We all dream of a perfect vacation—it’s what gets us through the day when work is insane, life is chaotic and we really really need a break. While once upon a time staying at a hotel was the only option, times have changed and these days your dream vacation might involve an off-the-beaten-track Airbnb location. Which is exactly why companies like Airbnb are so popular and so successful. In fact, in 2014 Airbnb was Inc.’s company of the year thanks to its brilliant home-sharing concept and business plan. What started as an interesting idea of sharing one another’s home has become a booming industry—in 2014, according to Inc. Magazine, the “website surpassed 800,000 listings worldwide, which means they now offer more lodging than Hilton Worldwide or InterContinental Hotels Group or any other hotel chain in the world.” Currently there are over 60 million guests using Airbnb, according to the company’s website. That’s a lot of people making their homes available to strangers who are looking to plan a dream vacation, without leaving the luxury of a home environment behind.
More than that, Airbnb isn’t just renting a room. You are renting a room in someone’s home. And sometimes that host is living there with you, sharing their space and their belongings with you. It’s not an anonymous bed and a sterile room—it’s someone’s living space. According to Brian Chesky, one of Airbnb’s co-founders, “Airbnb is about so much more than just renting space…it’s about people and experiences. At the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is bring the world together. You’re not getting a room, you’re getting a sense of belonging.”
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So how do you make an Airbnb location work for you so you can plan your perfect trip? For starters, you need to prioritize your stay. Are you more concerned with where you stay as far as the city or neighborhood, or do you have a more specific preference regarding the size and layout of the property you choose. You can search by your ideal destination and travel dates, and then you can further filter by the type of accommodation, price, location etc. Be as specific as possible so that the results you browse reflect the kind of travel stay you hope to enjoy. If you’re looking for some creative inspiration, here are some pretty insanely cool homes available for rent through Airbnb. That’s right, you can sleep in a home shaped like a boot. It would certainly make for a memorable stay.
Once you start to browse through your options, make sure you read the reviews and do your research. The number one tool at your disposal when using Airbnb are the reviews of past guests, because they have experienced what you are about to experience. Trust their judgment and comments, and make sure you thoroughly read what they have to say. You’ll not only learn about the host’s personality and their house rules but you’ll learn about the space you’ll be living in, so you can make an informed decision. After all, nothing can ruin a vacation like arriving only to find that your destination is not at all what you expected.
Before you book a vacation using Airbnb, you also need to know certain expectations of Airbnb hosts. Like any vacation stay (hotel or not) there is etiquette to follow to maximize your stay, maximize your enjoyment and maximize the likelihood you’ll want to book future stays. Etiquette rule #1: make sure you arrive and leave on time. Hosts are busy too and they are working to try and make your stay as pleasant as possible. You’re dealing with one person, not an entire team of people preparing your room, as with a hotel, so try to be timely and respectful of your host’s schedule.
Rule #2, respect the space, as if it were your own home. As Huff Post reports, according to Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert, even if the rules of the home are not in line with your own habits, you need to “honor their home and the items in it. Be considerate with cleanup expectations, going above and beyond. Decide to leave the surroundings better than you found them, if possible.” This means you should keep your space clean, do the dishes, take out the trash and be quiet if your host requests quite hours. Act as if you are staying with a friend, not a stranger.
At the end of the day, the number one tool to making the most of your Airbnb stay is communication. Take time to speak to your host before you arrive so you can feel out their personality, their preferences and their house rules. According to a piece in Travel and Leisure, “the secret to a successful Airbnb stay lies in effective communication. Exchange plenty of messages ahead of time, feel out your host and let them feel you out as well. You may uncover some truths about them (or their home) that send up a red flag, and in doing so, avoid nasty surprises when you’re on vacation.”