Everything You Need to Know About Renting an Airbnb

Our Airbnb in Cleveland came with chickens!
Our Airbnb in Cleveland came with chickens!

Note: I am not receiving any compensation from Airbnb to write this blog post. I do have this link for those who would like to try Airbnb for the first time and receive $40 off. My husband and I also receive a credit for the referral, at no additional cost to you.

Have you heard about Airbnb but have yet to use it? Have you spent time searching for an Airbnb rental but have trouble selecting one that fits best with your travel plans? Look no further – this post will teach you everything you need to know before your first Airbnb experience.

Private room or the whole place to yourself?
If you type in a location on Airbnb, you will see a range of rentals available. Many will be an entire apartment or home, though others are private rooms within a unit (typically with a shared bathroom and kitchen). A much smaller number are shared rooms set up like a dorm or hostel. Since my introverted self prefers to have the place to myself, I set my search filters accordingly and make sure the posting says something like, “Entire Apartment.”

Read the check-in procedures and note the check-in time
If your schedule is flexible, these details may not matter as much. However, if you get into town at 8:00am and you can’t check into your Airbnb until 3:00pm, you’ll have to plan accordingly. Unlike a hotel or hostel, you won’t be able to store your luggage prior to check-in.
Also, usually the host will indicate whether they will meet you in person to give you the keys or leave them in a lock box or other location. Though it’s nice when the host wants to meet you in person, this can also present mild logistical challenges. For example, a flight delay might require you to change your meeting time or if you’re traveling abroad connectivity issues and international phone charges can be barriers. My best advice is to download the Airbnb app on your phone to make communication with your host as seamless as possible.

Read several reviews
Airbnb etiquette is that everyone leaves their hosts and guests reviews. This helps make sure all parties have a positive and safe experience. I usually read several brief reviews of the rental so I know what to expect from the property and so there are no surprises. At the same time, if there’s one negative review among many positive ones, take it with a grain of salt. Generally hosts are trying to do their best to portray the rental accurately and want you to have a good experience.

Location, location, location
As obvious as this may seem, I’ve certainly known people who have booked much farther from the city center than they’d hoped. Make sure to check details in regards to location; often, both the host and reviewers will list some places within walking distance that will allow you to get a good sense of where the property is. The actual address is provided after you book.

Great Airbnb location in Reykjavik

Read the rules 
Preferably before you book, but certainly after, read the guest rules. These may include things like no parties, throw your dirty towels in the washer before you check out, use coasters, or make sure to lock up or set the alarm any time you leave. Most of the time, the rules are things you’d probably do at home, though it is more work than staying at a hotel. Regardless, be a good guest and follow the rules. It’s good karma and you’ll get a better review.

Leave the place tidy
Along the same lines as my last point, it’s the kind thing to do to pick up after yourself and leave the unit as you found it. Do the host a favor and even if they don’t ask, take your trash out, wipe off the kitchen table quick, and for the love of all that is good and holy wash your dishes.

Communicate with your host throughout the process
Your host will typically contact you as your travel date approaches with some additional information (i.e., directions, reminders about check-in). Take the time to send a quick “thank you” message back and keep them abreast of any changes in your plans. If they don’t meet you in person for check-in, it’s nice to send a “Made it to your place and everything looks great” message so they’re not left wondering. Likewise, you should expect to get a message from them making sure you have everything you need. Though this may sound like some work to coordinate, it’s all super fast and easy using the Airbnb app. Lastly, keep in mind that communication is often something noted in reviews. You may read that a host or guest has “good communication” or the opposite.

Write a thoughtful review after your stay
Your review does not need to be long. In fact, most are just a couple sentences or a short paragraph. The basic etiquette is to leave a polite review noting some positive experiences and any large concerns. If the WiFi didn’t work half the time or the place was dirty, it’s fair to indicate that. On the other hand, I recommend steering clear of complaining about things that the host included in their listing. For example, if the host was already transparent about the apartment being in an area with lots of street noise, noting that in your review feels like overkill.

Take something, leave something
I’m not talking about stealing a lamp. More like if the host leaves you fruit for the taking or the last guest left a can of soup, feel free to enjoy. If you can, pay it forward by leaving something small. One time I left the remainder of a bottle of wine and another time I left coupons for the local zoo I didn’t have time to visit. Either the host or the next guest will appreciate the gesture.

Do you frequently host or stay as a guest? Weigh in with your best Airbnb tips in the comments below!


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