How to Use Airbnb as a Traveler {A Guide + FAQs}

As a traveler, I had never heard of Airbnb until one summer when I was planning a planning a month-long trip to New York. I knew I couldn’t afford a hotel for that long, so there had to be other options. Enter: Airbnb. I found an awesome host and a great room that I rented at a (so-fucking-much-cheaper-than-a-hotel) monthly rate. And now – it’s the only way I travel.

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to help you on your way to being a bad ass Airbnb guest:

#1 – Understand What Airbnb Is (it’s more than just a cheap place to stay)

  • Airbnb is a fantastic social networking website made up of travelers profiles and hosts profiles + accommodation listings. Travelers need a place to stay, and hosts list their Penthouse, their guest room, their camper out back, and everything in between to meet every budget. Airbnb takes care of all payments. In order to make a reservation, you must have a credit card. The focus of Airbnb is to make travel accessible, and to promote true cultural exchange and relationship building. You don't have to be a host in order to travel. It is oh so much better than the cost-prohibitive sterile feel of a hotel. Speaking of hotels – Airbnb is not a hotel. Yes, you are paying for somewhere to stay, but you are staying in a person’s home. If you are used to or expecting a hotel experience – please just stay in a hotel.

#2 – Fill out your profile!

  • So many people quickly create a user name and password so they can search for places and send out requests right away before they properly fill out their profile. Fill out your entire profile first. This will make your chances of hearing back from a host, or from having your reservation accepted much better. As a host – if I get an inquiry or a reservation request from a user with a blank profile, I usually delete it. If I’m feeling patient – I’ll send them a message telling them to fill out their profile, but normally I don’t because that seems like common sense. If you’re requesting to stay in someone’s home – let them know who you are and don’t make them ask. Upload several photos and fill out all of the fields with info about yourself.

#3 – Understand the search features

  • When you are searching, you can filter by dollar amount and by whether the listing is the “entire place” (meaning the hosts won't  be there and you will have the place to yourself), a private room, or a shared room. You can also search by looking at the map – a fantastic feature if you are not renting a car or are otherwise needing to stay in a specific area. A good Airbnb listing will have plenty of photos, lots of information, good reviews, and the host will have filled out their personal profile as well.

Like this post? You might also like: A Beginner's Guide to Hosting Airbnb Guests

#4 – Send an “inquiry” or a “reservation request” to potential hosts

  • You can contact host’s by one of those two ways. Sending an inquiry means just that – you are sending a message to the host inquiring about possibly staying with them. Maybe you have some questions before you commit to a reservation, or maybe you just want to reach out in advance for some other reason. Even if you are in town for a conference and will be out all day, or are just “needing a place to sleep” – you still need to read your host’s profile and listing to make sure it will be a good fit. You are staying in someone’s home and everybody is different. It’s best to not just send out a blanket inquiry message to a dozen hosts. Or at least – have a basic message, but be sure to add a personal touch to each message that is specific to each host. Let them know why you liked their listing and why you think it would be fun to stay with them. Seasoned hosts can very quickly sniff out someone just looking for a cheap place to stay, or someone who would be better off in a hotel. Sending a reservation request means that you commit to specific dates and enter your personal information and credit card number (visible only to Airbnb). The host then has 24 hours to accept or decline your reservation. If accepted, you will automatically be sent the host’s exact address as well as their house guide and any other information they have included. If your reservation is declined, you will immediately receive a full refund and be free to continue on your search for a host. Do not send through a reservation request unless you are 100% sure. Not only will it mess up the host’s calendar if you cancel, but you are also subject to the individual host’s cancellation policy. 

#5 Be a Respectful Guest!

  • Let your host know what time you will be arriving, and work out any details about that ahead of time.

  • Familiarize yourself with your host’s house guide, their check-in/check-out times, and anything else you may need to know specific to their situation.

  • Prior to your arrival, do your best to answer questions that you have on your own. Hosts get tons of messages – make it as easy for them as you can. Be a self sufficient traveler. Don’t ask if they’re close to the airport. Google map their house to the airport. Don’t ask how to get to their house from the bus station – go to the city’s transit website and figure it out for yourself. Check the host’s listing and house guide for your answer first. Of course you can ask your hosts for help, or for dinner recommendations, etc. Just don’t use your host as your travel agent or expect them to be your city guide.

  • Once you arrive – seriously keep in mind – it’s not a hotel. Leave everything as you found it, or better in terms of the kitchen, bathroom, your sleeping space and all of the common areas. Don’t eat their food, don’t leave dishes or trash out in the common areas, don’t hog the bathroom, etc.

  • Most Airbnb hosts are active hosts, meaning they have travelers on a regular basis so don’t be offended if they don’t seem to be going “out of their way” for you. They may very well have full time jobs, families, and their own personal situations going on at any given time. Remember – they’re not traveling – you are, so they are not going to be in the same mental space as you because they’re just living their normal life. Don’t expect them to be Susie Sunshine host robots. They’re human, just like you. Be grateful that they’ve opened up their home to you, and stay humble.

#6 – Leave a Review

  • Airbnb is built on travelers and hosts leaving each other reviews – the whole system is built on this series of checks and balances. If you have negative feedback, consider leaving it in the “private section” for the host, unless it’s something outlandish that you really want to “warn” future travelers about. When writing your review – think about what you’d want to know as a traveler. Things like – was the sleeping situation comfy, was the location convenient, did you feel comfortable with the host, was everything as described in the listing, etc.


What if my Airbnb host is a serial killer?

  • Obviously I cannot confirm whether or not your host will be a serial killer. But just use some common sense. Does the host have photos? Does looking at them make you feel happy, comfortable, or another positive emotion? What about their profile? Do they sound like people you’d hang out with? And their listing details -- does their home sound like somewhere you’d be able to make yourself at home? What about their reviews? Have other travelers had a good time? Just use common sense and do your homework – every host and every situation is different, but I assure you – Airbnb is definitely not full of monsters with fake profiles trying to lure you in to kill you.

I’m a single woman/man – is Airbnb safe?

  • You just have to use your best judgment. If this is something you’re truly worried about – stick to profiles of older couples, or families. Hosts are generally very transparent so just have a look at their profile and their reviews and see what kind of feeling you get. As a woman – I have stayed with single men living alone and had a wonderful, non-sexual time.

I have little kids so I can’t use Airbnb…..right?

  • WRONG. Of course you can use Airbnb with kids! Obviously be up front that you have kids, and make sure the accommodations seem suitable to kids. There are plenty of families with children on Airbnb so I’m sure you’ll find somewhere you would fit right in.

What if my host cancels on me?

  • Another thing I can’t predict for you, but yes – this is a possibility. As a host and a traveler for 4+ years, I’ve never been cancelled on nor have I cancelled on anyone. But it could happen. Airbnb hosts are just human, and sometimes shit happens. However – hosts are charged $50 for each confirmed reservation that they cancel, so this discourages cancelling unless it’s for a very good reason.  With last minute cancellations – you can call Airbnb and they’ll either find you another host or put you up in a hotel, so they’ve got your back.

What if my host isn’t home when I arrive?

  • Your arrival time and the host’s check in procedure is something you need to be proactive about before you get there. Remember -- it's not a hotel! Even if you can roughly approximate the time you’ll arrive – this is helpful. Find out if the host will be at work, if they want to leave you a key (some do and some don’t) or what would be a convenient time to arrive.

What if the house is loud or the bathroom is gross?

  • The house could be loud, or the bathroom could be gross. However, these are easy things to discern from profiles. Again – just use your common sense. If you’re concerned about cleanliness – don’t stay with college-age kids or in a house full of young guys. The pictures of a listing will tell you a lot as well. If you’re worried about noise – steer clear of hosts that have kids or lots of animals. In general – if you have particulars that are deal breakers or will really bother you – communicate this ahead of time to your host. If you need to be asleep by 10 in a quiet house – see if that meshes with your host’s schedule. If you need to get up early and make a smoothie before you head out the door – make sure morning kitchen activity is ok with your host. In general – the more flexible you are, the less let down or bothered you will be. And if you have a lot of particulars – you’re probably better off in a hotel, or at the very least - renting an entire home on Airbnb versus a room or other shared space. 

Are you read to create community? That's a big part of our four-month online program, Reality Rehab. It's an e-course that's like a guide for life we all with we would've been given in high school. It covers all of the main aspects of life -- relationships, money, food, health, and of course - building your local and your global community. Join us and we'll show you how! 


How to Use Airbnb as a Traveler | Cock & Crow Blog #airbnb #travel #hosting

We'd love it if you shared this article!