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If you’re new to the home rental scene, you might be wondering why and how to book an Airbnb. Even if you haven’t booked an Airbnb lately, it’s changed over the last few years. They’ve added Experiences, Restaurants, and Airbnb Plus, which is a collection of homes verified for quality and comfort.
But let’s take a step back for a minute and discuss just what is Airbnb and why it’s a major player in booking rooms for your family vacation.
Airbnb is ultimately a home rental or home sharing site. A homeowner rents their home or a room to a guest and Airbnb takes care of the fees. They are the middleman, essentially. They are not the first to do this as vacation rental sites have been around for many many years. Airbnb just seems to make the more headlines because it’s the most popular.
Often people own properties for the sole purpose of renting them out. They may never even live in them. This is no different than property rental agencies doing the same.
So why book?
Why Book an Airbnb?
Everyone will have their own reasons for booking a home rental. And it may not be right for everyone. However, here are a few reasons you could consider when deciding to book an Airbnb.
Everything AND the Kitchen Sink
With a home rental, you get just that – a home. This is having a home away from home experience. If you have children, having a kitchen can be a lifesaver and a cost saver. Think snacks, drinks, breakfast or lunch in. Yes, some hotels come with kitchens or at least a mini-fridge, but for longer stays, you may want a full-size fridge or a stove.
This one is a bit trickier as it’s not always an apples to apples comparison. And you have to go through to the final stage before booking to see what your actual cost is. Just like hotels, Airbnb has fees and in some areas, taxes. So follow through, but also consider what you get when comparing to area hotels.
What sets Airbnb apart is the opportunity for an authentic, local driven experience. If the owners are on site or nearby, they can provide dining recommendations, local hangouts, and personal history with the area.
Going away with the grandparents? Or maybe a girls getaway, or multi-family? Having a shared living space with multiple bedrooms provides a chance for everyone to hang out more, yet still retreat to their room for some downtime. Plus, a shared kitchen means shared cooking, right?
Trust and Safety
Not just anyone can rent out their room. Airbnb has background checks, risk scoring and more. Read their trust and safety policies here.
How to Book an Airbnb?
Browsing through listings on Airbnb can take you down a rabbit hole if you’re not careful. And hey, that can be part of the fun. I love searching through the unique rooms and destinations, creating many wish lists along the way.
Do your research in an area and know what you want to be near. Get familiar with the map, as it will be handing when you start your search. Airbnb shows you listings alongside a movable map. For instance, if you know you want to stay along Central Park West, become somewhat familiar with those streets and neighborhoods.
Once you have a destination in mind, start by creating a wish list. Click on the Saved link at the top of the website. Your list could be broad like New York City, or hyper-local like SoHo or Hell’s Kitchen. I’ve even created a list based on the Macy’s Day Parade route. You’ll use these lists to save a handful of listings. This will come in handy in narrowing down your choices.
You can share wish lists with friends and family too. Once you’ve created your list, click on it, and choose to invite others.
Now that you have your lists, begin your search.
If you are searching within a city you can type in the city name and move the map. Or you can get neighborhood-specific as mentioned above. Depending on the area, your search may result in experiences in addition to homes. Simply click on homes to being your room search.
Pay attention to the map. You can zoom in or move and the listings will update.
Before clicking on the listings, I recommend filtering them. First, if you’re searching a big city, you’ll see hundreds if not thousands of listings. Second, not all listings will meet your needs. Weed out the ones that don’t. Filter options found along the top:
- Travel Dates – If you know them, enter them. Don’t waste time looking at booked rooms.
- Home Type – Entire Home, Private Room or Shared.
- Guests – Don’t look at places for 2 if you’re a family of 4.
Under More filters consider these:
- Beds and Bedrooms – Is a 1 bedroom with 2 beds suitable, or do you want the kids in their own room?
- Amenities – If you want a kitchen, click it. Same for WiFi.
These are the keys to start your search. There are more, but that should narrow down many listings.
However, here’s where the authentic or unique options exist. Take a look here.
Read Reviews & Photos
Now that you’ve narrowed things down a bit, be sure to click on the listing before you save it to your list. Read the full description, scroll through the photos and most importantly, read the reviews.
We rented a 3-bedroom place in Savannah. It was through the reviews that I learned the 3rd bedroom was through the master. While this wasn’t a deterrent, it could have come as a surprise. Occasionally a place may not have any reviews if it’s newly listed. Personally, I stay away from those. However, a host may have reviews for other properties and you may be able to tell their honesty, commitment, and style from those.
Superhosts are hosts that maintain a high rating for over a year. You’ll see it in the listing and a badge on the host’s icon. Additionally, searching by superhost is another feature.
When you’re ready to book an Airbnb, you have two options: Instant or Request. However, before you book, read the cancellation policy. The site uses three different cancellation policies, Flexible, Moderate, and Strict.
Flexible and Moderate offer full refunds within different limited periods. Strict is only 50% up to 7 days prior. Know your comfort limits on these and review before booking.
Instant booking is just that. Booking instantly, and knowing you have rented. Request booking allows the host to review your profile and either accept or deny. Note you’re not charged until the host accepts the booking.
When you request a booking, you also let the host know a bit about yourself. Keep in mind, the host gets to review you too. If you’re deceptive or a poor guest, it will show up.
If an Airbnb isn’t right for you, but you still want an authentic, unique experience, keep reading How to Book Unique Accommodations here.
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