Airbnb is the site I use to arrange lodging for the vast majority of my nights on the road. Whether I am coming to a city for four days or four months, it is the first place I look because:
- Apartments have better amenities than hotels (kitchens, multiple bedrooms)
- Apartments have better locations than hotels (residential areas and nightlife areas instead of business districts)
- Apartments are cheaper than hotels
Last night, my mom and aunt were picking my brain about cheap lodging options in Europe. We pulled up Airbnb and found tons of options for their trip in France and Italy for around $40 a night, which is basically what they would pay to each book a single bed in a shared dorm room at a hostel. Their excitement made me want to write a post on how to use Airbnb.
What is Airbnb?
Airbnb is a website you can use to “rent unique places to stay from local hosts in 190+ countries.” The offerings range from houses and luxury apartments to a room in someone’s apartment to interesting accommodations like a houseboat or igloo.
Some hosts are professional landlords who put up several properties on Airbnb and make a full time job out of it, and some are people who rent extra space in one property.
How to Search Airbnb
Start on Airbnb and input your city, dates, and number of guests.
You’ll immediately be given results, but I like to refine my search quite a bit before checking them out. The first thing I edit is “Room Type.” The three categories are pretty self-explanatory. I’ve stayed in a Private Room in Melbourne, Australia once, which was fine, sharing the house with a nice family, but I generally prefer to select “Entire Place” for maximum privacy.
Next is price. My one complaint about Airbnb is that you cannot filter results from cheapest to most expensive. You can, however, dictate a price range. I usually set the maximum price very low–$40 or $50–to see the cheapest options. If none suit me, I’ll increase the price range.
Under “Price Range,” click “More Filters” to refine your search further.
The “More Filters” includes number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and beds for when you don’t want to share. You can select the neighborhood, amenities, property type, and even the host’s language in case you want to have a lot of interaction with him.
I set the filters to my need for the booking, but I ignore neighborhood. Instead, I select my neighborhood on the map to the right of the filters.
On the map, make sure “Search When I Move the Map” is checked. Now, you can move and zoom the map, and only properties on the current map will show up in results. If you know where you want to stay, this feature is invaluable.
Here’s a zoom on one part of Rome. Only properties in this zoom (and that meet all the other filters I chose) will now show up on my results.
After setting my filters and map, I finally look at my results. Along the top, you can see how many properties met your filters and map. On the actual results, you can click on a property for more information. If there is a lightning bolt next to the price, it means you can book the property right now online. If there isn’t, it means you have to request to book the property and have your request approved by the host. This usually only takes a few hours, but if you are booking at the very last minute, be mindful of the difference.
On a property page, I scour the pictures and written description. The written description is especially crucial if you selected “Private Room” or “Shared Room.” If you are sharing space with the host, you need to know what the rules are and what you can expect from him (like meals or availability to show you around.)
After reading the description, I head to the bottom and check out the reviews from previous guests. (Only people who actually booked the property can review it, so fake reviews would be costly.) I check out the averages of the ratings, and then I read the actual reviews to see if the complaints are important to me.
Once I have my ideal property picked out, I book it or, more likely on longer stays, I contact the host from the listing page and ask for a discount. Check out Three Ways to Save Money on Airbnb for exactly what I write.
Other Things to Know
Signing up for Airbnb is a bit of a process because you have to send an image of your driver’s license to verify your identity and keep everyone involved safe. Allot yourself 15 minutes.
Arrival miles from the Arrival Plus can be redeemed for free Airbnb stays. My brother redeemed his Arrival miles for Airbnb stays in Seoul and Hong Kong on our trip last year. Meeting the minimum spending requirement of $3,000 in three months on the Arrival Plus would give you enough Arrival miles for $500 worth of free Airbnb stays in addition to the $25 credit for signing up through my referral link.
I’ve had successful Airbnb stays in Australia, Hungary, Hong Kong, Korea, Colombia, and Argentina. On my trip to Europe this summer, I plan on staying in Airbnb apartments in 5-6 countries for over 90% of my nights. You just can’t beat the price, and you get to pick a place with the amenities and location you want. If you haven’t used Airbnb yet, you really should test it out. Use my referral link to get a $25 credit toward your first stay, and use your Arrival miles to pay for the rest of the stay!