AirBnB has become the number one place people looking for adventure on a more limited budget, but sometimes things don't go right. If you don't do your research, you might find yourself sharing a living room with several German tourists, or stuck miles away from anything.
You might not always get what you were expecting, but making sure your AirBnB stay is a good one doesn't have to be difficult. Just follow these five easy steps.
Find a spot that won't leave you stranded
Think of it like looking for a new apartment, with less stress and no broker fee. If you're getting this AirBnB to be close to that new office you're scouting out, do what you'd do if you were looking for a new place to live in your own city. Google it: use Maps to see all the adjacent neighborhoods, use the broader search to see if the Times has featured it in the Styles section (or worse). Then use Hopstop to find out just how long that commute will be. If you don't want to be close to the Downtown area because it empties out after 5pm, save the Hopstopping for last, of course, when you've found a hipper part of town that you want to explore. If you've got or are renting a car, Google maps should have you covered, allowing for traffic.
How to find a place with the right kind of nightlife
Use Yelp to your full advantage to get a sense of the neighborhood you're considering. The people who haunt Yelp roam most major cities (and the surrounding suburbs, too, if you're looking at Chicago or San Francisco), rating the local bars and dry cleaners. Don't stop at Yelp though. Get a second opinion from Trip Advisor and see what other visitors thought of the Michelin-rated restaurant that the host claims as a hot feature. If you're going to a metropolitan area with a local magazine, that magazine most likely has a web presence with searchable restaurant reviews and other cultural highlights.
Avoid having a weird roommate (or five)
There are two ways to do this, and two ways only. One way: make it a popularity contest. The hosts with the most reviews or, at the very least, a prized place in AirBnB's Popular section will be safer bets than the brand-new yurt in LA's trendiest burg. The other way to ensure you won't wake up with a guy eating breakfast cereal just a few steps away: filter out any "private room" or "shared space" listings and just focus on the "entire room/apartment" offerings. While there are many opportunities for you to find out before your arrival if the host seems decent and kind, there is no way to tell ahead of time if someone's going to walk in on you in the shower. It's best not to take any chances.
Avoid big surprises
The AirBnB system ensures access to the host before you show up at her doorstep. While you're messaging the host, ask the big questions. Is there a coffeemaker in the kitchen? Does "smoking allowed" mean you have to go out on the balcony? Where do you dry your clothes if there's a washer on the premises and no dryer? Is that cat in that picture part of the deal, or is that just a neighborhood stray? You want to end this trip by giving a good review, so open a dialogue as soon as you can.