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Airbnb Tips: From First-Timer to Expert

You’re planning on traveling and haven’t decided on a place to stay yet?

Over the years of country hopping, one of the MOST popular questions I get asked is for recommendations on where to stay. 

I’ve stayed at over 30 Airbnb’s in the last few years and have become somewhat of an expert when it comes to finding exactly what I want for a great deal. 

Below, I’ll share my money-saving tips, including how to get an Airbnb discount. Follow these tips and you could save hundreds of dollars on your next booking!

1. Make a specific search

This is going to save you time and eliminate everything you’re not interested in right away. 

Start by selecting your destination, your check-in/out dates (this will eliminate what’s already taken) and the number of guests. 

The most basic aspect of searching for a place is to know exactly what you are looking for. You can search for ‘Entire Home’, ‘Private Room’, or ‘Shared Room’. If you’re by yourself and on a budget, don’t be afraid to do ‘Private Room’ – it’s a great way to save money and meet locals. Can’t speak for shared room..

You can also apply filters to your search, narrowing down the list of options that will show in your search. As a digital nomad, a few things that were important to me were – wifi, kitchen, A/C and a laptop friendly workspace. And sometimes if I was feeling EXTRA boujee, a pool and gym. If I couldn’t find anything that met ALL those needs, I would start removing filters like pool, gym, workspace etc until I found something.

PRO AIRBNB TIP: If you are looking at foreign properties, you can filter by host language (i.e. speaks English). 

Jimbaran, Bali

2. Review Photos

I pay very close attention to the photos of a property. Even when a listing meets your budget, is in the right area, and has decent reviews, if the host provides two blurry photos, that is a red flag.

The photos of the apartment should be clear and provide an overview of the layout. A listing with photos from multiple angles of the living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom clearly have nothing to hide.

PRO AIRBNB TIP: If a property leaves out photos of one room (like, the bathroom), be cautious and consider asking for extra photos.

Seminyak, Bali

3. Research the Location

Especially when visiting a new city, where your accommodation is in relation to what’s important to you will be vital. Airbnb will show the approximate location of the listing, within a 2-3 block radius. You can also filter to search for certain neighbourhoods if you know where you want to be situated in a city. I will usually google blogs that give me a breakdown of neighbourhoods in the area so I have an idea.

To feel more comfortable with location, use the approximate address and do a search on any basic map website for how long it will take to walk or drive to the things you want to see. If you are a first time visitor, getting a sense of distance is hard to gauge by simply looking at a map.

I’ve seen great apartments that were listed as “close to city center” but once I searched on Google Maps, found that the walk would be 20-25 minutes with no many amenities nearby. That doesn’t seem too far but if you have to walk that every time you leave your house, it can be tiring #regrets

PRO AIRBNB TIP: I’m pretty health conscious and enjoy cooking meals from my accommodation. I’m the opposite of a foodie, so I also make sure a market is nearby for grocery shopping. This is also an easy way to save money and spend it on doing a fun activity!

Surry Hills, Sydney, Australia

4. Read the Reviews…Really!

The user reviews are almost always the most important aspect in my decision making process. I rely heavily on what other people have to say about their stay. Go to the reviews to understand any downsides of a particular apartment, no matter how small.

Have multiple people mentioned that the bed is uncomfortable? Or the location is difficult to find? Or requires more effort than expected to get to city center?

I don’t gamble with a recently listed space or one with just a few reviews. When an apartment has dozens of raving reviews,  you know you found a gem. 

PRO AIRBNB TIP: Always keep an eye out for things that matter to you. For me, wifi is critical. I would check the reviews to see if anyone mentioned something positive or negative about the wifi speed. Even then, I would usually message the host and ask them to send me a photo of their wifi upload/download speed. If you’re just doing email and basic internet searches 3-4 Mbps is fine, if you need to do video calls 10+ Mbps.

Buleleng, Bali

5. Communicate with the Owner

If you have a question, or want clarification about what amenities the apartment has, then you can contact the owner directly through Airbnb’s website prior to booking. How clearly and quickly the owner communicates is a good indication of how organized the host is. If your message goes without a response for multiple days, red flag. Most hosts respond within 24 hours, some even within an hour.

PRO AIRBNB TIP: Most Airbnb hosts have set check in times, similar to hotels, respect this time. They usually need to be there to let you in (unless it’s a self check-in). If you need to check in early, it is worth contacting the owner and asking if you can check in early. Often, if no one is staying the previous evening, they’re open to an early check-in.

Sevilla, Spain

6. Be a Good Guest

When you check in and meet the host, make sure you know and understand the house rules. Also make sure you understand how to leave the property when you check out. Do you just leave the keys in the apartment or do you need to arrange a time with the host? Do you need to take the garbage out or leave it for the host to take care of?

It almost goes without saying but be a good guest/human and leave the apartment or room in good condition. Wash all the dishes and do a general clean up. You might get away with trashing a hotel room, but the review system at Airbnb works both ways, so not only can guests review the host, but hosts can rate the guests. If you leave the property a mess and disregard the house rules, you may get a bad review from the host, something that potential future hosts can see if you try to book.

After even one bad review, it may be difficult to be accepted as a guest in the future, so just be the good human I know you are.

PRO AIRBNB TIP: If there is a major issue like misrepresentative photos, an incorrect location, or major cleanliness issues, contact Airbnb customer service immediately. Airbnb withholds the payment to the host until 24 hours after you check in. So if you address the issue within the first 24 hours, a refund will be much easier to process.

Marbella, Spain

BONUS TIP – You can negotiate the price

Most Airbnb guests don’t know this: There is something Airbnb hosts can use called a Special Offer, which is essentially an Airbnb discount hosts can choose to send you.

Hosts can only send you a special offer if you first send them a message with specific dates in mind.

Therefore, you could haggle on the price by NOT clicking “Request to Book” but clicking “Contact this host” and putting your stay dates.

If you click “Request to Book,” you will likely get approved for the listed price. If you do “Contact this host” you could get “pre-approved” but not have to pay yet!

Use this with caution, and do it respectfully. Remember that, unlike hotels, Airbnbs are typically owned by locals who are renting out rooms in their own homes. Many of them do rely on that rental income, so be considerate.

When should you try to haggle on the price of an Airbnb? I like to do it only if my situation meets all these requirements:

  1. You’re planning a longer-term stay with them. It’s probably not worth anybody’s time if you’re only booking 1 night with the host and want to bring the price down.
  2. You’ve messaged them introducing yourself and taken time to get to know them.
  3. You’re booking last-minute. Think like a business owner/landlord: You don’t ever want to have unused inventory (empty rooms) because that means you lose money! If it’s just a few days before your stay, it is very likely your Airbnb host will consider lowering the price so they can get that room filled. This may not work, however, if it is high season in a very touristic place; in those cases, your Airbnb host may be more confident they can get the room booked, even at the last minute.

Few people know about this, which makes it one of my favorite Airbnb tips!

How to Negotiate Prices on Airbnb and Get a “Special Offer:”

Step 1: DO NOT click the “Request to Book” button yet! Scroll down and click “Contact Host” located within the listing.

Step 2: Write a message about yourself, the dates you’re interested in booking, number of guests and why you want to stay with the Airbnb host. You want to build up some rapport with the Airbnb host before you ask for a discount. So let them get to know you BEFORE you request a Special Offer.

After you’ve started a conversation with your host send another message that says something like this:

“I’m looking at a couple other Airbnb options, but your place is my favorite! It is a bit above my budget for the trip, so I was wondering if you’d be willing to offer a discount? I completely understand if you can’t do this; just thought I’d ask. Thank you!”

Boulder, CO

I hope that with these tips you find exactly what you’re looking for!

My experiences have been positive across the board. I love the value of the service and I often feel so lucky to have had the experience in such a beautiful space with a friendly host for a fraction of the cost of a hotel.

Want a $55 travel credit for your first stay at an Airbnb? Follow this link to book your stay! Would love to hear how your future travel plans go over on Instagram.

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