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Since its inception, Airbnb has been an amazing resource for travelers, making it easy to feel at home no matter where they are in the world. If you are new to Airbnb or haven’t used it in a while, this post is for you.
This is an insider’s guide to Airbnb for First Timers. Learn how to search for amazing properties and experiences around the world and how you can save money, often up to 40% off daily rates, just by following the Insider Tips below, including a simple-to-follow email template for negotiating a huge discount with an Airbnb host!
Why Stay at an Airbnb?
Most people know Airbnb to be an online platform where you can rent a room, an apartment or a house directly from a homeowner.
In fact, it has nearly 5 million listings in 81,000 cities and 191+ countries. Fun facts: 3,000 of those listings are castles; 1,400 are treehouses.
How amazing is that? That is a lot of places to visit! No matter what your fantasy home is, you can likely find it on Airbnb.
Generally speaking, if I’m in a city for more than a handful of days, I prefer staying in an Airbnb over traditional accommodations like hotels, for a few key reasons:
- Staying in an Airbnb is usually cheaper.
- I like having access to a kitchen to make simple meals, especially breakfasts. Not only to save some money but also to maintain a sense of normalcy and routine, even while traveling.
- Having access to laundry!
- Usually located in a residential area, which makes me feel like I’m living there, even temporarily. I get to observe how locals live.
- Access to a local host, which usually means helpful tips and advice about the area, restaurants, markets, sights, and transportation. Sometimes it also means having some great conversations over a shared meal!
If I’m going to be in a city for more than a handful of days or weeks at a time, having a home away from home makes a huge difference.
Some of My Favorite Features on Airbnb, Explained
Did you know that Airbnb is so much more than a platform for booking private accommodations? If you are new to Airbnb or haven’t used it for a while, you may be surprised to find out about some of these newer features.
In addition to accommodations, Airbnb now offers classes, workshops and tours in local art, food and sports, put on by passionate, local hosts. These experiences are usually quite personal and intimate and quite the opposite of being in a big tour group. It’s like having a new best friend who has the inside scoop.
For example, here are some unique experiences you can expect to find in Tokyo, Japan:
Or how about these experiences in Rome, Italy?
I don’t know about you but all of these experiences look amazing to me!
Just last year, Airbnb launched a new selection of higher tier listings that have all passed a 100-point inspection by Airbnb staff.
These curated homes are meant to appeal to guests with discerning tastes and have been selected for their overall quality, cleanliness, comfort, thoughtful design, amenities and even fast Wifi speed.
You can identify the listings with the PLUS badge, eliminating any uncertainty you might have about a particular listing.
Check out some of the standard amenities that come with Airbnb Plus listings:
- High-quality linens, beddings, and bath products
- Privacy shades
- Fast wifi
- Full kitchens with all the essentials for cooking
- Hangers and drawers for clothes storage
- Hair dryer
- Filtered or bottled water
- Working appliances
- Extra clean, clutter-free and everything is fully functional
- Easy check-in: lockbox, keypad, or a host who is on-call
You could search for Airbnb Plus homes by location. Currently, they are currently available in Austin, Barcelona, Cape Town, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Melbourne, Milan, Rome, San Francisco, Shanghai, Sydney, and Toronto.
If you are searching for something in particular, you can also search for PLUS homes in these categories:
- Poolside Homes
- Knockout Kitchens
- Big Backyards
- Peaceful Patios
- Endless Views
- Modern Marvels
- Effortlessly Eclectic
- Lovely Lofts
- Awesome Architecture
- Beautiful Bathrooms
Check out some of the stunners that I have found in Los Angeles and Cape Town:
Insider Tips on How to Save Money on Airbnb
1. First Things First
- If you don’t have an account, click on this link and sign up for an account. You will get $35 off your first stay!
- Create a profile and make sure it is complete. Upload a nice photo of yourself. Airbnb is a trust-based system. You want to present yourself well to potential hosts.
- Complete the verification process. Airbnb may ask for a photo of your identification.
- Link your account to your social media accounts. Hosts want to see that you are a real person.
2. Stay Longer for a Better Deal
Did you know that many Airbnb hosts automatically offer discounts with longer stays? I personally have seen discounts anywhere from 10% to 50% off the daily rates. Usually, the smaller discounts are for at least one-week stays whereas the bigger discounts are reserved for stays that are least 28 days or a month.
Simply put in the dates of your stay and see the resulting discount. If your dates are flexible or if you are looking to stay put for a while to explore a city or region, you can set up home base at an Airbnb, while getting a sweet discount.
3. Beware of FEES
There are two fees to beware of, in particular. It is quite common for Airbnb hosts to impose a cleaning fee. Airbnb itself will impose a service fee, which is their cut for promoting the listing. Both fees are quite transparent and are immediately visible on the listing page, as soon as you put in specific dates for your intended stay.
While the Airbnb service fee is unavoidable, the host’s cleaning fee isn’t. Be mindful of it and choose a listing that charges a reasonable amount, relative to other listings.
4. Book Early for Better Selection and Better Deals
For people who like to plan in advance, it’s a good idea to book in advance. You can see a greater selection of what is in your price range for your desired amenities and location. The listings offering the best deals and best value will go first so if you can book in advance, do so.
You can still negotiate on the price, however, which I will cover below.
5. Book Last Minute for Last Minute Deals
When you book last minute, deals may be had. Many Airbnb hosts would drop their price for close check-in dates or be open to negotiation, which is covered below.
By going with this strategy, intentionally or not, you won’t have the widest selection though. You may also have to compromise on amenities, dates, and/or location.
You also need to be mindful whether your desired dates are during high season or local holidays when overall occupancy rates may be low.
6. How to Negotiate with Airbnb Hosts for the Best Deal
Many people are surprised to learn that Airbnb allows for negotiation. Yes and it works! Airbnb hosts may extend a Special Offer to potential guests who contact them.
Let’s say the listing you are interested in already offers a 40% discount but only if you stay 28 days or longer. (You played around with the dates and you figured it out!)
But you are not planning to stay for 28 days or longer. Perhaps you are only interested in staying for 12 days. Chances are good that the host of this listing may consider a discount for shorter stays since they already offer a 40% discount for long stays.
No matter if you are booking early or last minute, it is worth your time to contact the Airbnb host to negotiate a better deal. Just click on “Contact Host” on the listing page.
Start by filtering the properties in your desired location for amenities that are a must for you. Make sure to review the photos, reviews, and descriptions.
For every listing that meets your needs, click on the heart symbol to add the listing to a list. Select 10 or more listings to contact. Then contact each host using the template below.
I have used this email template to save up to 40% off, even when no discount is offered on the length of stay I was interested in. Sometimes I even manage to get more of a discount than the one already offered on the listing page, especially when the check-in date is right around the corner.
Email Template for Negotiating with Airbnb Host
Letter Requesting Discount
Hello [host name]!
I’m visiting [city or town name] to [name a fun or interesting cultural activity or some sites that you are interested to visit].
I am looking for a [room, apartment, house] to stay from [check-in date] at around [desired check-in time] to [check-out date].
There is something about your place that caught my eye. It looks great and it’s in a good location for me!
My budget is about [60% of the price listed, in local currency]. Would you accept this amount for the dates listed above? If so, please send me an offer.
As you can see, I have good reviews and provide good reviews for my hosts. I am respectful, and like to leave places how I find them: clean and tidy!
Thank you, [your name]
This template is short and sweet but effective:
- By naming the reason why you are visiting, you are showing interest in the local culture which is a likable quality.
- By stating the check-in date and time along with the check-out date, you are making the terms of the offer very clear and easy to say yes to.
- 40% discount is a good place to start for negotiation as many hosts often offer 40% discount for monthly stays. If hosts are already prepared to offer this level of discount, they are more apt to offer the same discount for shorter stays.
- By finishing off the email with an implied promise of a good review and that you are a respectful individual, you make it that much easier for the host to say yes to your offer.
A few tips to consider before you start contacting hosts:
- Revise it to fit your own voice and tone. Don’t just copy word for word. Personal details matter and make your communication sound more genuine.
- Always respond to the Airbnb host promptly. Even if you’re not interested in their offer, do pay the host the courtesy of responding.
- If you are booking in advance, this technique works best if you are booking longer stays: at the very minimum, 7 days. For shorter stays, you have the advantage if your intended check-in date is coming up very soon, say within the next 3 days.
- Caution: you may be asked to complete the transaction outside of the Airbnb environment. Or you yourself may be tempted to ask the host to do so. I would strongly advise against doing so as both the host and the guest would be giving up protections and support provided by Airbnb. If a stay somehow goes wrong, you would want to be able to ask for support directly from Airbnb.
7. Beware of Cancellation Policies
Airbnb offers three standardized cancellation policies—Flexible, Moderate and Strict. If there’s a chance your plans may change, it is a good idea to be mindful of the cancellation policy of the listing you are interested in BEFORE you book it. Otherwise, you may be paying more out-of-pocket than you intend.
Full refund offered if cancellation is within 24 hours of check-in time. If cancellation is within 24 hours of check-in time, the first night is non-refundable.
Full refund offered if cancellation is within 5 days of check-in time. If cancellation is within 5 days of check-in time, the first night is non-refundable and 50% of the fees for the remaining nights are refundable.
Full refund offered if cancellation is within 48 hours of booking and at least 14 days prior to check-in. If cancellation is made at least 7 days prior to check-in, 50% of the fees are refundable.
8. Split The Bill
If you are traveling with a group, it may be much cheaper to get a multi-room apartment or a house rather than separate hotel rooms for each person/couple. Plus, by pooling everyone’s budget together, you can often get a much nicer accommodation with extra amenities otherwise. One problem though: chasing people for their share of the booking sometimes is a drag.
To address this issue, Airbnb has come up with Split Payments, a feature that allows the organizer (probably you, since you are reading this article) to hold a reservation for 72 hours, while everyone in the group can each pay their share on the Airbnb website.
9. Pay Less Up Front
Although it doesn’t reduce the cost of your bill per se, Airbnb now gives you the flexibility to secure your booking with a 50% deposit, rather than 100% payment. The balance is payable closer to the check-in date. If needed, this option gives you the flexibility to pre-book well in advance and manage your cash flow.
This feature is only available if the bill is at least $250 and is booked at least 14 days out.
These are some of the ways I search for amazing properties at a great price on Airbnb. Do you have any tips of your own?