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7 tips for making your Airbnb stay safer

April 09, 2021
7 min read
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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."

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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.

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

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  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023