When I first posted about using AirBNB, I mentioned that we had a list of questions that we used when we were looking for places to stay. It happened incidentally but once we had done a bit of traveling we knew what was important to us in a host family and what we were willing to compromise and the list emerged.
Nick using my filtered water bottle to fill his water bottle in Barcelona
Are you going to be in town for only a few days-if so you may be willing to pay a little more to stay in the city center. Are you more interested in being by the tourist attractions or would you like to be outside of the hubbub? We made a point of varying our experiences. In Barcelona we stayed in the Las Ramblas area for the first week and spent the last few days in a neighborhood closer to the airport. We wound up spending more time on public transport as a result but it was nice to be able to experience different parts of the city. If you aren’t sure what an area is like, the best person to ask is your host. If you want to try different areas you can absolutely split up your trip between multiple hosts. Most are eager to recommend the things in their area that they love so it’s great to be able to see how multiple people see the city.
We traveled using public transportation almost exclusively (the only exceptions being when I started crying in the Rome train station and when the hotel had a shuttle-but that’s another story). When we messaged hosts we asked them how to get from the airport/train station/etc. to their houses. We found that public transportation use is so prevalent in the cities we visited that every host we asked was able to provide a route. If there wasn’t a convenient route or if there wasn’t a stop close to the house then we generally declined since we relied so heavily on public transport.
3. Kitchen and Laundry
Some hosts will include additional fees in their summary regarding doing laundry at their home or using their kitchen. If you are planning on doing either of these things and don’t see anything in the summary either written or included in the “Amenities” section, ask your host what their policy is on these things.
We cooked in every place that we stayed and even declined hosts who wanted to charge extra for kitchen use. When we stayed in Florence there was no place for us to hang our clothes so we skipped over doing laundry even though it was included and waited until we got to Milan.
4. Additional fees
AirBNB gives hosts the option to add cleaning fees and to adjust how soon before a trip you can cancel and still receive a full or partial refund. This isn’t so much a question as a note. Make sure to check for all of the additional fees before you book. If you aren’t 100% committed to your trip or to the host, I would recommend avoiding the hosts who have strict policies of not providing refunds.
5. Arrival and departure information
It’s important to let your hosts know when you are planning on arriving and departing as soon as you can since they have to coordinate other guests schedules with yours. On AirBNB a few hosts had designated check in and check out times but in our experiences hosts were always willing to work with us to make sure that we had a place to store our bags for the day or a bathroom to use before we left for the airport regardless of what the official hours were.
6. Cultural/Historical information
We found that a lot of the people who host on AirBNB are eager to share information about their city. They want to tell you where their favorite restaurants and bars are. My recommendation is to take their recommendation. It shows a level of trust and appreciation that makes it easier to bond with your host since you now have a shared experience thanks to their expertise.
In Prague we stayed with a couple. The husband was a historian and music fanatic and gave us tours and information about the history of Prague and Eastern Europe and the wife was incredibly knowledgable about plants and gardening and taught us all about naturally growing berries. They were eager to show us around and teach us and their parental affections enriched our trip too.
Eating berries in Prague
AirBNB allows the hosts to post prices nightly, weekly, and monthly but when you make the reservation for 2 or more the option for a weekly or monthly discount disappears. If you are in a situation where you need to save some money, you can always ask the host if they will still honor the extended stay discount. There’s no harm in asking.
I have no idea if we just had a disproportionate number of great experiences or if everyone on AirBNB is really that wonderful but I honestly cannot recommend it enough.
You can read about the rest of my travel tips here.