Tips for Families Using Airbnb

Feb 12, 2019

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Airbnb has become such an integral player in my family-travel toolbox that I often bypass booking hotel “free” night awards in favor of renting a home on Airbnb for our family trips. A growing segment of Airbnb users are families and the company has taken proactive measures to offer curated features with us in mind (take for instance its “Families” category that includes homes with five-star reviews from other families who’ve actually stayed at the properties). Thankfully, you don’t have to completely give up award travel when you stay in a Airbnb as you can charge the stay to cards such as the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard or Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and use the “miles” from those cards to offset the charge.

Whether you are one of the millions of travelers that often book stays at Airbnbs, or are a first-timer cautiously considering Airbnb for your next family vacation, here are my top tips so your family can get the most out of your Airbnb experience.

Beach house in Uruguay courtesy of Airbnb
Our Airbnb beach house rental in Uruguay. (Photo by Juan Ruiz)

1. Create a Wish List 

Browsing Airbnb’s database of millions of lodging options can sometimes seem daunting. To organize the search process, I create a “Wish List” for each trip using the feature at Airbnb’s site. My Wish Lists consist of a visual list of homes (easily marked by a click of a heart) that I am considering. This list helps me narrow down my selections and then allows me to research each one a bit more in-depth.

Make your own Wish List when planning your next vacation.
Make your own Wish List when planning your next Airbnb vacation.

The map feature of the Wish List is especially helpful because you can see where all of your listings are located and determine which place is right for you. Do you want to be in the heart of it all? Do you prefer to be secluded from the action but still a short drive to main attractions? Need to be near public transportation? Your Wish List allows you to narrow down the surplus of Airbnb options into finalists and make a solid lodging choice based on your selected few. It’s also a great feature to share when trying to make a decision with your partner or perhaps another family or others in your group.

2. Read the Reviews Thoroughly 

Reviews and star ratings (one to five stars) are critically important in selecting a top-notch Airbnb for your family. Read these reviews in detail.

Look for reviews where children are specifically mentioned. Is the listing better suited for small children or older kids? Did the host provide enough towels for the entire family? Was the bed layout well suited for your family’s needs?  Did the kids love the toys or the Netflix installed on the TVs? If a listing doesn’t have four or five reviews, I usually skip the it and instead book one that has more (mainly five-star) reviews. I want to make sure that others, particularly families, have had a pleasant experience with the host before I commit to that Airbnb listing.

Pro tip: A well-reviewed property with a 4.5-star rating or higher from a Superhost (experienced hosts that provide extraordinary experiences for their guests) usually increases your chances of a pleasant Airbnb experience.

Staying with a superhost usually increases your odds of having a pleasant Airbnb experience.
An Airbnb host has to meet several requirements to be granted “Superhost” status. (Image courtesy of Airbnb)

3. Safety 

Today, the thought of staying in a stranger’s home on vacation is hardly an irrational concept, and more families are flocking to websites, such as Airbnb, that list residences or rooms for short-term rental over traditional hotels. We have used Airbnb dozens of times as a family and have always had pleasant experiences. Still, it’s important to take precautions and know the ins and outs of your potential Airbnb listing.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Is my listing located in a good area? Is it in a walkable neighborhood? Is there a park nearby? Get intel on the location of your listing ahead of time.
  • What type of home is it? If it’s a high-rise, do the windows have locks? If a house, will I get the keys for all possible entry points? If there are stairs inside the house, are they steep and dangerous for babies?
  • Will the host be available if I have a question or concern? Building rapport with your host from the beginning is a great way to feel confident they will assist you in a time of need.
  • If you’re traveling with toddlers or very small children, ask yourself: Does the furniture have sharp edges? If there’s a pool, does it have a gate? Will there be child-friendly items such as cups and plates, cribs and high chairs?
If traveling with small children, be aware of windows, balconies and staircases. (Photo by Juan Ruiz)

4. Contact Your Host

I advise families to bypass Airbnb’s “instant book” feature and actually contact the host of your Wish List finalists before making a reservation. Families with small children sometimes require certain amenities (kitchen, bathtub and proper bed setup comes to mind), making reaching out to hosts critical. Pay attention to what is not shown in the listing. For example, if a sofa bed is mentioned but is not photographed, ask for pictures. Don’t see the bed layout for each room? Ask for pictures.

Make sure the bed layout is suitable for your family or ask the host.
Make sure the bed layout is suitable for your family or ask the host if you have any doubts. (Photo by Hero Images / Getty Images)

Tell them a little bit about yourself, your family, reason for visiting and ask specific questions as they pertain to your must-haves if the listing description does not specify. Also, gauge the responsiveness of a host and look for their tone in the reply. A host’s informative and prompt reply usually is a good sign that they will be alert if an issue arises during your stay.

I was researching Airbnb listings for an upcoming trip to Iceland with my family and came across two properties I really loved. I messaged each host informing them of our plans and that we are arriving on a red-eye with two small children at the crack of dawn in Reykjavik. Rather than wait for the usual afternoon check-in time with tired kids (and parents), I was hoping either of the hosts would be kind enough to grant us an early morning check-in time.

Thankfully, one of the hosts didn’t have any guests checking out the day of our arrival and he verified that the very early check-in was not a problem. I avoided paying an extra night or killing time in the car with restless kids simply by contacting my potential Airbnb host before booking my stay.

Bottom Line

Don’t be afraid to try an Airbnb for your next family trip. Having space to spread out and the amenities of home can really make for a stress-free vacation with the kids. If you aren’t quite ready to pick the right Airbnb for your family, you could also look to Kid & Coe, a site similar to Airbnb, but that focuses exclusively on curated homes and apartment that are setup for families. And of course, be sure you use the right credit card when you book your Airbnb stay and don’t forget to earn Delta SkyMiles in the process.

Still feeling a bit unsure? Here are more Airbnb resources:

I hope these tips are helpful for your next Airbnb stay. Do you have any tips of your own to share? Post them below.

Featured image courtesy of Airbnb

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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