One of the things I love about travel is the opportunity to experience a new culture. Whenever we can, we try and get as close to a local experience as possible. For traveling families like us, sites like Airbnb have been a godsend, offering us the opportunity to have a local experience while not having to pay an arm and a leg for it. What’s more, most Airbnb family travel rentals are still owned by everyday people who happen to have an extra space that they want to share with others.
Making the most of your Airbnb family travel stay
But not all Airbnb family travel experiences are created equal. While we’ve had some stellar experiences, we’ve also had some mediocre ones. Similarly, not all Airbnb guests are created equal. Some are excellent guests, taking care of the home they’re staying at. Others can be pretty horrible, treating the space worse than their own home.
Something that’s pretty great about Airbnb, though, is that guests can be rated and reviewed, just like hosts. So hosts actually do have some control over who stays in their home.
For families who travel and use Airbnb, it can sometimes be hard to find a suitable place for the whole family. Hosts are sometimes reluctant to host families because kids can make a mess of a place or break things. Fortunately, there are some tips you can follow to make your stay with Airbnb enjoyable both for you AND your host. Here are my tips for families on how to make the most out of their Airbnb family travel experience.
Know what you want out of your experience
The first thing to do before even looking for an Airbnb place is to identify your expectations. What is it that you want from your experience? Are you expecting a luxurious experience where you’ll be pampered and tended to like in a hotel? Or are you looking for some place where you can actually talk to your hosts and have a cup of coffee with them.
For our recent Airbnb family travel experience in Portland, we didn’t even see our hosts. But we had everything that we could possibly want or need at our fingertips, and the place was set up much like a hotel would be set up.
On the other hand, we stayed at an Airbnb place in Vancouver, BC several years back where we had breakfast with our hosts and spent several hours chatting with them about what they did for a living (they were dancers for a local ballet company). That experience felt more like a typical bed and breakfast experience rather than a hotel. Identifying what you want ahead of time can also help you better decide on the property that will best fit your needs.
Read the reviews before hand
In the sharing economy, reviews are what makes the whole system work. Sites like Airbnb are built on trust. Unlike a standard hotel or bed and breakfast, these are individuals who are opening up their homes to you (although we’ve found that more and more, especially during our travels in Asia, guest houses and small hotels are also using Airbnb to attract potential customers). There is no Better Business Bureau report on these individuals. Instead, potential guests have the reviews of former guests to base their decisions.
If you’re considering a property, really take some time to read the reviews and look at the ratings. What parts of the experience are positive and what parts are negative? How many reviews are there? You could have a property that has five stars, but only one review. While you could have another property that has 4.5 stars, but has fifty reviews. Which one would you feel more comfortable staying?
One thing to note about reviews is that as I mentioned before, guests get reviews too. If you’re a frequent user of Airbnb like me, you’ll have your own history of reviews. And hosts can take that into consideration when you try and book a stay with them. Keep that in mind as you stay at these places.
Communicate with your host
When you’ve found a place that you’re interested in, go ahead and reach out to the host before booking. The “Instant Book” feature on Airbnb makes it easier to book a place without having to wait to be accepted by the host, but I actually prefer not to use that feature. I like making that initial contact with the host. It gives me a chance to see what kind of host they are. Also, it gives me a chance to see if that place is actually suitable for a family or not.
When we went to New York City a couple years ago, there were several Airbnb properties that we were looking for: one was a two bedroom place in Brooklyn, another was a studio in Manhattan, and the third option was a two bedroom in Spanish Harlem. After chatting with the hosts of each place, we found out that the Brooklyn spot was on the fifth floor of a building with no elevator, which was not ideal for us, considering we were traveling with an eleven month old at the time.
The studio in Manhattan looked cute, and the description said it could accommodate up to five people, but the host revealed to us that five people would be a squeeze in such a small space. So we ended up going with the third option, which turned out to be the perfect size and space for our family.
In travel, especially family travel, plans will undoubtedly change. Being flexible is key to having a stress-free travel experience. With Airbnb, sometimes things don’t work out. You can show up at a property, and it can be completely different than what is presented in the property description. This happened to us in our early days of using Airbnb. We had booked a place in New York City that looked absolutely cute in the pictures, but in reality turned out to be just a room with a bed in a not so ideal neighborhood.
In that instance, we weren’t traveling with our kids, so we ended up staying. But had we been traveling with kids, we might have considered looking elsewhere that night. It’s important to have some flexibility with your travel plans (and travel budget!), because sometimes things may not be quite what you expected.
Tidy up after yourself
This is something my family and I always make a point of doing at the end of our stay: leaving the place as close to how it was when we found it. Remember, at the end of the day, you are still a guest staying at someone’s home. Always make sure you treat the property with respect. That means, if you break something (which may happen sometimes when you’re traveling with kids), either make an effort to replace it, or provide a note explaining what happened.
These little details will not only earn you karma points with your future Airbnb family travel experiences, but they can also leave a positive impression of you for your host. This can lead to a positive review of you as a guest.
Leave a thank you note
A final little thing we like to do is to leave a thank you note. People love to get positive feedback. This is a psychological fact. And if you had a great Airbnb family travel experience, it’s important to let the host know that so they can do it right again the next time for their next guest.
Similarly, if there were some things about your stay that was less than ideal, go ahead and provide that feedback to them. Going back to the topic of reviews, I always take the time to review a property after I’ve stayed there because I think of it as a courtesy to future guests. Just remember, as with giving feedback in any other medium, try and put a positive spin on any criticism that you may have.
During a recent Airbnb experience, there was one window in the place that didn’t have a curtain or frosted glass covering it. It was fine during the day, but at night, we felt completely exposed. I made a note of it in my thank you note to our host, but also made sure to mention how much we enjoyed our stay overall.
Don’t be afraid to try Airbnb with your family
If you’re new to the whole Airbnb family travel experience, you may be hesitant to try for fear of having a bad experience. But in my years of using Airbnb, the majority of my experiences have been positive. The trick to Airbnb is knowing what to do to get the most out of your stay. Fortunately, these tips will help you and your family have an enjoyable Airbnb family travel experience.
Have you used Airbnb on your family travels? Let me know how your experience was. (Note: I did not get any kind of compensation from Airbnb. I just love it so much!)
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