Travel // Tips for using AirBnB and our favourite properties to date

March 19, 2019

We took our first Airbnb trip back in 2014, a stay in Paris in a beautiful rooftop apartment, up in the eaves with a staircase so steep, but so beautiful because Paris!, that we felt like we were burning off the croissants. We kept hearing about this cool new app to book accommodation and it was our first foray into how it all worked. We loved it and since then have used Airbnb for almost every trip we’ve taken. It’s such a great way to feel like you’re living like a local. Often they’ll be situated in quieter, more residential neighbourhoods where you get to see a different side to the tourist parts of where you’re staying. They’ll offer more space than a hotel room for less money {most of the time!}. If you like to self cater for some of your trip, like we do then it can make it fun to go to the local supermarket or find a market and cook some dinners or prepare breakfast. Again, saving money and giving a different experience. {it depends, of course, on what kind of trip you’re after. Sometimes you might just want a hotel stay with fluffy gowns and no food shopping/cooking to worry about! But for longer stays it can be more beneficial}. We use airbnb for most trips that we go on and whenever I share them on Instagram/in blog travelogues, I always get messages from people asking how to find the best ones so I thought I'd share a guide with some things we've learned over the past few years;
And before I begin, if you haven't signed up with Airbnb before, you can use this link for £25 off your first stay anywhere in the world.
  • When searching, add a maximum top budget filter to avoid swoooning over incredible properties that cost ten times what you want to pay. 

  • It will depend on how hip an area is as to how many Airbnb listings there are and therefore how much choice you have. In some places, it’s really widespread but others have been slower to start using it for listings. 

  • Generally, the earlier you book, the more choice you’ll have for your chosen dates. 

  • It’s always a hard one to know whether to book your flights first then find accommodation to fit, or if there’s somewhere you really love Airbnb wise that has limited availability you could secure this first then book your flights. It’s weighing up the costs of both and if it’s cheaper to fly on certain days. 

  • If we're set on dates to travel then I'll put these in the search to only show me properties that are available, but often we're flexible so I'll do a couple of searches with different dates. It's the most frustrating thing ever when you find a property that ticks all the boxes but isn't available or has whole months blocked out! 

  • Basic rule. Check it has WiFi. I mean, 99% should but just double check. 

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount if you’re staying for over a week. Sometimes hosts will state this in the description but I’ve always asked and they can then offer you a special rate if they’re happy to.

  • The Airbnb service fee is annoying, there’s no doubt about it, but you know you’re getting that strong level of protection compared to other booking sites. 

  • I’ve heard from a friend of a friend that their Airbnb booking was cancelled just before they arrived, leaving them with their flights booked/paid for and no accommodation. Everything else was then a lot more expensive. And I have seen on some reviews ‘this booking was cancelled by the host X days before arrival’, I’d guess maybe if it’s their home and their plans have changed? I’ve never had this happen to us, touch wood, but it would be one of the biggest downsides especially if it would then cost you more to find an alternative. I’m guessing this would happen more with a private home than a rental? 
  • Look on the map view tool if location is important {it almost always is for us} which will then handily show up the options by price on a map.
  • Check cancellation terms, the best properties tend to have strict terms for cancellation meaning that you can't get a refund if plans change. But some are more flexible, you can see this in the terms part of a listing. Often you'll lose the service fee but some will give refunds if you cancel early enough. Even with the strict listings though we've managed to amend bookings by adding or reducing the number of nights and you'll then pay extra/get refunded accordingly if the host allows it. You need to log onto the desktop version on a computer to do this and click on amend your booking then change the dates. Obviously you can only do this at the start or the end of a trip rather than cancelling nights in the middle of it. 
  • Save properties to your wanderlust lists to revisit later. Just click the heart button when viewing a property {I tend to always use the app} and create lists of different destinations to compare our favourites.

  • You know that you're in good hands with a host if they're listed as a superhost or the property is part of the 'Airbnb plus' program and you can search just within these categories if you want to. 

  • Read the reviews and look at the photos carefully. I scour the reviews for anything negative {was there street noise? Was it stupidly hot with no aircon in summer? Did the neighbourhood feel safe?}. Airbnb make you write a review of each property to really make this a big feature of the app/website and unlike trip advisor, there’s no worry of fake reviews. 

  • Because of this, don't be surprised when you have to fill out a lengthy application when signing up, including adding a form of Government ID to verify yourself. It's a real community vibe on there so fill out your profile with some details about yourself and why you love to travel/use Airbnb and be sure to message hosts with a personal message when you book. A lot of the time it is people renting out their homes so they'll feel much better about you booking if they like the sound of you/know you won't rent it just to have a huge party and trash the place! 

  • Ask the hosts if they would be able to store your luggage if it’s a city break where you won’t have a car to store them if you arrive before check in/depart after. Compared to a hotel, this can be one of the biggest make/break things when booking as otherwise you might spend half your first or last day schlepping your luggage around with you. Often this is no problem if they have the cleaners in/don’t have anybody straight after you so we’ve found some hosts are really helpful with this. 

  • Select the family friendly button if this is important to you. This has only come up recently for us since we’ve started booking trips for once our baby is here, it means they’re often highly rated by families and might provide extras like travel cots, high chairs or toys. 

  • Not everyone is a fan of Airbnb and some cities are either trying to ban it, or like Manhattan have banned short let stays because it’s seen as unregulated and disadvantages locals trying to buy property and the hotels miss out on tax/income. In NYC’s case it was the hotel’s who lobbied the mayor. You can get around this in New York by booking in another borough, we’ve booked one in Brooklyn for the next time we go back in a neighbourhood we love which is quiet but still super easy to get to Manhattan. 

  • Don’t forget England for Airbnb’s. I tend to always just look at it for trips abroad but actually there are some amazing properties in England to discover. In fact, we discovered this cottage on there, and always spy lovely looking places in Cornwall/by the coast in Kent that are tempting for weekends away. 

Some favourite properties we’ve stayed in over the years;

This apartment in Lisbon {from this blog post}

This trullo in Puglia {from this blog post}

The view from our rooftop Airbnb in Venice! from this blog post

This really cool apartment in Soller, Mallorca. From this blog post.


Have you used AirBnb? What tips or experiences would you add?

Hope this has been helpful.

R <3 xx 

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  1. Is there a way to show the total cost (including cleaning fees, etc) in the search results? I look at the map with prices but then I click on them and see the real cost with the added fees and it's much more expensive.

    1. Ugh yes it's so annoying isn't it. I normally shortlist a couple for our dates and then write down the total price for each one to compare them quickly before making a decision x

  2. I had an issue when I was booking an apartment in Canada for the Calgary Stampede. It was all booked and accepted then 2 weeks later the host contacted me to say that he hadn't realised it was Calgary Stampede week so he was doubling the price! He said we could either pay more or cancel, so I asked him to cancel but then didn't hear from him for a month. I didn't want to cancel as I'd loose money, so contacted Airbnb who were really helpful. They could see my conversation with the host and that I'd tried contacting him several times to ask him to process the cancellation, so they cancelled the booking for me with no fees. Luckily it was 10 months in advance so I had time to re-book, but it would've been a nightmare closer to the date! Now I only book with Superhosts because if they cancel then they lose their Superhost status so its much less likely to happen!

    1. Oh no! At least airbnb were helpful but that's so bad of him. Good tip about the superhosts x

  3. We have had some amazing and some less than amazing experiences with air bnb. One on a group hen do where the hot water wouldn't work, the host was uncontactable and the host had left her fridge full of food (for her, not for us!). A particularly awful one in Dublin where we got woken up by the landlord banging down the door for unpaid rent, and he then said we were illegally subletting and threatened to kick us out. We told air bnb, they were fab and refunded us so we could find somewhere else to stay BUT continued listing the apartment on their site despite the issues. An apartment in Sydney where drug deals happened directly outside, and it was blatantly run by a business posing as an individual. BUT gorgeous sea views, a jetty and a pool on the Isle of Wight, amazing castle views in Edinburgh, we continue to use Ar BnB because of the gems, and we are super strict with checking reviews etc! xx

    1. Oh geez! Yes definitely got to sift through lots of potentially dodgy properties to find the gems and the reviews are soo important x


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