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Are you looking for Airbnb tips for guests? I have 30+ incredibly useful tips for you below…but first…

Hi there – I’m Kara! And I LOVE living in Colorado. I also LOVE traveling (duh!), and more specifically, traveling with Airbnb.

In 2019, I said a temporary goodbye to Colorado and spent nine months traveling around the world, mostly utilizing Airbnb along the way! To date, I have used Airbnb (literally) too many times to count in over 15 different countries on four continents.

To say I learned a thing or two about HOW to pick the best Airbnb would be an understatement. Mistakes have certainly been made along the way (ask me about our hellacious Airbnb experience in La Paz, Bolivia), but shit did I learn from them!

Flash forward to 2020, and I decided to take the knowledge I’ve learned to assist others in their Airbnb searches. And thus, Colorado with Kara was born.

Quench your wanderlust by following my Facebook page for daily Airbnb inspiration, personal Airbnb recommendations, Airbnb tips for guests, hosts and more!

Join my Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/ColoradoWithKara

Since I’m still (im)patiently waiting to win the lottery, this post contains affiliate links. If you click the link and complete a purchase, I may be paid a commission (at no extra cost to you). Go you! Thanks for the support.


But now let’s get to the good stuff…

IS AIRBNB SAFE?

In my experience: 100% yes.

That being said, my experience isn’t everyone’s experience. And if you go searching down the scary Google rabbit hole…you might find some frightening stories relating to Airbnb. But just like my personal experience doesn’t guarantee it’s 100% safe, these stories don’t make it 100% unsafe.

Like anything in life, it is important to do your own due diligence. Follow my tips below to ensure you are booking a reputable place, with a reputable host. Trust your gut instincts, and if something feels off…it probably is. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself to ensure your safety.

A hexagon shaped home sits among many green trees; mountains in the background
This unique Colorado dome house is available on Airbnb!
Photo provided courtesy of Airbnb

WHEN SHOULD YOU USE AIRBNB?

The real question is, when shouldn’t you use Airbnb? While there are certainly pros and cons to Airbnb vs. hotels, generally speaking, you get more “bang for your buck” with Airbnb.

Especially when one (or more) of the following is also true:
– You want to save money by preparing some of your own meals, and need a kitchen to do so
– You’re traveling as a larger group, and need multiple beds to accommodate everyone (and would also like to stay together!)
– You will be staying in the same location for a couple of days

AIRBNB BENEFITS FOR LONGER STAYS

The best savings when booking on Airbnb come from longer stays. That’s because hosts have the ability to provide a discount for stays longer than a week, two weeks, a month, etc. Because the hosts have some say in this, it can vary from place-to-place.

The best savings I received was 28% off for a monthly booking in Lima, Peru. I would say that’s worth it!

AIRBNB TIPS FOR GUESTS

When you first decide to make the plunge into Airbnb, it can be a bit scary. What if the pictures are all fake? Will there be a language barrier? What if the host is an axe murderer? All totally normal questions early on.

But I’m here to help you! Here are some of my best Airbnb tips for guests.

AIRBNB SIGNUP TIPS

Have a Complete Profile

When you’re first getting started with Airbnb (or if you neglected this in the past), it’s important that you create a detailed profile and go through the verification process. Just as you have the ability to review your host’s profile as research, they can do the same with yours!

Be sure to include a profile photo, of course. But also be sure to select a photo that is clear, in focus, and paints you in a good light (i.e., not the ones from your 30th birthday).

It’s also a good idea to include some personal “about me” details in your profile to give the host an idea of who you are. Do you typically travel for business or pleasure? Are you a solo adventurer or do you travel with your partner? Are you a dog or a cat person? Anything you can think of that will help build trust with your host that you are a regular person who will treat their space well.

Include the Email Address You Actually Use

This seems like it goes without saying, but in this day and age we all have burner email addresses we like to use. However, your Airbnb profile is not the place to use a burner that you never check!

Your booking confirmations will be sent to whatever email address you provide. As well as copies of host communication, cancellation verifications and more. So make sure you actually receive these important bits of information and give them your #1 email address (we all have a favorite) during signup.

A brown sided house built into the side of a towering red cliff
The Cliff House is built into the red rock wall in a private alcove
Photo provided courtesy of Airbnb

AIRBNB RESEARCH TIPS

Personal Recommendations are Always Key

I am obsessed with personal recommendations in life. You have a doctor you absolutely love? I’m gonna check him out next time I’m in need. Mechanic that always treats you right? Give me his name! Personal recommendations are THE BEST way to help ensure a positive experience.

And it’s no different with Airbnb. Ask around, ask your friends, or even ask your coworkers. Maybe an awesome personal recommendation will fit your needs and you won’t have to go searching.

Colorado Airbnb Recommendations

– Live the luxury mountain life with an Aspen, CO Airbnb
– Experience the Mile High City with a killer Denver, CO Airbnb
– Catch a CSU game and some craft beers with a centrally located Fort Collins, CO Airbnb

Know What You Are Looking For

The BEST way to avoid headache when searching for Airbnb properties is to know what you’re looking for from the jump. Many people default to simply entering a location and running with it from there. But if you already know additional parameters, adding them to your initial search will help narrow the field for you.

Check in/out: if you have specific dates, put them here. If your travel plans are more flexible, you can leave this blank.

Guests: include the number of guests you expect to travel with. Properties have a max number of guests they can accommodate, so searching without this may turn up properties you can’t actually book.

Room type: you can book an entire home (completely private), a private room (private room with shared common spaces), a hotel room (self explanatory) or a shared room (shared sleeping and common spaces).

Outside of these items, you can further refine your options by additional filters. Things like whether wifi is included, smoking allowed, parking available, etc. Using all these filters will help weed out the properties that won’t suit your needs making your job easier!

Don’t Be Fooled by the Initial Price Quoted

If you didn’t heed my above advice and search for exactly what you need, you may wind up running into some pricing questions. Without search parameters (like dates, guests), the nightly price you see when landing on an Airbnb property is almost never the nightly price you will actually pay.

Take this experiment, as an example.

I went onto a property on Airbnb without adding any dates or guests. I was shown a nightly rate of $185/night.

After adding my randomly chosen dates of 2/6/2021 – 2/9/2021, the nightly rate increased to $260/night.

And finally, after adding four guests, the nightly rate increased to $324/night. Ok. Ouch.

If I was initially excited about the $185/night price, it’s unlikely that $324/night is within my budget for this booking.

To avoid this, it’s a best practice to always put in your specific dates and number of guests when searching on Airbnb. Then prices shown will be accurate, and you can avoid unnecessary disappointment!

Check the Rating First and Foremost

Airbnb is a peer reviewed platform, which means guests are able to provide feedback after their stay (and vice versa, hosts review guests also). This includes star ratings ranging from one (worst) to five (best) for specific categories relating to your stay. These categories include the overall experience, check-in process, cleanliness, accuracy, location, and overall value.

And let me tell you, if they don’t have at least four stars don’t even bother! There are plenty of other fish in the Airbnb sea.

The one exception to this rule would be for brand new listings on Airbnb. Often they will offer a large discount to the first three guests to get things up and running. I have done this in the past once before, and it worked out great. Just be sure there’s enough of a financial incentive to offset the added risk.

A treehouse rental lit up amongst the trees and a nighttime sky
Live out your childhood dreams at the Little Red Treehouse
Photo provided courtesy of Airbnb

Read the ENTIRE listing

Especially at first. Once you get the hang of things you can start skimming for the most pertinent details vs. reading everything word-for-word.

Be sure you understand their house rules and can abide by them. Make sure you understand what amenities are included and what are not. Take note of their cancellation policy – is it strict, or does it allow some flexibility? Read their description of the space and sleeping arrangements to ensure it will serve your needs.

All of this will help you make a more informed decision! If, after scouring their listing and reading the fine print, you have unanswered questions – reach out to the host before booking.

Read Every Single (Recent) Review

This is quite possibly the most important Airbnb tip for guests on this listing. Airbnb is, after all, a platform that thrives on the ability to peer review. That means real people/customers giving real reviews on real hosts/people.

These reviews serve as the only way a potential guest can get a glimpse into the experiences of prior guests. Therefore, never (EVER) book a property on Airbnb without carefully reading the reviews.

Things to make note of while reviewing:
– How many total reviews are there? (more is better)
– How many recent reviews are positive vs. negative?
– Do the negative reviews (if applicable) sound very case specific, or indicative of a larger problem?
– What do the prior guests have to say about the property’s location, comfort, amenities, etc.?

Screenshot of example reviews for a property on Airbnb

Look Through Every Single Photo

Photos on an Airbnb listing are another way to get a glimpse into what this rental is like. And the photos can either make or break a listing, so be sure to look through each and every one of them! They can tell you a lot.

When the listing only includes two photos of the property and 10 photos of nearby attractions – they might be trying to hide something.

If every single photo is blurry, or was taken in poor lighting that makes details hard to see – they might be trying to hide something.

If photos of key rooms (like bathrooms) are missing, but photos of non-key rooms (like inside the garage) are included – they might be trying to hide something.

At the end of the day, a good Airbnb host/property would never skimp on terrible photos. So be leery of those that do.

Understand the Cancellation Policy

For most stays on Airbnb, the host is able to select their preferred cancellation policy (from a list of options). And it’s something you’ll want to make note of when completing your research. Sometimes life happens, and it’s important to know what level of flexibility you have.

Here are the cancellation policies currently offered by Airbnb. The Long Term policy is automatically applied to all reservations longer than 28 days:

Flexible: free cancellation any time until 24 hours before check-in. After that, cancel before check-in and get a full refund, minus the first night and service fee.

Moderate: free cancellation any time until 5 days before check-in. After that, cancel before check-in and get a 50% refund, minus the first night and service fee.

Strict: free cancellation for 48 hours after booking (as long as cancellation occurs at least 14 days before check-in). After that, cancel up to 7 days before check-in and get a 50% refund of the nightly rate, the whole cleaning fee, but not the service fee.

Long Term: free cancellation for 48 hours after booking (as long as cancellation occurs at least 28 days before check-in). After that, cancel before check-in and get a full refund, minus the first 30 days and the service fee.

Luckily Airbnb makes it super easy for you to know exactly how these policies translates to your situation. By clicking “get details” next to the cancellation policy listed on the profile, this neat little timeline will break it all down for you:

Airbnb tips for guests showing an example "cancellation policy" timeline from a listing

Cancellation Policy Exceptions

There’s always an exception to the rule, right?

Sometimes life (or death) happens and a trip has to be cancelled. That’s part of being human. And in those instances where it’s a situation out of your control (vs simply changing your mind), Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy may be able to help you.

Check Out the Area on Google Street View

Location, location, location! It can make or break a vacation, so it’s all about location when finding an Airbnb for your next trip.

Before you’ve booked a property, and for security/privacy reasons, the map will only show you the general vicinity (within a few block radius) of the property’s location. Since most of us are visiting places we are unfamiliar with, this can make it tough to know if it’s a solid location or not!

Which is why I suggest checking out the area on Google Maps and Google Street View. On Google Maps, you will be able to see if there are points of interest nearby like restaurants, ATMs, and gas stations. On Google Street View, you will be able to check out the neighborhood and businesses nearby to ensure it looks safe and you are comfortable with the neighborhood.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask the Host Questions

Are you traveling with a pet, but the listing doesn’t address whether or not pets are allowed? Ask the host!

Will you have a vehicle and you aren’t sure if parking will be a problem? I bet the host knows…ask ’em!

You get the idea. If you have a question, just ask them! It will save you from potentially booking an Airbnb that won’t fit your needs. In the end, it’s better for both yourself and the host to clear those things up in advance.

New Listing (No Reviews) But Experienced Host?

If you find yourself interested in a new Airbnb listing that has no reviews…don’t fret yet! You might be dealing with an experienced host who is simply adding to their portfolio of properties.

When looking at the listing, click the photo of the host to be taken to their profile. Here you can see if this host has any additional listings. If they do, take a peek at the reviews for their more established listings. If you find that guests are ecstatic about their other properties, chances are good that this new one will be just as good!

Screenshot showing an example host profile on Airbnb - including info about the host, and their listings

Save Wish Lists of Your Favorites!

There are TONS of properties to choose from when exploring Airbnb. But when you’re in the research phase, one time-saving tip is to organize your favorites into a wish list. This will keep your options saved in a central location so they will be easy to reference later.

When you find a property that you want to bookmark, simply press the “save” button (look for the heart symbol). This brings up a popup window where you can create a new list, or add it to an existing list. Now all your favorites across multiple locations are organized and easily accessible when you’re ready to book!

AIRBNB BOOKING TIPS

Book In Advance, Where Possible

Do you have exact travel plans and know exactly where you’re going and when? Then why wait…get an Airbnb booked as far in advance as you can. Especially if you have your heart set on a specific property.

The popular Airbnb properties book up fast and far into the future. Especially during popular travel times (spring break) or key destinations (Disney World). Therefore, the further out you can book your own stay, the better. You will have more options and less headaches.

Living room of a converted trolley car including a couch and accent chair, white walls with one yellow accent wall
Stay in this Denver area historical trolley car!
Photo provided courtesy of Airbnb

Request to Book vs. Instant Book

An instant book is exactly what it sound like, the booking is completed instantly as the host does not need to approve it.

When you click request to book, a notice is sent to the Airbnb host that your request is made. The host is able to review the information (and your profile) and decide whether to accept or decline your request. Once the host accepts, the booking is finalized and you will be charged.

Understand the Fees

Like many things in life, the final price you pay on Airbnb is comprised of multiple fees. Especially if you’re looking to work within a certain budget, understanding these fees will be important.

After entering dates/guests and confirming availability for a property, you will be provided with a cost breakdown. Here are explanations for what you might find:

Nightly price: the nightly rate (determined by the host) x the number of nights included in your stay. Depending on the property, the nightly rate may increase as you add additional guests. This is an optional charge per night, per additional person above a certain number of guests set by the host.

Cleaning fee: most hosts (but not all) charge a cleaning fee to help cover the cost of cleaning in between guests. This is a one-time fee per booking and is also decided by the host.

Service fee: Airbnb charges a service fee for each reservation made through their platform. The fee is set by Airbnb, but can range between 5% and 15% of the booking subtotal.

Occupancy taxes and fees: in some areas, Airbnb has made agreements with local governments to collect and remit local taxes on the behalf of hosts. These taxes are collected from guests at the time of booking, if applicable to the listing booked.

Only Pay Via the Airbnb Website

Airbnb has a secure payment system on their website, and it’s quick and easy when completing your bookings. And while it could be tempting to arrange an alternative method of payment (cash, venmo) in order to avoid service fees…just don’t.

Not only are you creating a bigger, upfront headache for yourself, but you will also lose any protection from Airbnb should anything go wrong with your stay. If you encounter a host who asks you to pay outside of Airbnb (has yet to happen to me personally), that’s a big red flag! You should question their motives and probably reconsider booking their property.

AIRBNB TIPS FOR GUESTS DURING YOUR STAY

Arrange Arrival With Your Host

Depending on the property you have booked, your host may meet you in person for check-in. In these instances, it will be imperative to coordinate your arrival time with your host’s schedule.

Or, if they have systems set up to allow it, you may be able to self check-in at the property. Regardless, good communication with your host is always recommended (and appreciated). So be sure to still let them know when you plan to arrive.

A luxuriously decorated living room with large fireplace and hanging chandelier
Live in the lap of luxury at this Vail Arrabelle penthouse
Photo provided courtesy of Airbnb

Remember, This Isn’t a Hotel

And in a lot of ways, that’s a GOOD thing.

However, you also should be mindful of the differences. For example – there is no daily housekeeping when staying in an Airbnb. You will need to clean up after yourself, make your own bed (if that’s your thing), and probably use your towel more than once.

Don’t be that guy who forgets this and starts demanding unreasonable things from your host.

Hosts Have Excellent Local Recommendations

Nobody knows a city better than a local, right? Luckily for you, your host is one of the best resources for local Airbnb tips for guests on what to do, where to eat, and more!

Looking for an amazing restaurant to celebrate an occasion? Have questions about local transportation? Forgot something and need to find a store nearby?

All of these can likely be helped quickly and easily by asking your host. They are in the hospitality business after all, and will be more than happy to assist you!

Be a Five Star Guest

Just like there are some not-so-great Airbnb hosts in the world, there are also some terrible guests. Don’t be that guy. Plus, remember, hosts are able to provide public reviews on guests as well. And hosts can (and will) use these reviews to determine whether they are willing to rent you their home.

So, behave like a five star guest! Be an effective communicator with your host, be respectful of their property, be respectful of the neighbors, follow the house rules, etc. All of these will be appreciated by your hosts!

Which leads me to…

Make Sure You Follow the House Rules

Yes, all of them.

These shouldn’t be a surprise since you did your due diligence before booking the property. But now that your trip is here, make sure you actually follow the house rules you agreed to!

House rules are (of course) set by the host, which means they can vary quite a bit in what they include. But they typically include details like check in/out time, if smoking is allowed, if pets are allowed, if parties/events are allowed, and any additional rules set by the host. Make sure to refresh your memory upon arrival to ensure smooth sailing with your host during your stay.

Screenshot showing an example "House rules" from a listing - includes standard house rules and additional house rules

If There’s An Issue…Let the Host Know!

Communication, communication, communication! It is SO important throughout this process, but especially if you run into issues. Maybe the garbage disposal isn’t working, or their ad said there’s a hair dryer and you can’t find one.

Whatever it is, let the host know and give them the opportunity to make it right for you. Don’t be that guy who has problems, doesn’t say anything at the time, but complains about it in their review. Most hosts are more than happy to make it right! Be sure to give them that chance.

Which leads me to…

Keep All Communication With the Host in Airbnb

Always, ALWAYS, communicate with your host in Airbnb. This becomes especially important if you have an issue and Airbnb needs to get involved. They are able to access your communications with your host in the app to help mediate, but they won’t see anything if you’ve been texting instead.

I’ve had hosts in other countries insist on using WhatsApp because it’s easier for them. In those instances I agreed, but I would also reiterate the key points of our conversations within Airbnb. 99% of the time it won’t matter, but that 1% of the time (where there are issues), it will be much easier if you’ve kept all communication within Airbnb.

AIRBNB TIPS FOR GUESTS AFTER YOUR STAY

Arrange Departure With Your Host

This goes hand-in-hand with arranging your arrival with your host. Depending on whether they need to be present (i.e., to collect keys) or not is important to know.

But at the end of the day, solid communication between guest and host is key. So be sure and let them know when you plan to depart.

Pick Up After Yourself!

Most Airbnb hosts include a cleaning fee when booking. So I’m certainly not advocating for doing that job yourself. You paid for it, so let the professionals handle the bulk of the cleaning.

However, you also shouldn’t leave the place in disarray either. Make sure dishes are in the sink (or dishwasher), trash is picked up, and anything you moved is put back where it belongs. These are easy tasks to do during your stay that will help ensure you’re a five star guest in the host’s eyes.

Airbnb tips for guests - kitchen and living area of a functioning art studio in Denver
Have you ever wanted to stay in a functioning art studio??
Photo provided courtesy of Airbnb

Make Sure You Leave a Review

Airbnb thrives on a peer review system, so be sure and do your part! After completing your stay, you have 14 days to leave a review on Airbnb. I suggest doing so as soon as possible while all the details are fresh in your mind.

Was the property exactly as the host described? Was communication with the host easy and effective, or like pulling teeth? What are the good things that happened during your stay you can give kudos for?

The more details you provide, the more it will help future travelers (like yourself when you’re researching). So be sure to leave a review, be reasonable and always 100% honest.

Settle Airbnb Security Deposit

Most Airbnb properties do not require any type of security deposit to complete a booking. However, many people don’t realize that it is a possibility. This deposit could be host-required or Airbnb-required.

If the security deposit is Airbnb-required, an authorization hold for the security deposit amount will be placed on your payment method two days before your stay. If the deposit is host-required, no such authorization is made. Guests are only charged if a host requests to collect for damages.

Assuming no damages occurred – great! But if there were damages, you’ll want to be informed throughout the claims process. Be sure to familiarize yourself with Airbnb’s security deposit terms and what happens if a host wants to collect on a security deposit.


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