A while back I showed you a dozen ways you can save even more money on Airbnb accommodations and it was a hit! I love it when others get excited about awesome frugal hacks like I do.
Well, I realized that in that long post full of money-saving tips and tricks I didn’t walk you through the step-by-step of searching for or booking an Airbnb rental.
For millennials who have grown up with Airbnb in the past 8 years of its existence, this is a no-brainer, but for the… ahem… more experienced folks among us, I figured a tutorial would be helpful. After all, it’s a little bit more involved than just calling up and making a reservation at the Super 8.
That’s a good thing though, because “more involved” means more options and more opportunities for saving and getting to stay at awesome unique places across the globe!
Here’s what you need to know to find a great place on Airbnb:
1- Set up an Airbnb account
Setting up an account is simple. In fact, if you’re new to Airbnb you will even get a $40 off coupon saved to your account that will be applied to your first booking (and it doesn’t expire!).
You can connect through your Facebook account or just use your email address and a password. You’ll be able to choose a profile picture and personalize your account a bit.
2- Gather your trip details
Before you start browsing, it’s helpful to get all of the pertinent information together for your upcoming trip (or you might just be tempted to run off to a cute beach house in Maui).
- What nights are you planning to stay?
- How many guests will there be?
- Will there be pets?
- What amenities are you looking for? (WiFi, pool, kitchen, etc)
- How open are you as far as location goes (will you have transportation or do you want to stay close to the action)?
- How large of a space do you want? Just a room in a house or the entire place to yourself?
3- Start by casting a broad net
If your trip dates aren’t solidified, don’t put them in just yet. This will give you a wider range of possibilities that may influence your travel dates.
As a minimum, you’ll want a location and number of people to do your search, as well as any other “must haves.”
You can enter this information by searching for a location in the search bar at the top of the screen. Once you have chosen the location, you will see a calendar drop down to choose travel dates. You can skip this and just hit search if your dates have some flexibility.
One thing to note when searching without dates is that the prices for some stays change depending on the day of the week or travel season. If you are searching without dates, the price shown is the base price for that location. When you’re in a specific listing, you can hover over the calendar to see the price on specific dates.
Also, some places charge for additional people. If you haven’t entered the number of people, your price may change.
4- Add in details
With your broad search you’ll get a wide array of options. At this point I start by narrowing down the price range to what I have budgeted.
You can do this by clicking the “price range” tab located under the search bar (see the picture below) and then sliding the top end of the range down to your budgeted range.
You will also want to narrow down your search results by the type of space: entire home, private room, or shared room. If you’re traveling with a larger group (which I usually am), you don’t have to worry about this because there aren’t usually any private rooms for a group of 6+! A group of our size pretty much requires an entire home.
What other “nice-to-have” amenities do you want to add in? Now is the time to add those in to help narrow down your options.
Click “more filters” at the top to give you the choice of amenities, neighborhoods, beds, and more.
5- Deciding factors
If you have entered the exact dates and number of guests, all of the potential additional costs will show up on the right-hand side of the page under the calendar.
If you don’t have the dates put in, you can hover over the calendar to see the prices on different nights.
You can see under “prices” on the listing if there are charges for additional guests, if there is a cleaning fee, or if there is a deposit. Also, be aware that some places require a minimum stay of a certain number of nights.
Taking the cleaning fee (if there is one) into consideration, as well as the cost for additional guests will help you compare prices and make your final selection.
6- Contact the host with any questions or concerns
Airbnb makes it super simple to contact the host before booking (or after) to ask any questions. Usually between the listings, the photos, and the reviews, you can get a pretty good idea of what to expect, but if you have any questions you can ask before you book to make sure the place is right for you.
For example, you might want to contact the host to ask about the specific kitchen appliances and cookware available so you’ll know what to bring.
Listings that have a lightning bolt next to the price can be booked immediately without approval from the host. Other listings require you to request to book, which allows the host a chance to double check that the place will still be available for you on those dates.
The Airbnb community is very friendly and personable, so it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to the host in a short note when you request a booking. In my experience, the hosts are quick to get back to you.
Use the map to zoom in or out of an area, which will give you more or fewer results.
Move the price slider to the maximum amount you would want to pay so you don’t have to even look at the listings that are out of your price range.
You can see my whole list of money-saving Airbnb tips here.
Whether you’re ready to book now or you’re just considering the possibility in the future, go ahead and grab the $40 coupon if you’re new to Airbnb. It doesn’t expire, so it will just wait around in your account until you’re ready to book!
Airbnb is not just for travelers
Today I’m focusing on how to save money by booking an Airbnb rental, but I should also mention that if you’re looking to earn some extra money and you have some extra space at home (or you’ll be out of town), you can create a listing and rent out your space to earn some extra cash.
Whether you just have a spare bedroom, a “mother-in-law” unit, or an entire house, you can set up a listing and start hosting. Think outside of the box here, too. How about renting your home only occasionally when you’re out of town? That would be a nice way to help pay for whatever trip or vacation you’ll be taking!
In May I’ll be sharing how you can rent your space with Airbnb and some tips for getting started, but if you’re raring to go, you can at least go set up your profile set up (and get a $40 discount added to your account while it’s available. You can use it whenever you want. It won’t even expire!).
Now you’re ready!
Now that you’re an expert at searching and booking, check out my post of 12 ways to save even more with Airbnb. Then you can get started booking for your upcoming summer vacation or holiday travel!
I am against Air B&B in principle. They don’t pay local taxes, are not health inspected, deplete local lodgings for residents, destroy family businesses, and are actually more expensive than a lot of other places.
My hint for saving money is to book directly with the place you want. They save money and can pass the Air B,&B fees directly on to you. Just ask.
I also recommend looking into *real* B&Bs. They are often much better than the Air B&B locations. Their hosts cook you breakfast, know the area well and can provide concierge services, and are often cheaper than Air B&Bs.
I would never stay at an Air B&B. Give me the *real* thing every time.
I agree 100% with the above comments. In addition to the comments delineated by the above reviewer, many times the photos do not reflect reality, and what started out as an eagerly anticipated vacation can often turn into a nightmare. There was an article recently about a man who died when the tire swing broke, and the tree limb hit him in the head.
No thank you. I like my lodgings like I like my Coca Cola – the real thing.
GG Keith says
Thank you for your post. You are spot on. AirBnB doesn’t inspect the hosts only when there is a problem. Bed and Breakfasts must comply with local, state and federal laws or they lose their licenses. Personally, I would be scared to enter someones’ home if I didn’t know them.
Sandrine | Mas del Encanto says
We have a legit bed & breakfast and advertise on Airbnb. We pay taxes, are fully insured and as far as we know, we’re not destroying other family businesses around here.
We love Airbnb: it helps us promote our place (which is quite remote, a little off-grid farm in rural Spain), and we get to review our guests. What other website gives us that opportunity?
Besides, Airbnb does a lot for their hosts. When we just started out, we got free smoke and CO-alarms.
When registering, hosts have to agree to a plethora of rules – including being allowed to rent out their premises. Many people lie about having the right permissions; in many countries, local authorities are all over it and are closing down on illegal rentals (including high fines).
Not one OTA (website that lists hotels and bed & breakfasts so people can book through them) will inspect hosts. Why would Airbnb be the only one needing to do that?
Why would you trust a TripAdvisor accommodation and not AirBnB? That really doesn’t make sense. I can see much needed improvements in most OTA’s from a host position. It is the local town rules that are the guide for businesses not up to Booking corporations.
B&B’s are not for everyone and guests wanting the experience should be open to the diverse hosts and locations and acceptance to the different cultures. Our Super Host Rating shows that we are concerned about the people we meet and quality of service. AirBnB has no control over that aspect, they are just the advertising end of the business.
I think what you get with an Airbnb can vary significantly depending on where you are. At the time this article was written, we were frequently Airbnb guests, and never had a bad experience. We had a few mediocre experiences, but on the whole our Airbnb stays were much nicer than our hotel stays.
A few years later now, we also host on Airbnb and can address some of your points. We do pay local taxes… actually Airbnb charges them to our guests when they book with us and remits them directly to the county without our ever seeing them. We are inspected. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by depleting local lodgings, but people visiting this rural area have exactly two hotels in two different directions to choose from, each about 15 miles away. And I’d venture to say that the family businesses near us, restaurants and small shops, see more visitors when with our guests staying near them than they would if folks were off at one of the hotels or on the floor at grandma’s house. Come to think of it, our Airbnb is a family business itself.
It sounds like you’ve had a bad experience, but let’s make sure we list the good along with the bad.
Alexis @FITnancials says
I always make sure to get a place that has 4.5+ star reviews with at least 10+ reviews. Still, even then, it’s a risk. I love Airbnb but had a negative experience while in Tokyo. I arrived in Tokyo in the winter and got an apartment with a broken heater. The host knew about the broken heater but didn’t think it was necessary to tell me. Airbnb ended up refunding me, but it was an experience I’d like to forget. Still, I always choose Airbnb’s over hotels because they’re much cheaper and have much more to offer!
Usually we can find hotels that are cheaper and fit our needs better, but we found Air BnB was a great option for Japan. Renting a flat was cheaper and gave us more room than a hotel. Our host on Osaka was wonderful. And staying in a flat gave us a greater appreciation for Japanese culture, too.
Money Beagle says
We’ve never done Airbnb but I know it’s so popular that it’s a very legit way to find a place to stay. Thanks for sharing these helpful tips.
Wondering if these places are only short term, or if a person can rent one for 4 to 6 weeks?
You can definitely find longer term bookings, as long as the schedule of the place can accommodate you (that they don’t have other bookings interfering). The earlier you can book, the better. In fact, many places will give you a nice discount for a longer length of time (it will be listed in the price section on the listing).
Thank you for answering my question, and for all the info on subject.
Ms. Frugal Asian Finance says
This is very helpful. We have never tried AirBnB before. I’ve always stayed at motel. I think I’m a little scared staying at people’s houses I don’t know, but I guess motels are not so much different. Thanks for sharing!
Kathryn @ Making Your Money Matter says
This is super helpful-I was looking at Airbnb the other day for some research on a trip and was a little bit confused.
We’ve only done Airbnb once before-my husband booked it on the Big Island and we ended up staying in a not so nice, not super safe area. So, we learned our lesson: look for the the locations of the nice hotels and research the area where you’re staying well in advance. It all worked out okay, though :).