When we travel as a family, booking a hotel room isn’t always the best option and so we sometimes choose to book on Airbnb (or other platforms like Sonder).
What’s great is that it is possible to redeem points to save on Airbnb (I explain all this at the end of the article).
But first of all: how to choosethe right accommodation and enjoy a great experience?
Booking an Airbnb
Haven’t you ever wondered, after booking, if you made a good choice? Is there anything you should know before booking? Can you claim a refund or compensation if the stay does not meet your expectations?
To be honest, our experiences have generally been very good with Airbnb, and that’s most certainly because we follow several rules that I’ll talk about below. Unfortunately, many travellers do not follow those rules, even though they could avoid surprises.
I must say that I have only complained once in 10 years. I had booked an apartment in the heart center Nice for myself and the children in the middle of June, as Jean-Maximilien had another trip scheduled. When I arrived, I met the owner who showed me around the apartment. A peaceful, cosy place, in a beautiful old building with all the necessary facilities. However, there was no air conditioning (but I was well aware of this as I had asked the owner beforehand, especially to inform her that I would be with my young children in the apartment).
However, the landlady had neglected to tell me that major work was underway for the Tramway just down the street from the building and that it was going to go on into the night as the workmen were behind schedule. Nice to hear the jackhammer in the middle of the night, having no choice but to leave the window open a little because of the heat… I did not hesitate to notify the owner. I was disappointed that she did not inform me of this, and make a gesture!
Apart from this experience, I had nothing but nice surprises. Generally the hosts we had were:
The hosts took care to meet us, sometimes even telling us where to park our car and what to visit in the area (even helping us with our bookings). The properties were always in great condition, clean and as described. In Cinque Terre, Italy, I remember having a kitchen full of local produce and wines offered as gifts to the tenants.
This was also the case in South Africa next to Kruger Park in Phalaborwa.
How the Airbnb platform works
Can anyone become an Airbnb host?
In order to rent out their apartment or house, each owner must ensure that they comply with the legislation in force in their city, and obtain a permit or occupancy authorization before publishing any advertisement or accepting any traveler in their home.
As a general rule, the property should be sufficiently furnished and equipped to accommodate travellers. The equipment must be in working order and the hygiene must be as good as possible.
Airbnb has a 24/7 customer support service available around the world as well as a forum for Airbnb hosts. This allows the Airbnb community to help each other. This will reassure new hosts who want to do things right!
Not a company (most of the time), but a person. Unlike a hotel chain, where you are used to this or that service anywhere in the world, each host is different. You can compare properties by checking the comments left by the travellers on their stay! And landlords will also be able to leave comments on their tenants.
Who are the hosts who rent their property to you?
People who are of course looking to make their property profitable in complete safety!
By going through the Airbnb platform, a private individual will be able to post their ad at no cost, whether it is a room or an entire residence, and indicate the availability of the property so that travelers can book.
They will then be able to choose:
- who to host
- at what cost
- their conditions and restrictions (e.g.: animal, tobacco, number of people, etc.).
By doing business with Airbnb, a host will benefit from the guarantee of the company’s support in case of damage up to US$1 million (e.g. theft or damage to furniture) or problems such as a door that locks with the key inside as well as Civil liability.
A host will have the option of requiring identification from the prospective tenant before confirming the reservation. Don’t cry identity theft just yet! This is a security measure. Hosts are also required to maintain a traveller’s register.
What is a Superhost?
A host can earn a badge based on the quality of the stay he provides to his travelers, and thus get the Superhost status. They are experienced and committed to providing you with an exceptional experience when renting their property!
So they are a trusted person on the Airbnb platform.
The more rave reviews and positive ratings the Airbnb member has on all aspects:
- accuracy of the ad
- value for money
- care given on arrival
The more he stands out from the crowd, allowing him to become a “Superhost“!
A Superhost will usually offer additional or modern facilities, higher quality accommodation, or ensure that everything is spotlessly clean for example.
What is the Airbnb Plus program?
Airbnb Plus is a guarantee of quality from Airbnb: all Airbnb Plus accommodations have been inspected by Airbnb (with more than 100 criteria analyzed on Design, Equipment and Maintenance in particular).
Each Airbnb Plus accommodation is unique, thoughtfully decorated, and includes a standard set of amenities.
You can select the “Airbnb Plus” filter in your search.
What is the Airbnb Luxury program?
Airbnb Luxury was launched in recent months to distinguish the most luxurious accommodations on the platform. It is in fact the legacy of their acquisition, 2 years ago, of Luxury Retreats.
There are over 2,000 accommodations around the world in this category on Airbnb.
Each of them meets a strict evaluation of more than 300 criteria in terms of design and equipment. There is a castle in France, a villa in Tuscany or in the Caribbean.
Here, Airbnb takes care to personalize the stay: each Airbnb Luxury booking provides access to a dedicated, highly trained trip designer who will ensure that the stay is tailored to the unique needs of the traveler at every phase of the trip.
What is Airbnb for work?
Airbnb for Work is aimed at business travellers who will be able to access a selection of accommodation specifically rated for business travel. In these homes, there will be Wi-Fi, an office, and equipment for professionals such as a printer.
They are also particularly suitable for team meetings.
You can select the filter “Travel pro” when searching.
The best tips for finding YOUR Airbnb rental
First of all, you should have a look at many properties. It’s all very well to want a superb apartment, but you have to determine the budget you are willing to pay according to the city you are in, a bit like your hotel nights in the end.
Fill in the search criteria.
The place, date of arrival and departure. Regarding the number of travelers, fees may be added to your bill. You are free to fill in this field correctly or not 🙂
Every booking requires an active and thorough search.
Someone could cancel a property at some point, and so you’d have more choice than you did a few days ago. So feel free to look at different times.
Create a new list and add to it the different properties that you find interesting (you can bookmark them with the heart).
This will already allow you to make a first selection, to establish a price scale. If you start the search and all that comes up is poorly rated properties or properties that seem to be in old condition, it might be time to review your budget: the area or city you are looking at is certainly more expensive than you originally thought!
Trust the Superhosts.
There is a reason why they have achieved this status. Sometimes some hosts own only one property, but others may own several.
If you see an ad with few comments, recently posted by a Superhost you might have just stumbled upon a gold mine. In this case, take precautions, ask the host as many questions as possible and try to negotiate the property.
Superhosts are looking to advertise their new property and may be inclined to give you a discount, especially if you are out of season.
Tightening the selection
Read each ad in detail (ALL the comments and ALL the rules) and then compare the most interesting ones: ask yourself questions!
- What is the overall score, in each category? Ratings range from 1 to 5 stars. Be aware that Airbnb’s algorithms consider a rating of 4 as bad. Was the apartment clean? Some people just never give out 5 stars and put 4 when it was worth a 5. Others will find that there was room for improvement. It is up to you to make the difference between what is and what is not. Eliminate anything below 4.5 stars to be safe.
- Is it a Superhost? Are the comments complimentary?
- Where is the accommodation located? Is there a terrace or a balcony? For me, waking up with the possibility of having my coffee on the terrace with the outside atmosphere (nature or city center) makes me feel like a local!
- Are the amenities basic or exceptional?
- Does the host make an effort to welcome their guests (smiles, small attentions such as a local speciality offered)? Are there any directions added in the property (such as a map the city, known suppliers for guided tours, or to participate in an interesting activity, suggestions for restaurants in the area, address for shopping or local convenience store)?
- Does it have many positive and/or negative comments? What are the negative points? For example, take note of the following:
- if the neighbours are noisy or if the street is busy (train station, shopping street, restaurants, bar nearby)
- if there is an elevator or air conditioning
- if the host lacks responsiveness
- any problems related to comfort (uncomfortable mattresses or seats) or lack of supplies (towels, nothing to do the laundry which can be unpleasant during the stay)
- Does it have any basic traveler reviews or reviews that praise the accommodation?
- If there are only travelers who left classic messages, this is not enough. For me, it means that the stay was not that great, or else that the traveller does not give the complete version of the facts, not daring to leave a negative comment.
- Better long reviews that leave praise for their hosts than basic reviews.
- Is the arrival/departure time exaggerated or correct?
- Check if the accommodation is accessible to smokers or pets.
- Beware of stairs, dangerous spaces without railing or protection if you are with children: look carefully at the pictures!
Test your host
You have found the property you are interested in, but still hesitate? Write to the host! Send them a message to find out if the accommodation is quiet, suitable for a family, close to amenities such as supermarkets, subway stations or other. Check the negative points in other people’s comments to see if the situation has been rectified (bad bedding, no curtains, broken blinds or appliances, etc).
This could also be the time to check if there is a possibility to negotiate the advertised price for the night. Sometimes in low season, we try. When we stayed in a cottage last year, we were able to get a 25% discount! Nice to see that the host is open minded.
It’s also an opportunity to test their responsiveness! This will allow you to judge their tone and if their are available to help you once you’re there in case of a problem.
Booking in foreign currency
Generally, I recommend booking in the currency of the country you are visiting (France = Euro, United States = US Dollar, etc.) using a credit card without foreign currency conversion fees! Indeed, the conversion automatically applied by Airbnb is not the most advantageous.
For example, I use the HSBC World Elite Mastercard® when we travel abroad and need to book an Airbnb rental.
In addition to being able to use points as account credit for Airbnb bookings, this card earn 6 points per dollar for that travel expense. And it doesn’t charge a conversion fee (unlike the 2.5% charged by most credit cards in Canada).
Redeeming travel points with Airbnb
In Canada, many rewards programs allow you to use points for your Airbnb rentals. This is the case for:
Here is an example of using HSBC points earned with the HSBC World Elite Mastercard® for an Airbnb rental:
Or using Membership Rewards earned with the American Express Cobalt™ Card for an Airbnb rental:
Here is a list of the best credit cards in Canada that you can use your points with for Airbnb rentals:
Airbnb has established itself in the market of seasonal rentals all over the world.
Some hosts also offer the possibility to book specific activities now, such as a cooking workshop or a hike, or to organize guided trips with local experts… the choice is wide!
These experiences do not require booking a night in an Airbnb accommodation. A new way to compete with TripAdvisor or Marriott Bonvoy!
Share your experiences in the comments or on the Milesopedia Facebook group!