Wanting to chose the best Airbnb or hotel? I think others should learn from my mistakes, um, I mean, experiences. Below are some tips on the right questions to ask for your Airbnb stay and things to consider.
It’s important to get as much information as you can before you book so that you have an appropriate set of travel expectations.
How to choose a good Airbnb
I think Airbnb owners try to provide as much information as possible in their write ups and descriptions. So make sure you read the description before messaging owners with any questions.
- Always check the cancellation policy before booking. Always. And read it closely, if it is refundable, make sure it doesn’t say ‘refundable, except for Airbnb fees’ or you will still lose money if you cancel, you need the ‘fully refundable’ and check the times, as some are only fully refundable for 48 hours.
- Air conditioning – this is very important in hot climates. Some places will say that they have a/c, but it is only in the bedrooms. Very important to know if a place has air-conditioning if you are having daydreams about whipping up hearty meals in that beautiful kitchen… that is actually 140 degrees inside with the stove on. Ask if air conditioning if throughout the home or only in certain areas.
- WIFI – I know this sounds crazy, but you’d think that wifi is pretty simple, either a place has it or it doesn’t, but sadly there’s a grey area here. I booked an airbnb that said it has wifi, but the caveat was that the wifi was only at the community pool & restaurant, not at the stand alone house that was a 5 min drive to pool. Another time, I almost booked another airbnb, but luckily I messaged to confirm good wifi and that’s when the owner explained that I wouldn’t actually have wifi in the unit, but I could come to the main house to get wifi. These little distinctions are important if you are needing to work while at your Airbnb rental and are okay with having conference calls poolside or in a busy lobby.
- Cell phone reception. If you are booking in a remote area, ask if they have cell phone reception at the location.
- Many owners offer discounts for last minute bookings. But if you are cutting it close and it’s Thursday night at 11:00 and you’re booking something for Friday, message the owner first to confirm availability instead of giving them a surprise booking.
- If there is a pool in the photo, confirm if it is private or a public pool that you’ll be sharing with people. Also, confirm it will be available to you and not under construction/renovation/repairs.
- If you are someone that is accustomed to curtains or window coverings when you sleep, look closely in the photos to make sure the windows have them, if you aren’t sure, ask the owner.
- Any amenities listed, confirm that they will be available during your stay. Many Airbnb listings that have been around a while, owners may forget that they no longer have bikes or paddleboards, etc, or that some of the amenities are seasonal.
- Ask if there is any construction going on near the Airbnb rental location.
- Ask if there are any bars, clubs, restaurants or anything that might make the location loud if it’s not already in an urban area.
- Confirm layout, what floor it is on, etc. If you are traveling with small children, you might not realize that the other bedrooms are stand alone units that kids have to walk outside at night to get to you. Or in older cities, some airbnbs are in 6 or 7 story walk up with no elevator, which might be annoying if you have a lot of luggage.
- And this has only happened to me once and luckily it was fully refundable but worth noting – take screenshots or photos of the photos online in the airbnb listing. I once booked a place, then went back to check the reservation dates and the photos were completely different. It looked like a completely different place. There’s tons of legit scenarios for this, maybe it was an agent who accidentally uploaded the wrong listings photos, then took them down, maybe the place was under renovation, I don’t know. But if you show up and the Airbnb doesn’t remotely look like it did in the photos, you don’t have any proof if they changed the photos if you don’t have proof of the previous photos.
- If traveling in Central America or remote locations, ask if you need a 4WD or if there are any logistical concerns to get to the location.
- Location – sometimes the maps on Airbnb are inaccurate. Confirm the location. Also, sometimes a house will be near a neighborhood but not actually in it, so confirm that it is actually in the neighborhood. This doesn’t really matter in most cases, but if it’s a neighborhood that has access to something like tennis, golf or a certain beach, etc. and you’re outside that neighborhood, then you may not have access.
Any Airbnb owners reading this, I also have suggestions for you. Make sure to address all of the above questions in your write up so not as many people have to message you. Also, stay a night or two in any property you own, so that you can make sure you have everything there that people need – hot water, utensils, plates, towels, etc. My main complaint about Airbnbs is no where to hang things. In cold climates, make sure there is somewhere to hang jackets, scarfs, etc. In hot climates make sure there is somewhere to hang beach towels, pool towels, wet swimsuits, etc. In hot climates, make sure you get 100% cotton sheets, the polyester ones, people can tell and will sweat all night long.
How to choose a good hotel
Below are a few tips for booking hotels, most of these concerns came to my attention while traveling in Central America, but really could happen anywhere.
- Confirm that all the amenities will be available during your stay. Maybe a pandemic won’t be closing the swimming pool, but a renovation could.
- Confirm that the room in the photo is similar to the room you will actually stay in. Many hotels in Central America build half the hotel and then wait 40 years and build more rooms. So while you may see photos of a modern room, you may arrive and be in a room that is 40 years old and very dated.
- For smaller hotels or hotels in remote areas, ask if there is cell phone service available there and also confirm that wifi will be available in your room and not just in the lobby.
- Many hotels offer discounts on their hotel’s website, so check there first before booking.
- This has only happened twice, both times in Costa Rica, and is important to know, especially if you’re showing up at the hotel after traveling a long day without a lot of energy to go find another hotel. For some reason, hotels will over-sell their rooms, then when you show up, they will pretend that they don’t have the room confirmation from bookings.com or hotels.com or whatever third party you booked through.The reason they do this is either because they genuinely do not have a single room available because of over-booking, or they gave away the type of room that you reserved and don’t want to admit it is their fault, so they want to convince you that it’s hotel.com’s fault and act like they’re doing you a favor finding you another room. Both times this happened to me the scenario basically went like this, I show up at the lobby, they ask my name, I tell them, they plug away at their computer for a painful amount of time, obvious that something was wrong. Then finally say, “We don’t have any rooms with 2 queen beds, I can’t find your reservation, who did you book through?”
And then I was panicked that I was at the wrong hotel or that maybe I booked the wrong date, so I pull up my confirmation and show it to them and they blame a third party booking service for the error. Then it finally dawns on me, “Wait a minute, if you don’t have my reservation, how did you know that I had a reservation for a room with 2 queen beds?” That is the moment that they sheepishly got their manager.
Your options if this happens to you is to just go to another hotel or to see what type of room they can offer. But before you leave or get keys to a room and officially ‘check in’, make sure you don’t get charged for ‘canceling’ a room that they don’t actually have or charge as a no-show, or that you are paying for one class of room, but get a lower one. If they say there are absolutely no rooms available, get something in writing or get the name of the person that you spoke with that said there are no rooms available. Or call the website you booked through and put them on the phone with the manager while you are still standing in the lobby.
And if you’re looking for ideas of places to go and where to stay, check out the destination inspiration on FindingPuraVida.com.