Olivia Briggs, SmarterTravel.com | November 3, 2015
Vacation rentals, like those found on Airbnb, are a rising trend in the travel industry mainly because they offer better amenities and more space than a typical hotel room, but they also don’t need to adhere to the same standards that hotels do. Read the reviews from previous guests before booking, even if this is your dream vacation home. If repeat guests encounter the same issues, chances are you will too. Newer listings usually don’t have reviews, so you’ll have to rely on the host’s information.
Details are Important
Use the filters available to narrow down search results to fit your criteria. Airbnb offers private homes, shared homes, private rooms and even shared rooms–pay special attention to avoid any surprises when you check in. It could ruin your trip to find out the private condo you expected is actually shared with other people. Make sure you check how many beds and bedrooms are in each vacation rental. While there may be couches, or a basement with daybeds for large groups, there may not be enough bedrooms for everyone. Details are critical but easy to overlook when searching Airbnb.
There are many varying factors that come into play when renting a home–ask a lot of questions to make sure you choose the best accommodation. Create a list of what’s important for your vacation rental such as layout, a backyard, surrounding area, distance of neighbors or amenities. Ask the host about all of them–even if they’re included in the listing, it’s better to confirm.
Contact the Vacation Rental Host
Reach out to the host to introduce yourself and ask your questions. Email is a good place to start, but talking on the phone will give you a real idea of who they are and what the property is like. You can also connect on social media via Airbnb to give you added reassurance. Ask all questions openly and thoroughly–again, verify what the vacation rental listing says, even if you think you don’t have to.
Beware of Extra Fees
Airbnb charges a fee of 6-12 percent dependent on length of stay and number of guests–this fee is only refunded if the host cancels on you, not if you cancel. Value Added Tax (VAT) is included in the service fee in EU countries as well as some non-EU countries, and can change with any changes you make to the reservation. Check what currency your host accepts because Airbnb charges a 3 percent conversion fee if your country’s currency is different from the host’s. Most hosts charge a cleaning fee that can add over $100 to your reservation, whether you stay for one weekend or one month. Double check the occupancy of the house and that it corresponds to the size of your group, as most hosts charge for extra people. Ask your host about hotel tax (also known as occupancy tax, sales tax or tourist tax), too–in some cities it’s included in the rate and in others it’s paid directly to the host.
Read the Fine Print
For most Airbnbs, you have to pay a security deposit upon booking, meaning even if you cancel you may not get that money back. Hosts set individual cancellation and modification policies, varying in strictness from a full refund to a 50 percent charge even for cancelling a week ahead of time. You will be refunded for the cleaning fee, but not the service fee, unless the host cancels on you. Be sure to read the fine print and calculate total costs before booking or cancelling your vacation rental.
Check the Photos
It’s generally a safer bet to reserve a vacation rental that has photos posted, but keep in mind that these photos showcase the place looking its’ best. The home may look slightly different when you arrive.
Remember that you are staying in someone’s home. You will not have the same luxuries of staying in a hotel, such as room service and turndown service. Thoroughly read through your vacation rental rules and regulations beforehand to avoid any unpleasantries or issues.
More from SmarterTravel:
Olivia Briggs loves staying in Airbnbs when she travels. Follow her on Twitter @Olileibri