We’ve recently got into our Airbnb stride, and it’s made me reflect on what’s gone well so far.  In the Airbnb bookings we’ve made to date, there’s been one little hiccup, which was entirely our own doing.  So here’s my advice on creating the best Airbnb experience you can.

1. Be clear what you want

It’s amazing how often I seem to write these words or something similar when talking about travel hacks.  If you want to be close to the main sights, don’t book in the sticks.  If you’re on a road trip, don’t book somewhere without parking.  So start out with a list of the non-negotiables, plus an extra list of the things you’d like if possible.  For example, during our Tennessee and Mississippi trip last October, we needed at least one of our Airbnb stays to have a washer, thus avoiding us having to pack two weeks worth of clothing (and indeed drag home two weeks smelly laundry).

Our non-negotiable list is a self-contained place, wifi, and some kind of cooking facilities, even if that’s a microwave and fridge.  Our wish list is walkable to a store for supplies, simple decor and with a sense of local community.

2.  Know Thyself, and book accordingly

I’m a bit of a clean freak.  While I like the look of characterful places with lots of soft furnishings and knick-knacks, I actually prefer places where the cleanliness is obvious.  So I look for Airbnbs with clear modern lines.  I’m also not great at being “on” socially all the time.  So a separate house, apartment or studio works better for me.  I’m really happy to chat with a host, or meet for a drink.  But I don’t want to head back to the Airbnb each night and make conversation; my head’s too full of what I’ve seen that day.  So shared space would make me antsy and I book self-contained.

3. Don’t forget the basics

When you’re searching, be specific.  Pin down your location and the type of accommodation you need.  Don’t forget to set your budget range to avoid temptation, and, in popular destinations, to avoid an overwhelming number of choices.  You can also apply filters for particular features such as wifi and a full kitchen.

Handle everything through Airbnb’s messages and payment systems.  On which note, don’t forget to check your messages when you’ve put in a request to the host; it helps them see you are reliable too.

4.  Be sociable and pleasant

Unless you are dealing with an automated booking, the host will want to engage to know that you’ll be a good guest.  So make sure your Airbnb profile is completed with some charm and grace, and be friendly and forthcoming in your communication with the host.  They will often be able to help you if you are visiting for a specific purpose or to reach particular destinations.

You’ll find plenty of clues about the host in the listing.  You may see that they are chatty and sociable, or that they live far away, and manage the property through a local contact.  Look too at how they respond to any issues in the reviews.  Problems during a stay that are solved quickly and courteously by the host give me a good sense that we too would be treated fairly and well by that host.

We’ve had a whole range of host interactions in our Airbnb experiences.  Bear in mind we’ve only ever booked a self-contained space, albeit often on the property where the host lives, so there’s been no automatic interaction every day.  One host we met via messages only, another welcomed us in, and wished us safely homeward at the end of our stay, and we spent an evening out with another.  There are plenty of options for how engaged they – and you – will want to be.

5.  Be Realistic about the Experience

This is not a hotel.  There will not be a 24 hour concierge, nor someone making your bed in the morning.  The benefit of living like a local is that you do live like a local.  Be respectful of the space and its neighbours.

Don’t forget that with most things in life, you will get what you pay for. Stunning apartments with great views in popular locations don’t come cheap.  If you are prepared to be more off the beaten track, you can find some affordable and often spectacular options.  It’s about knowing where your compromise falls.  For me, I’d take better quality accommodation further away from where I wanted to be.  But that’s changed for me over time, and it’s something you need to think through before you book.

6. Read The Reviews

Can I just say that again?  Read. The  Reviews.

And when you do, bear in mind that most people’s default setting is to veer towards being nice, and will give a host the benefit of the doubt.  I’m not suggesting that reviews full of vitriol are a good thing, and Airbnb’s principle of not revealing reviews until both host and guest have spoken is commendable.  But remember that most guests will have formed a good – albeit minimal – relationship with the host and don’t want to be overly critical.  It’s a whole different mindset to Trip Advisor, for example.

So read carefully.  Look at what people have said, and don’t dismiss any small clues in their reviews about things that might affect you.  Be alert to what previous guests are highlighting, and consider if it matters to you.

7.  Read the reviews – and believe them

We chose an Airbnb in an up and coming area.  It was pretty cut off from most of the local attractions, and that was fine.  We had the Uber app (and Lyft as a backup) ready installed and waiting.  We didn’t pay enough attention to one little comment that appeared in a few of the reviews.  In fairness, there weren’t a lot of reviews, as the place had not long been listed.

In some of the reviews, guests had commented about the noise from trains.  We read this, digested it, and unwisely dismissed it.  Part of this was a cultural misstep.  We live in the UK, where trains normally run in waking hours, and often through cuttings or with trees planted to manage the noise.  Let me tell you at this point that reports of the death of the American railroad are somewhat exaggerated.  The sound of freight trains, each taking approximately three minutes to pass at a distance of two hundred meters, went on throughout the night.  Accompanied by whistles, hooting and clattering.  And sometimes at seemingly sadistic intervals, devised to lull you back to sleep, then awake you abruptly again.

Our fail.  We read the reviews, ignored them, and didn’t think about the difference between three carriages of electric trains by daylight at home versus freight trains for much of the night.  We’re a bit wiser now.

Think about how much this might affect you too.  I was pretty much ok with disturbed sleep, save for the need of an occasional disco nap.  But it really affected my husband, and it would be a deal breaker for future Airbnb bookings.

8. Check Out the Photos

These can vary tremendously in quality.  I didn’t realise until recently that some are taken by Airbnb accredited photographers.  This gives another layer of objectivity, but as I understand it, the service is not available in all areas.  So call it a bonus if it’s there, not a negative if it’s not.

Have a careful look at the pictures. What’s the lighting like in the building?  Is there space for your stuff?  What does the outside view tell you about the area?  Don’t forget that if you are an Airbnb host, this is your opportunity to show off your place.  If those best pictures don’t look great, then maybe scroll on by.

9. Be a good guest

Be respectful and courteous.  Show up when you say you will, and don’t leave late.  Treat the place and its neighbours with consideration.  To most of us, these are unnecessary reminders.  But it’s good to remember that we as guests are being reviewed too.  Our own reputation will affect our future Airbnb bookings, and how willing people are to host us.

10. If it all goes pear shaped

I know there are some troubling experiences reported by the occasional Airbnb guest.  And host, for that matter.  But don’t let it put you off.  Life itself has plenty of difficult moments, and by and large we tend to manage as best we can.

Make sure you arrive with a charged and sim-ready phone, so you can contact someone if needed.  If there’s a big problem, contact Airbnb customer service immediately.  For smaller problems, give the host a chance to resolve them.

And try to resolve the small things that seem big things.  We arrived in the evening at one city apartment.  There was a massive door to the lobby, and I couldn’t get in to access the key safe to the apartment.  It turned out that I was just being feeble, and my husband managed to get us in with ease.  Similarly, we’ve had some issues with coded entries before.  Just take a deep breath, summon your travel mojo, and try again.

11 After your stay

I’m assuming that like the good guest you are, you’ve left the place tidy as per your host’s instructions, and you’ve departed in good time.  Don’t forget to write your review.  Neither you nor the host can see the other person’s review until you have both commented, or else the time frame for reviews has expired.  That’s great, as it avoids any possibility of retaliatory comments.

When you think about your review, remember that you’re assessing the place against what it offered, and its pricing.  You wouldn’t get a Manhattan penthouse for $60 a night, so it’s best to be real.  Was the listing honest, and the price fair?  Was the host helpful?

Please do review.  And please be fair.  One place we stayed in had a boiler failure during an earlier stay.  It was dealt with quickly by the host, and the guest hadn’t mentioned it at all.  That’s good reviewing, as the circumstances were clearly outside the host’s control and quickly addressed.  But if you have a worrying stay, do say.  If you are factual and objective, you’ll be doing the whole Airbnb community a favour.


We had a great Airbnb experience here in the UK, and also in beautiful Ghent, Belgium.

Author: Bernie

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79 thoughts on “11 Travel Hacks for a great Airbnb Experience

  1. I love using Airbnb! Thanks for all of the great tips, I will keep them in mind for my next trip 🙂

    Kaitlyn | http://theskincarepharmd.com/

    Posted on August 8, 2017 at 6:13 pm
    1. Glad it was helpful. And have a great trip! 🙂

      Posted on August 8, 2017 at 7:31 pm
    2. I love how Airbnb is always an adventure: so much of an insight into how people actually live in different places.

      Posted on August 9, 2017 at 10:33 am
  2. Very helpful post. I am saving it for future reference.

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 6:11 am
    1. Thanks. 🙂 We’ve had some great Airbnb experiences, and even when we haven’t, it’s made a traveler’s tale.

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 6:54 am
  3. Interesting and very helpful tips. You are right about the reviews. We should pay attention to all the little details that are written. I also pay a lot of attention to the photos (as you also mention). Interesting!

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 10:50 am
    1. It’s interesting trying to do that read between the lines with both the photos and the reviews. And definitely when in doubt, trusting your gut feeling.

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 12:02 pm
  4. These are all really fantastic pieces of advice for booking with AirBnb! I agree that reading the reviews is such an important part of the booking process – I never book any accommodation without taking a look at the reviews.

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 10:53 am
    1. Glad it’s useful even when you travel lots already. I’ve got to the stage where I probably spend more time on the reviews than the listing, once I’ve checked the place has wifi and a fridge. 😉

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 12:06 pm
  5. These are great tips. Reading reviews and knowing what you are signing up for is absolutely key. If it seems to good to be true – it usually is! I love airbnb, especially the variety it offers, but it is not for everyone.

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 11:17 am
    1. At first I wasn’t sure it would be for us, but we’ve had some great stays. And I’m definitely with you on the too good to be true factor! The last two Airbnb places we’ve had were undersold, as in way better than billed, and lovely surprises.

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 12:10 pm
  6. Oh great tips. The reviews can tell you so much. Especially when you read in between the lines

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 11:29 am
    1. Thanks. 🙂

      “Spot the gap” is fascinating. Especially when it comes to working out what is missing in the pictures, and if it matters.

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 12:11 pm
  7. 11 is super important! I have never tried using airbnb (but I get some listings are also available in booking, etc. Couldn’t agree more on taking time to read reviews and photos!

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 11:57 am
    1. I’m so pleased you like #11. For me, it’s the pay it forward in the experience, and fair reviewing is good karma for both host and future guest.

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 12:13 pm
  8. Very interesting read! I love using Airbnb and having my own space and the freedom to cook etc and I would love to be a host on it one day when I have my own place.

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 12:47 pm
    1. Thanks. 🙂 We’ve been talking about the potential of hosting too. I’m sure that you – and hopefully us too – would be a great host having seen it from the guest’s perspective.

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 1:36 pm
  9. Yes definitely agree with reading the reviews. And I know what you mean about the trains. The house grew up in was close to some tracks so now I don’t even notice them, but it took awhile getting used to.

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 12:55 pm
    1. I’m somewhere between cross with myself and amused about the train situation. I think I’d got into a mindset that an electric and polite three carriage little number is what would be passing in the US, rather like at home. Which was a little bit wrong. 😉 Lovely to see the real Casey Jones action though, although maybe not quite so much by night.

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 1:34 pm
  10. This is a really useful and practical guide. Too often we are left feeling disappointed as we do not check things out rigorously enough and fail to do our research. Thanks for this! I’ve been staying in an Airbnb in London for the past two weeks, will definitely now take the time to review it.

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 1:29 pm
    1. That’s great! And after that time in residence, you’ll have such an understanding of all that’s good and not about the stay – really valuable to another guest.

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 1:31 pm
  11. I’m also a clean freak and after my last Airbnb experience (the house was horribly old, and we didn’t feel safe in there) I haven’t tried again. I will definitely use your tips the next time I’m looking, hopefully they’ll help with finding a better accomodation!

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 1:30 pm
    1. Ah no! I hope you try again and have a much better experience next time round. If it’s any help, I try to look for places that are really quite bare and have wooden floors or tiles. That sort of minimalist vibe seems to be easier to work with, without triggering my internal ick factor. But unsafe is a whole different ballgame. Fortunately it’s not something we’ve yet encountered. Wishing you safer and happier stays in the future.

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 1:43 pm
  12. I love these tips! I am currently in the process of shortlisting Airbnb apartments for my visit to Shanghai, and I totally agree with your tip of knowing oneself. People overlook that sometimes and when you get what you like, it makes the experience so much better. Like I prefer large windows and light colors. So every time I use Airbnb with that in mind and my experience has always been good.

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 3:00 pm
    1. Glad to hear that’s working for you too.

      I think we’d be looking for the same kind of Airbnb. 😉 Much as I love the idea of dark and cottagey, I know I’d be falling over my own feet.

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 3:48 pm
  13. Thank you for this, a great resource. We’ve not used Air Bnb much, but will need to as we’re heading to South America, so this will be a great help.

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 3:03 pm
    1. You’re a year ahead of us on South America. I’m so looking forward to reading about your experiences.

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 3:50 pm
  14. Reviews are SO important. I’ve been using Airbnb so often lately, thanks for the tips!

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 3:06 pm
    1. Hope it’s been a good experience for you too.

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 3:50 pm
  15. I love AirBnB and use it frequently and I agree with everything you said. You are in someone’s home and need to be respectufl and no. This is not a hotel. People are living their lives and cannot cater to your every need. Lol. Great reminders!!

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 3:42 pm
    1. Being flexible and considerate makes it such a good experience both ways. Your hosts must have been very appreciative of the way you approached your stays.

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 3:53 pm
  16. Very helpful and useful blog post. Thank you for that. I am an AirBnB user – both as a guest and as a host and I’m so happy someone finally addressed all these points.

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 4:26 pm
    1. Ah, that makes me happy! You see it from both sides, so I’m really glad you’ve found it balanced and helpful.

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 5:33 pm
  17. I’ve not been brave enough to try Airbnb yet but really think I ought to. I shall definitely use your advice when researching places in the future.

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 6:32 pm
    1. I hope you find some great options. Maybe try an Airbnb that has loads of reviews for your first time, so you have an extensive and independent commentary on the place you’re booking.

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 8:46 pm
  18. Great tips, especially for those new to Airbnb.

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 9:04 pm
    1. Thanks. 🙂 It took us a while to take the plunge, but I’m glad we did.

      Posted on August 12, 2017 at 9:41 pm
  19. These are awesome hacks, Bernadette! Definitely super helpful!! I’ve never really thought about pimping up my Airbnb profile tho hahaa. But I guess it does make sense to do so because if I were a host, I’d want to find out about my guests who are coming to stay as well. And I’ve always known about the Airbnb accredited photography situation but I do find that when they photograph it with their high quality cameras and super wide angle lenses, the actual rooms are almost always smaller than in the photos 🙁

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 11:25 pm
    1. Aw, thanks! 🙂 Some of our hosts have commented upfront on things in our profiles, so it seems to have helped. More so in the early days of our Airbnb use, I suspect. I see what you mean about the photography skills too; that’s worth keeping in mind.

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 7:19 am
  20. Great tips! Love how straight to the point you are! My partner and I travel full time and we have to book accommodation on a regular basis. We do not always use airbnb but reading the reviews applies to every type of accommodation. We also try to read reviews on several different platforms. For example, one hote had great ratings on Booking.com but on google it became apparent that they had a bed bug problem not even a month before our visit!

    Posted on August 12, 2017 at 11:28 pm
    1. That’s really sound advice to bring to the party: thanks! And a great reminder that things can change, and we should be alert to that.

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 7:15 am
  21. I’ve never stayed at an Airbnb before, but I’ve heard some mixed reviews. From the things I’ve read, I’m a bit nervous to give it a go! These are awesome tips though. I’ll definitely keep them in mind if I ever do decide to give Airbnb a shot 🙂

    Posted on August 13, 2017 at 12:37 am
    1. I’ve also heard of some less than good experiences. But I do reckon that the reviews are the key. If you do decide to give it a shot, I hope you find a treasure of a place.

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 7:13 am
  22. Thanks for sharing these useful tips

    Posted on August 13, 2017 at 3:43 am
    1. My pleasure. 🙂

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 7:11 am
  23. Thank you for sharing your tips. I use Air BnB quite often and I have never had a problem with any host or accommodation. As you say, it is important to book according to your personality and read the reviews beforehand to know what to expect.

    Posted on August 13, 2017 at 4:55 am
    1. It’s great to know that you’ve had such a positive experience.

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 7:11 am
  24. Great tips! I especially like the “know thyself”. LOL Question….would you ever stay in a place that hasn’t y et been reviewed?? I have found great place but then get scared.

    Posted on August 13, 2017 at 7:51 am
    1. Interesting question. And, yes, I would, but with a few caveats. I’d be much more inclined to say yes if I knew the country and could be self-reliant more easily should there be any issues. Ditto for a place in a more populated area, where there are likely to be alternatives if needed. Possibly no if the place is in the middle of nowhere. I guess the bottom line is that the most fabulous places were new once. Hope you have a great stay if you decide to go for it.

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 9:41 am
  25. Hi lovely post, I totally agree with it especially I always swear by the reviews and the best one is being nice and pleasant, it always helps. ❤

    Posted on August 13, 2017 at 10:00 am
    1. Ah, thanks. 🙂 I’m most definitely from the “kindness is free” school too. Means we can all wander around this beautiful world more happily.

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 11:42 am
  26. I get so overwhelmed trying to find the perfect accommodation on Airbnb, there’s often just so many to choose from! After reading this post I feel like I can go in with a new found confidence – super helpful!

    Posted on August 13, 2017 at 10:08 am
    1. Ah, that’s brilliant! I totally get the overwhelm, and that’s usually where I fix on either price or specific location to get me back to manageable choices.

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 11:39 am
  27. Very useful and relevant post. It’s amazing how much of an impact airbnb hosts can have on a stay!

    Posted on August 13, 2017 at 12:51 pm
    1. That’s so very true. We’ve had some very considerate hosts, even down to thoughtful extras left in the property.

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 5:37 pm
  28. Thanks for these tips. I haven’t used Airbnb yet, but have friends that did. While they had a great experience, I think these tips will go a long way to ensuring that it happens all the time.

    Posted on August 13, 2017 at 2:12 pm
    1. Thank you. 🙂 Hope you have a great stay if you do book AirBnb.

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 5:35 pm
  29. I haven’t taken the plunge on Airbnb yet, so this is great information. Thanks for sharing!

    Posted on August 13, 2017 at 3:41 pm
    1. I hope that you have a great stay when you do!

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 5:34 pm
  30. Terrific article and so on point!! I’m glad you have ‘Be Clear What You Want’ and ‘Know Yourself’ at the top. Each property will be appealing to different people for different reasons. We’ve had wonderful experiences in all our bookings so far!

    Posted on August 13, 2017 at 4:33 pm
    1. Thank you. 🙂 Glad it’s been a positive for you too. I think that matching your needs with the property is key, as you rightly say.

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 5:33 pm
  31. We’ve never stayed at an Air BnB because it makes my husband nervous, but I really want to! I can’t agree more with you about reading (and believing!) the reviews. I find this to be so important when booking any experience. Have saved your tips to share with my husband and hopefully we will have our first air BnB stay soon!

    Posted on August 13, 2017 at 6:14 pm
    1. Ah, I really hope you find somewhere brilliant and enjoy a stay. Maybe start with a place that has a multitude of great reviews?

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 6:33 pm
  32. I really appreciate these tips as someone who is interested in staying in Airbnbs more frequently! I have only done it once and had a great experience, but it’s always hard to know how to find/book the perfect one. Thank you for sharing this helpful guide!

    Posted on August 13, 2017 at 6:36 pm
    1. Glad it’s helpful. 🙂 And I hope you have more great Airbnb stays.

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 6:47 pm
  33. These are good tips to follow for first time Airbnbers! I’ve always had good Airbnb experiences but have been pretty careful with checking reviews. Thanks for sharing 😁

    Posted on August 13, 2017 at 7:02 pm
    1. Thanks 🙂 Glad that the review-watch has paid off in good experiences.

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 7:12 pm
  34. Great tips! I live almost exclusively in airbnbs, so it’s great to see other people love it as much as we do! I especially agree with leaving an objective, honest and kind review- their system does offer a very fair review process!

    Posted on August 13, 2017 at 7:31 pm
    1. I’m really taken by the thought of living in Airbnbs: you must be the ultimate expert! And how great to be able to change the style, vibe and location of your place regularly. Agreed too on the review system Airbnb employs; I like that you can’t see what’s been said before you say your piece, or the deadline has passed.

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 8:05 pm
  35. I really like these tips – sounds like you have had some experience using Airbnb and know how to find something that will be a good fit. I learned to ask ahead of time about anything I was unsure of – as I work online, wifi is super important. For my latest airbnb, there was one older comment that the internet was slow but it was some time ago and since then there are good reviews. So I asked the hosts before booking and made it known that is was vital I had good wifi. Fingers crossed it is as they said it is :).

    Posted on August 13, 2017 at 9:59 pm
    1. That’s a really good point about asking if you have queries about the things that are crucial for your stay. Wifi is a big one for us (we both work online too), and it was superfast at the last place we stayed. In fact it was faster than home. 🙂

      Posted on August 13, 2017 at 10:11 pm
  36. Great tips! The Airbnb reviews are definitely important and I always am careful to look thru all the comments (esp the bad ones)!

    Posted on August 14, 2017 at 12:25 am
    1. It’s some of the best, and most useful, pre-trip reading. 😉

      Posted on August 14, 2017 at 5:04 am
  37. I love using Airbnb! Most of the time I discover very hip residential areas that are totally fun and off Tourists’ Radar! Best tip is to always book with someone that has tons of good reviews and always read what other people are saying.

    Posted on August 15, 2017 at 9:05 pm
    1. That’s such a great side to Airbnb, getting to stay in places where you are living the local life, albeit briefly. And I am so very much with you on the reviews.

      Posted on August 16, 2017 at 7:24 am
  38. Wonderful article! It covers everything a user will need to consider when it comes to booking an Airbnb. In fact, I’m reading your article from an Airbnb in Thailand right now, very thankful I read the previous reviews reallllly carefully cos I’m very happy with my stay! =)))

    Posted on August 21, 2017 at 4:18 pm
    1. Glad the reviews are working for you too! 😀 And pleased you feel it’s covering the essentials.

      Posted on August 21, 2017 at 8:37 pm
  39. These are great tips! I ADORE using airbnb, haven’t stayed at a hotel in forever!

    Posted on September 2, 2017 at 5:26 am
    1. It’s a whole different way of being part of the place you visit, isn’t it? Glad you’ve been having great stays.

      Posted on September 2, 2017 at 6:10 am