Before we started our year of slow travel in Europe, we already had quite a bit of experience using Airbnb. We used it almost exclusively when we traveled within the United States, and we had gotten pretty good figuring out which rentals would be worth our time and money, and which ones would ruin our vacation. Of course, we made a few mistakes (and we still do sometimes), but our experiences just kept improving. Once we started slow traveling though, our needs changed dramatically and we had to recalibrate quite a bit. In this post, we’ll go over the reasons why Airbnb can be perfect for slow travel, and share our tips for making it work as well as possible.
If you aren’t sure what slow travel is, read our post, The Definition of Slow Travel.
And by the way, if you read this and decide to rent an Aibnb for the first time, you can save $40 by signing up with this link! If you do, then you’ll be supporting our continued travels as well because we’ll also get a $20 discount, which we will definitely put to good use.
Tips for Slow Travel Using Airbnb
Airbnb Tip #1: Location, Location, Location
You’ve probably already decided which city you’re going to, but when you look at the map in the Airbnb App or in your browser, you’ll probably see that there are listings all over the city. The location of the Airbnb will probably have a larger effect on the quality of your stay than almost anything else. And as always seems to be the case, it turns out that finding the best location for you will be about striking the right balance. Since you are slow traveling and staying for an extended period of time, you will want to get this right.
The best location depends partly on what your personal goals are for your stay, but odds are you chose the city for a reason, and that must mean there is something in the city you want to do or see. For us, the goal is almost always photography, which means we want to have access to visually stunning attractions like unique architecture and natural scenic beauty. Even if you have other priorities, whatever attracts you will attract others as well. That means the closer you are to the action, the more expensive it will be.
On the other hand, you might want to stay farther from the main attractions. If you are there for a while, there is an upside to staying in the residential neighborhoods where not everyone is a rowdy tourist. For example, when we stayed right next to the colosseum, we found the nearby grocery shopping to be inadequate, but when we were just a 15 minute walk from the old town of Prague, we had our pick of supermarkets and high quality restaurants.
We’ve found that the balancing act is actually two dimensional. We get much better photos when we stay close to the places we are interested in, mostly because it is easier for us to get there early and make return trips if we need to. But it can cost almost twice as much to be that close. In some cities on the other hand, the attractions are spread out over a vast area, and it’s impossible to stay close to all of them. In that case, we usually pick one high priority area and focus our efforts there. We make a few excursions to the opposite side of town, but mostly we focus on living our lives in the neighborhood we’ve chosen.
There’s honestly no substitute for marking the places you want to be near on a map and then seeing what’s available. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to zero in further. Hop onto google maps and see what kinds of businesses are nearby. Are there grocery stores and pharmacies. Are there vegetarian restaurants? Is there a playground for the kids? These things will all make a huge difference when it’s time to settle in for weeks or months.
Airbnb Tip #2: Look for Monthly (or weekly) Discounts
When you are looking for lodging on airbnb, the price displayed changes a lot based on the number of days you have entered for your stay. If you plan to stay for 28 days or more, make sure that you enter the date range when you do your search so that the listings that offer discounts will display the best price. We have stayed in very nice accommodations that offered discounts as high as 40%! Not every host chooses to offer a discount for longer stays, but some will only, rent for a month at a time.
Airbnb Tip #3: Do Your Own Cooking
Along with the sights and the weather, food is one of the biggest reasons people travel. If you spend a weekend in Paris, how could you not go out to a nice restaurant or two for some fine French cuisine? But if you’re there for a month… well, that could get out of hand pretty quickly. Not only is eating out expensive, it’s also usually a bit less healthy.
You should still sample the local restaurant scene, but cooking for yourself is the only way to go if you are traveling for a long time. In fact, it only really becomes possible if you are traveling for a long time. If you are here today, gone tomorrow, stocking a fridge with things like eggs, flour or fresh vegetables can feel pointless – so much would go to waste. But when we started slow traveling we were surprised how easy it was to manage our food consumption. Our refrigerator was never empty, and we were usually able to finish off nearly everything by the time we had to move on.
Doing this, we eat much healthier food than on the rare occasions when we dine out. We also save hundreds and hundreds of dollars a month, which allows us to stay in nicer apartments and enjoy more of the city. The apartments with kitchens may cost a little more, but they more than make up for it by allowing you to take control of your food expenses. You can even try looking up recipes for local dishes and making one yourself with fresh ingredients.
Airbnb Tip #4: Use the Filters
So how do you know which Airbnb rental will have all the amenities you need? It’s all about the filters. In this section I’m going to go through all of the filters and explain which ones are especially important for slow travel and why. This will be a bit of a long read, but I’m only go to all the trouble because the filters are really important, and they will save you loads of time if you are traveling to a big city.
- Dates: This is fairly self explanatory. Pick the dates you want to visit so you won’t have to look up availability in every single place you look at and get disappointed when your dream rental is booked. If you have an extremely flexible schedule, you do have the option of leaving this filter open. You could then find the perfect house and plan your trip around its availability. Even though we make our own schedule, we always set the dates to make our search easier. You can always try moving the dates around later if you aren’t finding what you are looking for. Also, if you have entered a stay of 28 days or more, the app will automatically show the discounted price if a listing has a monthly discount. ALWAYS USE THIS FILTER!
- Guests: You can select 0 to 16 guests, and Airbnb will only show you listings that are large enough for at least that many. Obviously you should use this filter because you need to have space for everyone who will be coming with you. You can also enter the age range of your guests – Adults, Children (2-12), and Infants (0-2). You will want to do this if you have children because the host may have tips or warnings for you if you are bringing young ones. They may also not permit children for one reason or another. We have had a host turn us down because they felt that their apartment was not safe for our daughter. ALWAYS USE THIS FILTER!
- Home Type: There are three home types to choose from: Entire Home, Private Room, and Shared Room. We have never stayed in a shared room, even before Lisa started traveling with us. We like our privacy and we are in it for the long haul so we don’t feel like taking big risks with our property or our safety. We have stayed in a few private rooms with Lisa. These are the listings in which a host has a house or an apartment and rents out one room, often living in the room next door. We find that these are good enough for layovers or single night stays to break up a road trip. On those kinds of visits, we usually aren’t looking to do much except sleep, and we just want a roof over our heads. But for a visit of a week or longer we always, always book an entire place. A single room, even if it offers access to the rest of the house during the day, simply does not give us the comfort or the privacy that we need to enjoy our lives day to day. Maybe we are picky, but we need to feel at home, and we can never really settle in when we feel like we are invading someone else’s space. Also, once you get to the amenities filters below, you will see that there are a number of options that are only likely to be available if you have an entire home. ALWAYS USE THIS FILTER! And always select entire place when slow traveling.
- Price: Airbnb has a really nice price range function. It is a double ended slider that allows you to set a minimum and maximum price. Above the slider is a line chart showing you how many listings are available at the corresponding price. This saves you the guess work of trying to figure out what an apartment goes for in the area. You may wonder why anyone would ever set a minimum price for their trip, but trust us, there are always a few suspiciously inexpensive places that turn out to have fatal flaws upon closer inspection. If there are plenty of options available, we usually set a minimum price that cuts off the lowest quality listings. If you are slow traveling, you don’t want to get stuck in a place that will make you miserable. ALWAYS USE THIS FILTER!
- Instant Book: Most listings on Airbnb will want to approve your rental before making the booking final. There are many reasons for this. They might want to read your profile and the reviews other hosts have read about you. They might live in their listing and want to make sure they have a place to go and no scheduling conflicts before they rent it out. But some renters don’t care and just want to make it as easy as possible for you to rent their place. If we are feeling hurried, it’s nice to see the button that says “book now” instead of “request to book” (which usually involves a delay of hours or more), but really, you should be planning in advance, and you wouldn’t want to rule out half the apartments in a city just to avoid the risk of rejection.
- Superhost: Some hosts do a really good job and Airbnb recognizes them by giving them “Superhost” badges. We are generally picking our places based on it’s features and on the reviews, but if it turns out that the host is “super,” hey, all the better. (Read how Airbnb defines “Superhosts”.)
Rooms and Beds
- Beds: You can select 0 to 16 beds. You should definitely use this filter, but you should also be careful with it. Not all beds are created equal. By looking at the photos, and reading the description and the reviews you should be able to determine the size and quality of the beds. Note that sometimes a host will sometimes count a sofa bed as a bed. If you can’t figure out what the sleeping arrangements are like, contact the host and ask. Lisa enjoys having her own bed, but we also travel with a baby tent. We specify that we want at least one bed, that way we don’t unnecessarily rule out a place that would be good enough. ALWAYS USE THIS FILTER!
- Bedrooms: Much like with the beds, we always specify that we want at least one bedroom because we need a barrier of separation between us and wherever Lisa is sleeping. This is important because she naps and goes to bed while we are still awake. If you aren’t traveling with kids, or if you simply don’t care where the bed is, then this filter might not be a necessity.
- Bathrooms: Once again, we always specify that we need at least one. Slow traveling for us means staying for about a month, and we just can’t hold it for that long. You may think you don’t need to check this one because who would offer a room without a bathroom? But you never know what you might overlook if you don’t pay attention. Actually, we’ve encountered some kind of strange bathrooms since we’ve been traveling, including some that have the toilet in one room and everything else (including the sink) in another room down the hall. I think it’s more common in Europe, but it took some getting used to for us. ALWAYS USE THIS FILTER!
- Kitchen: If you are slow traveling, you have to have a kitchen. That’s all there is to it. I already explained above why it is necessary to do your own cooking, and you can’t do your own cooking if you don’t have a kitchen. ALWAYS USE THIS FILTER!
- Heating: This option is important if you are traveling in a region that will be cold while you are there, but it might not be necessary (or even available) in a warmer climate.
- Washer: You are going to need to clean your clothes if you are traveling for a long time. We strongly prefer to have a washer, but we have also gone without. When we were staying in Croatia, none of the apartments we rented had laundry units and we had to take our clothes to a laundromat. It was expensive, but I’m not sure how much more we would have had to pay in that area for an apartment with a feature like that. We have also washed our clothes in the tub. When we are in more urban areas we tend to check this box, but we lower our expectations in certain circumstances.
- Wireless Internet: Yes please! We depend on wifi for our internet access. Cell phone data can be spotty or expensive, depending on what kind of plan you are using. Obviously, blogging is a big part of our business now, so this is a must. Even if we weren’t working, we couldn’t imagine planning our photo shoots or even our daily outings without fast, reliable internet. Granted, it’s not always fast or reliable, even when you use this option, but just having something makes the difference between feeling connected and feeling isolated. Maybe you are traveling to disconnect from the world, but otherwise, ALWAYS USE THIS FILTER!
- Family/Kid Friendly: Clearly if you are not traveling with children, then this probably won’t be an issue for you. To be honest, we have stayed in places that didn’t have this box checked, and usually we were able to get by simply by keeping a close eye on Lisa to make sure she wasn’t playing on the stairs or anything. BUT, if you are traveling with children and you are looking at a place that doesn’t say it’s kid friendly, make sure you ask the host why, and get their thoughts on staying there anyway.
- Buzzer/Wireless Intercom: This one isn’t a necessity, but there are times when a buzzer or intercom comes in handy. We have been traveling for over a year now, and we occasionally have to order some supplies. One time we had to do this while living on the fifth floor of a building with no buzzer, and because the delivery driver couldn’t call our foreign cell phone number, all we could do was wait outside for a couple hours on the day when it was scheduled to arrive. Also, if one person is out shopping while the other stays home, it’s nice to have a buzzer so you don’t have to fumble with the bags while you unlock the door.
- Hangers: This falls under the category of nice to have, but not worth ruling a place out over. If you get there and find that there are no hangers, you can always stop into a store and buy some cheap ones for a couple of bucks. It’s better than changing your travel plans over a piece of bent wire.
- Hairdryer: If you absolutely have to have a hair dryer, go ahead and check this one. We have never checked it, and only once or twice have we wound up in a place without one. Actually, we had purchased a travel hair dryer before we left, thinking we might be able to use it with our American/European electric converters, but there just wasn’t enough power. Rather than lug it around with us for the rest of the trip, we wound up throwing it away. Dannie sometimes had to wait a while for her hair to dry, but we got by.
- Lock on Bedroom Door: If you are slow traveling properly then you are getting a whole place so this doesn’t matter. If you are getting a private room, then you absolutely must use this filter. I can’t imagine leaving or stuff unprotected in a stranger’s house. Although now that I think about it more, they probably have a spare key anyway. Just get an apartment to yourself and avoid the issue entirely.
- TV: This one is not a necessity for us. Honestly, I sometimes wish there were a filter for “no TV.” We seem to get a lot more done when there isn’t a TV available. I know, I know, no one is making us watch it, but when you are tired at the end of the day, that remote is hard to leave alone.
- Shampoo: Clearly this is not a necessity. Maybe if we were only going to be there for a night we would care if there were a bottle of shampoo for us. But when we are there for a month we go shopping so frequently that we just buy our own shower products anyway. Usually we use up the whole bottle right around the time we are getting ready to move on. It’s perfect.
- Air Conditioning: This is just like the heater only backwards. Just check out the average highs for the region during the season you’ll be there. You can always contact the host and ask how hot it gets in the apartment during the Summer.
- Dryer: I wouldn’t touch this one. In all of our travels in Europe we have never stayed at a place with a dryer. They just don’t seem to use them. There is always a clothing rack to hang wet clothes on, though, so no big deal. It’s better for the environment that way anyway.
- Breakfast: I will admit that the one time we stayed at a place where a host cooked breakfast for us, it was really nice, but I would never use this filter for a place I was staying long term. We got a kitchen because we want to do our own food, and any place where they come and cook for you is going to be too expensive for a long term stay.
- Indoor Fireplace: We would love to be at a place in our lives where we could refuse to stay at a place that didn’t have an indoor fireplace. If that’s where you are, more power to you, otherwise, maybe leave this one alone.
- Doorman: See “Indoor Fireplace” above.
- Iron: I would say that this one is a must use, except that not everyone is going out for photoshoots all the time like we are. Still, those shirts do get wrinkly in the suitcase.
- Laptop Friendly Workspace: We never used to use this filter until we had a spate of apartments without good work surfaces. Lack of a good workspace isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for us, but we’ll usually check this box and only uncheck it if we’re out of options.
- Self Check-in: We’ve done self check in and been welcomed by hosts. Honestly, we prefer to be greeted. It’s nice to have someone show you around and give you some tips since you’re walking into the space that will be your home for quite a while. Also, we have never gone an entire month without needing help with one thing or another (clogged sinks, burnt out lights, hot water issues), and it’s nice to meet the person who will be taking care of you while you are there. I wouldn’t opt for this filter.
- Elevator: We want to use this filter, but you just can’t do it. Why? Because rentals that are on the ground floor don’t have elevators, and sometimes you might want them to show up. If you find yourself considering an apartment that doesn’t have an elevator, and you think you’d like to have one (if you have a big stroller for your toddler for example), just contact the host and ask what floor they are on.
- Gym: We like to stay healthy while we travel, but we just aren’t dedicated enough to demand a gym in our Airbnb. This one would rule out the vast majority of rentals.
- Pool: Because we have a toddler with us, a pool is actually a safety hazard. Even if that weren’t the case, we still wouldn’t require one because we don’t do that much swimming anyway. Most likely, the pool won’t make or break your trip.
- Free Parking on Premises: Obviously this only applies if you have a car with you, but if you do, you should strongly consider using this filter. We rented a car for our month in the South of France, and we had free onsite parking in every location except Avignon. Having to pay for parking and walk 10 minutes back to the apartment at least once a day was more than a little inconvenient. Most of the time we don’t bother renting a car because we mostly stay in areas with public transportation.
- Hot Tub: It should be fairly obvious that hot tub is not a necessity for slow travel.
- Wheelchair Accessible: We thought about using this filter to make our stays more stroller friendly, but then we thought about all the nice places we would have missed out on because they had just a couple steps. If you or one of your travel companions requires a wheelchair, you should definitely use this filter, though.
- Suitable for Events: This isn’t necessary for us, and it probably isn’t necessary for you. I don’t even know what kind of event someone would want to hold in an Airbnb.
- Smoking Allowed: Much like the TV filter, I wish there were a filter for the opposite of this. Most Airbnb rentals I see do not allow smoking, which is good. We’ve only ever stayed in one place that allowed smoking, and it smelled bad. If you are a smoker and you can’t be bothered to step outside for a while, I guess you should check this one, but you’ll be missing out on most potential listings.
- Pets Allowed: We don’t have any pets (unless you count Lisa), so obviously we don’t need this option. But I know there are a lot of pet lovers out there who are going to want to bring their cats or dogs along with them. Definitely don’t assume that this will be fine with the host. If you want to bring your pets and you think a host might make an exception despite having this rule, contact them and explain why your little precious furball is just the sweetest.
You can choose from a list of neighborhoods that you think you’d like to live in, but we never bother. We tend to choose by what’s near the attractions we want to see instead of the artificially drawn neighborhood lines.
You can pick your favorite languages from a fairly long list. It’s always nice when the host speaks your language, but even if they don’t, you can still communicate because Airbnb has a built in translate function. We have never regretted staying at a listing because of a language issue, and we would never want to filter out a nice place for this reason.
That’s about it for the filters. One added benefit of using filters is that it can actually make it look like you have more options to choose from. To avoid making their page look cluttered, Airbnb only displays 18 listings at a time and you have to click next to see additional listings. If there are hundreds of listings in the area, adding filters will eliminate all of the ones you would never consider and really make the map look ripe for the picking.
Airbnb Tip #5: Look at the Pictures
You might think that as photographers we are biased, but a picture really is worth a thousand words. When an Airbnb host describes their listing as “cozy,” the photos will tell you whether they meant “comfortable” or “cramped.” Here are some things that you should keep an eye out for as you scroll through the photos.
- Quantity and Quality of Images: Sure, you don’t want to judge the host just because they aren’t handy with a camera or can’t afford to hire a photographer, but if they go to the trouble to make sure their place is well photographed for you it means that they are approaching their rental with a sense of dedication and professionalism, and they are more likely to approach you in the same way. It also means that they are giving you a more accurate visual of the place you will be staying for a month.
- Too Many Close Ups: Sometimes there will be a lot of photos of the flowers on the coffee table or the little knickknacks on the shelves. It could be that the host is just proud of the way that they have decorated, but if it’s not also accompanied by lots of wider shots of the rooms, it might mean that there isn’t much to show or that the space is very small.
- Too Many Attractions: Unless the photo is framed with an attraction through the window to show it’s proximity, these photos tell you nothing about the place you are looking at. You already know what you want to see in the city, that’s why you are looking for a rental in the first place! Listings with lots of photos of nearby attractions are often short on actual features they should be advertising instead.
- Counter Space: Just because you know there’s a kitchen, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a useful one. Sometimes a “kitchen” is actually a sink and a microwave, so look out! A small kitchen (I mean really small) might be ok for a night or two, but if you are cooking for a family for weeks on end, it might drive you insane. Look for plenty of counter space and all the appliances you think you’ll need. If you don’t see something that you will want, contact the host and ask if it’s hidden in the cabinets. That reminds me, make sure there are cabinets and a fridge.
- Spaciousness: Depending on how many of you will be traveling, you are going to want some breathing room. Make sure that the rooms are big enough that you won’t be tripping over one another all month. Figuring out the size of the listing can be a little difficult if the host hasn’t listed the square footage, especially because they often use a wide angle lens that makes interiors look bigger than they are. Once in Paris, we wound up in a place so small we literally couldn’t put our bags down. You might have to really test the spacial lobe of your brain. Look for obvious markers in the room like the corner of a table or a unique lamp, and see where it shows up in other pictures. This will help you construct a mental map of the rental to figure out how many rooms there are and how far apart the walls are. If a host is really good, one of the photos will be a floor plan (do you hear that hosts? Floor plan!).
- Tidiness: If a host can’t be bothered to make the place look good for the photos that represent them to the world, they probably won’t do it for you either. Check out the first Airbnb we ever stayed at years ago in Brooklyn. I can tell you that it looked exactly the same in person as it did in the photos. Luckily we didn’t have Lisa with us yet. Also, try to look for signs that the host lives there and just vacates it when guests rent it. Clues would be things like toys on the bookshelf or shoes near the door. There are upsides and downsides to renting someone’s actual home instead of their investment property. On the one hand, if they live there, then you know that they will at least take care of it to the (hopefully high) standards they want for themselves. On the other hand, there is nothing worse than having no closet space because it is full of someone else’s stuff. Generally speaking we prefer the investment properties.
- The Building Exterior: There is a lot of value in this shot, even though you don’t care about the exterior once you are inside. First of all, it tells you whether the building is dilapidated. Secondly, it gives you a point of reference to check out the neighborhood. Airbnb doesn’t give you the exact location of the rental, either by address or on the map, but the map does give you a ballpark. If you then hop over to Google Maps to check the area out on street view, you can look for your potential home away from home. This tells you whether you have found the right street (does the area seem nice?) and it’s a fun little hunt in and of itself.
Airbnb Tip #6: Read the Reviews (Not Just the Stars)
Airbnb gives travelers the ability to rate a listing from one to five stars in 6 categories: Accuracy, Communication, Cleanliness, Location, Check-in, and Value. While people will not hesitate to give a hotel a terrible review just because they woke up on the wrong side of the bed, many feel guilty saying bad things about an Airbnb listing when the host seemed like such a nice person. For this reason, you should be very wary of any place that doesn’t have near perfect star ratings.
Even if a listing has five stars in every category, there is plenty of reason to scroll down a little farther to read the written reviews. You might find out that the location got five stars because of it’s proximity to something you don’t really care about. Or someone might mention a way that the host went above and beyond what you were even hoping for. This is the section that will make or break your decision, so don’t ever skip it.
But what if the listing doesn’t have any reviews?
This is a real conundrum. The most likely reason that a listing wouldn’t have any reviews would be that no one has rented it yet, probably because it is new. We don’t necessarily rule these listings out, but we do approach them with extra caution.
The first thing we do is check and see if the host has reviews on other listings. If they have one or more other listings with very positive reviews, then we are encouraged to think that the new one is also likely to be pretty good. Whether there are other reviews or not, we also make sure that we contact the host and ask questions about the listing. We take their answers into consideration, but generally speaking, we have a strong bias toward listings with lots of positive reviews.
The one upside of an unreviewed listing is that it is often substantially less expensive because the host knows that the lack of reviews drives down it’s value. Our apartment in Vienna was a good deal, probably for just this reason. Just don’t let your desire for a bargain cloud your judgement.
Airbnb Tip #7: Contact the Host
Even if a listing has Instant Booking as an option, we strongly recommend that you contact the host anyway before you click that button. The description section of the Airbnb listing is often long and full of details, but there is always more information that can be gained by asking a few questions. Here are some of the questions we often ask. Make sure that you ask them politely.
- Is the wifi fast and reliable?
- Is the heating/AC effective? How hot or cold does it get inside?
- Is the kitchen stocked with pots and pans, a kettle and all of the utensils we will need for cooking a variety of meals?
- I saw that the listing didn’t have any reviews yet. Would we be the first renters?
- Our daughter is two years old, are there any hazards in the apartment we should worry about?
- Are there parks or playgrounds nearby for our daughter to play in?
- (If there is only one bed) Do you have a children’s cot available? If you do we would love to use it, but if not we can use our travel tent.
- (If there is no elevator) What floor is the apartment on? Will it be hard for us to get in and out with a stroller or our luggage?
- How long will it take us to get to [insert attraction(s)] on foot/with public transportation?
You might think that asking whether the wifi is good or the heating works is pointless. Why would the host ever come out and say that the wifi is unreliable? You might be right, but by raising the issues that are important to you, you at least put the idea in their head that you are paying attention to those things. If the wifi is bad, or the apartment is cold at night, the host will be motivated to avoid bad reviews, either by making some excuse not to rent to you (perfectly fine), or by finally getting around to fixing that problem that’s been on the back burner for months, which will help other renters too!
Airbnb Tip #8: Be Respectful and Helpful
Hosts are putting trust in you not to do things that will cause them problems. Most listings are not owned by large companies, and they don’t have the deep pockets or vast resources necessary to absorb losses or handle PR. Many of them live nearby and have to maintain relationships with neighbors and housing associations, so make their lives easy. Don’t be noisy. Don’t make a big mess. Don’t draw a lot of attention to yourself. If you need to reorganize anything in order to function while you are there, try your best to put everything back the way it was when you leave.
Always follow the house rules and any other requests that are presented either in the listing or in person upon check in (within reason). If it says no smoking, don’t smoke! If they ask you to stay out of the supply closet, stay out! You get the idea. Your relationship with your host will have a big impact on the quality of your stay, and this is doubly true when you are slow traveling. Besides, you owe the host the same respect that you and every other human being is owed, so follow the golden rule.
If there is a problem, contact the host right away and don’t try to fix it yourself. Odds are it’s happened before and they will know just how to deal with it. Hosts would rather get an annoying phone call than have you damage their property, and they’d rather spend their time and money solving a problem for you than have you keep them in the dark and write a bad review. Give them a chance to be good hosts, and most of the time they will be. Besides, you are there for a long time, so why not let them make your stay as comfortable and convenient as possible.
Airbnb Tip #9: Review the Listing and the Host (And Read the Host’s Review of You)
One of the best parts of Airbnb is the review system. The travelers review the hosts and the hosts review the travelers, and it keeps everyone in check (at least that’s the idea). You made use of the reviews other people wrote, so make sure you write an honest and helpful review to help others. You’ll be asked to give feedback in three forms. The first is to rate the Accuracy, Communication, Cleanliness, Location, Check-in, and Value from one to five stars. Second, you will be asked to give the host private feed back that only they will see. This is for feedback that you want to give, but which you think are too trivial to effect other people’s renting decisions (like “consider putting a mirror by the door”). You can also use this step for things that are simply no one else’s business (did I leave my cell phone charger in the desk drawer?).
Finally, and most importantly, you are asked to give public feedback for future visitors to read. This is where you talk about which aspects of your rental experience made your trip better and which aspects caused you problems. This is more valuable than the star ratings because 1) it won’t be diluted by dozens of other reviews averaging out, and 2) you can be more specific. If you say that there were no nearby vegetarian restaurants, it might be a big negative for some readers, but totally irrelevant to others.
Actually, just writing this article has caused me to look back at reviews that we’ve written in the past and evaluate how we could be more helpful. A little introspection and examination goes a long way toward being a good traveler!
Once you have written and submitted your review, you’ll be able to read the review that was written by your host. This is especially important for long term travelers because future hosts will be reading these reviews and deciding whether or not they want to rent to you. The reviews are part of your Airbnb reputation. You will have the option of responding to the host’s review, and that response will be public for others to read. If you feel that you have been unfairly maligned, you should politely disagree and/or contact Airbnb. But if you read a criticism that rings true, your best bet is to own it and apologize. This, at least, lets future hosts know that you are aware of how you are expected to treat their homes, and that you will not create conflict or get vindictive if they give you constructive criticism. Then you should take the criticism you received to heart and try harder to be the kind of visitor you would want to host if the roles were reversed. If the review is positive, which it probably will be, then smile and go on your way.
We’ve really come to the conclusion that Airbnb is the way to go for slow travel, so give it a try (don’t forget to save $40 on your first rental by using this link to sign up), and remember:
- Location, Location, Location
- Look for Monthly or Weekly Discounts
- Do Your Own Cooking
- Use the Filters
- Look at the Pictures
- Read the Reviews
- Contact the Host
- Be Respectful and Helpful
- Write a Review
If you found these tips helpful and you’d like to learn more about our experience as long term slow travelers, you can sign up for our newsletter, or browse our blog feed. You might also enjoy Operation Digital Nomad, our monthly report on our efforts to monetize our blog and keep traveling indefinitely. Thanks so much for reading!