I haven't stayed in a hotel in over 5 years.
"Why?" you ask? The answer is simple: Airbnb. Over the last few years, I've learned some valuable lessons and tips that I'll share with you in order for you to get the most out of your next Airbnb stay. While hotels and guesthouses are often very good in the service that they provide, it can sometimes be a sterile and run of the mill experience. The advent of Airbnb allows for a more personalized travel experience than ever before; and in many cases, for less money than a tradition hotel. Crowdsurfer is another great tool for unique, affordable travel lodging; however, it can occasionally be more involved with an emphasis on host-guest interaction (which is one of its best qualities if that's what you're looking for). Airbnb is a happy medium for the traveler who finds traditional hotels boring, yet doesn't necessarily desire additional companionship during their stay.
If you've decided that Airbnb is the right choice for your next adventure abroad – or even your next 'staycation' – then here are some tips and tricks to optimize your experience:
Download WhatsApp and Communicate With Your Host
Communicate with your host. This will make their job easier and it will make your stay infinitely more enjoyable.
WhatsApp is frequently used outside of the U.S. as a way to make texts and calls using WiFi, and is a great way to get in touch (and stay in touch) with your host. Airbnb provides contact numbers soon after booking so that you can plug it right into the app. Reach out and let them know when you'll be arriving and what kind of things you're interested in seeing. This will let your host provide the most relevant info for your trip.
Also, remember that it's best to keep your messages brief and direct; your host likely has another job outside of Airbnb and their contact information is provided for questions that arise, not to chat about your day.
Airbnb's app (which is also helpful to download) has a messaging service. But I've found that most hosts are quicker to respond via Whatsapp and it's good to have both on hand depending on where you're traveling.
Choose An Appropriately Sized Space
If you're a solo traveler, renting a room in someone's house is not only sufficient, but it's also a great way to stave off loneliness and make a connection. It's also the most cost effective option.
But if you're traveling with 2 or more people, I recommend spending a little extra and renting an entire home/apartment. This provides the most comfort and flexibility and it can save you money if you use the kitchen for home cooking or are planning on doing laundry. It's also usually a great value depending on your location. I've frequently spent almost half what a hotel would cost for an entire home decked out with amenities and a fully stocked kitchen. Do your research but don't be afraid to go big if it won't break the bank.
Be Practical About Your Location
It can be tempting to book a place far from the center of town to save a few bucks or get away from the noise. But be careful, public transit isn't always readily available and many times it can particularly costly or difficult to take a taxi to the downtown area.
If you have a few days or weeks and can enjoy the solitude, then by all means book that beautiful cabin in the woods; but if you're just catching a night's sleep before your flight in the morning, don't create more trouble for yourself by booking a location far from the center of town. The convenience of being able to get up and go will more than pay for the additonal expense.
Put Systems in Place to Keep Track of Your Stuff
When you have a whole house to yourself it can be easy to just leave things lying around. That's why it's important to put systems in place to make sure you don't leave your possessions behind or get locked out during your stay.
If you're traveling alone, always make sure to have designated locations for things like your wallet, passport, and keys. That way you always know where they are.
When traveling with a group, put individuals in charge of specific tasks to make sure the house stays in order. Choose one person be in charge of the keys and always check that they have them before leaving the house. Choose another to make sure the kitchens or bathrooms are stocked and cleaned during your stay. Do what works for you and your group, but organization is the key to a smooth and crisis free stay.
Take a Walk Around the Neighborhood (sooner than later)
Unless it's dark out, go for a walk (or my personal favorite, a run) around the neighborhood as soon as you arrive at your Airbnb. This is the best way to scope out where the nearest grocery stores, restaurants, and parks are. It also gives you a sense of normalcy and ownership over your new location. If your host is there during check-in they're often more than happy to show you around the immediate area. Take advantage of this and get to know your surroundings up front. This allows you to relax and explore with greater understanding later on in your trip.
Maintain Good Relationships With Your Host
This may seem obvious, but it's a big one. One of the best ways to optimize your Airbnb stay is to maintain a good relationship with your host. Be polite in communication, keep the house or apartment clean, be considerate to neighbors, and leave a nice (but honest) review after your stay.
There have been times where I've realized that I need a place to stay last minute and simply showed up at a previous host's place of work and asked if I could stay with him and his family for a few nights. This is obviously a situation you can't fully plan for, but I never would have had that option had I not been careful to maintain a good relationship with he and his family.
It's easier to travel than ever before
With so many opportunities, there's no need to have a cookie cutter experience on vacation. So take advantage of it, plug in to Airbnb, and use these tips to have the best experience possible. We'll see you out there!