Staying at an AirBnb for the First Time: A Survival Guide

AirBnb, Buildings, Budget Travel | Packs Light

So, you wanna stay at an AirBnb?

Of course, that’s why you’re here. If you’re anything like I was, you’re anxious and have tons of questions. But if you’re a seasoned traveler, or just really brave, perhaps you’re diving in head first!
And that’s good—though I promise you at some point you will be nervous.

Likely as you climb out of that taxi, Uber, or tuk-tuk that you took to get there. You may have thoughts similar to the ones I had:

What if the space is absolutely nothing like advertised? What if I have to find another place to stay last minute? What if the place gets broken into? Or worse, the AirBnb owner is a psycho? What if they’re just plain non-responsive? What if the key doesn’t work? What if I open the door and there’s a pack of stray dogs in there??

Not joking, all of these thoughts ran through my head, LOL.

Before my Puerto Rico trip last week I’d heard of AirBnb of course, but I didn’t know what it stood for (Air Bed n’ Breakfast, FYI) or really how it worked. As a newbie I had a lot of worries, and had heard enough good and bad reviews to be perfectly boggled.

But now, as a proud AirBnb veteran, I’m ready to share with you my tips on how to survive your first AirBnb experience (hint: it’s not as hard as it seems)!

Before your trip:

Do your research. Duh. Read the reviews on AirBnb, they’re usually pretty spot on! Also make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. If it’s your first time staying at an AirBnb make sure you’ll be comfortable, whether that means choosing an AirBnb where the host still lives there, where you’ll be alone, or one that’s in a busy part of the city!

Get in contact with your host. Establish a relationship! Email or text them before you even go to the AirBnb. Remember, they’re humans too. They’re probably just as cautious as you are, thinking you’re a psycho too!

This is also a good time to ask any clarifying questions you had about your stay. Is there a microwave? A laundry room? Oh, by “has laundry area”, she meant she has a bucket outside you can wash your clothes in? Those little details are definitely the things you should find out before you arrive!

Have a Plan B. Things happen. And crazy things happen when you travel! It’s always good to have the contact of a friend in the area, or have another accommodation ready in case things go awry.

So now you have it all planned out! You’ve talked to your host, your check-in and check-out times are agreed upon, and they agreed to put extra towels in the bathroom (God bless). You’re set! You get the key out of the mailbox like they told you too, and now:

When you arrive:

Scope it out. This is easy, because the place will either be a cesspool that looks absolutely nothing like the pictures and you’ll run, or it’ll be even better than you imagined and you’ll heave a huge sigh of relief. May the odds be ever in your favor.

If all is well, greet your host warmly if they’re there. You’re a guest in their home/rental property! Also, check and make sure everything that was listed in the AirBnb site is all there and you’re getting what you paid for.

If all is… not well, evasive maneuvers! Call up your Plan B as you race to catch your taxi before he drives off. Alright, well, maybe not that dramatic. If you’re unsatisfied and can talk to your host, do so. If it’s already past the point of no return, refer to previously stated evasive maneuvers and contact AirBnb. Get your money back, and save the next traveler the hassle!

If you’re at this point you’ve chosen the scenario where all is well. Fantastic! With an estimated 500,000 AirBnb stays every night of the year, you can rest assured yours is likely to go very smoothly. Now that you’re there:

During your stay:

Keep communication up. If you’re still a Nervous Nelly, don’t be afraid to ask small questions to your AirBnb host. They’re (likely) locals, and can give you advice about the area—and you may even become good friends with them. It’ awesome when that happens!

Always keep your keys with you. Don’t let Murphey’s Law get the best of your first AirBnb stay! Always keep your keys in a zipped pouch, your wallet, your bra, etc. something where they won’t get lost or fall out.

You do not want to be waking your AirBnb host up at 3am after an hour of ringing the door bell, because you just came back from Senor Frogs and don’t know where the key went. Also, cha-ching $100 to replace those locks!

Keep a travel lock on your bags. Okay, fine maybe I’m the Nervous Nelly. I’m not a distrustful person, I just know Murphey and his laws wayyy too well. So I always keep suitcase locks on any bags I leave in an AirBnb: my backpacks, my suitcase, my travel diary (no peeking!). Just to deter curious hands. Head here for some more general safety tips to keep you safe on your travels!

Aw, your trip is over! You’ve spent way too much money, you’re tired, and you’ve gotten the text saying your dog has torn up your mom’s couch pillow one too many times. It’s time to go! So:

When you leave:

Clean up. Come on, don’t be that guy. Yes, you know what guy I’m talking about. I don’t care if you paid a cleaning fee, atleast collect all your beer cans and snack bags into the trash and make it look relatively clean. Always be respectful.

Leave an honest review on AirBnb. Help the next traveler, again, we’re all one family! Was it exactly  as it was described? Was it is even better? Get yourself some good karma and leave a quick review.

That’s it!

And yes, on my first AirBnb stay I had a great stay with Cindy, a host who was very communicative and helpful. Almost perfect in all ways!

Do you hear AirBnb horror stories? Of course. Do you hear surfing horror stories? Of course. Do people still surf? Of course. Should you still give AirBnB a try? You tell me! 😉 

Also, from one traveler to another, here’s $30USD off of your first AirBnB stay, on me!

$40 OFF AirBnb Coupon Code

Free monies, take me!

Claim $40USD off of your first AirBnb stay when you sign up.

How was your first AirBnb experience? Was it a home run, or a hit and run? And if you haven’t stayed at an AirBnb yet, what reservations do you have? I would love to chat!
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64 Discussion to this post

  1. AirBnBs are the best! When I’m travelling with a friend or with family, I always stay in one! It’s a great way to get more involved in the culture!

  2. sarah says:

    Gabby! Love this. All very good points for Airbnb first-timers 🙂

  3. Joe says:

    Some very good tips there. Not done AirBnB yet, but have considered it and it’s all common sense really – just go in prepared and it’s unlikely that the worst will happen. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. My boyfriend and I are really interested in trying AirBnB sometime this year, and this was super helpful!
    I love your “have a plan B/evasive maneuver” suggestion. 😉
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Brenda says:

    I loved airbnb! I must admit that first time I did it I felt somehow like you, but I was lucky enough to find an amazing family that changed my whole perspective of what Airbnb was!
    And your host was amazing with that wine treat!

  6. virginie says:

    Nice to read your experience as a young traveller (says the old lady 😉 !) Though we had little mishaps with some Air Bnb places, I am a frequent user and still would recommend it.

  7. I agree with that ‘psycho’! Great tips and yes people shouldn’t deliberately leave a place dirty because they are paying for cleaning service.

  8. I agree with that ‘psycho’ thing! Great tips and yes people shouldn’t deliberately leave a place dirty because they are paying for cleaning service.

  9. Liz says:

    I’m using airbnb for the first time in a few months (with 8 of my friends so I’m mostly nervous about them making a mess), so thanks for the tips!!!

  10. I have never used Airbnb before. I have been quite skeptical about it, maybe soon when I travel solo 🙂

    Some really nice tips there!

  11. Rosi C. says:

    good to know. I plan to use it when I go to france in the near future. good tips 🙂

  12. Eniko Krix says:

    I did couchsurfing and home exchanges many times so I was eager to see what’s AirBnB is like. I had my first AirBnB with my boyfriend in Brighton and it was a success. The room was as shown on pictures, the host was nice, everything went smoothly. It was a great value for out money.
    My parents are coming to London soon and they will probably stay at an AirBnB based on recommendation.

  13. I love Airbnb myself and use it so much when I travel. It’s a great way to meet people as my first Airbnb was staying with a Parisian native in her apartment. We had a great time together, which surprised us both. 🙂

  14. Gina says:

    This is totally true! Your experience on AirBnb is sooooo much better when you establish a relationship with the host. I always check the reviews so I’d be sure to find a great host! Locals always know best!

  15. This is great advice. I’ve four different AirBnBs booked within the next month, and I’m super excited to try it out! I think I’m most scared about losing the keys, and not having a reception desk to get some more. I’ve lost so many hostel keys, I can’t even remember!

  16. Jenn Peters says:

    I’ve been wanting to try AirBnB for awhile. So these tips are super helpful for a newbie 🙂 Sharing!

  17. Frankie says:

    Great tips and advice 🙂

  18. Joanna says:

    I am going to use AirBNB for the first time in a few months and I am a bit nervous. I chose it because it was considerably cheaper than a hotel in that particular place but I looked careful at the reviews and the host has a lot of them and they are all positive. So hopefully it will be ok.

  19. I loved reading this article because I learned a few good tips like putting a lock on my stuff (which I never do) and having a plan B!

  20. lily kate says:

    First of all, your bio sounds exactly like me! Fellow maths geek and jack of all trades who can’t decide which to stick with so does them all. 😛
    I’ve also been looking into AirBnb loads for my upcoming travels so this is really helpful. It seems like such a fun way to experience a new place like a local and a really friendly option!
    lily x

  21. I love AirBNB so much! I’ve done maybe four trips with them. I always go by instincts though. If pictures of a place gives me a good feeling, I’ll book it. If it gives me the heebie-jeebies it’s a definite avoid. Thanks for the super informative post, Gabby!

  22. I love Air Bnb and have had nothing but good stays!This is a great guide for those who have never done it before and I could’ve done with this guide before I did! Great tips!

  23. Good guide, i did AirBnb as a host for a couple of years and have to say had mostly nice clients. However when it comes to take time to write a review, some of them never submitted it, despite being happy with everything.:(

  24. Jenni says:

    Thanks for the tips I keep meaning to try it but chicken out and go to hotels but hearing all the positive stories im gonna try it out soon

    • Gabby says:

      Jenni, you definitely should! There are ways to make sure you get a safe, kind host as I’ve explained in this post! Communication is key 🙂 Some may be willing to get coffee or something beforehand to make you feel better! Its a great money saver, I hope you do try it and it goes well!

  25. Colby says:

    Usually when I use Airbnb I rent the entire place, but I’m still always so nervous that there are cameras spying on me or someone is going to come in while I’m out and about lol. But, I LOVE Airbnb and will definitely continue using it.

    • Gabby says:

      I always stay in AirBnb’s that have women as hosts because that gives me the chills too! Safety first. Unfortunately I dont think I’d ever stay with a guy AirBnb host even if I rented out the whole house, for those reasons 🙁

  26. There are some really great tips here. I think its great to establish a relationship with your host…things always work better that way. and its more fun 🙂

  27. Ulli says:

    Great post! Really… I think I will publish something similar soon in my native language. I’m Polish and we are mostly not a type of travellers, and almost nobody here knows airbnb.
    I am not a beginner but if I decide to stay there while travelling solo I would read your post carefully again 🙂

  28. Natasha says:

    Great tips! I love, love Airbnb. There are so many great properties out there and often times they’re a lot better than hotels! 🙂

  29. Jess says:

    This is such an informative post and also made me laugh out loud a few times (literally). Great job and I’m glad your first time wasn’t terrifying. I’ve been considering this for a while but just haven’t taken the plunge yet! Sharing this post with my friends! 🙂

  30. Nellwyn says:

    Great tips! I’ve been an Airbnb host in the past and my experience has been really positive, but if I could add one piece of advise to travellers it’s this: Read the ENTIRE listing thoroughly. Reviews are good to read as well, but the listing is like your contract with the host and establishes what they’re offering and what you can expect. That way you won’t be disappointed when you arrive. If the listing isn’t detailed enough ask the host all the questions you want before you book.

    Most good Airbnb hosts will put a lot of detail in their listing so make sure you read it ALL so you know exactly what you’re paying for before you book.

    Happy travelling!

  31. Nina says:

    This is really good guide. As from hosts view, i noticed some clients really lack in communication whic for me as a ahost is important. Specially the communication about arrival time. Once some of my clients didn’t bother me to inform me about delay, since they decided to go for lunch and a bit of sightseeing before check in, so i waited them in my apartment from 2 pm to 8 pm.

    • Gabby says:

      I can imagine that is SO frustrating! The same of some hosts as well, I’ve heard horror stories about hosts canceling the day-of, or not replying the planned day of arrival! How crazy! Communication is definitely a #1 priority for both parties 🙂

  32. Christina says:

    I have not yet ventured into the AirBnB world but the more positive feedback I hear about it, the more I am intrigued. Thanks for the tips…I am already nervous just at the thought that I am even considering the idea 🙂

  33. Anne says:

    I honestly looooove AirBnB. It saved me so much money in the last year alone! I’m a bit of a last minute organizer and often hotels are just fully booked or crazy expensive. AirBnb has so many great deals, and because it isn’t as big yet, no one seems to think of booking there! Great tips in this post, will keep some of them in mind when I book my next stay.

    • Gabby says:

      Haha totally agree! And really, to pay the same price (or less!) and get an entire apartment with a kitchen and TV and wifi etc, its practically invaluable to me!! Thanks for reading!

  34. Kari says:

    Great tips, you should always have a Plan B but so far Ive had great luck with airbnb 🙂

  35. Erica says:

    Great post. I have wanted to try Airbnb but have chickened out! Thank you for the tops and I will try it out on my next adventure

  36. Maddy says:

    I haven’t used AirBnB for most of the reasons your addressed- I’m so glad you wrote this post because it’s really given me some confidence to use them!

    Would you say it’s better to use AirBnB if there is a few people?

    I’m going to face my fear head on and book a start this year!

    • Gabby says:

      I think it would make you feel better to book with a group your first time, yes! Especially if you do it in a safe area/part of town 🙂 I stayed in an AirBnb in Sweden with 5 complete strangers, and had a great time so maybe meeting up with fellow travelers could be cool too! So many possibilities! I hope you have a great first experience! Feel free to use my coupon code when you do 😉

  37. Mary says:

    Great tips! I have never had a bad experience with AirBnb, but I definitely feel a bit nervous before every trip.

  38. Denise says:

    Awesome, great tips! I have been wanting to book through Airbnb, but I am a little nervous about it. Although, i realize that’s just cause it’s something new, and so these tips are great!

    I am looking to go through Airbnb when I plan my trip to Costa Rica, so we’ll see!

  39. Rirhandzu says:

    I started using AirBnB last year, and I will say that the odds have been in my favour. I agree with all your pointers, one still has to be cautious even with a trusted service.

  40. Anita says:

    Thanks for the great tips. Unfortunately my first and only experience with AirBnB was not positive and I discontinued using their services. Applying plan B might be very complicated or maybe not possible in busy places.

    • Gabby says:

      If you plan ahead far enough you can always have a plan B, whether it be a friend, hotel, or other hostel 😉 That’s the message, with AirBnb it’s important to plan ahead!

  41. Christine says:

    We’ve only done it the once; I needed an apartment in Amsterdam for a week. It was nice enough, landlady kept coming over every night, it wasn’t what I was expecting that way… I was thinking more hotel manager type relationship, so that put me off a little. Lol I keep hearing stories about ppl being canceled at the last minute and it kinda scares me a little, never even thought of having a plan b.

  42. Yamuna says:

    Great tips! My first AirBnB experience was in Valencia, Spain, and then in Athens, and both were (thankfully) very pleasant experiences 🙂

  43. great tips! I was always a bit wary of staying in an Airbnb (basically because I was worried the owner might be crazy) but I tried it for the first time in the Philippines last year and it was awesome! Definitely something I can see myself using more often. I love hostels but sometimes you just need a break!

  44. Ella says:

    Love this post! I’m going to use my first AirBnB in a month and I’m really excited but also a bit nervous. This post is definitely helpful and I’ll make sure to implement many of them. Thanks!

  45. Sarah says:

    Haha, those thoughts racing through your head! We’re long-time airbnb users and fortunately are yet to have a notably bad experience. We have had some issues finding apartments though as we’ve often not been given info that’s specific enough – getting the right info up front is really important. A great read!

  46. Taís says:

    Never tried Airbnb before, but it is something I want to give it a go soon, I usually couchsurfing, which is a really nice way of accommodation and get to know locals.. but I will deffo check Airbnb on one of my travels!

  47. Sky says:

    This guide is fantastic. I haven’t stayed in an Airbnb yet but I plan on it when I road trip the States this summer. I am a Nervous Nelly just like you so I appreciate all of the points you addressed in this!

  48. Leigh says:

    Good tips – reviews are king!

  49. Cali says:

    I look at Airbnb’s all the time and have yet to book one. Thank you for a helpful guide that is starting to put my mind at ease. Next step, book that Airbnb!

  50. Jamie says:

    I have yet to try Airbnb. This helps make it seem a little less scary, thank you. I’ll share this on Photo Jeepers FB page.

  51. Ashley says:

    Oh, how I WISH I had read something like this before my first AirBNB experience! I have lots of them booked when I visit Ireland this Spring and it’ll be the first time I’ll be staying with the hosts being present. Thank you for these tips!

  52. C-Ludik says:

    These tips are super helpful for a newbie :-). I have never used Airbnb before. I have been quite skeptical about it, but maybe soon when I travel again.

  53. Good post! I have been looking into staying at an Airbnb for an upcoming trip this summer. My husband is a little hesitant though. I’m ready though! I also didn’t know what Airbnb stood for!

  54. Erica says:

    Great tips! We love to use Airbnb while we travel! We have always had great experiences!

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