Everyone has heard the stories of Airbnb rentals gone wrong, but there are millions of bookings that end happily every day. To ensure you get your storybook stay, you have to know what to expect out of a good host, what to look for in a listing, how to communicate your needs, and what owners want to know when screening potential renters. We spoke with three expert hosts who understand the ins and outs of the sharing economy about how to make sure your next Airbnb getaway is better than any luxury hotel stay.
Know Exactly What You Want
Like you would before any hotel stay, do your homework says Michael Gabor, who has been hosting guests for nearly four years with his partner Gerardo in their single-room New York rental. "Check out the location, transportation or parking issues, and have an exchange with the host about what you are doing during your visit before you book. Look for good reviews, good photos, and good communication skills from your host. Pay attention to the reviews, the location, and situations of the rental — not just the description."
Know What Makes a Good Host
Both the guest and the host have a responsibility to make a stay not just tolerable, but enjoyable for everyone involved. "Your host has the duty to care for you and your well being, at the very least by giving you safety tips, good eating suggesting, and the obligation to steer you in the right direction," Calin Timaru says. He and his wife, Vanessa, have been accommodating Airbnb guests in their chalet in the center of Toronto since February 2012, and have been awarded with Airbnb's Superhost honor. "A good host will be a shining ambassador for their city. A good host will ask you which flight you arrive on, keep track of the time you land, and text you a message welcoming you. They will be proud and truly care about your experience. They will want you to leave satisfied and bring back excellent stories of your adventures."
And you need to know what to check out on the website before you check in to the listing, such as completed profiles with photos, good reviews, and references, Gabor adds. "It demonstrates that they care enough to participate in making the system work as it was designed."
Know How to be a Trustworthy Renter
The best listings are competitive to book, so you need to show your best side and make a host want to have you in their space. "You want to ensure you get that booking? Tell hosts a story," Timaru, whose listing draws nearly 150 views a week, says. "Give us a few tidbits about your trip, make us interested, and entice us with some details. You don't have to write a novel, but you do need a friendly introduction. We want to know who you are, what you're doing in our lovely town."
Trust can be an issue when opening your house to relative strangers, Timaru adds. "Be open. Be communicative. Prepare to be friendlier than usual, even if you're charmingly introverted. Show good manners. If your hosts are experienced, they will have learned to read body language, and soon enough you will be left alone to enjoy the sights of your travel destination."
At the end of the day, a guest needs to be willing and able to talk. "Expect to interact with your hosts," Gabor suggests. "Most are doing it because they enjoy it. Ask for recommendations about things to do and places to eat."
Remember, It's Not a Luxury Resort (for a Reason)
Getting away from the typical lodging methods has its merits, reminds Rebecca Baran-Rees. Baran-Rees and her husband, Dylan, have rented their Southwestern casita guest suite in the unique location in the mountains of Santa Fe, New Mexico for over a year and have also been awarded the title of Superhost by Airbnb.
"Allow Airbnb to become your getaway," Baran-Rees says. "That makes for a quiet retreat in and of itself. Unlike with a hotel, you can actually book a place that is out of town and in nature but still near a city or town. Look for listings that mention 'vacation rental.' It's best when they are tucked away in the woods or the mountains, but still close enough to city limits to where there is a nice balance with what you can do with your spare time. There are so many exciting, remote areas with listings right next to hiking and mountain biking trails in the West and Southwest."
And if you are used to a little more luxury, allow your Airbnb to change your perspective. "You are not going to walk into a sterile hotel room," Timaru warns. "Things may be different than what you are used to. That's okay. It’s not always going to be perfect, but if you're choosing to travel in this way you should be okay with being surprised for better or worse. Be flexible, respect the house rules. If possible connect with your host. They will be curious about your views of their city. More often than not you will be glad you put in the effort to make a new friend."