Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Things To Know When Using AirBNB For The First Time

Last summer Gerry asked me where we could go for a long weekend trip?  My ideas included the ancient Mesa Verde Indian ruins in New Mexico, a drive up the picturesque U.S. Route 101 to anywhere, or to Palm Springs.  To my surprise, he says "how about that trip to Forks you've always wanted to do since Twilight came out?".  Insert the surprised-face emoji right here.  Is he for real?  Why don't you plan it, he says, and I took off like a rocket.

As I searched the web for places to stay, an Airbnb ad popped up showing a photo of Bella's Cabin in Forks.  It looked like an amazing cabin in the woods, and after reading all of the reviews, I booked it.  On the day of our arrival in Forks, our host met us on the side of the lonely Highway 101 in upper Washington as was the plan.  She said there was no way we'd find it on our own.  The cabin was surrounded by a few houses, but being surrounded by woodland trees and shrubs, it would've been difficult to find on our own after sunset.

The cabin was definitely cozy and charming but cluttered with so much stuff, mainly Twilight memorabilia.  I gently gathered the items and placed them to the side.  Other than that, the cabin had all the amenities.  It was lovely . . . . until Gerry found the bats.  Little brown bats, the Latin name:  Myotis lucifugus.  The cabin description made no mention of flying mammals as part of the booking, although the host did tell us that tons of bats live in the tree right outside the cabin and will zoom right in through an open door or window.  Personally, I feel that bats are harmless but I am also aware that bat guano is dangerous to your health.  The story of the bats will have to be found in a future post because this post is all about what you need to know about booking through Airbnb.

So for all of you first-time Airbnb users, the following is what you need to know.


What kind of home are you looking for to give you and your group the best time possible?  Where in the town or city do you plan to spend the most time in?  Do you prefer renting a room in an apartment or an entire house?  Whichever you choose, select one that's large enough to provide ease of movement inside and outside.  Another basic question is what is your budget?  Knowing exactly what you want is the first step.


When you know exactly what you want in the location and type of lodging, fine-tune the details of your search.  There are many options in Airbnb and has over 5 million listings worldwide.  Besides knowing if you want an entire house, shared or private room, you also need to ask yourself: is a washer and dryer included, is there a parking spot for your car rental, are pets welcome, or are baby cribs included?  Seek all of your essentials. 


Check out the photos of the property you're interested in.  Photos will verify the size of the rooms, aesthetic and design.  If there aren't enough photos to view, or are of poor quality, beware.  You want to see what you'll be walking into when you arrive at your destination. Photos should give you an idea of what's included in each room, from different viewpoints.  Does the page give you views to the outside and landscapes?  If so, then you can be sure the host is sharing every aspect of a well-outfitted vacation space and proud of it.


User reviews are crucial and a useful tool in selecting a property.  While the host will always give a favorable description of their property, past users provide more reliable insight into their experience and more.

Thoroughly read the reviews, taking note of recurring themes.  If a problem is mentioned over and over again, it doesn't necessarily mean you should skip that listing.  For example, many reviews will mention that the property has no air conditioning but if you're traveling in the cooler season, it won't be as much of a concern for you.  However, if the reviewers consistently complain about poor communication with the host, or uncleanliness of the property, you may want to move on.  Don't let one negative review squelch your interest if there are tons of positive ones.  Everyone's experience will be different, so look for overall trends rather than particular negatives.

Lastly, the number of reviews posted carries weight.  If you're okay with taking a chance on a brand new property with little or no reviews, that's your choice.  Properties with plentiful reviews mean the host is competent and knows how to give the Airbnb user a memorable experience. 


Everything you need to know about your Airbnb rental is right there on the page.  Click on every link and tab to gather all the information.  What amenities are included, what is the cancellation policy, what type of lodging is it, and what are the host's rules of the house?  It will be different for all properties. Don't assume that what you have in your own home will be included in the Airbnb of your choice.  Familiarizing yourself with the fine print will assure you will have a lovely and stress-free stay.  Should you arrive and certain amenities that were described on the Airbnb page are not available, you are within your rights to ask for a refund.


Once you've decided on your perfect location in one of the 191-plus available countries Airbnb operates in, get to know the neighborhood.  Use the map provided in the listing you chose, or pull up the information on Google Maps.  You'll have peace of mind knowing where to buy basic food staples or where to pick up cold medicine once you're there, and not look like a lost tourist.


You are encouraged to reach out to your host if you have any questions about the listing, sites to see, anything.  You can reach them directly if the host has not already contacted you first.  Introduce yourself, explain why you're visiting the area and your plans for when you're there.  A good host will do their absolute best to accommodate your needs.  Open communication with your host builds confidence for both parties and gives the host an opportunity to make you feel even more welcome.


Being a good guest means following the house rules and paying attention to the policies set forth in the Airbnb listing.  Treat your vacation home the same way you want your home to be treated.  Be clean and tidy always and write a gracious review so your host knows how well she/he did their job.  Did you know that hosts can leave reviews about you?  If you have a bad mark against your name, chances are you may not be accepted as a guest elsewhere in the future.

Happy travels,