This is the first in a series of posts about using AirBnB accommodation for your family.
This post covers what you need to know about researching, planning and booking and some of the things to look out for to make the process easier.
After six months of obsessive planning and searching for the perfect Parisian apartment, I finally found “the one”: enough beds for our family of 5, in a desirable and convenient location, at a cost that was within our budget.
So I sent through a request to the owner.
Meanwhile, I was chatting to a neighbour of mine I hadn’t seen in a while. We were talking about her experiences with AirBnB, particularly when her family stayed in Paris a couple of years back.
The apartment was good- there was enough room for her family of 5, and it was in the same location that I had been looking at. She told me many of the main attractions were within walking distance.
All was great, except for a smell that permeated the apartment.
They discovered that the owner had left her cat in the apartment with the expectation that my neighbour and her family would take care of it during their stay. They had no idea. Nothing had been previously mentioned, and reading through the reviews of the apartment, there was no mention of a cat.
Funny, I said to her, my owner’s profile stated that she liked cats. And the apartment I found was in the same location that my neighbour had stayed in.
So she asked me what the owner’s name was.
And to my shock, I had discovered that yes indeed, out of the thousands of apartments I could have booked in Paris, I had booked the very same apartment that my neighbour and her family had stayed in two years earlier!
So I got home and immediately cancelled my booking request to the owner before it had been accepted.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with cats and I’m sure plenty of other people would not mind pet setting while staying in someone’s apartment, but that isn’t my idea of a vacation!
And so this was my very first experience with AirBnB.
Has it put me off using AirBnB? Absolutely not (ask me again when we return from our upcoming trip). Being a family of 5, the idea of booking two hotel rooms to accommodate our family is both expensive and an inconvenience, and we like the idea of being able to cook some of our own meals.
But there are a few tips I would like to share with you which are worth considering if you are planning to book accommodation through AirBnB:
6 Tips For A Better AirBnB Experience:
Start early: Start researching months before your departure, as many of the better places get snapped up quickly, especially during peak periods or in popular destinations.
Read the reviews: Choose your “wish list” according to the number of reviews received and also the feedback given. I spent hours reading through many reviews and then considering whether any negative feedback was a deal breaker for us. People complain about all sorts of things! All of the apartments we have booked had at least 30 reviews, some as many as 200+.
Find “Superhosts”: These are hosts that have met certain criteria, such as having had a 5-star review at least 80% of the time providing at least half of the guests who have stayed have provided a review, and not have made any cancellations to bookings made by travellers. Superhosts have their activities reviewed every 3 months. We are staying with a Superhost in London.
Read the details: Is the property in a convenient location? If it’s an apartment, does it have an elevator? What time is check in- and what will you do if you arrive well before check in (can you securely leave your luggage in the property before check in?)? Is the host easily contactable in case problems occur? Will the owner be present at check in? Ask the host as many questions as you like until you feel comfortable with making the booking. Note how long it takes for the host to respond to you, as this may indicate how organised and professional the experience will be when you arrive.
Google Maps: Although AirBnB does not give you the full address of the property until you have booked it, you can get a good idea of the location- have a look at Google Maps and view the area at street level as it gives you a bit of an idea of the neighbourhood.
Have a backup plan: Expect that things may not go as planned once you arrive. Maybe the accommodation is smaller than you thought, or the beds are not comfortable, or worse still, your booking has been cancelled upon your arrival. These same things can happen if you book a hotel room through a travel agent (I once arrived in London late at night to find my room had been “accidentally” cancelled by my travel agent. Fun.)
Also handy to note, when you make a booking through AirBnB, you make the payment at the time of booking however AirBnB hold onto the payment and do not release it to the host until 24 hours after you have checked in to your accommodation. One of our hosts cancelled our booking last week, and thankfully AirBnB refunded the full amount including the fees they normally charge, and also gave us an additional credit.
I hope you find some of these tips useful when taking the plunge into booking with AirBnB. I will continue this series with another post after our holiday, reporting on our experiences.
Let me know, have you ever booked through AirBnB and how was your experience?