Airbnb dreaming - The Travel Hop's experts reveal tips to picking the perfect holiday rental
So you’ve decided to bypass a hotel in favour of a rental house or apartment on your next trip. Offering the potential for great value for money (the cost per head is typically far cheaper for a hotel), alongside self-catering savings; there’s plenty of reasons why more and more travellers are opting for a holiday rental. In fact, close to 70 per cent of holidaymakers said they’ll rent a vacation home this year, according to TripAdvisor.
But where do you begin? And how do you go about making sure you nab that perfect slice of rental real estate - a home-away-from-home that ticks all of your boxes?
With hundreds of thousands of properties listed online (Airbnb has more than 1.5 million listings alone) the selection process can be overwhelming. From how to begin your search and where to book, to location issues and avoiding hidden pitfalls. Read on for step-by-step expert advice to selecting the rental of your dreams.
KNOW YOUR MUST-HAVES
Want a bath big enough for two? Know your bottom line when selecting an Airbnb or rental
First thing’s first, after setting your price range you’ll need to work out your priorities. Bottom line must-haves that will make or break your vacay.
How important is having a view? Do you need parking and high speed internet? Knowing these preferences will help you cut through the seemingly endless number of options quickly.
“There’s lots of choice out there when it comes to holiday rentals,” says Expedia Australia’s head of communications, Kelly Cull. “Knowing your must-haves in terms of bedrooms and amenities, like a pool, means you can filter out unsuitable properties fast.”
COMPARE AND CONTRAST
While sites like Airbnb and HomeAway have the lion’s share of the search traffic, these days there are many sites for booking rentals outside of the usual go-tos. Even
traditional hotel and airfare booking websites like Expedia now have a huge range of rentals. Getting the best selection means examining listings from multiple sources, especially if you have specific criteria. Also, it’s worth noting that websites like Expedia apply their loyalty programs across the board, meaning that you can earn rewards points not just on hotels, but with rentals too.
It pays to be flexible when looking for your dream holiday rental or Airbnb accommodation
The general rule with any accommodation is to book early, but even getting in early may mean being flexible, especially if you’re looking at accommodation in tourist hotspots during peak season. Think Europe in the summertime, for example.
If you can, move your dates by a few weeks and you’ll see way more property options with way cheaper price tags. Be flexible and you can often save a packet.
Look for a quantity of positive reviews when selecting holiday accommodation
When it comes to reviews, go for quantity (the more reviews the more you have to go off), and look for feedback patterns. Are they frequent complains about the hot water? Was the apartment noisy?
“Taking time to read the reviews from fellow travellers is wise as you may be able to get a heads up on potential issues, or more information on how the how well the kitchen is stocked, or the quality of the furniture,” advises Kelly. “They may be little things, but they can really take your stay from being fine to fabulous.”
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
For most travellers, location will be one of the biggest factors when considering a property, especially if you won’t have a car, or want to keep public transport to a minimum. In this instance, Google Maps is your friend and with Google Street View you can get a sense for the area and its eateries, bars and cafes. Airbnb’s interactive map lets you explore your destination before you even set foot in the city.
“Cross-check the house’s location against the key attractions you want to experience,” says Kelly. “And also against public transport links, which is crucial if you won’t have a car.”
MAKE LIKE A LOCAL
Rather than joining the tourist masses in Barcelona’s La Rambla, opt for a more local Airbnb
Another big plus with rentals is the ability to avoid the ‘tourist’ experiences and instead really immerse yourself in local culture, rather than joining the hordes in Barcelona’s La Rambla or similar. “Todays travellers are seeking more authentic ways to live like locals,” says Caroline. “It’s the same in the luxury rental space where we’re seeing an emerging consumer in search of genuine culture.”
Airbnb hosts often double as personal tour guides, imparting local tips and insights that you usually wouldn’t get in a hotel. “You get access to many things that you may not get from other accommodation providers, including personal touches and anecdotes from local residents,” says an Airbnb spokesperson. “Often meeting a great host ends up being the highlight of a trip.”
The proverb ‘a picture is worth thousands words’ is even more true when it comes to picking a holiday rental. Any reputable vacation home will have an array of clear, well-lit photos to showcase the property in its entirety: bathroom, living area, kitchen, bedrooms, and the location. Try to see when the images were last updated to make sure that they’re fairly current. After looking at the photographs you’ll easily eliminate a few potentials.
“Photography is a crucial component of what makes a home listing trustworthy,” says Catherine. “Look for at least one image of every room available to guests, including bathrooms. The more high quality photos available to you, the less surprises there should be.”
If you’re travelling with your brood in tow, then your first question should be: is this accommodation family-friendly? Same goes for travelling with a pet. The good thing about properties geared to families is that they may come stocked with little one essentials, from cots to highchairs.
“As a mum, I always try to get a good understanding of the floor plan, so I can ensure our rooms will be close,” says Kelly. “I also study the description and photos for any red flags in terms of child safety, and what kid-friendly amenities will be provided such as high-chairs, cots, play equipment.”
READ THE FINE PRINT
Before booking any holiday accommodation make sure to read the terms and conditions
Before booking check the terms and conditions. Keep in mind that some rentals have lower nightly rates, but huge security deposits, and that house rules and liability for repairs will differ. Cleaning fees, security deposit, and extra fees for additional people are pretty standard. Make sure you’re aware of all the nitty-gritty fine print to ensure you’re clued up well in advance of checking in.
IF IN DOUBT, ASK!
If you have any questions, contact the host. Remember, as positive reviews have a direct correlation to their bread and butter (see above) they want you to have a great stay.
“If a home listing isn’t detailed enough to make an informed decision, don’t be afraid to ask more questions,” advises Catherine. “Also, communicating with the host is also a great way to suss out the vibe of a place.”
From specifics of the room, to check in times; you’ll have an easier trip if you ask any questions in advance. Airbnb messaging even has a built-in translation feature so your hosts can understand your message if they’re not a native English speaker. As an aside, friendly hosts will likely clue you up in advance with great restaurant tips and other local ’must-visits’.