I spend the better part of yesterday evening figuring out our travel plans for the next 3.5 months. It is a funny thing being without a “home base”/homeless and not being in a long term rental again probably until the beginning of 2017. We are excited about the fall and holidays with our families, but are going to be bouncing around quite a bit. We leave Tahoe on 9/14/16 and as I’m writing this (on 8/26/16), we have zero places booked to sleep starting the night of Sept 14th. Cool. Enter Airbnb. That’s our go-to site for lodging. We rarely stay in hotels, especially when we’re lugging our Subaru full of stuff + the car top carrier + the 4 bikes on the back. Yes, it is a sight to behold.
Someone asked me over the summer what criteria we use to select our lodging, so i’m going to line that out a bit here. Some requirements:
- We do not do the “shared room” deal – this is where you rent a room or two in someone’s house. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, not happening again. So, the first box I check on Airbnb is “Entire Home/Apt.”
- Know what’s most important to you to have (perhaps a queen sized bed instead of a double) and what you can’t live without (maybe a dishwasher), and check for those things. Or maybe you’re like me and stupidly booked a place in San Diego for 2 weeks that doesn’t have air conditioning – because that’s not really a thing there – and it ends up being 108 degrees and you feel like you’re in hell. Neat.
- Wifi – Travis must have good wifi. This is a deal breaker for my digital nomad husband. Before booking a place we’re going to stay at for longer than 3-4 nights, the host must send me results from an internet speed test from fast.com.
- I read every last bit of information on the listing, study every picture, and read every review for a place before committing. In pictures, I’m primarily looking for clutter, filth, layout/flow of the space, and how well appointed (or not) the kitchen is. I’m looking for red flags in reviews – the people who are kind enough to actually be honest (not ruthless and rude – those are typically outliers to ignore) and point things out that are of note and conveniently not mentioned in the host’s description. I’m always looking for comments about bed comfort, security, privacy, and host communication and responsiveness.
- Location – we use wikitravel.org all the time for each destination we’re considering. I think that’s the most helpful overview of transportation, food scene, neighborhood breakdown, tourist attractions, etc. available. When choosing our Airbnb, I read the neighborhood descriptions on wikitravel so I can narrow my search field down before getting started. Choosing a place can be super overwhelming, so figure out which part of town jives with what you want to do first.
- Check out the Google street view of the neighborhood to make sure the listing accurately represents the surroundings.
- Price – we’re on a budget. Shocker. If we are staying in a place for a week or more and the home owner’s booking calendar isn’t jam packed, I always, always, always negotiate. We have a long history of good reviews from Airbnb hosts which works tremendously in our favor. If a potential host can see that we’re a “safe bet” who will take care of their property and they can get a multi-night guarantee, they are typically way more apt to negotiate with us. If you are going to ask for a discount, be respectful and reasonable. Think about how it would feel to be on the receiving end of whatever message you’re planning on sending.
Here’s an example of how I ask for a discounted nightly rate:
Hi Matt – your home looks fantastic! My husband, 5 year-old son, and I will be in SLC from 5/29 – 6/15. We would love to stay at your house, but are full-time travelers on a little bit of a budget. Would you consider discounting the rate to $90/night since this would be a 17 night stay? I am trying to book somewhere to stay today and have sent out several inquiries. I would love to hear back from you as soon as you’re able. Of course let me know if you have any questions. I realize this may be a long shot. Thanks for considering us and have a wonderful evening. -Amanda
Unless you use the Instant Book feature on Airbnb, plan to inquire with several properties, especially if asking for a discount.
Always leave helpful and truthful reviews for others after your stay. If there are minor issues during your stay, which the host resolves quickly and politely, you don’t need to mention those in the review.
Also, this is listed on our resources page, but I can’t recommend the TripIt app enough. Download it and allow it access to your email account. Every time you receive a confirmation email for a flight and lodging (and probably more), it organizes your trip within the app. This is especially helpful for keeping track of your Airbnb address and host information off-line if you get in a bind.
Okay, you’re ready to do this – book a trip!