Airbnb Hacks, Tips and Tricks to use for your next family vacation

by | For Parents, Stay

Looking for Airbnb hacks, tips, and tricks? Well, you’re about to find out all the quick, easy and clever (sneaky?!) ways we navigated the awesome vacation rental platform. From using map view, to contacting hosts for special deals, everything you need to know about Airbnb rentals is right here.
Let’s face it. Finding the proper accommodation is probably the hardest and most time-consuming part of planning a vacation. It can also represent the most costly part of your holiday. Having very young children, we realized quite early on that having a self-contained unit was the best option for us while travelling.

So, after much time (and some lessons learned!) we sorted out a few tips and tricks that really helped us save time, and more importantly, money! Here are our top money and time-saving hacks when booking through Airbnb.

 

Use Airbnb search results in Map View

When we first began using the Airbnb app, we did a basic rookie move and just started searching by putting in the overall location. What we didn’t realize, is that if you just put Rome into the search bar, it provides properties situated over quite a large area. 2000 results later and we were feeling quite overwhelmed.

 

This is where Airbnb’s map view really comes in handy. Doing prior research on the exact location you want to stay allows you to narrow down your search results. If you are using the app, you just zoom into the area of interest and then go back to the results. You now have a smaller pot to look through and can focus on making sure that the property has other features that you are looking for. Which brings us to our next hack…

 

TIP: When in Map View on the Airbnb app, don’t just look at the properties featured on the bottom of the map as it doesn’t show all of them that are available. Make sure you go back to list view to see the entire selection of properties for that area.

 

Use the filters

Okay, you’re probably thinking we’re really not that smart if we missed this option when we began our search, but to be honest, we did. I blame it on the excitement of knowing that we were going to Italy.

Seriously though, this is another feature that really helps narrow down the search results. For instance, here are some features that we need while traveling – wifi, air conditioning, a kitchen, and to have space entirely for our own use. Just putting those filters in allowed us to see only the properties that actually had them.

For those with mobility issues, Airbnb also has additional filters that allow you to find a property that suits your needs. If you are family with young children and use a stroller, you may want to use this feature to look for accommodations that have an elevator, or first-floor access. Airbnb also allows you to filter by trip type (for families or for work) or even by Superhost, which allows you to see properties that have been verified by Airbnb to be of the highest standard.

TIP: Read the description and comments to see that the listed features actually function. For example, some properties may only have air conditioning in one specific room (like a bedroom), which may not be useful for your family.

 

Manipulate your search criteria

So you’re scrolling through the property listings on Airbnb and haven’t found what you’re looking for. Well, a little tweak with your search criteria might help you find your diamond in the rough. Here’s what we mean. While trying to find a property in Milan, we couldn’t really find one with the view that we wanted. Putting in the number of guests as 2 adults, one child and one baby limited our results. For Airbnb and hosts, the one child (age 2-12) counted as another person.

Now, our son is only 3 years old and sleeps with us (attachment parenting at it’s finest) and doesn’t really need the same accommodations that let’s say a 12-year-old would. So we decided to search for locations that were just for 2 adults (baby sleeps in a portable crib). Sure enough, some other locations popped up and we found our dream property. A quick email to the host advising him of our situation allowed us to book the property, with no additional fees.

 

We found this hack to be super useful as we continued our search. It not only allowed us to see the additional properties that were available but most times the host wouldn’t charge the additional person fee that is often seen on property listings for more than two people.

Another option may be to add more dates to your stay. For us, adding an additional night in Verona and making a day trip to Lake Garda (as opposed to staying ove), meant that we needed three nights instead of two. The host was willing to offer us a discount as we were spending three nights at her property.

TIP: Changing the number of guests or adding additional days in one location can help you find additional properties and save you money.

Contact the host for special offers

In our experience, most hosts are super friendly and accommodating. They answer your questions in a timely manner and make themselves available for your needs before and during your stay. This also applies to their listed rental price.

Before you book any property on Airbnb, make sure to contact the host to see if there are any special deals or discounts they can give you. Perhaps you are travelling in the off-season or are going to have a longer stay. Hosts have the ability to offer you special deals that may otherwise not be listed.

For example, we got super lucky with one host who offered us a special deal that gave us a $120 saving for a 4-night stay in Venice. For the host, a small discount in Euros resulted in large savings for us. Other hosts flat out refused to give a discount, given that it was the high season, but a simple message resulted in us being able to use the savings towards other things.

TIP: Always contact the host for any special deals or discounts prior to booking.

 

Check the additional fees before you book

Additional fees stink for so many reasons. You find a beautiful property on Airbnb within your budget (let’s say $150/night) and you proceed to book when all of a sudden the total is $190/night instead. Scrambling to figure it out, you notice the dreaded additional fees tab. Here you will most likely find a cleaning fee, Airbnb service fee, taxes, and in some instances, additional guests fee. Make sure to also check for fees that may be added for early or late arrival. This stipulation can add to the overall cost, especially if you know you will be arriving outside of the check-in time.

So, here’s what we did. We quickly realized that our budget for accommodations was too low. We changed our search criteria to include properties that were a bit more expensive which gave us more results. From this list, we were able to go in and see the additional fees and choose the best property that had features that we liked. There were quite a few times where a “lower” priced property quickly became the same price as one that was listed at a higher rate due to their additional fees being more costly.

TIP: Expand your search options to include properties that are a bit more than your budget. Some lower priced properties have additional fees that make it as expensive as higher priced ones.

Read the reviews and description

 Sometimes you find the perfect property on Airbnb and rush to book. It has everything you want. A kitchen, two beds and a balcony! You go through the booking process, pay and feel a sense of satisfaction for getting such a great deal. You start to show your partner the property when they ask “did you read the reviews?”.

If there is one thing you should always do before booking, this is it! Read the description and the reviews. All of them! In truth, we made this mistake and ended up having to cancel a reservation after reading (after the fact) that the host actually had a room in the property that we believed would be entirely for our own use.

To be fair, this fact was not written in the description (of which we did read). In reading the reviews afterward more than one guest commented on the awkwardness of having someone in a room that was locked, but within the apartment. The host actually responded to this saying it was listed as a B&B and that there shouldn’t be any surprise. The description itself and photos did not indicate this set-up and it was only through reading the reviews that we figured this out.

Reviews can also give you information on the host themselves (timeliness of responses, helpfullness, etc.) as well as quality of the property itself. You may find that while the host lists heating as being in the property, it may be limited to only one room. Wifi can be a feature that you need, but it could be spotty in certain parts of the property. While reading the reviews may take time, it can really mean the difference between a great stay that meets your expectations and one where you spend your whole time trying to get the hot water to work!

TIP: Read, read, and read again the reviews and descriptions to get the most information about the property you are trying to book.

Refer a friend (aka your spouse!)

This sneaky hack was actually found by accident but really came into good use. While planning our vacation we began making reservations under one account, when we stumbled upon the offer that Airbnb gives for referrals. If you refer a friend and they book a reservation, you will get a $19 USD credit and they will get a $34 USD credit. (Click here to visit Airbnb) So using our math skills, we realized that if wifey booked some of the trips under her account and hubby booked some under his, we could save money on some of our bookings.

 

Join Airbnb

 

If you think you are going to be gone for a while and want to host your own property, the referral also will give your friend (or spouse) a $90 USD credit. While it may not seem like much, these credits can help you move up into a better property that may have otherwise been out of your budget.

TIP: If you decide to cancel a reservation that you used the credit coupon on, it will disappear and cannot be used towards another reservation.

Book through two accounts

 

If you are travelling with your spouse, a friend, or another family, and need more than one reservation, try to book through separate accounts. The benefits of booking through two accounts are twofold. You not only get the referral credit as mentioned above, but you also have the ability to cancel 3 reservations per account if needed. (Click here to creat an account)

Our trip to Italy has us staying at 6 properties. If for any reason we need to cancel, Airbnb allows for their service fee to be waived for up to 3 reservations per year. If we would have booked all of our properties under one account, and an emergency came up that wouldn’t allow us to travel, only 3 of our 6 reservations would have been fully refunded.

Now, this hack only refers to Airbnb’s service fee. For full cancellation policies, you have to look at your reservation to see if the host has a flexible, moderate, strict, super strict, or long term cancellation policy. For families, we always suggest trying to find a property that has a flexible or moderate cancellation policy that will allow you to get the most money back if you have to cancel last minute due to unforeseen circumstances.

TIP: Make sure you don’t cancel a reservation that overlaps with any part of an existing reservation or the service fee will not be refunded.

 

Use Google Maps Street view to get a better view of the property

 

 

Most properties on Airbnb don’t list the host’s property address until after booking, which is totally understandable. But sometimes, an over-paranoid mama really wants to know the street of the property before committing to book (not naming any names here!). Using Google Maps, she can have a quick look-see at the surrounding area, without committing to anything.

While this may not be the case for all properties, there are instances where there are specific landmarks that are shown in the property photos that can be found by doing some digging on Google Maps. One property we booked in Venice had photos of the view outside the window that faced a hotel. Using the hotel name, we were able to find the property location and investigate the surroudning area to make sure it was suitable for our family.

Now, for some of you this might sound really extra (and I’m sure you are right) but when traveling with kids, you don’t want to be arriving in a strange city at night and end up in an area that you don’t feel comfortable in. Google Maps street view allows you to see the building location, nearby restaurants and even figure out how far it may be to walk to specific attractions.

TIP: Bust out your best investigator skills and use hosts photos of window views to find the property on Google Maps.

Do you have any more Airbnb tips that we missed? Leave in the comments below! Are you looking for the perfect AirBnB location. Check out our guide to using AirBnB map view to search for a property with the best location. 

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