Seven years ago, could you have imagined arriving in a foreign city, making your way to a complete stranger’s home and comfortably settling in among their things without a second thought? No way. Airbnb has not only revolutionized the way we travel, it’s adjusted our thinking about personal space, boundaries and sharing.
With an estimated 25-million of us using Airbnb since it was established in 2008, it seems everyone wants to share living quarters with a stranger.
The truth is, however, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. For every positive Airbnb story shared, two horror stories are born. But, horrific situations can be avoided.
Last week, we talked about being an Airbnb host. This week, we examine the flipside to help you share space successfully. Below are 10 suggestions for happy traveling via Airbnb.
1. Decide What You Want to Buy
Going the Airbnb route will, in most cases, save you money and leave more to spend exploring the destination. On the other hand, if you want to lower your risks and feel pampered (who doesn’t from time to time?), the predictability of a hotel may be your best bet and worth every penny.
2. Read Every Review
Guest ratings provide valuable information about the lodging and neighborhood while host responses give insight into their personality. Carefully read each entry and be on the lookout for comments by seemingly like-minded travelers. After your stay, write an honest assessment of the experience geared toward guiding other travelers.
3. Enjoy the Perks
Having the space and tools to prepare meals with local ingredients or a bike to borrow for exploring are only some of the perks afforded to travelers who chose Airbnb over a hotel. Don’t miss the “amenities” listed by each host and ask questions if anything is unclear.
4. Use Your Resources
An Airbnb offers an automatic resource in your destination. While making money is a motivator, most hosts get into the game because they like meeting new people and showing off their city. From hot new restaurants and bars to the best place to purchase local goods, your host is full of helpful info. Don’t be shy about asking for ideas and suggestions before and during the visit.
5. Let The Neighborhood Be Your Guide
In most cases, you want to stay near or in an area you hope to spend time. As cool as the condo in a gentrifying ‘hood may seem, if there’s nothing of interest within that neighborhood, then it’s not worth having to travel every day.
6. Embrace Every Opportunity
If your host invites you to a dinner or night out with friends, say yes (as long as you feel safe, of course). Don’t pass up an opportunity to meet and connect with locals, even if it means missing some famous statue on your trip checklist. The tourist spots will always be there, but you may never have the opportunity to see the city from an insider’s perspective again-especially if you’re at a hotel. When was the last time a bellboy invited you to a party and you weren’t creeped out by the invite?
7. Go With The Flow
Most hosts sincerely want you to have an amazing experience in their home and city. Don’t get wound up if everything isn’t perfect. Part of the joy of this kind of travel is having an authentic experience. And, as is life, authenticity is sometimes messy and inconvenient.
8. Feel the Rhythm
Staying in an Airbnb takes you out of the hotel zone and into a living, breathing neighborhood. Even in a tourist area, you’ll be in a residential building with a vibe completely different from any hotel filled with other people who have no idea where they’re going. It’s a chance to feel the rhythms of the city’s residents and soak up local flair. Pretending you are an actual resident will allow to you sense what it’s like to actually live in this place.
9. Accept Your Differences
Since you’ve read the reviews, you probably have a good idea of what your host means by “historic charm” or “cozy space.” But, occasionally those “charms” aren’t what you would call “charming,” whether it’s old doors stick or a bed beyond tiny. Realizing that your concept of space may be different from someone else’s allows you to chalk up experiences to lessons learned or a funny story to tell and focus on enjoying the positives.
10. But, Don’t Settle for Too Much Less
Don’t let crappy accommodations ruin your trip. In an extreme case when a home is a far cry from what you expected and you don’t want to stay, check the host’s cancellation policy. In some cases, you will be able to get a portion of your money back. If the listing was not at all as advertised, Airbnb allows 24 hours to file a complaint and mediates accordingly. If you are feeling miserable about your accommodations, those angry feelings are sure to bleed into others areas of your trip, leading you to resent the destination.
Jess is a freelance writer and blogger with a passion for all things travel, art and the outdoors.