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We’ve always preferred staying in vacation rentals over hotel rooms when we’re traveling as a family and not camping. And I could give you a myriad of reasons why, but I really just want to share tips and tricks for how to effectively use Airbnb for family travel.
I had a lightbulb moment when we recently stayed in another Airbnb home. We've learned a few things through the years traveling with our kids, especially as we've booked vacation rentals, either through Airbnb or direct through the owner.
Why We Love Airbnb for Family Travel
I feel like there's a misconception out there about vacation rentals in general (and somewhat about Airbnb). We recently had a stay that didn't turn out as planned. When we shared with friends what had happened, their first response was how they could never trust a service like Airbnb. Well, it turns out this was a host issue, not an Airbnb issue; and in fact, Airbnb was quick to help us get into another place to stay. They even helped us get our money back and paid for our first night in the new place.
The entire situation, coupled with other experiences (like the time Airbnb noticed it was my son's birthday, via Instagram, when we were staying in one of their homes), led to me writing this post. So this is the first of a few posts that will share tips and tricks for how to effectively use Airbnb to book a memorable stay with your family… Because it really can be an amazing stay when you find the right place.
First of All, There's an App for That
There's an app for pretty much everything these days, from booking a vacation rental to finding the nearest clean restroom (true story). Airbnb has an app, and I actually prefer the app to desktop. It's easy to search for places no matter where I'm at or what I'm doing. It also makes it easy to communicate with hosts when traveling. And you can save different lists of places you're interested in, so you can think about it and come back to it at a later time.
You can book everything right through the app, done deal. When we were originally planning to go overseas for a trip this spring, I found all of our places from the comfort of my bed, just searching on my phone.
Read Reviews. All of Them.
I'm not kidding. If there are no reviews, I walk away. I know, I get it, there's a first time for everything. But I just can't book that stay when there are no reviews. I guess it's a trust issue. Or a don't wanna lose all my money issue. I've seen AH-MAZING houses that I so very badly wanted to book… But there were no reviews. So if there are no reviews, keep searching.
Read those reviews. Read between the lines of those reviews. If you're wanting a private location away from civilization, look for that as you read down through reviews. If you don't want to be in someone's backyard cottage (or their basement apartment), you'd better read those reviews. Look for reviews from other guests who stayed with kids. You can tell a lot from reading previous guests' reactions and reviews.
I just can't stress it enough… READ THE REVIEWS!
Do You Want the Entire Place? Or a Private Room?
This one makes me giggle just a little because I've seen others make this mistake. You could actually end up sharing a couch and a movie with your host if you don't book the right place. Use the filter when you're searching, and click on “Entire Place.”
If you want the whole house to yourself, do your research and again, read the reviews. Some places are loft apartments or basement apartments attached to the main house. Some places are backyard guest cottages. And yes, there are private rooms where you share the rest of the house. I've even seen places that rent out 1 house to multiple guests, so you get a private room and you get access to the rest of the home, but you have to share that home with other guests. I know right now, using Airbnb for family travel and traveling with our kids (especially a baby who can be fussy all hours of the night), I definitely don't want to share a house with a stranger.
Use the filter function when searching, read the full description, and READ REVIEWS. If you follow those 3 rules, you'll be fine.
Speaking of Filters…
When you search, use filters to set parameters, such as your budget (that's really important), entire place or private room (as noted above), number of beds, amenities, and more. You can even select a filter for homes that allow pets. Use those filters to your advantage, so you don't waste time looking at homes that won't even work for your family. I do wish that Airbnb would allow you to search by the type of area (as in beachfront, mountain view, away from all civilization, you get the picture). For now, I haven't found a way, though you can use the Map function to find homes too.
Also, be sure to put your dates in. If your exact dates don't come up for the house you want, check the Availability Calendar for that specific house. If you're flexible with your dates, it may just be 1 day that's keeping you from staying where you really want to stay.
Are You Wanting an Experience?
With Airbnb, you can now book Experiences. Not only that, but you can find homes that are an experience in and of themselves. For instance, maybe you want to stay in a stone barn on a working sheep farm with your kids while visiting Ireland. It can be done. And someday I hope we get to take that trip.
This is one of the things I love most about Airbnb is that it allows you to really experience travel by living as a local wherever you are visiting. You can also sometimes choose a home where your host is more available to chat with you and show you around. I mean, after all, travel is about the experience, right? And what better way to experience travel than by getting to know the people who live where you're exploring?
Search Different Areas
When searching for a specific town or area, we've found that it helps to do various searches with different towns around the same general area. Different homes will pop up with these different searches. Don't give up because you may find a home that's 5 minutes away from the location you'd originally searched.
Look for the Amenities Your Family Wants
When I say amenities, I mean washer and dryer, kitchen, Wifi, available seating, etc. Examine photos closely. Photos tell you a lot about a place you may potentially book. You can tell how much seating there is for your family to be able to relax comfortably and if there's room for your kids to spread out and play. You're able to tell if there are a lot of knickknacks for your baby to get into (an important factor right now). You can also tell a lot about the condition of the place and a LOT about the personality of the host.
When we booked one of our first vacation rentals, seating wasn't a big deal to us… Until we got there and the only place to sit was the boys' futon which doubled as their bed. Rather than fold it up every day, we brought our camping chairs in. No big deal because we absolutely LOVED where we were staying. But if comfy seating is important to you, make sure your home has it.
Again, look between the lines when scrolling through photos.
Read the House Rules Before Booking
Especially if you're traveling with kids, you need to read the House Rules. Some homes clearly state they don't allow children, or that the home may not be suitable for children of a certain age. House rules usually also state if pets are allowed, check in time and check out time, quiet hours, and whether you're allowed to have guests over.
Along the same lines as House Rules, you definitely want to check the Cancellation Policy to see how much time you have to cancel in case something unforeseen should happen.
Don't Forget to Check Additional Prices
Airbnb hosts usually charge for extra people, as well as a security deposit and a cleaning fee. On the flip side, sometimes you'll find discounts, like a weekly or a monthly discount.
Lastly, Communicate with Your Host
Don't hesitate to reach out to the host if you have questions. That's what they're there for. Also, be sure you communicate after you've booked the place. Let them know your plans so they can know what time you'll be arriving. I'll get more into this in my next post about how to be a good Airbnb guest.
Have you traveled with Airbnb for family travel? If not, what's keeping you from booking your next dream stay?