Airbnbs are a great way to stay like a local in the place you’re visiting and do so on a budget! Alternatively, Airbnb has some unique stays — like yurts, tiny homes, and treehouses — that are great for a splurge. Whatever your style, we’ve got you covered with our ultimate guide to booking with Airbnb.
Updated: June 2021
We’ve stayed in Airbnbs all around the world. From unique stays, to budget-friendly accommodation with locals, to plush villas with a pool, and opportunities for long-term stays, we truly think Airbnb is a great option for many different kinds of trips.
Since Airbnb went public in 2021, they no longer offer coupons or referral discounts to their users. Anywhere still offering the coupon code is old news. We first created this article to provide our unique discount code, but now this article is more of a guide to booking with Airbnb to make the most out of your stay.
We’re going to share why we love Airbnb, hacks for finding the best stays, and when you shouldn’t stay in an Airbnb. (Yes, there are times that it is definitely not a good idea!)
We’ve stayed in Airbnbs more times than we can count, and we’re about to share our top tips and the exact filters we use when booking with Airbnb! With all of our anecdotes and advice, you’ll be able to find the best possible stay for your trip!
But first things first… Is anybody wondering what exactly is Airbnb?
What is Airbnb?
If you’ve done any traveling in the past decade, you’ve probably heard of the growing online marketplace called Airbnb.
Acting as a broker between property owners and renters, Airbnb doesn’t own any property. Instead, they allow homeowners to offer up their entire home (like that beautiful mountain lodge above!) or private spare room in their apartment to travelers searching for a place to stay.
Airbnbs vary wildly by price point, accommodation style and personality of the rental’s host. Don’t worry, we’re gonna show you all the tricks for finding the best ones out there!
One thing that’s important to keep in mind when booking with Airbnb (especially as a first-time user) is that finding a good stay is as much about convincing the host you’d make a decent house guest as it is about finding the perfect spot. We’ll go over how to optimize your Airbnb profile to maximize your chances of securing your first booking in the profile setup section below.
Airbnb Article Contents:
We’re here to break down all the details and help you sort through how to book your first Airbnb stay that will meet all of your accommodation needs.
Why Choose to Stay at an Airbnb
There are many reasons to choose booking with Airbnb over other accommodation options like a hotel or hostel.
1. Live like a local
Choosing to stay in an Airbnb gives you the chance to live like a local while you’re in town, maybe even discovering a neighborhood with no hotels around. You’ll be in contact with the owner from the moment you book, which can sometimes be as good as having a local friend in town to show you the spots and give you all the insider tips.
2. Affordable accommodation
If you’re searching for affordable accommodation, you’ll likely find more budget-friendly options on Airbnb Stays rather than searching only for hotels.
3. Good for families or large groups
If you’re traveling with 4 or more people, hotel rooms can be quite cramped. Using Airbnb filters, you can find houses that accommodate large groups.
For example, when celebrating a friend’s birthday in Nashville, our group of friends stayed at an Airbnb that slept 10 people, plus it had a hot tub and a kitchen. Had we stayed in a hotel, we would have had separate rooms, which makes hanging out a bit less fun.
Bachelorette party anyone?!
4. Kitchen access
One of our favorite parts about staying in an Airbnb is that you typically have access to a kitchen. If we’re eating out for each meal while traveling, we’re not only going to spend a lot of money, but we’ll probably not be feeling all that great either. Having a kitchen helps us save money and eat healthier.
Insider Tip: Airbnb Stays are great for travelers with dietary restrictions. Sometimes it is hard to find food that gluten-free, vegan, or not contaminated by allergens. Having access to your own kitchen will give you much more control over what you eat.
5. More amenities
With access to options like a full kitchen, washing machine, multiple bedrooms, pools, and on-site parking, some may say you actually get a lot more bang for your buck in an Airbnb versus a hotel.
We’ve had Airbnb stays where they have a booklet of all their favorite restaurants and shops nearby. One Airbnb in Budapest even stocked the fridge with a local wine, fresh bread from the neighborhood bakery, and some regional produce.
6. Feels like home, because it is one!
You cannot beat the feel of true home living when you’re in a place for a longer period of time. Airbnb Stays give you the option to unpack your bags and settle into a home with personal touches, not just a room at a hotel.
7. Unique accommodation options
There are some really unique accommodation options out there on Airbnb. You could choose to spend the night in a treehouse, a sailboat, or a whole host of other interesting options that you won’t find in a hotel… But more on that later.
8. Long term stays
Did you know that Airbnb is often times a good option for digital nomads or travelers who plan to stay in one place for a while? We’ve chosen Airbnbs in places like Chiang Mai and Bali where we are living and working. They are more affordable than hotels (especially when staying more than a few nights) and have a space that feels more like “home” than a guesthouse or hostel.
9. Options for all travelers
Whether you’re looking to spend some time in a local’s home and getting to know them (while sticking to your travel budget!), or you want a house that’s all yours and you don’t mind splurging — Airbnb has options for all types of travelers and budgets.
Keep reading… We’re going to share how to filter through all the listings to find a place that’s perfect for you!
10. It’s a way to support locals (sometimes!)
Airbnb can be a way to support locals in the area in which you’re traveling. They can earn extra income and have the chance to meet and converse with travelers.
But I do want to add that there are many places in the world — big cities in particular — where the growing popularity of Airbnb is making housing unaffordable for locals. We’re going to go into this in further detail below…
Setting Up Your Airbnb Profile
We mentioned this above, but wanted to reiterate: Airbnb is as much a matchmaking site as it is a booking site. In order to successfully confirm a booking, you’ll have to convince the host to accept you as a guest.
Unless they happen to have the “Instant Book” feature turned on, the host has to manually accept your stay request. With only your profile and intro message to set you apart, your goal is to convince them they can feel comfortable having you as a house guest.
The good news is, once you’ve landed your first booking, you’ll receive a review from the host. Hosts tend to trust profiles with good reviews so you’ll have an easier time securing your second booking and your third and so on.
Below are our proven steps to optimize your Airbnb profile to maximize your chances of securing your first booking.
Your profile picture: It’s best to use a clear headshot as your profile picture on Airbnb. Remember this is not a social media account. Leave the blurry photos of your cat on Facebook and find a nice picture of your face without any other subjects in view. And don’t forget to smile! You want to appear friendly and approachable in your profile photo.
Tip: Don’t wear sunglasses in your profile picture. You’ll look more trustworthy to a host if they can see your eyes.
Verify your identity: Allow Airbnb to verify your identity by confirming your email address and phone number. It helps if you allow Airbnb to see your Facebook profile as well (they will not have access to make any changes, only to verify you are who you say you are). A new and unverified profile has little chance of getting a booking request right off the bat.
Fill in your profile completely: Fill in your location (simply your home city, state and country), the languages you speak (only add the languages you are comfortable conversing in) and your work. A mostly blank, anonymous profile can deter potential hosts from accepting your booking request.
The ‘About’ section: Be sure to fill out the ‘About’ section of your Airbnb profile with a little information about who you are and what you do.
Think about it this way: Hosts want to know a little more information about the people they are inviting into their homes (after all, wouldn’t you?). You don’t have to go into too much detail, but a sentence or two about what you do for work and your travel experience will show the host that you are responsible and trustworthy.
Here is an example Airbnb profile:
Our Personal Experiences with Airbnb
We’ve stayed at more Airbnbs than we can count.
Some have been really unique accommodation, while others have been a comfortable, yet basic, place to crash our heads while sticking to a budget.
These are just some of our personal examples of Airbnb stays to show how they can span all different price points and types of accommodation:
Unique Airbnb Stays:
tiny house near downtown Seattle
mud home in a small village in Guatemala
bungalow by the beach in Costa Rica
luxurious jungle cottage on Waiheke Island in New Zealand
boho chic villa in the rice paddies outside Ubud
Stays with locals through Airbnb:
We stayed with a Croatian family in Dubrovnik in a private room
We have a private room in a young woman’s Auckland high-rise apartment
Long-term stays on Airbnb:
Large Group stays on Airbnb:
Large Nashville house that sleeps 10 people to celebrate a friend’s birthday!
Pretty Italian-themed villa for a “girls trip” in Door County, Wisconsin
Airbnb now offers the chance to have unique experiences with a local in their hometown. More on Airbnb Experiences below!
I made a mala yogi necklace in a local’s home in Bali
Get More Value from Airbnb
While the Airbnb Coupon code is no longer a thing, there are plenty of other ways you can save money and gain more value when booking with Airbnb.
Book longer stays
We’ve done this a couple of times around the world and it comes with big cost savings. Some places are willing to host guests for longer stays and discount the rate to a weekly or monthly rate. You can save anywhere from 10% up to 20% depending on the location and host. Typically the longer you stay the larger the discount.
Become an Airbnb Host and Make Money
Depending on where you live, you can make more than $1,000 a week hosting an Airbnb!
Okay, okay, this is not exactly an Airbnb discount, but it could be more money for your travels or ya know… life things.
Airbnb makes becoming a host super easy. To start, click here and see how much money you can make per month while hosting an Airbnb.
Once you get started, they’ll walk you through the entire process, from establishing what to label your room/property to the number of guests to a recommendation on how much you should charge. Within a few steps you could be making some serious side income.
Refer your friends to Host their own Airbnb
Do you know a friend that never uses their spare room? Or a relative that has a second house that sits empty for most of the year? Why not encourage them to set up an Airbnb host account?! They’ll make some extra cash on the side and you get a referral bonus, win-win!
Once your friend completes their first reservation, you’ll receive a $15 referral bonus.
How to Use Airbnb Filters
Once you’ve signed into your new account on Airbnb, you’ll notice there are a few different options for “Stays,” “Experiences,” “Adventures,” and “Restaurants”. For the purposes of this article, we are going to walk you through the different options for Airbnb Stays. We’ll discuss the other options more below.
Click on “Stays” and type the location of your travel into the search box at the top. A city and country are all you need to search, but you can search more granular options if you know the specific neighborhood you want to stay in. Remember Airbnb is like a search engine for rental homes. The more information you put in the search, the more accurate the results will display.
If you leave filters untouched, you will be shown all of the options. You can play around with different filter options until you find exactly what you are looking for. Nothing is set in stone until you’ve confirmed your booking.
The most common filters are listed at the top of the page, just under the search bar: Dates, Guests, Work Trip, Type of Place, Price, Instant Book, and an option for More Filters. Below is an explanation of each filter and how to change it. We’ve also included personal notes about which filters we pay attention to the most.
Dates: Simply click on the Dates filter and click the day of the month you will be arriving, followed by the day of the month you will be departing. Click save to add this filter to your search criteria.
Type of Place: This is where you will choose whether you’re comfortable sharing your space or you want privacy. You can select as many as you’d like from the following options:
Entire Place: You will have the entire house or apartment to yourself with a private entrance.
Private Room: You will have your own room inside a shared home. You may or may not need to share a bathroom (it should say in the description).
Hotel Room: Some hotels are now listed on Airbnb and you can use this filter to find them. In this case, you’ll typically have a private room and there will be someone working in the space at a front desk of sorts.
Shared Room: You will have your own bed, but it will be in a shared living space (either with the owner or other guests). Kind of like a paid version of Couchsurfing. This is almost always going to be the cheapest option, but offers the least amount of privacy.
Solo travelers: Make sure you are comfortable with this situation and the host before booking.
Our experience: While we have had some nice experiences staying with locals in the past, now we typically like having an entire space to ourselves so we start by selecting “Entire Place.”If there aren’t any affordable options, sometimes we’ll select “Private Room” to save some money during a shorter stay.
Price: When you select the Price filter, you can either enter a min and max dollar amount, or you can use the sliders to choose. The graph above the sliders will show where the majority of homes are priced in your search area. Click save to add this filter to your search criteria.
Instant Book: Click and slide this filter to the “on” position if you want to see only options you can book instantly without waiting for host approval. Note: This is helpful if you are booking a last-minute place and want to be sure you’ll have a confirmation. Otherwise, we don’t usually bother with this option.
Under More Filters you will have the following options:
Rooms and Beds: Choose the numbers of rooms, beds and bathrooms you prefer.
Good to know: Airbnb calculates the number of people a place can sleep as 2 people to a double bed. It’s a good idea to choose the number of beds you prefer here if you are not all couples, so you’re not accidentally choosing a place that says it sleeps 4, but only has 2 beds.
Verified Places: Turn these filters to the “on” position if you want to see only Airbnb Plus options which have been verified for quality and design, or Airbnb Luxe options which are handpicked luxury homes with personally arranged services. Personally, we don’t worry about Airbnb Plus status as much as we look at the reviews… more on reviews below.
Turn the Superhost filter to the “on” position if you want to see only properties listed by verified Superhosts — hosts recognized by Airbnb as the top-rated and most experienced hosts.
Or choose additional features if you have special accessibility needs.
Amenities: Under the amenities section you can check the boxes of all the additional amenities you want to be sure your place has. This section lists everything from a kitchen to a crib, a hair drier, self check-in, smoke detector and more.
Tip: We almost always check the box for WiFi and a kitchen, and if we’re going to be in a warm weather destination we check the box for air conditioning.
Facilities: This gives you the option to check boxes if you need on-site parking, a pool, gym or hot tub.
Tip: The only time we ever pay attention to this filter is if I know I’ll have a rental car and will need parking. Of course, having a gym, pool and hot tub is nice, but to us, it’s never a deal-breaker so I’ll leave those blank.
Property Type: You can select as many options as you prefer here that list specific property types such as apartment, bed and breakfast, villa and loft.
Unique Stays: Check these boxes if you are looking for a particular type of unique stay such as a houseboat, barn, RV or campsite. Read more about unique stays below…
House Rules: Here you can check boxes if you need a place suitable for events, pets or smoking allowed.
Host Language: If you prefer to only rent from a host who speaks your native language, you can choose that language here.
Most important filters
So many options can be overwhelming. The most important filters to fill out for any search will be the dates and the number of guests.
Use the other filters only if they are deal-breakers. If it’s an absolute necessity, go ahead and use that filter. If you can live without it, or you’re not sure, just leave the filters untouched. You can always narrow down your options later on in your search.
Tips for How to Choose a Good Airbnb
Alright, now you’ve set all your filters and you get a never-ending list of Airbnb listings to choose from. What next?!
Choosing a good Airbnb can be a bit daunting. And let’s just say that not all Airbnbs are created equal.
Some hosts put a ton of time and effort into putting special touches on their property, while others, may just be starting out and not know quite what they’re doing…
We’ve rounded up our top tips for choosing the best Airbnb stay for your trip.
1. Set your dates
Okay, I’m going to start by letting you in on a mistake I make time and time again…
I forget to put any dates into the filter bar and am therefore shown ALL the properties that exist in the area I’m searching. Now, this is where I fall in love with a place. I start dreaming about sipping wine and cozying up by their wood-burning fireplace before going out to the hot tub for a soak beneath the stars…
And then, BOOM. I realize I never put in my dates and the only thing left for the time I’m traveling is a crappy little apartment with no hot tub or fireplace.
Don’t let your dreams get crushed like mine. When booking with Airbnb, don’t forget to put in your dates so you’re only shown properties that are actually available at the time you’ll be traveling.
Good to know: The plush, nicely-decorated places do tend to book up quickly, so booking well in advance will give you the best options.
2. Location, Location!
Before you even start searching, it’s a good idea to know what general location you’d like to stay in. Here are some things to consider:
Do I want to stay right in the city center so I can walk everywhere?
Do I want to avoid the touristy areas and stay in a more “local” neighborhood instead?
Do I want to stay in the countryside and have an authentic experience?
Do I want to be close to a particular landmark or point of interest?
There’s no right or wrong location. We’ve chosen each of the above during different travels. And depending on what type of trip you’re on, your answer will change.
But it’s important to know what you’re looking for before you start searching so you don’t fall in love with a place that’s a dangerous motorbike ride through a sketchy rice paddy… #truestory
Once we have a general location narrowed down, we love using the “Map” feature to see the general location of the properties. Simply slide the toggle on the upper left-hand side of your screen to the “on” position to “Show Map”.
Note that Airbnb doesn’t give out specific addresses until you have a confirmed booking, so this is a good way to get a pretty good idea of the general location of each of the listings.
You can zoom in and out on the map to get a better view. If you click on the price bubble shown on the map, the specific listing for that location will pop up and you can scroll through the photos or click it to open up that listing in a new window.
Tip: I like to pull up significant attractions, grocery stores, or other necessities on my Google Maps and then compare my Google Map to the map shown on Airbnb so I can figure out the best location for my stay.
3. Use filters to your advantage
We dove into ALL the filters in the section above to show you how to use them to your benefit. As a summary, we typically only select a couple of filters and leave the rest blank so we have more options to choose from.
Here are the filters we generally use:
Price: We typically set a maximum budget, but depending on our trip and the city to which we’re traveling, this amount varies. For instance, a short vacation to Iceland will have a higher per night budget than a 3-month trip in Central America.
Location: We use the map to zoom into the region we’d like to stay within so we’re only shown those properties.
Once we have these filters checked, we can begin our search.
4. Hunt through photos
Photos can tell you a lot about how seriously the host takes their Airbnb listing. Some have professional-looking photos, while others might as well be taken by a grandma trying to figure out a cell phone.
For example: Take a look at these two Airbnb’s near Portland, Oregon (which both happen to described as tiny homes). Based on the photos alone, which one would you want to spend a night in?!?
Of course the top one! It looks brighter, more pleasing the eye, and appears to be better taken care of. We figure if the host can’t spend the time to take a nice picture, then what else have they not taken the time to do… eeek!
You might be searching for a certain aesthetic, or you may just want to see how the property is set up. But either way, you should make sure there are enough photos.
We tend to only choose places that have photos for each part of the property. It’s a little sketchy if they don’t have any pictures of the bathroom, don’t you think?!
Tip: When it comes to the photos, we like to see pictures of every room in the house. If a listing says it has 3 bedrooms, but I only see photos of one of the bedrooms, I see that as a red flag. It may be that the host is trying to hide the fact that one of the bedrooms is in fact a broom closet. Or if there is only a photo of a sink, but not the whole bathroom, it makes me wonder if the shower and toilet are sub-par. Use your own judgement based on the rest of the listing, but it’s something to keep in mind.
5. Check those reviews…
The first thing to do when looking at a listing, after scrolling through the photos, of course, is to check the reviews.
This is a very important step for us. If a host has poor reviews, it’s an easy no-go for us. We typically like to choose hosts who have reviews of 4.5 or above!
Look at the overall star rating, and the individual ratings for location, communication, cleanliness, check-in, accuracy, and value before booking with Airbnb.
Scan the written reviews too as these can be an invaluable resource, especially looking for any complaints. You may find someone complaining about something you wouldn’t have thought of such as water pressure. It could be a dealbreaker for you, or help you make a better decision between your top choices.
Take a look at the Airbnb review categories as well. If the Airbnb has a overall 4.42 rating (which is not bad), but the cleanliness rating is lower than the rest, that could be a red flag. You made want to dig deeper and see what exactly was not clean about the house.
And take into consideration how many reviews the host has. For instance, a property with a 5-star rating from only 2 reviews is less appealing (in our opinion) than a property with a 4.5-star rating from 375 guest reviews.
Tip: You can also use the search bar above the reviews to search for a particular keyword. For instance, if we are looking for a place to stay and get work done in, we need to know the Internet is good. We may type “Internet” or “Wi-Fi” into that search bar to see what previous guests have said.
What if they don’t have any reviews?
We’ve seen some properties that looks great but have no reviews because they are brand new. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere, right?! Well, if there are other options, we tend to avoid brand new properties on Airbnb because sometimes photos can be misleading, and we don’t want to get stuck with a less than ideal place with a non-responsive host.
However, if there are no other options, we will click on the host’s profile. If they have other properties listed, you can check out those reviews. If they’re positive, there’s a good chance this property will be just fine. However, if this is their only property or they have others with low ratings, we’d steer clear!
6. Look for “Superhosts”
Airbnb recognizes highly-rated hosts and gives them a special “Superhost” badge. They receive rave reviews, fill their property with special touches, and go above and beyond a typical host.
Every 3 months, Airbnb evaluates their hosts and superhosts have to meet these requirements:
4.8+ overall rating
Less than 1% cancellation rate
90% response rate
As explained above, you can filter so you’re only shown properties with Superhosts. This is a good way to see the best of the best in cities with a multitude of Airbnbs to choose from. Or it can be a good way to choose between two otherwise equivalent properties: If one has a Superhost and the other does not, it’s an easy choice!
7. Prioritize amenities
Everyone has got their own priorities when traveling, and luckily Airbnb makes it simple to see what you’re getting with the Amenities filter (explained above). Know which amenities you absolutely need so you can narrow down your choices.
Here are the amenities that are most important to us:
Wi-Fi: It’s a deal-breaker if a property doesn’t have Internet (unless the point of our trip is to go off the grid!).
Kitchen: This is usually high on our list, as we like to have the option to cook (saves money and allows us to eat healthier).
Coffee maker: Umm, yes, we’re obsessed and it’s a huge perk when Airbnbs have coffee!
Air conditioning: If it’s summertime or we’re in a tropical location, air-con is really nice. Although we have chosen some places with only fans in locations where AC is not common.
Parking: We only really care about this if we have a rental car or will be driving from home.
Washer & Dryer: This is a nice amenity to have access to during a long trip.
Amenities we don’t care about: Hair dryer, crib, smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector (maybe we should care?!), etc.
8. Know about sleeping arrangements
If you are traveling with a a group or someone with whom you don’t particularly want to share a bed, be sure you know what the sleeping will be.
Airbnb calculates that 2 people can sleep in a double bed, so keep this in mind when you’re booking. If you don’t pay attention to this you may just book a romantic little 1-bed villa for you and your boss… #Travelfail.
Good to know: If the place has more than one sleeping area, there will be a section called “Sleeping Arrangements” where you can see exactly what types of beds are in each room. This is helpful as the photos of rooms can sometimes be deceiving.
9. Calculate the total cost
One of our gripes with Airbnb is that the cost per night you see right away is often not the total amount you’ll pay.
That super tempting $59 per night for two nights might turn into $207 when you add cleaning fees, service fees, and a city occupancy tax. Some properties have a very large discrepancy between the advertised nightly rate and the total cost.
Even with an affordable nightly rate, some places have astronomical cleaning and service fees that can seriously hike up your total cost. So be sure this is something you are willing to pay before you hit the Request Booking button.
The only way to find the total price is to click the property from the list of options. This will open a new window and will show you the per-night price with all the extras.
10. Understand the arrival instructions
Checking into an Airbnb can vary significantly from host to host, so it’s important you understand their procedures.
We’ve had some hosts pick us up from a train station and drive us to their property where we got an all-encompassing tour. Other Airbnb hosts have messaged us their address, lockbox code, and instructions for checking out. Take into consideration if you’d like to meet the host in person or if you’d prefer to do it all independently and not be bothered.
Good to know: If the check-in procedure requires your host to meet you, consider what time you’ll be arriving at their place. Will they realistically be able to meet you after your flight lands at 11 p.m.? If you know you will be arriving late at night, beyond a reasonable hour, you may want to use the filter to search for places with “self check-in” so you will not be asking the host to accommodate you at all hours of the night. Sometimes hosts will list an extra fee for checking in past a certain hour (usually 10 pm).
It might also be helpful to know how much of a role the host will play in your stay. Some hosts live on the same property — whether in the same space or a different building. Will this make you uncomfortable? Other times, hosts live in a totally different city and you won’t have any interactions with them other than through messaging. Choose a property based on what makes you most comfortable.
11. Double check the rules & cancellation policy
Rules: Each property listed on Airbnb has a set of rules for guests. Read through them quickly to be sure they are guidelines you can follow. They are typically: no smoking, no parties, etc.
Cancellation Policy: While you’re at it, check out the cancellation policy. Some properties are rather lenient and offer refunds until right before your trip, while others have a strict no cancellation policy. Some are in the middle, offering 50% refunds. Depending on how sure you are about this trip, the cancellation policy may be a deal-breaker.
If you’ve read through the listing and still have questions, you can always click Contact Host near the top under the description and write the host a private message with your questions before you agree to book.
Booking Your Airbnb Stay
When you’re ready to book, do one last check to make sure you have the correct dates listed and the right amount of guests, then you can go ahead and click “Request to Book”. You will not be charged at this phase, so an accidental click is nothing to worry about.
You’ll be asked to review and agree to the house rules, then say hello to your host before moving on to the payment page.
The message to your host will go into your messages and can be accessed by clicking the Messages option at the top menu bar near your profile picture. This is how you and your host will communicate from now until your stay, so be sure to check back and turn on your notifications if you are using the Airbnb app (or have elect to be alerted by email).
Typically, shortly before your trip, your host will message you with instructions on how to enter the home. Each host is different: Some will meet you in person and even drive you to their property, while others will simply give you a lockbox code and directions for getting inside.
Unique Airbnb Options
As we mentioned above, Airbnb has some seriously unique options for stays in their listings. We’ve picked out some of our favorite unique Airbnb Stays just to give you an idea of what’s out there.
Igloo in Alaska
If viewing the Aurora Borealis is on your bucket list, then this is the perfect Airbnb for you. You can stay in this clear-ceiling igloo near Fairbanks, Alaska to view the northern lights up close. A private bath and kitchenette makes this a great place to stay while you wait for the perfect viewing conditions.
Treehouse in the Forest
If a secluded escape surrounded by nature is your ideal vacation, then this treehouse in Montana is the perfect Airbnb for you. The setting is perfect for a writers retreat, romantic honeymoon or unforgettable family vacation in any season.
Parked in the canals right in front of The Heritage Museum of Amsterdam, you’ll find this newly renovated freight ship turned houseboat with a room for rent on Airbnb. The private room and bath has a separate entrance and makes for a romantic stay in the heart of the city, with unparalleled views from your bedroom window.
Luxury Yurt in Joshua Tree
If roughing it in the desert isn’t your thing, try glamping in this luxurious yurt in the middle of Joshua Tree National Park, California. Watch stunning sunrises and sunsets and stargaze through the window in the roof.
Ever wondered what it’s like to live in a castle? With Airbnb, you can! This medieval castle in Ireland has been standing since the 1400s and it’s current owners are giving you the chance to spend a night (or more!) in this quirky accommodation.
Private Eco Island
You don’t have to be a billionaire to have your own private island these days. On Airbnb you can rent an eco lodge and the entire surrounding island for about the same cost as a luxury hotel room. Lark Caye off the coast of Belize in the Caribbean Sea is a slice of paradise complete with your own private reef for snorkeling.
Fun Airbnb Tip: If any of these unique Airbnb stays look like a dream, you can “save” them to your own Airbnb trip list. In the upper right-hand corner of each listing there is a heart icon that says “save”. This will prompt you to create a trip, which can be as specific as “Portland stays” or as general as “Dream Airbnbs”. This is a great way to start collecting a list of your favorites that you can come back to later once you have travel plans.
When You Should NOT Stay at an Airbnb
The emergence in popularity of Airbnb rentals in the past decade has been wonderful for some economies, giving locals a way to make extra money, facilitating meaningful cultural exchange, and bringing tourism dollars to places that wouldn’t otherwise see it.
However, there are some definite negatives as well. Residents in some cities across the globe have seen their rent increase exponentially, pushing them outside the city center because they simply can’t afford to compete with what short-term visitors will pay per night. This can cause quite a tense relationship between travelers and locals.
And with the changing landscape of course comes changing laws. As an Airbnb renter, it’s important to know the laws in the city you are renting from so you avoid the risk of getting booted out mid-vacation and find yourself racking up some serious credit card charges on a last minute hotel.
And just as important, in our opinion, is the ethical dilemma. Be sure to educate yourself so you’re not part of the problem in a city that is struggling with skyrocketing costs of living.
A quick Google search for Airbnb laws in your destination city should give you all the information you need.
Below are some notable cities that are cracking down on their Airbnb regulations and what you need to look out for.
New York City, USA: With some of the strictest Airbnb laws in the world, NYC only permits the short-term rental of homeowner’s primary residence for less than 30 days, while they are IN the home.
What this means for you: The only technically legal Airbnb rentals in NYC are those in a shared space – renting out a private or shared room in someone’s home for less than 30 days.
Amsterdam, Netherlands: As of January 2019, residents can only rent out their space for up to 30 nights in an entire year and they are only allowed rentals that sleep no more than 4 guests at a time.
What this means for you: If your party is larger than 4 persons or you plan to stay longer than a month, you won’t find any legal Airbnb rentals here.
San Francisco, USA: The hometown of Airbnb itself has some pretty strict regulations including registering with the city as a short-term rental, providing an official registration number on the listing and charging an extra tax for tourists.
What this means for you: If you plan to book an Airbnb in San Francisco, you’ll have to pay an additional 14% tourist tax, equal to the city’s current hotel tax.
Japan: While the entire country has enforced strict regulations that pulled nearly 80% of the countries listings from Airbnb in 2018, they are said to have eased up on their regulations in anticipation of the 2020 Olympics and the room shortage in Tokyo.
What this means for you: If a property in Japan is listed on Airbnb they should have an official registration code in the description box. As long as you see that code, the property is legally rentable.
Barcelona, Spain: While Barcelona has always required short-term rental hosts to register with the city, they have been cracking down on illegal rentals hard since 2014. They even created a special investigations team.
What this means for you: Before booking an Airbnb in Barcelona, check to make sure the property has an official registration number listed (it begins with HUTB, followed by six numbers). As long as your host has registered, you have nothing to worry about.
Los Angeles, USA: The city has invoked regulations on Airbnb rentals to rival the strict NYC laws. Hosts have to register with the city and pay a fee and are only allowed to rent their primary residence which they spend more than 6 months out of the year living in. Non-traditional rentals such as RVs, trailers and tents are no longer permitted in the city.
What this means for you: Since there aren’t any registration codes, you should be safe renting a traditional home or apartment. However, do not expect to rent a “unique rental” in this city.
Airbnb launched a new offering in 2016 called Airbnb Experiences, based on offering unique tours and activities hosted by locals.
Airbnb takes the “local experience” a bit further, with experiential offerings such as craft classes, foodie tours, outdoor adventures, and cultural exchanges. These experiences pair travelers with a local who will show you a unique side of their home, while also giving them a job opportunity.
Unlike going through a tour company, local hosts offer their guests a special look into their world. Sharing a passion, skill, knowledge or inside access to local places and communities that guests couldn’t find on their own.
While Airbnb offers “Experiences” in most cities around the world, here are a few unique and popular Experiences worth checking out if you’re even in these places:
Cooking Class in Barcelona
Learn traditional Paella making from a professional chef in Barcelona. You’ll be invited to join Chef Nanda in her home while participating in a hands-on workshop learning and helping to prepare a traditional seafood paella and sangria. Enjoy the fruits of your labor while listening to classic Spanish tunes.
SUP with Penguins in Cape Town
Go stand-up paddle boarding with penguins in Cape Town. Host Matt wants to take you to his secret spot to go SUP boarding between giant boulders surrounded by penguins.
Sankt Yant Tattoo in Thailand
Village and market tour + traditional tattoo in Thailand. Visit a local village and riverside market outside of Chiang Mai with your local host Tony. Learn about the various cultural and religious beliefs before participating in a traditional tattoo ceremony where you will be inked with your very own permanent souvenir.
Time to Search for your Next Trip
Now that you’ve read all our tips about Airbnb and what to look out for, we’re fully confident your ready to sign up and start searching for your next big trip! This is the exciting part, and we’re so thankful you’ve enjoyed this article.
If you have any Airbnb questions, please submit them in the comments below and we’ll get back to you. If not, good luck!
Need help planning the perfect trip?
Be sure to check out our Travel Planning homepage for resources on everything you need to know from how to get started to packing, budgeting and more! Or you can read some of our favorite articles about planning your next trip below.
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