Booking an Airbnb can be stressful and confusing, since it’s often one of the most expensive parts of a trip and one of the most important! If you’re looking for some tips on how to book the very best Airbnb for you, I’ve put together my checklist of the most important things to consider before booking your stay.
Whether you’re aiming for a luxury retreat, or a road trip on a tight budget, hopefully there’s something here to help you make the most of your accomodation and avoid any buyer’s remorse!
It’s always easier planning from the comfort of my own home than trying to problem-solve during a vacation in a foreign city.
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Regardless of your destination, proximity to attractions, food, transport and guides, is always going to be an essential element to ensuring your holiday runs smoothly and efficiently.
I know what you’re thinking, this tip seems obvious – but it’s also one that’s easy to misunderstand. Being central allows additional time for travel delays, gives you more restaurant options and you’ll find yourself at the heart of transportation options – which is always helpful for airport transfers and avoiding extra car hire costs.
Tip #1: Use the map icon on Airbnb to easily map out the most central accommodation with clear total costs displayed.
Tip #2: Look up public transport maps to ensure you are giving yourself the easiest options for getting around – which could be the difference in seeing an extra attraction or 2 daily!
Tip #3: Check the proximity to the airport and toss up whether a train ride or a shuttle bus is the cheaper and easier option.
Tip #4: Is there something you’d like to be walking distance from to start or finish your day? Parks, bars, restaurants, supermarkets, cafes, museums?
2. Air conditioning
While this may seem optional for most travelers, particularly those from milder climates, air conditioning is almost essential for certain heatwave-prone destinations. Such destinations include, Western Europe in summer – Paris, Rome, and Porto to name a few – as well as Australasian summers in Sydney, Brisbane, Singapore, Hong Kong, Phuket, Kuta, and Ho Chi Minh. The two downsides to filtering for air conditioning are: likely adding a little more cost to the booking, and reducing the number of options for you to choose from – particularly in older cities like Paris.
However, air conditioning can easily become the difference between a restful night’s sleep or finishing your day early and missing out. When you tally up the cost of your holiday (flights, accomodation, food, any experience tickets, etc.), air conditioning in some climates can absolutely make or break your trip – for only a few dollars more a night!
Tip #1: Check the climate of your destination at the time of the year that you’re planning on visiting. Remember, simply asking yourself whether you’ll be visiting in summer is especially misleading for destinations near the equator (e.g. Singapore)!
Tip #2: Filter for air conditioning on Airbnb. I know… I bet it’s filtered out that super charming and affordable place you had your eyes on. If you’re going to a hot and humid destination, thank me later!
Depending on your choice of holiday, this is another optional decision. For most road tripping adventures however, the option of ‘Free Parking on Premises’ is absolutely essential to remove any last minute guesswork or nasty parking expenses.
Some road trips are remote and regional, requiring absolutely no effort in finding a suitable dinner or overnight spot. However, most road trips will inevitably land you in the middle of a city or dense urban centre, meaning you’ll need to be quite proactive in finding unlimited parking in close proximity to your accommodation as well as economical parking options for your day time adventures.
This is especially important in a city you’re not familiar with, and becomes essential if the local language is a challenge! Parking can be enough of a headache in our home towns, and I’m sure most of you have received at least one parking ticket (if not, amazing!) – all of this will be ten times harder in a foreign city with foreign rules in another language. Why risk it? And why not enjoy some peace of mind on your vacation?
Tip #1: Ticking the ‘Free Parking on Premises’ box on Airbnb confirms your parking options, and will avoid any frustrating moments after a day of adventure. You might lose some options but you’ll gain a great experience!
Tip #2: Using forums relating to your attractions can let you in on secret parking oasis’ with minimal parking fees or greater availability.
4. Full Kitchen vs Kitchenette
Again, this is entirely dependent on your choice of holiday! On a road trip holiday using holiday parks or motels, communal kitchen facilities are a fantastic way of keeping food costs low. Similarly, if you were staying as a family or a couple for an extended period, a full kitchen would save you from multiple daily restaurant bills – especially helpful in expensive cities like Paris where the local supermarket choices are amazing!
However, if you were looking to make the most of the local cuisines, a kitchenette capable of sorting your tea/coffee and perhaps cereal needs, would be more than sufficient, considering your culinary needs exist outside your accommodation walls (also avoids a lot of dish washing!).
Tip #1: Create a food budget and decide whether eating in or eating out will balance the rest of your holiday budget better.
Tip #2: Consider whether your destination is renowned for its restaurants and check their prices, or whether you could save some money by eating in and enjoying occasional local snacks.
5. Washing Amenities
While there’s nothing more rustic (or unappealing) than sitting around a launderette on your holiday, adding laundry facilities to your accomodation can ensure your clothes are always fresh, save you time, transport, and confusion at the launderette, and can even save you invaluable luggage space by not loading up on extra clothes. This might cost you a little more in a booking but save you money at the airport and effort when walking across the city with your luggage!
This one seems obvious once mentioned, but often goes overlooked. I never assume that any place includes a washer – I always check or ask!
Tip #1: If you’re planning a road trip or multiple destinations, you don’t need washing facilities at every stop. Plan out your destinations and how many days you’re packing for. Doing your laundry in one location can keep you covered for the next.
Tip #2: Many Airbnb hosts will freshen sheets and clothes on request, should the accommodation lack washing facilities. It never hurts to ask politely!
Tip #3: If you’re on the go, a dryer or hairdryer in the Airbnb (or a travel hairdryer) will ensure you’re not awkwardly hanging clothes around your vehicle or carrying damp clothes.
Perhaps the most important thing to look for, is the past opinion of others who have already experienced it! The honesty of other Airbnb guests is fundamental to ensuring the host maintains a high standard and allows others to decide if the accommodation is right for them.
For example, some reviews might include valuable insight into local noise audible from the accommodation which may not suit noise-sensitive guests. Similarly, insights on parking may deter those with larger vehicles, and cleanliness short cuts may result in a red flag. Repeated comments, both negative and positive help determine the accuracy of the comment, and paint an accurate representation of guests’ experience including communicating with the host and addressing any issues.
Tip #1: Look for keywords to determine a stay’s suitability to your needs or concerns. For example, noise, parking, clean, modern, and space, are just some key things to look for in reviews. “Central to the busy town square” is going to be perfect for some guests, and terrible for others!
Tip #2: If there are no reviews because a stay is very new, looking at the host’s profile can be very useful in determining whether they have any other reviews either as a guest or host, and can also give a communication rating.
Tip #3: Check for the most negative reviews. You can’t please everyone, some criticism is going to be for personal preferences that might be positives for you (like the “central to the busy town square” point above). Negative reviews are often very nit-picky and likely to bring out any possible problems with an accomodation. I was once saved from a noisy hot water boiler that fired up from midnight to 3am by a previous guest! Thanks!
Accomodation is one of the biggest expenses on most trips, and will be the central hub from which all your adventures start! Picking the right place can mean the difference between a smooth, carefree experience, or some unfortunate dinner stories to take home to friends and family.
My checklist before booking accomodation always includes:
- Air conditioning (seasonal)
- Parking (optional)
- Kitchen vs. kitchenette
- Washing amenities
This may add a little effort and expense when booking your next Airbnb, but I’d always rather spend the time and effort organising these in the comfort of my own home than in the streets of a foreign city.