Airbnb became one of our favorite resources while traveling across Europe. We traveled for 2 months straight and stayed at hotels, bed & breakfasts, along with apartments on Airbnb, anywhere from 3 nights to 3 weeks. Of all the options, properties we found on Airbnb definitely helped us feel more “at home,” or at least close to it. For us, having the option to decide whether to eat out or cook at home gave us more control for what we put in our bodies. Believe it or not, eating out 3 times a day for 2 months is really, really, hard. Really. So when you have the option to cook your own food, we’re all for it.
Plus, we love going to the local farmers markets and buying fresh produce and meat from the butcher. That way, we can be confident knowing that we’re consuming fresh, organic food, straight from the source, and cooking it in oils that we trust.
We’ve stayed at some amazing places in Paris, Bordeaux, San Sebastian, Biarritz, Marseille, Zadar, Split, Vis, Florence, and Venice…but there were definitely times when we had some “FML!” moments when things didn’t turn out as we expected. As a result, we got really, really good at laughing things off, breathing, and not pointing fingers at each other when something went wrong. If anything, we became a better team working together to solve problems, and for that we are closer now than we’ve ever been before. That’s a good thing, considering we’re about to get married.
So with that, we wanted to share some travel tips so that you can have the best experience on Airbnb or hotel while traveling abroad.
1 – Choose a Location Close to Where You’ll Spend the Most Time
For us, we’re all about the best restaurants, farmers markets, and beaches. Knowing the neighborhood you want to stay in crucial and we actually found recommendations on Trip Advisor to be pretty handy when looking for the best areas to stay. Filter by preferred restaurants, select map view and go. We then used the map view on airbnb to choose an apartment in that general area. It worked perfectly every time. More likely than not, it will direct you to the center of town, downtown or the “old town” in most cities. However, the caveat is that these areas will also be extremely busy, touristy and loud. We often chose places close by within walking distance of the hustle and bustle, but not directly in it. That way, we can be assured of a good night’s sleep. There were also instances where we were just in and out of cities, thus we chose places that were walking distance to the bus station, train station, etc. so that we could easily walk to and from the station without having to take a taxi everywhere. When staying in a larger metropolitan city, stay in areas close by a metro stop.
2 – Use the Filter For Required Amenities
Always use the filter option on Airbnb and hotel sites. Never assume that a property will have internet/wifi just because you have it in your own home. Our three top requirements for the apartments we stayed at included 1) Good Wifi 2)Clean Kitchen and 3) An English Speaking host. Having an English Speaking Host was important to us because it absolutely SUCKS when you visit a foreign country and can’t understand a word your host is saying. In Bordeaux, we rented a beautiful apartment. The host spoke English, but she was out of town, so her parents checked us in and didn’t speak a lick of English. Thus, all communication was back and forth on Google Translate. Having a host that can give you tips on where to go, what to eat, what to see, etc, is probably one of my favorite things about renting on Airbnb. You’re getting inside information from a local. Sure, you can ask the concierge at a hotel, but chances are, they won’t direct you to a hole-in-the-wall locals joint when you ask them for a restaurant recommendation. Which leads me to…
3 – Communicate With The Host (Before and After Booking)
We had a few Airbnb hosts that were SOOO slow are responding back to us. It’s a real problem when traveling on the fly, from one city to the next, sometimes booking apartments just a few hours before we were about to arrive. In addition, we turned off our data and relied on wifi wherever we went, so we either had internet access…or we didn’t. No LTE for us. When sending emails to the host, be clear on your expectations and your arrival time. If need be, tell them that it’s urgent that they respond by a certain date/time due to travel plans. Clarify any questions or concerns you have about the apartment upfront. If they didn’t post a photo of the room, bathroom or something you’re particularly interested in seeing, request it. If you feel unsure about any of their responses, move on. Also, never put your eggs in one basket and don’t get emotionally tied to staying an any one particular property. It can be really disappointing if it turns out that a place you love isn’t available. Reach out to at least three hosts before committing to one. Finding the right apartment/host is kind of like online dating. It takes time and effor to find the perfect one. Then, make sure to also contact the host if there’s something wrong once you’ve checked in. If you’re renting a place and find that the place is unacceptable, then let the host know so that they can remedy the problem. For example, having a good wifi connection was crucial as Chris had to work most of the time. In San Sebastian, we rented a place for 3 weeks and the internet was terrible. Thus, he immediately told the host and they purchased a new router. Ratings and Reviews are extremely important to the host, so if they’ve promised something in their description that isn’t fulfilled, speak up.
4 – Compare and Weigh Your Options
If you have a set budget and you’re noticing that the quality of the available Airbnb apartments for your price range doesn’t exactly fit your standards, whether it’s for a private room or an entire home, then find other options. If the prices are comparable to a nice hotel, then book the hotel and be done with it. If the price of a shared room is the same as a Bed and Breakfast then book the latter. The last thing you want to do is stay at a dingy dirty home…and trust me, there are a lot of them on Airbnb, especially if you’re looking last minute. Just know that even though Airbnb is a professional service, the hosts are not. Most of these people are just regular folks, renting out their home or spare bedroom, not employees of an established hotel that are available 24-7 (ish). In addition to comparing prices, compare the reviews. Read the reviews and stay at the ones that rate well across the board for Accuracy, Communication, Cleanliness, Location, Check-In, and Value. If everything checks out, book it.
5 – Just Breathe
Chances are, if you’re using Airbnb and traveling the world, life just isn’t so bad. When we stayed in Split, Croatia, things didn’t go exactly as planned. We rented a property and when we got there, the place didn’t look a thing like the photos, the host showed up 30 minutes late without contacting us, the decor was super weird, and the washing machine from the 70’s ate our clothes and a professional had to take it apart in order to get our clothes out and make our flight. But, the place was 5 minutes from the beach and was the best location in all of Split! Obstacles aren’t that big of a deal. Breathe through it and practice patience. If you’re doing it right, you will be basking in the warm sun, eating delicious food, drinking amazing wine, talking to the wonderful people and having the best time of your life. Just breathe and smile. Then laugh about it later. Besides, traveling leads to amazing stories…and photos.
Sometimes the view from your bedroom balcony will look like this…
And sometimes there will be a fake parrot outside the window…
Sometimes you’ll have a pool to read next to and self reflect…
Sometimes your clothes will get stuck in a washing machine from the 70’s and you have a flight out the next morning…
Sometimes, you’ll have an ipod dock, and sometimes you’ll have…this. Darn, I left my mix tapes at home.
Whatever happens, enjoy and have fun. You’ll become better travelers in the end…or realize that your home is the best place on earth. Either way, safe travels!
Susan and Chris