5 Things You Should Know Before Booking on Airbnb

Tired of overpriced hotels, impersonal treatment, and cookie-cutter accommodations? An online vacation rental service like Airbnb may be just the thing to revive your wanderlust. Here’s what you need to know before booking on Airbnb, HomeAway or VRBO.

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Considering Booking on Airbnb?

Considering Booking on Airbnb?

Many Canadians are turning to online vacation rental services such as Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO to save cash, meet new people, and enjoy a more authentic travel experience. In the past year, more than 935,000 Canadians have waved goodbye to stuffy hotel rooms, and bunked with Airbnb hosts instead. The accommodations on offer range from spare rooms to entire houses, with castles, igloos, boats, and even treehouses catering to the more adventurous traveller. But before you pack your bags, here are the five things you must know before booking with an online vacation rental service.

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1. Always compare an Airbnb listing's photos with its description.

1. Always compare an Airbnb listing’s photos with its description.

Avoid surprises by carefully reading the property listing on the vacation rental website. “Some hosts will list a couch as a bed, so make sure you scan through everything they list, and match it up to the photos,” says Kimberley Le Sueur, a regular Airbnb user based in Toronto. “If they advertise a two bedroom, but you see pictures of just one bedroom and a couch, that second bedroom is probably the couch.”

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2. Airbnb reviews are your best friend.

2. Airbnb reviews are your best friend.

Following their stay, Airbnb guests can rate their hosts for accuracy, cleanliness, communication, and location. Regular Airbnb users such as Zachary Schraeder of Toronto rely on this feedback to gauge whether or not to book a property. “A low rating combined with no host response after a negative guest review would tell me that the owner doesn’t really care about the guest experience-something that’s an important part of any getaway,” Schraeder says. “How an owner handles any feedback-reasonable or otherwise-tells you a lot more than a simple star rating can.” Taking the time to read reviews can save a lot of heartache later.

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3. Have a backup Airbnb listing in mind-even after you've booked.

3. Have a backup Airbnb listing in mind-even after you’ve booked.

Sometimes extenuating circumstances will cause a host to cancel a booking with little notice. “This happened to me a week before leaving,” says Le Sueur. “I got a credit towards a new place, but if you’re booking for an event that’s city-wide like Oktoberfest, prices can skyrocket, and few places are available on short notice.” Be prepared for the unexpected. Researching a second or even third choice may come in handy if a last minute cancellation does occur.

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4. Do your homework on potential neighbourhoods.

4. Do your homework on potential neighbourhoods.

When considering a potential vacation home rental, research the general area to avoid finding yourself in an undesirable neighbourhood. “We ended up in a really sketchy street in a nice part of Barcelona,” says Le Sueur. “We booked an apartment in a hurry, not looking into the area too much because it was close to tourist spots. But when we got there it was in the club district with loud music until early hours of the morning, and it wasn’t the greatest part of town at night.”

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5. Communication with your Airbnb host is key

5. Communication with your Airbnb host is key

The best experiences start with regular communication between the guest and the host. “It’s beneficial to create a relationship with the person you’re renting from. Email them a few times before you go, especially before the time period when your deposit is no longer refundable. Ask questions. Find out what there’s to do in the area. Get current pictures. If you get a bad feeling, you can cancel with no penalties,” says Schraeder.

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