6 Steps to Finding the Perfect Airbnb
If you’re anything like us, Airbnb is our go-to for booking accomodations. Personally, I prefer renting a home over a hotel for the local experience and, (especially now more than ever) the seclusion from others. I’ve made a list of the top 6 factors I consider when booking an Airbnb to combat ⁓analysis paralysis⁓ given the crazy amount of available options. I also love using Vrbo*, but chose to write about Airbnb mostly because I use it more frequently.
*Note on Vrbo pricing. Sometimes hosts charge an extra security deposit (I’ve seen it up to $5k) for nicer stays or homes that are prone to parties/events. It doesn’t show up until you are ready to book. Keep in mind when searching here!
Prior to browsing, it is super important to establish your expectation of the trip and determine whether your stay is simply for lodging or if it will add to the overall experience. For example, if you are visiting New England in the fall to see the foliage, your Airbnb will significantly impact your overall trip. A cozy cabin in the woods vs a home in the suburbs? Easy choice here. Once you have established your expectation, here are the 6 key factors (in order) I consider while searching.
- Cancellation flexibility
- Guest Count
Most often, the dates of your trip are already established and entering the timeframe will better refine your results. If not, browsing the site without date constraint gives you the option to browse all the Airbnb’s in the area and ones that aren’t limited to a minimum night stay. Searching without dates would really only make sense if you were planning your trip around the Airbnb stay itself. There are the handful of well known stays that are booked months in advance since they’ve gained popularity on Pinterest and Instagram. Stays such as the famous Secluded Treehouse in Atlanta or The Ponhouse are booked for 6+ months on average. However, there are plenty of hidden gems that can be found with the dates you have in mind!
Prior to COVID I was the queen of booking non refundable everything. Little did I know when I booked 3 trips scheduled for spring/summer 2020 that cancellation flexibility would come in handy. Luckily the places I booked were refundable options (I didn’t know this at the time of booking!) and it worked out. But given the current state of our ever changing-world, this is the second filter I apply after adding dates. Nothing is more of a bummer than finding the perfect place and realizing it is non refundable. This is totally a personal preference and you don’t have to do it, but for my planning process it has given me some peace of mind. Eventually, I might go back to risking it, but I’ve definitely seen the repercussions this year!
This is probably the most tedious step, but reading the fine print will save you from getting bed-count catfished! While the photos are a great indicator of what to expect, you may have missed that the 4th bed is actually an air mattress or that the 3 beds are all in one room. This is usually listed in the description but if not, I always message the host and they are usually quick to respond.
Location is a big one and it goes hand in hand with your overall expectation. I do a lot of research prior to study the area and get a better idea of what I want to be closest to. I also message potential hosts to gather more information about their home’s location. A good host has a gold mine of information and they can give you ideas for what to do/see, restaurant suggestions, tourist traps to avoid and hidden gems only the locals know about. All you have to do is ask! Regardless of my expectation, I always weigh the cost of ubers/drive time, airport distance and local transportation with where I want to spend the bulk of my time. The Airbnb map and Google maps are your best friend here!
Yes, I budget 😎 but I don’t filter for pricing since the nightly rate isn’t the best indicator of total cost. The cleaning/service fees and taxes will vary from stay to stay so my best tip for price is to look at total cost and not just your nightly rate. I also don’t filter out cost because I want to know if my budget is realistic to the area. I like to see the range in cost from both ends of the spectrum to gauge if 1. I’m paying above or below market value 2. A hotel is a cheaper option (in some cases it might be!)
An obvious one, but I always try to read 2-3 pages worth just to make sure there aren’t any major issues. If most reviews are great and I see a few negative ones, it usually doesn’t affect my decision to book, especially if the issues seem to be one-off experiences. Deal breaker reviews for me are bugs, mold, bad smells, general filth, critters and really anything that makes my skin crawl while reading it 🥴
I said 6, but I lied! Aesthetic may not be important to everyone, but this is usually the deciding factor for me if I’m torn between two places. Maybe I’m crazy, but the design and overall ambiance of a stay has a huge impact on my overall trip. I love to feel like I’m staying in a place that embraces the local culture of the area or has charm and feels cozy. If your Airbnb adds to the experience of your overall trip-it’s a win-win 🙌
Hopefully this guide helps to narrow down your searches and find the perfect stay. Let us know if you have any best tips for Airbnb!