How to Find a Good Airbnb

Megan Lee

Learning how to find an Airbnb takes a bit of experience, but with practice, and attention to detail, you can learn to score a great place, every time.

Airbnbs aren’t just the new thing in travel accommodations—they’re here to stay. So, how can you make your search for the perfect spot in the right neighborhood as quick and painless as possible? Follow these seven steps, then read the additional tips to help you find an Airbnb like a pro.

7 Steps to Find the Perfect Airbnb

Research the Destination & Surrounding Area

Head to your favorite search engine, roll up your sleeves, and start doing some serious sleuthing on your destination. Searching online for queries related to “neighborhoods” and “safety” in a given place will start to give you a high-level view of the options are available.

Pay attention to factors like safety, walkability, access to public transit, ease of parking (if you’re traveling with wheels), and the vibe you’re looking for.

At this stage, I love reading articles about a destination on websites like Wikipedia, Bustle, Eater, The Culture Trip, Thrillist, Trip Advisor, or Trip Savvy. Maybe even tourism-specific websites for your destination. You’re not necessarily drilling into the specifics—you’re getting a general sense of the place.

Also, you might want to further refine your searches to fit the type of vibe or experience that you’re looking for. Here are some of my favorite search modifiers to improve the accuracy and usability of your search results and find the information you seek:

  • Best
  • Trendy / hip 
  • Up and coming
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for business travel
  • Party-friendly
  • Downtown / Central Business District
  • Quiet
  • Good for walking
  • Good for biking
  • Charming / quaint
  • Historic
  • Safest

Take note of any neighborhood names that seem to check off all the boxes. You’ll need these to inform step two!

Open Google Maps & Search Preferred Neighborhoods

A visual for where these neighborhoods are located is super helpful. Open multiple tabs for map locations so you can toggle quickly between options to get a better sense of what you’re working with.

Once you know where to find the Airbnb properties on a map of the area, turn your attention towards their platform!

Open a New Tab for Airbnb

Input your travel dates, location, and any immediate preferences that come to mind (such as entire home vs. private room), and go! 

Be sure to look into “Housing” rather than simply “Experiences” or “Tours.” We can do those later.

Further Refine Your Results

Try to filter your view based on factors like cost, location, longevity of the listing, etc. You know you—and your preferences—best. Refine your search like a boss, so that you’re not weighing 25+ AirBnb options (ain’t nobody got time for that). 

Open Individual Tabs for Each Airbnb Property You’re Considering

By now, you’ll want to pay close attention to the quality of the photos included, whether or not the property has super hosts, rare deals, or instant bookings.

Take the time to read the reviews and feedback from people who have stayed and pay particular attention to your hot button issues, like noise level or cleanliness.

The goal here is to find anything that will make you feel more confident in your reservation.

Use Airbnb’s List Functionality to Bookmark Favorable Listings

Cross check the map displaying the property location on Airbnb with your Google map(s) to make sure you don’t end up in the middle of nowhere (unless that’s what you want).

Make a Selection & Book

Voila! You’re ready for a (hopefully) roadbump-free Airbnb experience.

What Makes a Great Airbnb?

Your Airbnb preferences might not be exactly the same as the next guy, but we can all mostly agree that the following factors can make or break a short-term peer-to-peer housing rental.

Location

Is it smack dab in the action of where you want to be? Is it actually 40 miles outside of the downtown city center? Pay attention!

Photos

Does it look like a safe, clean, comfortable place to stay?

Ease of Check-In

A convenient check-in is a great start to an Airbnb stay. You can search for clues in the details of the listing (i.e. door code entrance) or by reading the reviews (“So-so made checkin so quick and painless!”). 

Sleeping Arrangements

If you don’t love the idea of a pullout bed, double check the listing specifics as to the type of bed (or not) that you can expect.

Cost

Is this a good value? Did you cross-check with local hotels for comparable prices/services? 

Reviews

Be a conscious consumer and make an informed decision. Be sure to scour reviews for any red flags. Pay attention to how the host interacts with critical reviews (are the responses receptive and open to feedback?).

Notice if there are any patterns to feedback, as well as how recent the feedback is. Your host may have had a rough start back in 2016, but they’ve probably learned a thing or two since then!

Amenities

It would have to be a *pretty good deal* for me to book a Bangkok Airbnb in July without air conditioning. If you have your heart set on certain conveniences, cross check for their inclusion!

Cancellation Policy

You might not think you need a backdoor out right now, but your future self might thank you if plans go awry.

More Tips to Decipher Airbnb Listings

Not all listings are 100% clear, so a wise traveler will learn to interpret some of the language used on Airbnb. 

For example, if an Airbnb host is obtuse about the noise level of their property, you can hit the interwebs for information about surrounding businesses (are there lots of bars and clubs?) and the general vibe of the property location’s area.

If the listing states that it is a “Quick Lyft to the city,” you might want to touch base with the host to learn how they define “quick.” That threshold can fall anywhere from five minutes to thirty!

Is the property “near restaurants or bars?” You can probably assume this spot isn’t friendly to kiddos with early bedtimes.

Questions to Ask Airbnb Hosts Before Booking

If you have questions, you should feel free to contact a host before opting to Instant Book or request a booking with them. This can be done easily from a listing by clicking the “Contact Host” button and sending a message.

This can be a good strategy if you have enough lead time (i.e. you’re not booking for tomorrow night) and the listing description left you unsatisfied.

Some common questions you might ask your Airbnb hosts include…

  • What’s the noise level like? And, related: Is there construction right now?
  • Is the WiFi reliable? Can I have multiple connections?
  • Will I receive more than one set of keys? (Important if you’re traveling in a group!)
  • Is there an elevator or escalator if your stay isn’t on the first floor?
  • Where’s the nearest bus stop? Subway stop?
  • Can I park out front? Is it safe?
  • What additional fees should I plan for, if any?
  • Is the neighborhood safe for walking alone? What about at night?
  • Any inquiries related to a recent negative review (i.e. can you give me more details?)
  • If you’re traveling with children or babies, will their needs be met?

Best Time to Book an Airbnb

The truth of the matter: The best time to get an Airbnb depends on the intended length of your stay.

Short Term Airbnb Rentals

According to a study of London-based Airbnb properties by My Property Host, “… hosts start trimming their asking prices at around 15 days to go, with discounts getting larger until six days out.”

On average, it looks a little something like this:

Discounting:

  • 15 days – 5% off
  • 10 days – 10% off
  • 6 days – 18% off

Since hosts can adjust their cost per night manually, or by utilizing Airbnb’s Smart Pricing tool, it’s not uncommon to see prices fluctuate as the booking day draws near.

If you’re booking last minute, you might consider asking for a discounted price by contacting an Airbnb host and floating a dollar amount lower than their asking price. This isn’t guaranteed to work, but a booked apartment is better than an empty apartment, right?

Longer-Term Airbnb Rentals

Are you hoping to reserve a spot for a few weeks, or maybe a month or more? Then your best bet is to book your stay well in advance, and to speak directly with your host about the possibility of a discount for your longer stay. 

When I stayed with a group of friends in Oaxaca for six weeks last winter, we started chatting with our host four months in advance. Though she had a week of the property already booked in our time frame, the lead-time allowed her to connect those renters with a friend who also had an Airbnb property. This meant we could book an uninterrupted stay on her property for nearly two months. Awesome!

TL;DR

Learning how to find an Airbnb takes a bit of experience, but with practice, and attention to detail, you can learn to score a great place, every time.

  • Be sure to map out neighborhoods and cross-check these areas with your Airbnb listing options.
  • Read reviews, check out the photos, and double check the amenities and check-in routine before booking.
  • The cancellation policy and cost should also factor into your decision.
  • Don’t be afraid to contact a host before booking. You deserve to have your questions answered!
  • For short-term Airbnb rentals, book your stay 7-10 days in advance.
  • For multi-week rentals, a longer lead-time (such as a few months) will improve your chances of booking success.
 

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