Where you stay can sometimes make or break your vacation. It is common for people to look for the nearest and most affordable Hotel in a given city but there is a great alternative, AirBNB (www.airbnb.com).
Why choose AirBNB? There are 2 main benefits, cost savings and location. Because AirBNBs are peoples homes, you will more than likely stay in an area where you’re among the locals. Also because each listing is run by every day people, the cost of an AirBNB listing tend to be very reasonable. I’ve personally stayed at multiple AirBNBs in America and in Europe and mostly enjoyed the experiences.
Ok, so you want to use AirBNB but you’re not sure how to find the right listing for your needs. No problem, I will show you my method of finding a good listing. I will use my friend Kylo’s apartment in Berlin as an example.
Edit your Search – AirBNB’s site it is very flexible. You can go as far as sleeping in someones living room to having the whole apartment to yourself. What’s your budget? How many beds do you need or bedrooms do you need? Keep in mind that AirBNB doesn’t associate beds with bedrooms as many listings may setup temporary beds in a living room for a large party. It also asks how many guests because the listing may have additional charges for a certain amount of guests, however this does not equate into how many beds. 2 guests could be a brother and sister that need 2 separate rooms or a couple that will sleep in the same bed. Be sure to click “More Filters” to edit these changes during your search (example below).
Location – It’s always challenging to know where you should stay in a city that you’ve never been to. The first step is deciding what is important to you? Being close to the tourist attractions? Staying close to night clubs? Staying close to lots of restaurants? To make your life a little easier, I will tell you that in the bigger European cities public transportation works very well and you can get to everywhere you need to relatively quick. My suggestion is to make sure that you try to stay within city limits. There are lots of listings that say that they are in a city but when you look at the map, they are a 30 min train ride to get into the city. The benefits of staying outside of the city is that they tend to be more affordable but you will have cost of paying for transportation everyday just to get to locations you really want to be.
When you open up an AirBNB listing, it will show you a map and it will give you a general location of the listing so you can see which neighborhood it’s located in and what the neighborhood has to offer (example below).
Additional Costs – This can be easily overlooked but most AirBNBs have some sort of additional costs, at the minimum they will have a cleaning fee and that fee ranges. Please keep in mind that some places require a deposit in case some of their property is damaged and you will receive your money back after your stay is completed. I personally never stay at these places as it’s hundreds of dollars that I’m losing out on when I can stay at other locations without a deposit. They may charge you if you have over a certain amount of guests. You should be aware of all of these possible charges before hand so you’re not shocked when you’re going through the checkout process to see it’s way more than you thought.
Amenities – Make sure you review the amenities for your AirBNB as it’s critical. For example, make sure that they have wireless internet available. A tip for people who are bouncing around Europe on an extended stay, somewhere mid-trip, get an AirBNB that has at least a washer and hang dry your clothes, this way you can have clean clothes that you can wear again throughout the rest of your trip.
Cancellation Policy – There are no guarantees in life so make sure read the cancellation policy before hand as it can be the difference of losing out on money or getting a refund (example below). I had an experience where I stayed at an AirBNB in Hamburg, Germany but the place was cluttered and just made me uncomfortable to stay there for multiple nights. I slept there one night and left the next day while still getting a refund for the rest of my stay because their cancellation policy allowed it. If you run into this situation, don’t rely off of what the host states, rely off of the AirBNB website listing and you can simply go through the refund process in a matter of minutes.
Superhosts and Reviews – Reviews are the lifeblood for a host on AirBNB, they rely off of getting good reviews and do everything possible to make sure you are comfortable at a location. If you have a Superhost, you increase your odds of having a great experience. Shy away from low review locations.
Ok, you booked your AirBNB, what next? – Communication is a huge part of your next step. Send them a message ASAP letting them know when you will be at their location. Provide them a way to communicate with you like your whatsapp number or cell phone number. You can always communicate back and forth through the AirBNB site but having another way to communicate is always good in case something happens. If you book months ahead, give the host updates as time gets close, “Just a reminder, I’m arriving there at…”, this will help to ensure no confusion and they will tell you the process how you get into the location.
Every location is different on how you get into it. I’ve had it where the host meets me in front of the building, I’ve had it where the host’s friend met me to give me a key and I’ve had it where they left a key in a specific location as they could not be there to greet me. Always find out how they want this to happen before hand so there is no confusion.
When you get inside the location, some go as far as to leave rules or processes for when you leave. There are general rules on the AirBNB listing page but they may, for example, want you to leave dirty towels in a specific area or wash the dishes you used before you leave.
Final Tip – I highly suggest you book your AirBNB listing 3 months before your trip or at minimum 2 months before your trip. The best combined value and location AirBNBs go away quickly, so book as early as you can. Do not expect great value if you’re trying to book 2 weeks before you leave. Is it possible? Sure but your chances get slimmer.
So enjoy your stay, be with the locals and feel at home all at the same time.