Airbnb is not a hotel, it’s an experience

My girlfriend and I travel a lot and love adventure and experiments. So, when we heard about Airbnb, we ditched hotels and now sleep at random people’s houses instead. Our Airbnb experiences are varied. Some sleep overs and hosts are perfect. Others could do better, with a little effort and guidance. For the latter category I wrote the following 10 tips. They are inspired by our stay in Paris this weekend, but are the result of our consolidated experiences of the last years.

It all boils down to two things: you have to manage expectations up front by being honest, and you have to realize that other people will view and use your house differently than you do. Let’s dive in.

  1. What works for the host does not necessary work for guests. As a host you know that that one cupboard drawer next to the fridge is a bit fragile. As a guest, you don’t know this, and it will break. We have stayed in a house once where a lot of fragile items were placed in precarious positions. You couldn’t look around without breaking something. This is no fun for the host (who has their delicate china broken), nor for the guest who feels they are walking on egg shells.
  2. Not all houses are the same. You need to explain how your house works. For example: the water in the shower is only lukewarm – unless you turn the magic dial on the heater, then you get hot water. Or this one: the bedroom features a skylight, so the sunshine wakes you up at 5 in the morning. The ceiling is too tall to reach, so the next morning your day starts again at 5am. Then you find a remote control which allows you to cover the skylight. Brilliant, if you know about it. Write these workings down, but also mundane things like how the heating works, how to turn the lights on, and where to put the trash.
  3. Using the same logic, explain where the nearest public transportation and supermarket are. Do you have a favorite restaurant or bar? Point them out on a map. Realize that guests are new to your neighborhood.
  4. We spent last weekend with another couple (friends of ours). We love them, but we also wanted to wander the streets of Paris on our own. Here is the dilemma: we only had one house key. We overcame this problem, by hiding the key under the doormat. As a host (and as guests) this bypass may not always be what you want. It is good to provide two sets of house keys.
  5. My girlfriend and I are internet junkies (as internet entrepreneurs we actually need it for our work). We would never book an Airbnb that doesn’t have Wi-Fi internet. Yet, we are often disappointed. Sometimes there’s no internet at all, sometimes the Wi-Fi password is nowhere to be found, and sometimes the only place with decent reception is the bathroom. If you don’t have Wi-Fi, then don’t advertise it. It may not be important to you, but it may be for your guests. Never use false advertisement, always set realistic expectations.
  6. To us it is a no brainer that the house must be clean. Reality is different. Dirty cupboards, yoghurt with mold in the fridge, personal items that I don’t want to know about in the bathroom. We have seen it all. Admittedly, we can be slobs a little less tidy at times, but not when we have guests over.
  7. Twenty years ago I bought a king size bed, and have never regretted its awesome size. I realize, that only your own bed sleeps as nice as, well, your own bed. But a 120cm mattress on the floor is not a double bed. Make sure that all advertised beds are real and decent beds. And if they are not, be clear about it in descriptions and pictures.
  8. When travelling, you live out of your suitcase. Still it is nice to have some shelf space in the bedroom and the kitchen. It doesn’t have to be much, but it prevents guests from making shelf space themselves.
  9. You don’t have to be at your house when guests arrive. Especially when guests don’t know at what time that will be. However, it is crucial that you are available for guests by phone. Be it for last minute directions to your house, or to promptly solve problems during the stay. It is fine to have a friend on pager duty, as long as he or she knows the house as well as you do.
  10. Be clear about additional costs. Typically towels and bed linen are included in the stay. If you want to charge extra for these additional items or services, that is fine. As long as you communicate in advance. Nothing is more frustrating than finding a bed, where the bed linen comes at a ransom.

This being said, one reason to choose for Airbnb, is to experience how other people live. Airbnb provides that genuine experience, including all the up and down sides. If you are looking for a professionally managed room or apartment, then Airbnb may not be for you. Airbnb is not great, but for us, it’s good enough. We like it, and hope these tips will make the experiences for both guests and hosts even better.

PS: One tip for guests: Understand that your host is (just like you) not a hospitality professional. You have to be easy going, communicate openly about problems and be cooperative in finding solutions.



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