My Beginner’s Guide to Airbnb has everything you need to know: how Airbnb works, what to expect, plus get an Airbnb discount code to use on your very first booking!
Are you totally new to Airbnb? Maybe you’ve heard people talk about it, or someone recommended it as a great accommodation option, but you’ve never used it yourself. If that’s the case, then this Beginner’s Guide to Airbnb is definitely for you.
I’m going through all the details so you know exactly what Airbnb is, how it works, why you should stay in an Airbnb on your next trip, how to get an Airbnb discount, and more.
I’ve been using Airbnb for years now. At first, I just stayed in them with friends, but in the last couple of years, it’s been one of my go-to accommodation choices while traveling solo. I’ve used it all over the U.S., plus in New Zealand and Portugal. It’s a great way to find affordable, comfortable, and interesting places to stay in cities all over the world.
If you’re just here for the Airbnb discount, use this link to get $40 USD off a booking of $75 or more!
Hostels used to be my first choice when looking for accommodation, but Airbnbs usually have everything I want for an awesome price, with some added privacy compared to hostels. And hotels? Well, I find hotels to be overpriced and boring most of the time, so I don’t stay in them very often while traveling alone.
Keep reading to find out what Airbnb is all about, and learn how to find the perfect rental space for your next vacation!
What is Airbnb?
Airbnb is a short-term rental platform that allows people to rent out their homes to travelers as a unique accommodation option.
So on one end, people are able to rent out their homes, apartments, spare rooms, etc. in order to make some extra money. And on the other end, travelers can stay in locals’ homes on their trip instead of staying in a traditional hotel.
This direct exchange is built on the sharing economy, and it has had a huge impact on the tourism industry.
Airbnb has definitely grown a lot from its start as a home-sharing type of community, and now offers a much more streamlined experience than it did in the past. Now it also offers tours from locals (Airbnb Experiences), planned group trips (Airbnb Adventures), and other ways to plan, book, and have a great trip.
How Does Airbnb Work?
If you’re completely new to Airbnb (maybe you’ve never even heard of it?), here’s exactly how it works:
- What: it’s is an alternative to hotels and traditional accommodation options.
- Hosts: Regular people around the world can list their homes and guest rooms on Airbnb (these people are called hosts).
- Rentals: They share photos, information, and descriptions of the place they’re renting out to guests, along with a calendar of dates when it’s available for rent, and they set a nightly rate.
- Search: Travelers can search Airbnb for a short-term rental in the destination they’re traveling to. Start by searching your destination, then you can filter by price, amenities, and other factors.
- Unique Accommodation: Since people are renting out their homes, apartments, guest rooms, and other accommodation types, you will find tons of unique options.
- Connect: Airbnb mostly acts as a platform to connect the hosts and guests directly, rather than as a middleman. So hosts and guests will interact with each other to book homes/rooms/etc.
- Experience: Rentals and hosts vary greatly, so you won’t have the exact same experience with every booking. Sometimes the whole process will feel super professional, almost like a hotel. Sometimes it will feel more like you’re staying with a friend, and the process will be more informal.
- Property Management: Some hosts hire property/rental managers to oversee the bookings, connect with the guests, and make sure their stay goes smoothly. This is most common with hosts who have multiple rentals.
- So to sum it up: just like any accommodation booking you do for your travels, with Airbnb you’ll search for a place, book it, and then stay!
Pros and Cons of Airbnb vs Hotel
So why do people use Airbnb instead of staying in hotels while traveling?
Why You Should Use Airbnb (Pros):
- It provides a much more homey feel, which is great if you hate the sterile environment of some hotels.
- You’ll typically have more space and amenities that you won’t find in hotels (like full kitchens).
- It’s not just regular homes and apartments. There are tons of unique Airbnbs out there, from treehouses to Airstream trailers to beautiful A-frame cabins to yurts.
- In some cities, renting an Airbnb is much cheaper than booking a hotel. This isn’t always the case, but in some places the price difference is staggering.
- Since you’re probably staying in someone’s actual home, you’ll often feel like you’re staying at a friend’s house, and hosts often go above and beyond to make sure you are comfortable.
- You get a more local and unique experience than you would staying at a traditional hotel.
- If you’re staying somewhere more than a couple of nights, or even for weeks at a time, an Airbnb allows you to feel like you’re at home, rather than being cooped up in a hotel room.
What to Be Aware of (Cons):
- In some places, Airbnb is not exactly welcome. Some cities require hosts to register in order to list their homes. This typically happens in large, densely populated cities. It doesn’t mean you can’t use it there, but be aware of these instances.
- It can also cause a lot of issues for locals in larger, overpopulated cities that struggle with a lack of housing. When hosts start buying up properties just to rent them out to tourists (because they can charge a lot more), it takes potential homes away from locals. This issue is more nuanced than what I can write in a bullet point, but this is something else to consider.
- Since you are dealing directly with hosts (and not employees who are paid to be around, like in hotels), you might come across some people who aren’t very communicative. This can cause issues upon check-in, so be sure to get the info you need well ahead of time. (Note: I’ve only had one experience where this was an issue, but it just meant I had to wait around a little longer before checking in.)
- Most rentals are not checked and verified by Airbnb or any outside party, so you do need to be sure to check ratings and reviews before booking. (Airbnb does have a collection of verified homes now, under the Airbnb Plus filter in search.)
- If you like the 24/7 services of hotels, like maid service, room service, front desk and concierge help, then Airbnb might not be the right option for you. It’s definitely a more independent experience (which is one of the things I personally like about it).
How to Get an Airbnb Discount
One of the great things about Airbnb is that anyone and everyone can get an Airbnb discount for their very first booking.
The only criteria:
- You need to be a first-time Airbnb user,
- creating a brand new account on the site,
- with an email address that has not been used in the system before.
So as long as you fit that basic criteria, you can get $40 USD off your first Airbnb booking of $75 or more!
All you have to do is sign up for a new account with my link and you’ll automatically get that $40 credit added to your account. (For full transparency, I do get a $20 credit as well for referring you.)
Start by clicking my link HERE, and in the next section I’ll show you how to create your account!
How to Set up an Airbnb Account
- Follow this link (to get that $40 credit) and you’ll be taken to a sign up page.
- Register with your name and email address. (You’ll need to confirm your email address too.)
- Set up your profile (step-by-step for that below).
- Add your phone number and confirm to verify your account.
- Add payment information so you can book rentals (yes, you do need to have a credit card/debit card to book with Airbnb, just as you would with a hotel).
Your Airbnb credit will automatically be credited to your account, as long as you sign up through the link as instructed. Now all you have to do is search for the perfect rental for your trip!
How to Find the Perfect Airbnb Rental
The perfect place for your trip is just a few steps away! Whether you’re looking for a large home for your family vacation to the beach, a stylish apartment for you and your partner in the big city, or a simple room in a shared space as a solo traveler, there’s something for you. No more generic hotels!
How to Search for Rentals:
- Start by entering your destination (example: Seattle, Washington)
- Enter the dates you want to book for (example: June 3-5, 2020)
- As you enter more information, the listings will slim down to show exactly what is available for what you’re looking for.
- On the left you’ll see the rental listings, and on the right will be a map of the city/destination with pins to show where each rental is located.
- You can hover over the map pins to see which listing fits best with your desired location (maybe you want to be in a specific neighborhood or near a certain attraction).
- You can also scroll through the listings on the left and see basic info for each one (photo, listing name, price, basic description, etc.)
- At the top of the search listings, you’ll be able to enter in more filters to help you find the perfect Airbnb (i.e. price range, number of beds, amenities, etc.)
Here are some details you should pay attention to when choosing the right Airbnb for your trip:
- Location: You won’t get an exact address until you book (for the hosts’ safety and privacy), but you can see the general area and neighborhood in the listing.
- Type of Rental: is it a house, an apartment, a private room in a shared home, etc.
- Price: How much it costs/night, as well as pricing for weekly or monthly stays.
- Host Rating/Reviews: Hosts get star ratings, and guests can leave reviews on the listing. Be sure to read through these to make sure you know what to expect.
- Size: How many rooms, beds, bathrooms, etc are there?
- Facilities & Amenities: is there a full kitchen, a lounge room, outdoor space, a washing machine?
- Extras: are towels & toiletries provided? entertainment options, WIFI situation.
How to Book an Airbnb
When booking an Airbnb, you’ll have one of two options. The listing will either have an Instant Booking option, or you’ll have to message the host to make arrangements.
This means you can book the dates you want instantly, without going back and forth with the host. Basically, it’s like any regular accommodation booking. This is the easiest way to do it, but it’s not an option on every listing.
You’ll find this more often with Airbnbs that are almost solely for rental use (i.e. the hosts don’t actually live there, or spaces where you won’t have a lot of interaction with the hosts).
Even if the listing has an Instant Booking option, you can still message the host with questions before booking anything. This is the time to ask important questions about the rental.
This option requires you to message the host before booking. Typically you’ll want to include an introduction and bit about yourself, why you’re visiting, your basic travel plans and dates, and ideally a bit about what kind of guest you are (I always mention that I am quiet and tidy, which is true!). You will be in the host’s home, so they want a guest they feel comfortable with having around.
The message first option is typically for hosts who DO live in the rental listing and want to interact with potential guests before confirming. Messaging the host before booking is a great way to ensure you are both comfortable with the dynamics, and that you know exactly what to expect. Ask any questions you have before confirming!
What to Expect After Booking
After your booking is confirmed, you should receive a message from the host. They’ll usually send information about their rental, the neighborhood, what’s nearby, and things like that. They will also send the exact address after confirmation, so you can get a better idea of where exactly the Airbnb is (listings never include exact addresses, for safety purposes).
This is the time to send a nice message, ask any questions, and ask for recommendations. For example, I’m a vegetarian, so I usually ask if they know of any veg restaurants in the area.
Staying in an Airbnb
Here are a few things to know about the check-in and check-out process.
Checking in to Your Airbnb
Check-in will vary depending on the host, so be sure to get all the details before your trip. Hosts will want to know your estimated arrival time, so try to stick to that time, and update them if anything changes.
A few days before your arrival date, the hosts will send check-in information (if they don’t message you, be sure to ask for it a few days in advance).
This message should include:
- check-in time
- specific instructions about how to get in
- where to meet the host or pick-up keys
- a key code (if there is one)
- how to get into the apartment building/home/etc.
- Basically, anything you need to know to actually check-in.
Initial communication will take place through Airbnb messages, but you should also receive a phone number, or some other way to contact the hosts outside of Airbnb. Take note of this in case you get lost on the way there or have major changes in your plans.
Hosts will also usually share directions to their rental from the airport or any major bus/train/etc. stations. If you are arriving from a point that isn’t mentioned, feel free to ask for more specific directions. They can also help with information about transportation to their rental.
Note: Don’t rely 100% on the hosts for every detail of getting there. Some have every detail ready to share, some will do their best to figure it out, and some might not be the most communicative. So try to get all the transport stuff sorted on your own, but ask for help if you need it.
Take note of the listed check-in time. If you will be arriving early, let them know your plans and they’ll let you know if it’s okay to show up early or not. If not, don’t push it. Some hosts will let you drop off your bags, some might have the place ready early, but don’t expect it. It’s not like a hotel with a front desk, luggage storage, and housekeeping staff to turn over rooms.
A good host will be communicative and message you with any change in plans, or let you know if cleaning is running late etc. So try to keep an eye on your phone the day of arrival in case they try to contact you.
During Your Stay
The experience will vary greatly from place to place. Good hosts will include as much detail as possible in the listing about what you should expect during your stay.
Look for details about the amount of guest/host interaction, level of privacy, and other things that might effect your stay.
There are usually “house rules” to abide by as well. These are usually just basic courtesies, similar to rules you might find in any hotel or accommodation.
You might see things like:
- keep noise down after 10 pm
- no extra guests allowed (meaning, if you meet someone while you’re out, don’t invite them over)
- no parties
- no smoking
These rules are never anything crazy, so always be respectful of the hosts’ wishes (it is their place after all).
Checking Out of Your Airbnb
When it’s time to leave, checking out is usually quite simple. Hosts will give you any information you need to know about the check-out process.
Make sure you know:
- check out time
- where to leave the keys
- how to exit and lock the doors
- any cleaning or tasks expected of you before leaving (for example, many hosts will ask you to take out the trash on your way out).
Again, be sure to communicate with your hosts about these details well before you leave. Be a courteous guest and leave the place as tidy as you can, turn off the lights, and leave it how you’d want people to leave your home after a visit.
I hope this Airbnb guide was helpful for you! I’ve compiled all of my knowledge from countless experiences staying in Airbnbs around the world. Hopefully this information can make your experience (from start to finish) a great one.
My Airbnb Reviews
Here are some of my reviews and guides from places I’ve stayed in the past. These should give you an idea of what kinds of places you can find. (Note: I can’t guarantee any of these places are still available to book, but links to the listings are included.)
Don’t forget to get your $40 credit towards your first booking + $15 towards an Airbnb Experience by using THIS LINK. Enjoy your stay!
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