7 Easy Tips for Finding Your Dream Airbnb Stay

Jan 22, 2017

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Planning a last-minute trip is always a little nerve-racking. But with hotel award space disappearing quickly and cash rates rising prohibitively high, it’s actually the perfect time to venture off the beaten path and right into the heart of the community you’re visiting. Here are our best tips for finding the cheapest and most memorable Airbnb rentals around the world.

1. The Map Tool Is Your New Best Friend

Airbnb has a great map feature that lets you explore your destination before you even set foot in the city. Like with Google Maps, all you do is click and drag the map to move it around — wherever you stop, the available listings and prices will appear. If you’re traveling soon, look for listings with the lightning-bolt symbol, which means they’re available for instant booking so you won’t have to wait for your host to approve the request at the other end.

Survey the land before picking your nesting site. Image courtesy of Airbnb.
Survey the land before picking your nesting site.

2. Know Your Price Range

You’re in control here. The map can get cluttered, especially in big cities like New York that have tens of thousands of listings. Figure out what you’re willing to pay so you don’t have to sort through every listing by hand. If you have any other requirements, like a private room or multiple beds, now is the time to add those filters as well.

3. Figure out Which Part of the City You Want to Stay In

This is a great excuse to start planning the rest of your vacation. When I was in Mumbai, I had dozens of options to choose from. Unfortunately, it can often take three or more hours to get from the north side of the city to the southern tip, so I opted for a place right on the water near Marine Drive, less than five minutes from the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, the Gateway of India and the famed Colaba Causeway Market. Except for one day I spent exploring up north, I was right in the middle of everything I wanted to see.

A little bit of planning saved me from having to sit in traffic every time I wanted to go out in India. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
A little bit of planning saved me from having to sit in traffic every time I wanted to go out in India. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

4. Make a List, Give Yourself Options

Unless you’re the spontaneous type making your reservation on the plane, there’s no reason to rush into a decision. Put together a few different choices and weigh the pros and cons of each so you won’t be stranded if one of them falls through.

5. Read the Reviews and Rules Carefully

Most people are content to simply look at the ratings of their host, but when you’re living in a foreign place for several days at a time, the details really do matter. I once booked a room described as a “cozy flat in London,” and while it was perfect for my overnight layover at Heathrow (LHR), the room was so small I couldn’t even lay my suitcase down. If I’d been there for more than eight hours, or if I’d been traveling with anyone else, I would have been squished.

Likewise, if I’d read the reviews of my Mumbai Airbnb a little more closely, I would’ve seen that the front gate to the building is locked at midnight. If I’d known that, I could have saved myself a major headache when I accidentally got locked out at 3:00am one night without any phone service. Lesson learned: always read the rules and other renters’ reviews to see how things work in your new place.

6. Message Your Hosts Before You Book

It’s their home, their city and they’re the best people to answer your questions. From specifics of the room, to tips regarding public transportation and to ensure a smooth arrival and check in, you’ll have an easier trip if you ask any questions in advance. Don’t worry about the language barrier— Airbnb messaging has a built-in translation feature so your hosts will understand your note.

7. Keep an Eye out for Unique Listings

It’s easy to pick the first room with a bed that meets your needs, but if you keep looking, you might find something really special. My treehouse in Mumbai certainly wasn’t a standard apartment, but the abundance of local flora added a ton of authenticity to monsoon season, turning our $20-a-night room into a treehouse in the rainforest. From houseboats in Amsterdam to tipis in Yellowstone, some cities take “unique” to a whole new level. Lufthansa recently marketed its premium economy cabin on Airbnb, and apparently for $10 a night, the Art Institute of Chicago will let even let you stay in a replica of Van Gogh’s famous bedroom painting, so you never know what you’ll be able to stay in until you take a look at all the available options.

Bottom Line

Don’t shy away from the opportunity to integrate into the local community. The greatest benefit Airbnb offers over a hotel is that your hosts double as personal guides to a new city. Utilize their suggestions when you’re deciding what to eat, where to go and how to get around. They’ll clue you in to the hidden gems of their hometown that guidebooks often gloss over and do everything within their power to make sure you have a truly memorable experience.

What are your best tips for making the most out of an Airbnb stay? Let us know in the comments, below.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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