If you’re anything like how I was before my first Airbnb stay, at this moment you are anxious and have a ton 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 your taxi, Uber, or tuk-tuk that you took to get there. You may have thoughts similar to the ones I had:

What if the place 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 nut job? What if they’re just plain non-responsive? What if the key doesn’t work?

Yes, I do have an active imagination.

Before my week in Puerto Rico in 2015, I’d heard of Airbnb but didn’t even know what it stood for (Air Bed n’ Breakfast, FYI) or how it really 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 world-renowned, multi-time 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)

Planning 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.

Also, start off on the right foot with a $40 discount when you sign up, on me.

Get in contact with your host.

Establish a relationship. Email or text them some essential questions 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 nut job 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.

The @Airbnb survival tips you need to know before you book. Click To Tweet

Have a Plan B.

Things happen… And ridiculous 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 instructed you to, and now:

What to bring to an Airbnb:

You’ll find this out in your research and by reading the Airbnb home description, and with contact with the Airbnb owner. I’ve never been required to bring anything to my Airbnb, but in the Airbnb description, it will tell you if the host provides anything you may need.

If it doesn’t explicitly say so, or if the listing says they absolutely do not provide toiletries, I would expect to buy: shampoo, conditioner, soaps, toilet paper, food, etc.

Outside of the daily items, some smart things to bring to your Airbnb could include a carbon monoxide monitor, earplugs, and an alarm door stop.

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. Check for any deal breakers like bed bugs, stray dogs, or oddly big teddy bears with camera-eyes. The usual. I’m just joking, all of those things are extremely rare.

But damaged locks or windows, internet or power outages, or an inaccurate Airbnb listing are much more possible, so do a thorough walkthrough.

If all is well:

Greet your host warmly if they’re there. You’re a guest in their home/rental property. If they aren’t there, send them a message anyway to keep them updated.

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 don’t be afraid to 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:

First time at an Airbnb? I gotchu. After 20+ stays, here are my must-know essentials, especially for female solo travelers. Click To Tweet

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.

Always keep your keys in a zipped travel pouch, your wallet, etc. somewhere they won’t get lost or fall out. My favorite trick: the Zoey 101 key-on-necklace. Classic.

You do not want to be waking your AirBnb host up ringing the doorbell after a night of drinking because you couldn’t find them at Senor Frogs.

Also, cha-ching—$100 to replace their locks!

Keep travel locks on your bags.

I’m not a distrustful person, I just know Murphey’s Law way too well. I always keep suitcase locks on any bags I leave in an AirBnb—my backpacks, my suitcase, my travel journal (no peeking!) just to deter wandering hands.

Head here for some more general safety tips to keep you safe on your travels.


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Aw, your trip is over. You’ve spent way too much money, you’re tired, and you’ve got 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.  I don’t care if you paid a cleaning fee, at least 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. Did you really have an exceptional stay? I’ve heard of gracious guests leaving a nice card or even a bottle of wine for their hosts.

That’s it!

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!


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? Let’s get talking in the comments.

So you’ve never stayed at an AirBnB before? Well neither had I until recently! I was nervous about staying in a stranger’s house in a foreign country at first; but I survived! And hopefully this guide will help you survive your first AirBnB experience too. #Airbnb #AirBnbTips

The beginners survival guide to using Airbnb. Everything you need to know! #airbnb #airbnbsafety #airbnbtips #traveltips

You've finally decided to try an AirBnB for your next trip. Not sure what to expect? I think I can help, with this article on some essential  AirBnB tips! #AirBnb #AirbnbTips #Travel

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78 thoughts on “AirBnb Tips for Guests: Survival Tips You Need to Know Before You Book!

  1. Sue Davies

    Helpful post. I have been thinking about AirBnB but have not yet taken the plunge. I have been concerned about safety and things not living up to the what was promise. Having a plan B in place ahead of time is a great idea. This is good advice.

  2. Mona

    This definitely helped quell some fears. I never thought of bringing a carbon monoxide detector though, so that was really interesting and probably a good thing to bring!

  3. Carly

    I’m so excited to stay in my first Airbnb this summer – it’s in a city where I used to live, so I already know what to expect of typical apartments and I know exactly how I want to fill every day – but it’s going to be so nice to come home to a little bit of privacy every night!

  4. Danielle

    I’ve used Airbnb quite a few times and while I’ve never had a horror story, not all of my experiences have been great either. These are all wonderful tips! One thing I would add, though, is travelers should take steps to make sure their Airbnb stay is supporting a local and not hurting housing in the city. Some cities like Berlin have laws limiting tourists’ use of Airbnb and in other cities like Barcelona, landlords buy out apartments to rent for high prices to tourists on Airbnb which drives out local residents. I always check not just the reviews for the specific listing I want to book, but also the host’s full profile. If I see one guy has like 30 different listings, that’s a red flag and I’ll look for another host.

  5. Michelle

    Something else to bring along: tools to unhinge a door in case you get locked inside the bedroom. Yup, that happened on our very first AirBNB stay! Traumatic!

  6. Jess

    We’ve had good luck with AirBnB so far…but we try to predict issues before we even arrive in a country, and bail if the communication is poor, or there are a lot of red flags. By poor communication, I don’t mean English-is-not-my-first-language issues – more issues with host-doesn’t-respond-for-two-weeks-then-doesn’t-actually-answer-the-question sorts of issues. Our general thought is that if a host can’t be bothered to respond in a timely fashion and give a reasonably detailed answer to any questions, we probably won’t be happy with the accommodations in the end.

  7. Joy Sheehan

    I LOVE that door stop idea! Totally didn’t think of that and now I gotta go buy one lol. I am obsessed with cute and unique airbnbs though I’ve only stayed in a few of them. I brought my mom to one for her first time in Miami before our cruise and she loved the concept! Great post with lots of helpful tips for newbs!

  8. Chasa Fulkerson

    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!

  9. Ashley

    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!

  10. Sky

    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!

  11. Taís

    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!

  12. Sarah

    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!

  13. Ella

    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!

  14. Hannah Logan

    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!

  15. Christine

    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.

  16. Anita

    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.

    1. Gabby

      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!

  17. Rirhandzu

    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.

  18. Denise

    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!

  19. Maddy

    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!

    1. Gabby

      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 😉

  20. Anne

    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.

    1. Gabby

      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!

  21. Christina

    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 🙂

  22. Nina

    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.

    1. Gabby

      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 🙂

  23. Nellwyn

    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!

  24. Jess

    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! 🙂

  25. Ulli

    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 🙂

  26. Colby

    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.

    1. Gabby

      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 🙁

    1. Gabby

      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!

  27. Sarah

    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.:(

  28. Mel

    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!

  29. lily kate

    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

  30. Joanna

    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.

  31. Anastasia Sofia

    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!

  32. Gina

    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!

  33. Karen

    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. 🙂

  34. Eniko Krix

    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.

  35. Liz

    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!!!

  36. virginie

    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.

  37. Brenda

    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!

  38. Jaimee Nicole

    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!

  39. Joe

    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 🙂

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