7 tips for making your Airbnb stay safer

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Airbnb and home rentals have become many families’ first choices for travel accommodation.

And while I have been both a longtime user and host on Airbnb,  I had an experience where I felt unsafe when staying alone with my son at an apartment in Lisbon over a recent spring break.

I’ve traveled with my 4-year-old to 19 countries, and I’m not one to usually shy away from traveling. So naturally, I started asking other families for tips on feeling safe when staying in an Airbnb.

If you’re looking for practical tips on booking an Airbnb as a family, read this article and keep reading below if you’re looking for ideas on how to make sure your Airbnb is secure for your family.

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Exploring Lisbon (Photo by Yulia Soloveva)

Does the Airbnb have fire detectors?

My top concern with my recent Airbnb experience was around fire safety. Our Airbnb in Lisbon was on the top floor without a clear fire exit, no smoke detectors or fire extinguishers. I have since learned that many travelers bring their own smoke alarms or batteries just in case.

Pro tip: Check the listing beforehand and consider traveling with your own smoke and CO2 detectors. Test to make sure the alarms are working when you arrive. A parent who travels with their own devices told me to be sure to put them in your checked luggage or expect additional screenings of your carry-on through security.

I worried about fire saftey during our recent Airbnb stay when there weren't any fire alarms. (Photo by Yulia Soloveva)
I worried about fire safety during our recent Airbnb stay when there weren’t any fire alarms. (Photo by Yulia Soloveva)

Have an emergency exit plan at your Airbnb

My children are young, so I would be responsible for them. But, I’ve learned from other families that they discuss entrances and exits with their older children when they arrive at an Airbnb.

Pro tip: Parent and frequent traveler Jules Stephan took me through her process after arriving at an Airbnb. “Like at home, we discuss as a family where the emergency exits are,” Stephan told TPG. “We open all windows to make sure they can be opened, and we know how to, and check if there is any ledges or roof that you can use to climb up and down in case of emergency — but also check on ease for burglars to get in.”

Do you know what the entrance of Your Airbnb looks like?

My first safety concern came when I arrived after midnight with my sleeping son, and our Uber driver got lost on the winding one-way streets of Lisbon.

The listing didn’t have an exterior photo, and the Uber driver let me out a few hundred feet up the street, so I was scrambling to pull up a map and find the entrance at 12:30 a.m. with my child and belongings in a foreign city.

Pro tip: Once you’ve booked your Airbnb, always look up the address on Google Street View to check out the street and area. You can also request a photo of the outside of the home from your host.

“I try to arrive during the day,” mom and expat Alyson Tart told TPG. “If I can, I pick apartments where the host greets you rather than just a keypad.”

Check for hidden cameras

I have never worried about hidden cameras in an Airbnb, but they’ve made the news lately. Hidden cameras and recording devices are against Airbnb policies, but more and more hosts are using them as a security measure to protect their property.

Pro tip: Mom Sonia Travi trains parents and their families on travel safety. “Bring an infrared light to discover hidden cameras,” she told TPG.

When was the code last changed on the Airbnb?

When I arrived in Lisbon and entered the code to get into the Airbnb building, I instantly wondered how many people knew that code and could get into the building and easily up to the door where we were staying. While some smart locks update after every guest, most lockboxes are only changed manually.

Pro tip: Ask the host how often their lockbox code is changed and if it could be reset before your arrival.

Lisbon Airbnb
While I loved the views from our Airbnb in Lisbon, I worried about the fire safety. (Photo by Yulia Soloveva)

Bring a motion alarm and door stop

While I would not necessarily travel with an alarm due to my children likely setting it off, I learned from parents who frequent Airbnbs that many do for extra peace of mind.

Pro tip: Bringing a small door jam with an alarm is small, inexpensive and could help you feel safer in a hotel or Airbnb.

Secure your belongings

I spoke with a family who was burgled while in an Airbnb, and their insurance did not cover their electronics because they were not stored in a locked safe. Under the terms of their travel insurance, they were required to be.

According to an Airbnb support center representative with whom I spoke, the company does not have a specific process of what happens if there is a burglary. You are advised to call the local police and go through Airbnb’s resolution center, where you may or may not receive compensation for any theft and damage.

Pro tip: Check if your Airbnb has a safe for valuables or consider locking your electronics and keeping your passport with you.

Pandemic precautions

An Airbnb can be a great way to socially distance while on vacation, but you should still take the same COVID-19 precautions that you would at a hotel. I suggest giving your Airbnb a good wipe down when you arrive and disinfecting high-touch surfaces.

Airbnb’s policy says that guests and hosts must agree to wear a mask or face covering when interacting in person and maintain six feet of distance from each other at all times. Hosts are also required to commit to Airbnb’s five-step cleaning policy, which requires hosts to ventilate the space before and during cleaning, wash all dishes and laundry at the highest heat setting possible and avoid re-entering a room once it’s been sanitized.

Finally, consider booking a vacation rental that has a buffer period between you and the previous guest.

Bottom line

Airbnb and home-sharing offer many benefits for families — from preparing your own meals to cost savings and the ability to accommodate larger groups. With a few precautions, you can avoid potential safety concerns at your Airbnb and rest easy.

Featured image via Shutterstock

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