year ago. I rented a 500 sqft apartment with a full kitchen and living room for the same price as I would have paid for a 300 sqft hotel room across the street. It was great value and I had such a positive experience that 80% of my travel accommodations are now booked through Airbnb. I've stayed in 12 so far!
An Airbnb checklist for noobs:
Lots of people are intrigued when I tell them I prefer to Airbnb it rather than check into a hotel. I get asked all sorts of questions like how do I know if a place is legit or safe or if the host is even real, so I decided to share a few tips and things to consider when booking your first Airbnb.
- Always check out the hosts' references and ratings before you book. If it's their first listing they won't have this information so it's best to build a rapport with them over the phone first and ask lots of questions to establish credibility. If they have less than 5 photos posted or blurry images, I'll probably take a pass as well. Remember to follow your instincts.
- Confirm whether you get the entire place to yourself or if it's shared with the owner or other guests. There are instances where I've seen a listing for "entire apt" but when I double checked, I found out that the host may pop in for a night or two between business trips or it was just a guest house but there was a shared entrance and common area.
- Find out if the host actually lives there. There are some rentals that operate like a hotel and typically they are not as well furnished. For example, there may be a coffee maker in the kitchen but no cookware. Also ask if towels, toiletries, etc. will be supplied.
- If you are planning a longer stay (usually a week or more), most hosts I find are willing to offer a discount.
- If you are staying in a foreign city where English is not the first language, ask your host to send a email with the full address and keep that information with it in case you need to take a cab or ask strangers for directions. It's way easier to just show someone than attempting to pronounce the address incorrectly.
- Use Google Street View and check out the neighbourhood.
- You will need to leave a credit card deposit with Airbnb and it gets refunded a few days after your stay (pending that you left everything neat and tidy). There is a also a small service charge (basically a commission Airbnb takes) and there may be additional cleaning fees (all this is clearly stated in the checkout process). Remember that money NEVER gets exchanged between you and the host. Airbnb takes care of the transaction from the moment you book.
Interested in hosting?
On the flipside, if you have an extra room in your home or you travel a lot and your place sits empty, you may consider being a host. This is a great way to earn extra income and even meet some new people. Here are a few suggestions on how to create a good Airbnb profile and listing...
- Share lots of details on your profile including where you traveled, your hobbies and what you do.
- Take 10-12 photos preferably during the day and with a good camera. In some cities, you can actually ask Airbnb to come take professional ones for you.
- Aside from the basic information about your home (ex. sqft, location, how many bathrooms, etc.), it's always helpful to include highlights of your neighbourhood (ex. where the closest grocery store and bus stop/train station is, distance to hot spots and tourist attractions, etc.).
- Leave the contact information of where you will be or a friend's contact should there be an emergency and they need to reach you. It's also wise to leave a spare key with your friend.
- Create a list of House Rules for your guests - email it to them in advance and leave them a printed version as well. Remember to include instructions on how to operate the washer/dryer, your Internet password, a list of your favourite restaurants and anything else that may ensure a pleasant stay.
- Although not mandatory, it's nice to leave a small welcome gift. I've had hosts leave me a bottle of wine, a fruit basket and chocolates.
- Share your listing on Facebook, Twitter and Craigslist.
- Airbnb guarantees the host protection for up to $1,000,000 in damages to covered properties. With that said, if you have irreplaceable antiques or valuables in your home, hide them!
- There is a 3% commission that Airbnb takes on each booking.
I can't say enough good things about Airbnb! We love this service because you get to stay in local neighbourhoods, have access to a kitchen and laundry facilities and typically it costs less than a hotel. Try it out for yourself and let us know where you stayed! CLICK HERE --> It's free to join and you can save $25 off on your first booking and $75 off for hosting. Happy Travels!