Thinking about renting an Airbnb for the first time? Nervous? Worried you won’t know how it works or what to expect? These Airbnb tips will help!
This past weekend, I dabbled in something new: renting an Airbnb for the first time. It was an apartment. We had a big group and plenty of bedrooms.
P.S. How cute is this guest room sign? Spotted at RootedNGroundedHome.
We were renting an Airbnb for a wedding and, with out group, that means we could have a lot of downtime with the kids running around and playing board games and hanging out at night in the living room and catching up.
We did all of that and more and it was an overall great experience. We had a blast.
A few perks of renting an Airbnb vs. a hotel:
– you are staying in someone’s home, so it has a more lived-in / at-home feel
– you can have a kitchen for cooking meals, helpful for multiple day stays
– you get to live like a local in a new place
– sometimes you save money by splitting it with a group and staying in two-bedroom or larger rentals
Good deal, right?
But it made me think about all of the tips I wish I knew before renting an Airbnb for the first time, so I wrote this blog post.
Whether you’re renting an Airbnb for your first time or your tenth, these tips will help you avoid some common mishaps or mistakes, a lot of things people forget about when renting a place from an individual host versus a hotel proprietor.
Also, since we work with you guys on all things wedding, we know this post is especially beneficial if you’re a) planning on staying at an Airbnb as a wedding guest for an upcoming event and/or b) staying at an Airbnb for your own wedding weekend or even c) renting an Airbnb for a honeymoon stay.
I hope these are helpful tips for renting an Airbnb for the first time and as a wedding guest. Enjoy!
Renting an Airbnb for the First Time
Before we get started, let’s talk about why this is my first time using Airbnb.
I’m was never against using one, I simply didn’t have any knowledge of what it really entailed and, quite honestly, most of the time a hotel is sooo much easier. You arrive, park, unpack, settle in, go out to dinner. Boom.
Renting an Airbnb for the first time can feel daunting: renting from a complete stranger? Picking up keys or getting an access code to enter the front door? Wondering who is living nearby or if the neighborhood is safe? There can be so many questions.
It can all seem a little off-putting, even for adventurers like me! Let’s explore some helpful tips in case you are considering an Airbnb rental for the first time.
What Is Airbnb?
Let’s be real here: with you rent a place on Airbnb, you’re renting someone else’s home, whether that be an apartment / condo / home / etc. A complete stranger’s home.
That in itself can be pretty scary. An Airbnb host is not part of a professional hotel management team, nor do they always have specific skills in hospitality.
But don’t freak yourself out too much, many if not most of the Airbnb’s you read about are actually really nice with plenty of positive reviews.
Some people I know have had awesome experiences with Airbnb, while others have stated they’d never stay at one again, or at all (without even trying it) because it’s a new, unique way to lodge. I totally get that, and everyone’s different.
It’s not like you’re renting a place from Craigslist (don’t) or Facebook marketplace (never).
From what I’ve heard / read, Airbnb is known for being great at refunding money if something is totally not what it was supposed to be or the reservation falls through, and they’re helpful in helping you find a new place to book.
Actually, about a week before this wedding, our original reservation? It was CANCELLED! I know! How crazy is that?!
Airbnb helped us out with a credit towards a new place and we got a refund, so I can attest to their awesome customer service. The reason it was cancelled was beyond their control. But we had to scramble to put something together in the nick of time, something that would never happen at a hotel.
Renting an Airbnb as Wedding Guest
Many people like to use Airbnb for rentals at weddings especially since they’re significantly cheaper than hotels (most of the time). For instance, you could stay at a hotel for $200 per night with one or two beds, or you could rent an Airbnb for $100 a night by splitting it in half with another couple, staying instead at a two-bedroom condo with a kitchen and living area, bathroom(s) and other amenities.
Of course, the Airbnb profiles and people who rent have an online presence and, hopefully, mounds of positive reviews. The pro of renting an Airbnb is you can actually read reviews: the only reviews available are by those from people who ACTUALLY stayed at that exact location. So that is reassuring.
Let’s make that number one: reviews.
Mistake #1: Not reading enough reviews.
You have to dig… and I mean really dig deep into the archives of reviews on a rental’s listing if you’re very serious about staying at that Airbnb.
This means you go back as far as possible into the seller’s profile, the Airbnb listing, the one star reviews, the five star reviews, and those reviews in the middle.
Make any notes about the Airbnb review that particularly catches your eye. Make sure your priorities are met. If someone complains about something that is of real value to you, skip it and move to another rental.
If anyone talks about safety as an issue, skip it completely.
Read the comments provided by the host back to the reviewer; did he or she respond to the complaints? Fix or address any concerns? If a host isn’t willing to provide feedback on the review, they don’t really care that much. Move on.
We read tons of reviews and, to be honest, they were for the most part pretty spot-on.
Mistake #2: Renting an Airbnb and paying money OUTSIDE of the official website.
This one really doesn’t apply to me because it didn’t happen, but if anyone ever asks you to pay outside of Airbnb’s official payment portal, don’t do it. It’s a scam.
And once you pay anything outside of Airbnb, it’s out of their hands. So, basically, if you send someone money a different payment method than through the official website, your money is gone.
I read that and thought it was a good point for first-timers renting an Airbnb.
Mistake #3: Skimming through the photos.
Some of the photos are going to be smoke and mirrors. Others are going to have a listing and photos exactly like the rental property where you’ll be staying.
You just never know! So make sure you do your thorough research.
If the place looks too good to be true and the price is too affordable, it probably isn’t going to be what you think it is.
For the property we stayed at, the photos were pretty similar to the property but honestly, probably dating back about five years prior.
LOOK FOR MISSING CAMERA SHOTS
Be mindful of things missing from the camera, like the bathtub (ours was a little gross, didn’t drain well, and now I realize it was, in fact, completely missing from the photos).
If it says there are four beds but they only take photos of three, ask yourself why. Ours had the full amount of beds, but I can totally picture someone claiming there are four and then you arrive and realize, oh, the couch? That counted?
That would be ridiculous. And yet, totally possible.
Another rental I saw had no photo of the refrigerator as in, at ALL. But it said there was a refrigerator. And yet, you see five photos of the kitchen and no refrigerator. I’m going to guess when you bring in your food there is going to definitely NOT be a fridge. :)
If it’s not in the photo, don’t count on it being at the rental.
Mistake #4: Forgetting to check out the listing on Google maps.
To me, this is a big deal and there’s one problem you realize when renting an Airnbnb for the first time.
You want to see the actual listing on a map — on Google maps, street-view — to see what it really looks like in person.
But you don’t get the address of the listing until you’re all paid up (or at least a deposit is placed). It makes sense, since people listing their homes for rent don’t want their address published all over the place for security reasons, but on the other hand you could rent an apartment or house and plop your money down and then see it on Google maps and realize it’s completely different.
I guess that could happen, and I know you could then request a refund if that happened.
Once you DO put down your deposit / pay your rental fee, you receive the official address of the property.
At that moment, do yourself a huge favor and check it out on Google maps. Simply go to Google Maps and type in the address. Then you zoom in and go to Street View. You can then simulate what it looks like in person and even “drive” down the street to see what the area is like.
This is VERY important and I am surprised how many people skip this step, especially when renting an Airbnb for the first time.
It’s the easiest way to see what a location really looks like, whether the property is completely different than the listing, or whether the homes next door are burned down or missing windows or there’s a noisy train coming up on a track right next to your bedroom.
It’s good to know these things ASAP to make necessary plan changes, if needed.
Mistake #5: Assuming anything from the host.
In 8th grade, I had this teacher who taught us an important lesson that I will never forget.
She said, “Never assume: because it makes an ASS out of U and ME.” Get it?
Never ever assume or expect anything from your Airbnb host, and this way you can’t be disappointed.
If your host is stellar, you’ll be happier than expected. If your host sucks, you won’t be disappointed because you’ve already planned ahead for them to drop the ball.
For instance, here are things we learned when renting an Airbnb for a wedding. None of these are really big deals, but they are something to keep in mind (in other words, I’m not complaining, just stating the facts!) :)
Do you like coffee in the morning like millions of others? Me too. For our Airbnb rental, I must have misread something but I thought there was one of those single-serve Keurig machines there.
So I packed gobs and gobs of k-cups to get my caffeine fix all weekend long.
When we arrived, no Keurig machine.
So, I improvised. No biggie, right? They had a coffee machine. So I used a filter, broke open several k-cups, and brewed a pot of coffee.
The weird part: the coffee machine was SUPER hot on the back while brewing. The coffee inside, once poured, was lukewarm. (Gross!) So basically it was a broken coffee maker.
My advice to you: bring a freaking coffee machine. Bring coffee. Filter. Spoons. Creamer. Sugar. Bring the freaking kit and caboodle and you’ll be glad you did. Oh and mugs, too. Excessive? Maybe, but if you get crabby like me in the morning without your caffeine fix, you’ll be so happy you read this as one of the top tips of renting an Airbnb for the first time. :)
Sometimes, having your favorite trusty mug with you when you travel is a great thing to have. (Mug pictured by DarlingSavageDesigns.)
So, our coffee was cold, but guess what was warm? Our fridge!
No, don’t bring your own, that would be weird.
Instead, realize that yours might just not work, for whatever reason, and your food will perish.
And then magically on day three of your four day stay, it starts to work again. Who knows why?
Um, this one should be at the top of my list but I’m also so passionate about coffee.
Bring enough toilet paper for every single person in your group to use an excessive amount of toilet paper.
We had one roll. One. For eight people.
Luckily, before I left I packed like, ten rolls of t.p. I’m always prepared when it comes to t.p. and that’s because I am a frequent camper. :)
I cannot stress toilet paper enough, you guys. Even if you have to ship it on Prime en route to your Airbnb because you forgot.
We had hand soap, but the pump was broken. So you had to open it and then pour an absurd amount of liquid soap on your hands, pretty much wasting it. And that also seemed kind of weird.
Was there soap? Technically, yes.
Did I still bring my own anyway? Of course. I’m always prepared with toilet paper AND soap. And antibacterial wipes. You can never be too prepared for those things, I say!
EDITOR’S NOTE: These wipes are actually very helpful in removing some stains on clothing, when applied right away. So they’re definitely helpful to have if renting an Airbnb for wedding guest stays.
If you’re super picky about linens, or you like your towels to smell a certain way, or you like really soft sheets, pillows, comforters, fleece blankets, etc., just bring your own.
Ours were fine, towels were clean, but I could see an Airbnb horror story where you arrive and the linens aren’t as nice as you wish they were and that would be awful.
Remember: an Airbnb host is just an average joe like you or me. They could be like your nutty neighbor or your best friend from high school. An Airbnb host might just not give a damn about how much bleach is used in the wash, but I sure as heck do, so keep that in mind.
Mistake #5: Forgetting to bring these two things.
This one’s a big tip for first-time Airbnb renters: bring your own smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
SMOKE ALARMS AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS
These travel sized combination alarms are a great thing to have.
I am pretty sure they are required on all properties, but I would not take that chance when renting an Airbnb for the first time, or the fiftieth time, or the hundredth time.
To be honest, I’m packing my own smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector when I rent anywhere, any hotel even.
You can never be too safe!
And if they are not equipped with batteries, or they’re falling apart, or they’re too old (they need to be replaced every few years), you can’t count on them working — and that could save your life.
You can get a small two pack smoke and carbon monoxide detector set here which is great for travel.
Be sure to always pack your own.
When renting an Airbnb for the first time or fiftieth, you might also want to bring one of these door stoppers. They’re great for traveling anywhere, including hotels. This door stopper adds an additional level of security to anywhere you stay.
This door stopper is by SABRE (hey! isn’t that from The Office? ha!) and you can buy it here. It has plenty of great reviews and is a great thing to keep in your glove box so you’re never without it when traveling.
Mistake #6: Not researching parking ahead of time.
We rented an Airbnb in Chicago, so we already knew parking was going to be somewhat tricky, as we were driving to the location and had two cars in our group.
Anywhere you stay — whether a big city or suburb or small town — parking is something you absolutely need to know whether it is a driveway for one or two cars, street parking for one vehicle, or no parking at all.
This is going one of the most important Airbnb tips to keep in mind, since not having somewhere for your car to be for an entire weekend is sort of a pain, right? Make sure you research parking if you plan to bring your car before you book.
Ours was sort of humorous as we had street parking but just directly in front and the spaces were limited. We barely ever were able to get our cars in the first spaces, and then when those were full the rest of the street was permit only.
We didn’t have permits. So we had to walk several blocks over and park our cars, then walk all the way back to our place. It was sort of inconvenient but, it’s pretty much the way it works around there, so we just rolled with it.
Mistake #7: Not realizing the whole neighbor thing.
This is probably one of my favorite tips for renting an Airbnb for the first time: NEIGHBORS.
Since you’re staying at someone else’s place, there are likely people who actually live there all year long, right next door, or right under your floor, or across the street.
These people are probably really nice, grounded, friendly people.
Or they’re really crazy.
See, the difference between a hotel and renting an Airbnb is you don’t have to deal with any neighbors at a hotel. Sure, you might see the people next to your room coming and going but, for the most part, many mounds of concrete separate you hearing your neighbors, especially people above and below your floor.
At a hotel, you’re really not expected to be unusually quiet and no one is bothered if you’re coming in at 2am or leaving at 6am, since no one can really hear you and people do it all the time.
That’s a big difference to keep in mind. Not a deal breaker, just another one of those helpful tips for first-time Airbnb renters.
I’ll add that it is also just as important to be mindful of the host’s neighbors, so be polite and remember other people live there locally; be as nice as you would want your guests to be to your neighbors!
Mistake #8: Forgetting there might not be any laundry machines.
I knew there was no laundry machine going in, so no problem there.
But imagine you’re renting an Airbnb for a wedding guest stay and you only pack so much because you assume (there’s that word again) that you can use the host’s washer and dryer.
It’s similar to a hotel, though, so there’s really not a big surprise there. I could see someone forgetting to bring additional clothes just in case, thinking they can just wash it, and then realizing they cannot.
And let me add this: we had four kids in our group, so you bet we packed a ton of extra clothes!
Mistake #9: Being a bad guest.
Just as important as it is being a good host, it’s important to be a good guest.
Not only are hosts rated/reviewed, but so are guests, so remember to do your part. There are usually guidelines listed on what needs to be done when you’re getting ready to check out, like leave the linens on the bed and throw the used towels in the bathtub and leave all garbage in bags, ready to go out the door, in the kitchen.
Follow the rules, don’t trash the place, call your host if you need something, return the place to the shape it was in when you arrived.
It’s as simple as that.
Mistake #10: Keeping any valuables in the house / apartment / condo you rent.
This is another one we had no problem with, but I could see it being a big tip for people renting an Airbnb for the first time.
In a hotel, you can lock things up in a safe. Jewelry, money, id, credit cards, etc.
At an Airbnb rental, not so much.
To err on the side of caution, I literally carried anything of value with me at all times whenever I left the rental. It’s not a big deal, but something for people who use the safe at a hotel to keep in mind.
You could also keep your stuff in one of these, if you prefer.
Mistake #11: BONUS — Forgetting to take photos or videos of the place when you leave.
This one is genius. Don’t forget to walk around the place and take a video or camera shots of the place in the condition when you leave it. This is to safeguard yourself from a host claiming you didn’t do something you were supposed to do, or that you left something broken / messy / out of order when you really did not.
This is a good rule of thumb to follow anywhere you stay, as it’s helpful to have evidence of you doing your part and being a good guest.
Renting an Airbnb for the First Time: Conclusion
And there you have it: the top ten tips for renting an Airbnb for the first time and for a wedding.
I hope it helps you as you plan your Airbnb adventure or this made you realize a hotel is more your thing.
Either way, leave your comments in the box below!
I’m still deciding how I feel about renting an Airbnb versus a hotel. I like them both and see pros and cons with either way; when you travel, it’s always a bit of give and take. Nothing is quite like home sweet home.
What do you guys think? Do you like staying at Airbnb (or counterparts, like VRBO or Homeaway) or do you prefer a hotel? Do you like skipping all of the above and camping instead? ;)
Tell us what you like to do in the comment box below, we’d love to hear all angles on this. And we also welcome hosts, we’d love to hear what you think of the renters you’ve had staying in your home.
P.S. Want to host your own Airbnb? Apparently it can be a good income stream, depending on where you live. Find out more in this helpful book.