About a decade ago, no one would have let a stranger in their house to stay for a night. But with Airbnb becoming mainstream, more and more homeowners are renting out spaces in their beautiful homes. In fact, providing unique Airbnb experiences to guests is the bread and butter of several hosts.

Staying at an Airbnb is not only more comfortable than hotels, but also cheaper and convenient most of the times. Searching for an Airbnb seems just like searching for a place on any other accommodation website. You may be doing the following right now:

  1. Enter a location
  2. Enter the dates of stay
  3. Enter the number of guests
  4. Adjust the price filter as per the budget
  5. Check out the photos of the Airbnbs you like
  6. Select the one you want and book it

There is nothing wrong with this approach. But if you’re all about traveling smart like the other readers of this website, you’ll want to learn some extra tips and hacks to find the right Airbnb for you.

Being a Pro Airbnber doesn’t merely end at booking a fantastic Airbnb. There are several essential things to know and follow during the stay to enhance your Airbnb experience.

That’s why I have divided this topic into two parts:

  1. Finding the right Airbnb
  2. Staying at the Airbnb

This article is the first in the series and will focus on the best ways to select an Airbnb for your next stay. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s begin!

Cozy Airbnb at St. John Island

1. First thing, select Superhost for Best Hospitality

Superhosts are stellar hosts of Airbnb. They have a rating of 4.8+ stars, have never canceled a reservation in the last year, and reply promptly to any questions or concerns before and during the booking. Booking a home listed by a superhost ensures peace of mind and outstanding hospitality.

Turn the Superhost switch on to find their properties at the destination. If none of the listings suit you, turn the switch off and continue your search with more available choices.

Specialities of Superhosts

2. Make the best use of the Filters

The price filter is undoubtedly the most used filter. But pay heed to the other controls on the website as well as the mobile app that will allow you to drill down your search based on specific criteria.

Airbnb Filters

Instead of listing all the controls down, I’ll mention a few situations in which these controls work the best.

  • Traveling with a big group of friends or family? Select For families under Trip Type and/or Entire Place under Home type.
  • Need breakfast before starting your day or planning to make your meals? Select Breakfast or Kitchen under Amenities.
  • Have a specific kind of property in mind like a Cabin or Cottage? Select your choice under Property Type.
  • Driving to a congested city like New York? Select Free Parking on Premises under Facilities.
  • Planning a beach vacation? You might want to select Washer and Hair Dryer.
  • Want to bring your pets along on your trip? Select Pets Allowed under House Rules.
  • Wish to have a unique experience in a Castle or a Tiny House? Select the options under Unique Homes.

3. Mind the Total, not just the Nightly Fee

These are the type of fees that Airbnb charges:

  1. Nightly Price
  2. Cleaning Fee
  3. Service Fee
  4. Occupancy Taxes and Fees

Beware of the Occupancy Taxes

Airbnb recently began to show a total cost upfront while browsing for listings rather than just the nightly price. However, the total only includes the first three items on that list, not the occupancy taxes. The occupancy tax rates include some local taxes set by the county.

Occupancy rates are only shown when a listing is clicked on

Average out the Cleaning Fee

Cleaning fee is levied as a flat fee to the entire reservation irrespective of the number of days. This means that staying for longer days at the same home will average out the cleaning fee per day.

4. Read the Listing Description carefully

Airbnb uses consistent icons and names to highlight the Amenities and Sleeping Arrangements in each listing, as shown here.

Listed Amenities

But to be entirely sure about what you will be getting, read the description carefully. Great hosts mention details about their listing such as what is restricted to use in the kitchen, best transportation to nearby attractions, pets in the house, etc.

Pets at an Airbnb

If anything is confusing, press Contact for Host and reach out with any questions.

5. Search for these Keywords in the Reviews

You probably already know that Airbnb supports a 5-star rating scale for six categories: Accuracy, Communication, Cleanliness, Location, Check-in, and Value. Some listings may have as much as 500 reviews for a listing posted by previous guests. Even skimming through them is quite an effort.

  • Best
  • Great
  • Good
  • Comfortable
  • Awesome
  • Communicate
  • Value
  • Transportation
  • Clean
  • Nice
  • Quiet
  • Beautiful
  • Bad
  • Worst
  • Pathetic
  • Rude
  • Dirty
  • Difficult
  • Disrespectful

Search in Airbnb Reviews

While the number of instances of these words is useful, look for more recent reviews to see both highlights and lowlights of the airbnb.

Moreover, search for potential problems during your stay. Are several guests complaining about anything in particular: bathroom, bed, check-in, communication, etc.? Press Contact host and ask them specific questions about those problems.

6. Zoom into the Neighborhood

An exact address of the home helps in comparing the commute to nearby attractions during your stay. But homeowners will not publicly list it for security reasons.

However, you can gain a sense of the vicinity by interacting with the neighborhood map in the listing. Airbnb suggests an approximate address with a blue circle around the house.

Neighborhood Map of an Airbnb home

The Public Transit checkbox and Street View features of that map are kinda helpful. But following these steps will make you more informed of the nearby area:

  1. Find a landmark within the blue circle. If there is no landmark, find an intersection of two streets.
  2. Enter the location from no. 1 into Google Maps.
  3. Check out public transportation and/or driving times to your attractions at the scheduled time of travel.
  4. Find the nearest grocery stores, cafes, restaurants, or anything you may need to be accessible to you during the stay.

7. Use Wishlists - yours and others’

Wishlists are handy to save your favorite airbnbs during your research. You can confidently pause your planning and resume it at another time. The ones you’ve saved will have a heart sign on them. They will show up on the map as well as within the lists when you resume.

But why do all the work of wishlisting from scratch? Just search “Airbnb Wishlists Location” on Google, and get access to several wishlists created by others.

Google Others' Wishlists

8. Understand the Cancellation Policy

Airbnb has six kinds of cancellation policies. For short term trips usually, one of these three apply: Flexible, Moderate, and Strict.

Each listing displays a comprehensive representation of its cancellation policy with exact dates and timings taking your check-in and check-out dates into account. It is worth setting reminders for each of them if there exists the slimmest chance of a cancellation.

Example of a Cancellation Timeline

To know all the nuances under each of these policies, read the details mentioned on Airbnb’s website.

9. Find the same listing on another Accommodation Website

Airbnb hosts are usually homeowners or small businesses trying to host their property to make some money. Chances are that they are also listing their property on a few other popular accommodation platforms. Some may even have their own websites. It’s worth double checking the same property on Google and finding out the prices on all other sites.

Look at this hotel in Key West that was listed for a total of $235 on Airbnb, but a quick search on google led me to Booking.com where I could score a deal for $193.

Listing on Airbnb

Listing on Booking.com

10. Get a Long Stay Discount or request for it

Many hosts provide an extended stay discount when staying for 3 days or longer.

In case the listing you’re interested in does not mention any discount, feel free to contact the host and politely ask for some.

This technique works out sometimes even for lesser number of days when you’re only a few days away from the actual dates of stay. The homeowner would benefit from waiving some dollars off for you rather than leave their home unrented.

Don’t push it too hard, though. It’s all about demand and supply. Someone in Manhattan may not entertain you at all since their place is booked throughout the year. But if you’re looking to visit a small town in the off-season, you may have an excellent chance to avail some savings.

11. Contact the Host, if necessary

If all the tips above help you find that perfect Airbnb under your budget with no questions at all, go ahead and book the home. But if you have the slightest of doubts about anything, press Contact host and ask your questions first.

I’ve already mentioned a couple of instances in which you should contact the host before making a reservation. Let’s consider another one.

When the latest check-in time of the Airbnb you like is mentioned as 10 p.m., but you can only arrive by 11 p.m., don’t be disheartened and pass it. Reach out and let the host know that you’re interested, but the check-in policy is the only thing stopping you from booking it. The host might become flexible and may even pre-approve your request.

Simple Airbnb in Orlando

12. Instant Book for Last-minute Plans

Typically, you need to press the Request to Book button once you’ve decided to reserve a home. Hosts respond within 24 hours to confirm the reservation.

The Instant Book feature is super helpful for last minute reservations. Imagine yourself planning a trip for the coming weekend on a Thursday night. Waiting 24 hours for the host to respond adds uncertainty to the already rushed last-minute planning.

By switching Instant Book on, you’ll only see the listings that can be booked right away.

13. Invite Others and Earn Credits

If someone in your party hasn’t created an account on Airbnb yet, refer them through your account and ask them to book the group reservation. Airbnb provides a credit of about $20 to $40 for first-time users. Additionally, you’ll also receive $20 as a referral credit which you can use for a future reservation.

Credits Earned from every group trip I've taken

If everyone, including you, is trying Airbnb for the first time in your group, you can still get $40 off your next trip using my referral link.

14. Say more than Hello to your Host in the last step

At the final stage of the reservation, under the title ‘Say Hello to the Host,’ you’ll be asked 'Let John Doe know a little about yourself and why you’re coming.’ If this is the first time you’ll be communicating with the host, be honest with your answer.

Make it appealing as this will help build a rapport. Some friendly hosts may even share suggestions that could help you in planning your itinerary. Nothing is better for a travel plan than tips from locals.

15. BONUS: Find Accessible Airbnbs

If you’re someone with a disability or are traveling with someone with a disability, this tip will help you find homes that will fulfill your accessibility needs. Under More Options, you’ll be able to select any specific requirements that a disabled individual may need.

Accessibility Filters in Airbnb

Airbnb has done a great job in understanding accessibility, categorizing those needs, and presenting them as choices to select from. If you ever had a chance to use these filters, comment below and let the readers of MOE know if that Airbnb met the selected criteria accurately.

Airbnb is my go-to accommodation website for almost every trip that I take. Following the above strategies have helped me find the perfect Airbnb as per my preferences. Comment below and let everyone know if there are any other tips that you follow.

Stay tuned for the next part of this series in which I’ll mention tips about how you could make the most out of your Airbnb experience while you’re staying there.