My husband and I have been traveling for a while now, and we love staying in rental homes whenever we can. There’s usually more space, more privacy and you can get a lot more for your money, if you find the right place. Also, staying in someone’s home versus a hotel lets you experience the culture of that location even more.
What is Airbnb?
Airbnb is essentially a service where people can rent out their homes, or a room in their home, to others. They have hosts in over 100,000 cities, and the best part is there’s a place for every budget. Mexico, in particular, is a relatively inexpensive place to travel and one of the reasons we can visit so much. 😊
If you’re brand new to Airbnb and the world of renting vacation homes, I understand that it can be intimidating to get started. I, personally, was hesitant to try it at first because it sounded weird to stay in a stranger’s home. However, I’m glad I got past my initial concerns and gave it a try because now, I prefer staying in an Airbnb over a standard hotel anytime.
Here’s a peek at a place we rented in a community called Las Gaviotas, just outside of Rosarito Beach, Mexico:
Link to Property: www.airbnb.com/rosarito
There’s other apps you can use to rent vacation homes, but I’m specifically going to cover Airbnb in this post because that’s what I’ve personally used the most. (And nope! I’m not working with them or getting paid for this lol. I’m just an avid Airbnb user and genuine fan.)
Here are some of the places I’ve used Airbnb to book some incredible homes:
- Ibiza, Spain
- Big Bear Lake, California
- Maui, Hawaii
- Oaxaca City, Mexico
- Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico
- Rosarito, Mexico
- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
- San Diego, California
And ALL of my experiences have been good! Every single one of them either met or exceeded my expectations, and part of that is because I make sure to stick to a few rules when looking for a place.
Five Tips for Booking the Perfect Airbnb
1. Know What You Want
Before you even open the app, make a quick mental note (or an actual list), of the things that are important to you for your trip. Think of any deal breakers that will help you filter out the homes that don’t meet your criteria.
For example, when we travel to Mexico, parking on the premises is preferred for us. It can be hard to find street parking in busy parts of Mexico, and we’ve learned that it makes for a much smoother trip if we can just park on the property.
When you’re ready to start your search, open the app and enter where you’re going in the location bar at the top. It will then ask you to enter the dates for your trip and how many people are going.
The next screen is where you can set your filters. There’s different drop down menus along the top that you can use to check off what’s important to you. (See screenshots below.)
The first decision to make is if you want to rent an entire home or just a room. Next, consider things like air conditioning, good WiFi, free parking or anything else that’s a must for you during your stay.
Once you’re done setting the filters, it’s time to check out the available homes!
2. Check the Rating and Reviews
Probably the most important step in ensuring you book the right place, is making sure you check the rating and read the reviews. This is the area where I’m pretty tough. However, a huge reason why I think all of our experiences have been good is because I always stick to these when booking a place.
My Ratings Rules:
4.9 Score (or higher) – I look for a rating of 4.9 stars or higher. Yes! You read that right. I’m tough when it comes to ratings. However, this helps weed out the questionable properties right away and saves me time.
You can check this by simply looking at the rating score that’s listed under the home, next to the red star on the initial search page. (Above are two examples of properties with a 4.9 or higher.)
If it doesn’t have that score, I don’t even look at it. If I have trouble finding anything I like at a 4.9 or higher, then I’ll start to look at homes with a 4.8+ and so on. (This hasn’t happened much though! Typically, I’ve been able to find homes with a rating of 4.9 or higher.)
Must Have Ratings (No Brand New Homes/Hosts) – This is a rule I’ve been following that’s worked well for us. Now, that’s not to say you can’t have a great experience or find an amazing host with zero ratings. I just don’t like taking any chances. If a listing doesn’t have any reviews at all, I don’t even look at it.
Below are examples of two listings. The number next to the star is the overall rating. (This is what I like to be a 4.9 or higher.) The number next to it, in parenthesis, is the number of reviews. This is where you can quickly tell if it’s a new property or not.
*Note: a high rating with a high number of reviews is a really good sign, like the property on the left, for example.
My Reviews Rules:
Once I’ve found a home that meets the ratings requirement, I still read through the reviews. I don’t read every single one, but I do read through quite a few. I’ve actually learned some really helpful information through the reviews before, that ultimately influenced our decision on the place.
Definitely don’t skip this part and take the extra few minutes to read some. I promise you, the reviews can make or break a place!
3. Location, Location, Location
It’s always a good idea to use the map tool within the app to make sure the property is exactly where you think it is. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been searching a specific city, find a property I like that meets the ratings rules and then, I check the map only to find out that the listing is a good distance from the actual area I want to be in.
Always double-check the location before you book.
You can do your search directly from the map page, or you can check the location of the property on the map in the actual listing. (See below.)
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Message the Host
If you have any questions about a property, don’t hesitate to ask! You can always reach out to the host before booking. I know of some people that like to reach out regardless, just to see what kind of vibe they get from the response.
Personally, I don’t message a host unless I have a specific question that isn’t answered in the listing and I haven’t had any issues. However, if you feel better reaching out, go for it! That’s what the message tool is there for.
5. What To Watch For | Red Flags
Here are a few general things to watch out for when booking on Airbnb:
Watch out for hosts that only want you to pay outside of the app. Sometimes, you can save money by doing this, but if a host will ONLY take payment outside of the app and is pushy about it, that’s not a good sign.
Another thing to watch out for is overly edited photos. Sometimes the photos don’t always match what you get in person. A good way to make sure this doesn’t happen is by checking the reviews. People will make it known if a listing’s photos aren’t accurate.
As I mentioned before, be cautious about places with no reviews. These are brand new and there’s just no history to go off of, which makes them a slightly riskier option.
Overall, if you have any doubts about a place, trust your gut and continue your search.
As an experienced Airbnb traveler, I wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve learned so that you too, can book the perfect home. If you have any questions for me, please feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer!
<3 Meghan | Electric Mommy