Finding your perfect Vacation Rental with Airbnb
While traveling over the years, we have stayed in many hotels, B&B’s and vacation homes. We love them all, and there’s nothing I love more than staying in a beautiful space. But as we traveled throughout Europe the last few years as a family of 4, we’d rent apartments whenever we could.
There are several reasons for this- the main one being money. It’s tricky to find hotel rooms that sleep 4 people in Europe, and paying for 2 rooms in a nice place gets expensive really quickly.
Renting an apartment allows you to have a little home away from home when traveling. We love having space to spread out and relax if we aren’t out exploring the city and as a bonus, we save money by eating breakfast and other meals at the apartment.
I found that Airbnb was another great resource for finding apartments that a) we could afford and b) were beautiful, hosted by locals and in neighborhoods full of local flavor.
All of our Airbnb hosts have been locals who are deeply invested in the neighborhood and city we are visiting, which makes me so happy and helps us- because they are a great resource full of insider info when we are planning our trips.
We have had great experiences renting through Airbnb, but I believe it takes a little sleuthing to uncover the hidden gems. Today I’m sharing my tips & also a workbook to help you with your own vacation rental search!
Here are 5 things I always do when searching for vacation rentals on Airbnb:
Make some decisions
Give Feedback- (important on both ends)
#1 | Make Some Decisions.
Deciding certain things before you start looking will save you time and money.
- Home Base: What part of town do you want to be based out of? Think about walking distances to places of interest, research if there is a good selection of restaurants and bars in the neighborhood for you to choose from at the end of the day when you are tired but want to go out for dinner. It is a good investment to spend more for an apartment in the center of town within walking distance to most things you’re interested in, than paying less and having to take a bus or taxi into town every day.
- Know your non-negotiables: Decide ahead of time what your must have’s are. Things like what your budget is, how many beds you’d like to have for your group and any specific amenities that are non-negotiables (A/C? Wifi? Washing machine? Patio?) are important decisions that will make your vacation go as smoothly as possible.
#2 | Search Carefully.
How I Search, Step by Step:
- Start your search out by entering your city and your travel dates (if you know them).
- Next, click “whole house”, We prefer booking the whole house when we are traveling. (you also have the option of renting a room in someone’s home- so make sure you know what you are searching for!)
- Adjust the sliding scale to your nightly rental budget.
- Then click the box for Filters. Under filters, you can choose your preferred amenities & non-negotiables.
- When we travel- I always sort by neighborhood and how many bathrooms & sleeping areas there are.
- Then under amenities I add wifi, a/c (if in summer season), washing machine (if staying long enough to need laundry facilities) and other things depending on where we are and what is important to me for that trip.
I choose not only how many bedrooms we’d like, but how many beds. My kids are teenagers and while they don’t mind sharing a bedroom when traveling, they prefer to not share a bed. Being able to sort apartments by ones that have 3 beds helps me tremendously!
This could also be useful for multiple families traveling together, or if you’re traveling with a friend where you both want to have your own bed but don’t necessarily need a large apartment. If I can, I try to get 2 bathrooms, or at least 1.5 so we can all get ready at the same time.
Obviously, the less picky you are, the more choices you’ll have which can be good or bad depending on how you look at it. Also, prices can be cheaper if you’re more flexible with some of these and have a shorter list of non-negotiables.
Another thing I love about Airbnb is that you can search by map. If there is a part of town you know you want to stay in (or stay far from!) you can search on the map and see what properties pop up.
#3 | Dig Deeper.
Super Hosts: Possibly the most important thing you can check under the “filter” tab- the “Super Host”!
- Choosing “Super Host” narrows down the options but keeps the best hosts in your list of rental options matching your wishes. These Super Hosts are verified and offer things above and beyond just a place to sleep.
- We have found Super Hosts that have provided extra touches like fresh flowers, breakfast baskets, grocery service (for an extra fee) or they might make dinner reservations or have things like iPod docks and detailed local information & personalized recommendations for you, and much more.
- Use the sort feature to find rentals hosted by a “Super Host” If you find a few listings you like, you can click on the Super Host’s photo and it will bring up their bio, reviews, response rate, etc. I always look at the host interaction with clients as well as the reviews, I think it shows a lot about them and their way of customer service. Note their response time and the tone they use in their interactions- (as much as you can while reading something online!) 😉
- Read all the reviews. They can tell you a lot about a host and a property. If you know what is important to you when traveling, you can weed through the reviews and bypass things that aren’t important to you. In other words, read between the lines when reading reviews- if someone complains because they didn’t have 4 towels per person or had to wait 10 minutes when checking in, personally I would disregard. However, if there are multiple complaints about running out of hot water, noisy neighbors or a bug infestation- I would definitely keep looking…
- Read the listing carefully- and make a list of questions AFTER you read all the details the owner includes. This way you aren’t making them repeat info and you appear well informed and most of all courteous.
Photos: Photos are really important when you are picking out a place to stay, whether it be a hotel or vacation rental. You have to read between the lines a lot because places do want to show their space in the best light. I do judge a place by its photos, and here is what I look for.
- A large number of photos of the space- the more the better
- Note the lighting, the decorations, the details (bookshelves, stereo, kitchen appliances)
- Try to imagine yourself spending an evening with a bottle of wine after a long day- does it look appealing & cozy?
- Look for personal items (kitchens & bathrooms especially) This will help you decipher if this place is someone’s day to day apartment and they are just renting it out for a few nights, or if it is an actual vacation rental. For me, this matters- it might not matter to you.
Ask Questions First. Don’t use instant booking.
- Before you book, send the host a message with specific questions you have. (after carefully reading their description and details in the listing) You can learn several things from this. #1, how quickly they respond, and how detailed their replies are. It’s fairly easy to spot someone who lacks good customer service, even via email. The more details they share, the better the odds are that you will have a wonderful experience.
- Airbnb Super Hosts are often great at communicating and will anticipate many of your questions. Think of this as a sort of interview- they will be doing the same thing with you! Be respectful & communicate clearly. How you present yourself is as important as how they do. This is not a hotel, this is a private person/family who is allowing you into their home/rental property. Tell them a little bit about you and what you are hoping for in your vacation- ask them specific questions about the property, or the neighborhood. (sample introduction/inquiry included in the workbook!)
- Be upfront and detailed on the things that are very important to you. Ideally, a good host will honestly tell you if they have what you are looking for. Have to work while on your trip? Ask them if the wifi is strong and reliable. Anticipate having questions after you get there? Ask what their availability is for questions during your stay.
- Pro Tip: Ask if they are local or out of town- and if they aren’t local, ask who their local representative is and get their contact number. So important if you run into problems while you are there!
- Note their cancellation policy and verify this with them (Airbnb has a number of different policies and each host gets to choose which they require.)
#5 | Feedback.
After your trip, ALWAYS leave feedback for the host.
- At the end of your trip, you have the opportunity to leave a review about your experience. Your host has the chance to review what kind of guest you were as well- these things are important for future guests and hosts as they can see the history and reviews on both sides.
- You have the option of leaving public and private messages, in case you want to tell the host something without proclaiming it to the Airbnb world. This helps the host know what you loved and what they can do better. They will be leaving feedback on what type of renter you were, which sounds weird at first- but really makes sense and this record helps future hosts and travelers alike as they navigate the AirBnB world.
- Airbnb App: Use the app to communicate with your hosts during & after booking and while on the road. They will message you directly through the app. Highly recommend this! We used this on several trips during the check in process, and to ask questions during our stay.
- Remember, Airbnb has a help center– if you have any questions or problems along the way.
Happy travel planning!
p.s. Ready for the free workbook filled with tips & worksheets to help you find your perfect vacation rental? I also included a sample inquiry letter and a list of questions to ask property owners to zone in on the details that matter to you- to make this your best vacation ever! Click the photo above to download the workbook, and get into travel planning nirvana!