Over the course of our travels together Ryan and I have stayed in nearly 40 Airbnbs across 14 countries. We prefer these short-term rentals to hotels because they tend to be less expensive (about half the cost of a hotel in many cases), and because they come with a kitchen.
Since we’ve stayed in so many of these we thought we’d offer some observations and suggestions to both hosts and guests using the service. This post will be focused on hosts. We’ll tackle how to be a better guest in a separate entry (and we have cracked the nut on how to get great reviews as a guest, so stay tuned for that post).
First, some basics about us and our preferences: We generally book the “whole place” rather than a private room as it gives us more flexibility and space. We travel most often in the off-season. Our budget is around $30-$50 per night, though we’ve paid much more when there were no better options. Lastly, we seek bookings in areas that are within walking distance of the major attractions or at least a public transit stop.
Here’s our take:
1. We really like meeting you
mThe handful of self check-in experiences we had were smooth, but we vastly prefer the personal interaction. Meeting you gives us a chance to ask questions and learn a little about the place. Even if the check-in is super brief, it’s nice to see your face and shake your hand.
2. Fill out the “House Rules”
We mean beyond the standard “no parties” and “no smoking” auto fills. There are quirks in every apartment, and you probably have preferences for how we can best care for the place. Out of nearly forty rentals only one host filled out the house rules. Even if you go over the same information with us during check-in, we appreciated having it written down for reference. These can be instructions for using the washing machine, a plea to save water by using the dishwasher instead of hand washing, and where to take out the trash should we need to.
3. Stock a few basics
While we’d wager that most of your guests eat out while they are vacationing in your fine city, we were on the road for seven months. Eating out gets old and impractical for that amount of time. Our habit was to hit up the local supermarket right away to get food for breakfast and an easy dinner or two. We were always grateful when there was some salt and pepper stocked, or even a bit of olive oil. Outside of the kitchen, if the apartment has a washing machine it’s nice to also offer some detergent – even just a small plastic container with enough for a single load. There were rare occasions in which we would buy these things and leave them in the apartment for the next guests to use. Some hosts seemed fine with this ‘pay it forward’ practice, but others seemed put out by it. If you don’t want guests leaving salt and oil in the apartment, consider stocking the items yourself.
4. Sharpen the knives
A dull knife is a lot more dangerous than a sharp one. We’re not asking for top of the line cutlery, but something that slices rather than mashes a tomato is appreciated. If you don’t have the time to sharpen them yourself there are small, safe sharpeners available that are inexpensive. You can leave the sharpener in the drawer and we can take it from there.
5. Prohibit smoking
Even if you’re in a culture where it’s perfectly acceptable to smoke indoors, please ask your guests to smoke outside. The smell permeates everything. We did give less than stellar reviews to apartments that had everything else going for them except for the cigarette smell.
6. Give the apartment a test run
Sleep in the bed, cook in the kitchen, take a shower. You’ll figure out pretty quickly what might need a little tweaking. One apartment we stayed in only stocked a bread knife in the kitchen — it’s impossible to cut garlic with a bread knife, y’all. In another apartment there was no mattress, just a box spring. The host had never laid down in it so didn’t know there wasn’t a mattress there. We of course don’t expect five-star accommodations for the prices we are willing to pay, and we do let our hosts know about these things in private messages, but you can get ahead of many issues by staying in the apartment yourself every so often.
7. Highlight the local flavor
If you want to go above and beyond, consider providing a bit of something your region does very well. The hosts in Spain would often leave a bottle of local wine or olive oil (there are 30 million olive trees in Spain and they make the best olive oil we’ve ever had). Our hosts in Germany would sometimes leave a bottle of beer in the fridge. As guests, we never expected these things, but we were always delighted by them. We felt welcomed and the personal introduction to the area’s specialty was wonderful.
That’s our take on what hosts might like to know. Next up will be advice for guests. If you’re an Airbnb host and disagree with any of our suggestions, please let us know in the comments section. We’re always open to learning about your perspective as it will make us better guests!
I would like to add: to the extent possible, please remove, cover or minimize your personal possessions and toiletries. My sister and I stayed in a home in Northwest Washington that was the owner’s primary residence but she traveled a lot. We knew that going in, so perhaps we should have reset our expectations. But I found it mildly creepy to sleep in a room with all of her clothing on a rack next to the bed. The second bedroom was used as the office for her home-based business, with shelves stocked with food supplements and equipment she used to package them. And there was only one bathroom, with her shampoos, etc. in the shower, lots of other toiletries on the shelf, etc. It was not comfortable. But I could not bring myself to give her a bad review, because I didn’t want it to result in a bad rating for me.
We had a similar experience with a rental that was clearly the guy’s primary residence and he went on bike trips whenever someone requested to stay there. It was awkward, especially in the kitchen since I wasn’t sure if it was ok to use his coffee. So, yeah, sometimes it’s weird. But the host can’t see your review until they post theirs. So there’s no chance that you’ll get a retribution review.