About the author : stonemill

I’m pretty vocal about our travel choices and always share our holiday experiences both good and bad online. While doing so, I’ve been getting a lot of messages over the years asking how we end up with such “picture perfect” holiday apartments.  Let’s get things straight – traveling with a family can be prohibitively expensive (especially in certain cities). And this is where Airbnb comes up trumps. Apart from the economics, having extra space to lay about (teenagers!) and cook (me!) and most importantly live like a local – is priceless.  From Sydney to Stockholm, Italy to New Zealand – we’ve had a great deal of luck with the numerous homes we’ve rented. Yes, for sure there were hiccups here and there. Not all our hosts have been wonderful (to be fair almost ninety percent have been amazing). And we may have miscalculated the size and location of certain properties (looking at you Oslo and Amsterdam) but overall, you can definitely consider us staunch Airbnb evangelists.

What I also tend to see is a lot of hesitation in using the Airbnb app and believe me when I say that that’s perfectly normal. It can be overwhelming and you should never expect to find what you are looking for on your first search attempt. Listing fatigue is real and scrolling through thousands of rentals with no plan in mind could be a recipe for disaster. Therefore I’ve decided to pass along what we’ve learned on our various travels and share a bit more of the process we use to pick the best Airbnb every time. So without further ado, here are the THREE BEST TIPS to help you pick your perfect holiday rental. 

LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION

If you’re lucky and you choose well, this could be your evening walk. View from our Airbnb in Picton, NZD

The first thing I do before opening the Airbnb app is an online search for which neighbourhood would be best for tourists. This helps us narrow the search especially for cities that are completely new to us like Oslo or Queenstown. If there’s an attraction or area where we plan to spend most of our time, I definitely keep that in mind. More often than not we prefer to be juuust on the outskirts of the main tourist drag. While you can definitely save on travel by living bang in the middle of all the attractions, you can be sure that you will be paying big bucks both in terms of rental rates as well as at the restaurants and stores around you. Expand your choice and use the handy dandy Airbnb map to look for an apartment on the periphery of the city centre. You can also use the FILTER option and enter in specific neighbourhoods. Needless to say your PRICE filter also comes into play here. Predetermine your budget (at least how high you are willing to go) and add that to your search filters from the beginning. There’s nothing worse than finding the place of your dreams and then finding out it costs you an arm and a leg!

Once you’ve narrowed down the type of accommodation and price range you can zoom into specific locations or use the Neighbourhood filter

While we prefer to walk around everywhere, it’s also important to factor in transportation to and from your apartment. Look for mentions of tube stations and bus stops nearby as well as the all important grocery stores and neighbourhood restaurants. While living in a suburb could get you a cheaper price, don’t repeat our mistake in Amsterdam or Oslo where we were stuck in a small suburb that had NO cafes or restaurants and one measly grocery store. Sometimes it pays to splurge even a wee bit.

We compromised on a smaller apartment during one of our trips to Rome as the location was non-negotiable

Before hitting that “Book” button, also be sure to double check the extra costs if any. Stuff like service fees, refundable deposits and cleaning charges vary quite a bit and can make a huge difference to your final price so always be alert. Similarly, check the cancellation policies and city taxes if applicable.

Is breakfast included in your rental? Check the fine print always and you may come away surprised

LOOKS MATTER

So much love for our eclectic arty Prague apartment

Am afraid that when it comes to Airbnb, looks do matter. I am always very suspicious about apartment photos that have a profusion of arty close ups or too many images of lampshades and dinner plates (not joking). Show me the rooms in all their entirety and preferably from a few angles. Photos taken with Fish-eye lenses more often than not are just ways to hide the smallness of the space. A lot of hosts take subpar photos with not much effort put into their listings. This says a lot about their investment into maintaining the space and doesn’t bode well for future transactions, so I automatically knock those off the list.

“Could I live here?

 

 

 

 

My go to filter for choosing an Airbnb is to ask myself the question, “would I like to live here permanently?” More often than not I use Airbnb to fulfil my aspirational day dreams. Imagine if I as actually living in Copenhagen? Would this be what my house would look like? Or does this apartment in Florence excite me with its decor and design? Travel is all about escape and Airbnb gives you a way to tick several dreams off your bucket list.

 

 

Possibly one of the best Airbnb rentals we have ever stayed in. This villa in Sri Lanka came with staff who cooked and cleaned AND there was a pool!

BUT DO YOU REALLY REALLY LOVE ME?

Once I’ve shortlisted an apartment and it fits into our budget and locality, I go straight to the reviews. I have a policy not to book any apartment that doesn’t have any reviews. While we may be missing out on some new additions to the rental scene, its not a chance I am willing to take.

Our Airbnb in Lake Como came with a gorgeous garden. Sometimes reviews will give you information that the owner may have forgotten to mention.

When it comes to reviews, the more the merrier. Listings with 10 or 20+ reviews always offer up a more concise picture. One word reviews such as “great” or “friendly” are roundly ignored. When I read reviews, I keep a watch out for red flags such as “noisy,” “dirty,” “unresponsive host,” or “smaller than it looks.” On the flip side recurring feedback such as “friendly host,” “great location,” or “easy check in,” are always considered when making our final decision. I try to look for in depth reviews discussing the pros and cons of the home and the area. In addition, I always contact the host even before booking and create a rapport from the get go. Most often than not, these are people’s homes that there are opening up to you. A few lines describing with whom you are traveling and how much you love their home can go a long way towards building a friendly and responsive relationship. Remember, the greatest benefit Airbnb offers over a hotel is that your hosts can double as personal guides to a new city. Use their suggestions for local restaurants, what not to miss and how to get around. They’ll clue you in to the hidden gems of their hometown that guidebooks often gloss over and and don’t forget – always leave a review after your own stay!

Sweet dreams

And that’s it – our THREE TOP TIPS TO FIND THE AIRBNB OF YOUR DREAMS.

What are your best tips for making the most out of an Airbnb stay? Let us know in the comments, below.

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