Top 5 tips to book an Airbnb stay

Gazing out the window at the lively Montmartre cafes, I truly felt a part of the Parisian culture on a recent trip. This is one of the reasons I book an Airbnb for our stays that are a week or more. While I love my Marriott hotel stays, those work best for just a few days. An Airbnb is great for longer term stays and for groups like for our girls’ trips because we need more bathrooms and beds than a hotel room can provide. In Florence, we rented out an apartment in a villa (see top left pic below) where the family lived in one section, and we enjoyed three levels of living in a separate wing of the building. When my husband and I travel, often I will be working remote for a month or longer, so having strong Wi-Fi and a washer are necessary. I just booked our stay in an apartment in Strasbourg, France for a month, where I’ll be working remote during the week and taking day trips all over France on the weekends. My girls trip this year will be a stay in Paris on the Ile Saint-Louis Island in an amazing Airbnb with a water view. So much to look forward to!

Doing research before booking your Airbnb is crucial to having a happy stay so please read my tips below before you hit that “reserve” button and enjoy your journey!

  1. Read the reviews. If there are complaints about noise and the beds being uncomfortable, look elsewhere. You need a good night’s sleep when you travel. If there are no reviews, don’t book it. The listing may be new and that’s the reason for zero reviews but let somebody else try it out first. The host should disclose any issues with the rental in the description (one posting I just read stated that “If you are 6-feet +, consider other bookings because one area of the ceiling has a clearance of 5’11”) but sometimes hosts aren’t so forthright so reviews are where you will discover the truth.
  2. Choose a Superhost if at all possible. They will care more about providing a clean, consistent experience because they want good reviews. If something is amiss, they will be more likely to make it right. We checked in to one apartment in London and the cleaners hadn’t shown up yet, so we had to drop our bags and leave once they did come. However, the host gave us a full night’s credit back to our Airbnb account which was absolutely the best outcome of a situation that can happen.
  3. Check out the neighborhood before you book. Some hosts provide the address up front, and others will only show a location in the general neighborhood “exact location provided after booking”. Either way, do your due diligence and investigate. We got a super deal on a place in Lisbon, Portugal but the neighborhood was a little rough, so we didn’t feel comfortable going out at night so now I go to Google maps and look at street view level to get a feel for the neighborhood before I book. Usually, the host will include details in “Getting around” section about what you can walk to like a market and public transportation nearby. Is accessibility an issue for you or members of your group? Is the neighborhood hilly or are there stairs to climb to the local market? All good thinks to know in advance.
  4. Consider the cancellation policy. Cancel policies vary by property so make sure you check. You will usually see for each listing either: “Free cancellation before (insert date)”, which is usually 30 days prior to start of reservation OR “Free cancellation for 48 hours”. Believe me, life can happen and with a restrictive cancel policy you will lose your entire payment. My husband had a heart attack, and we couldn’t go to NYC on a planned trip. Even after explaining the situation to the host, he refused to refund our money and he was within his rights to do so given that apartment’s published cancel policy. I was still upset, and, after that incident, I now refuse to book a place that doesn’t have a more lenient policy where I can get a 100% refund within 30 days of start of reservation.
  5. Check amenities and accessibility. I have stayed in Airbnbs all over Europe. Many places have steep stairs to not only get to the apartment but also within the unit. Elevators are as rare as air conditioning, dishwashers and dryers in many countries. If these are important to you, check to make sure the place you have picked to rent has them. Even small details like having a coffee pot for me are important. One place we rented had nothing but an electric kettle which is fine for tea. We had a lovely time shopping in the local neighborhood for a french press and coffee, leaving it all behind after our week’s stay so the next renter might enjoy it. If you will be working remote and need strong Wi-Fi, check the reviews to see if other renters have had any issues and check with the host. Where we stayed in London recently not only had 5 flights of stairs inside the unit but the Wi-Fi and cell coverage was weak and only worked in a few places inside the unit, which was just inconvenient for us. At our New Zealand cottage on the water, the host provided free use of kayaks and we had an amazing paddle around the bay. Our France rental this fall has use of bikes to get around the city which I am sure we will use on our month-long stay.

I hope these tips help you book an amazing place. Safe travels!

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