(If you haven’t used Airbnb before, it’s worth trying for yourself. I recommend reading this review of Airbnb to give you a better idea of the pros and cons of the service. HERE is a referral link that will get you $40 off your first stay.)
It’s sometimes hard to imagine a time in travel when Airbnb wasn’t around. It’s become ubiquitous, especially when searching for large group accommodations. Airbnb has done a number of sponsorships over the last couple of years. But it’s been difficult to find a review of Airbnb as a whole (rather than individual properties) have popped up.
Most of those reviews, however, are from the lens of families who have been provided a place to stay, which means it’s going to be in the very upper echelon of the Airbnb repertoire. Also, almost all of those are from the traveler’s perspective.
After 10 years of Airbnb experience, here’s our family’s unsponsored review of Airbnb. We’ll include our pros and cons from our times as both guests and as hosts. Our experience is also from a normal family, staying at average Airbnb properties, in many countries across the world. We hope it gives you a better idea of the benefits and drawbacks of the Airbnb service!
AIRBNB FOR FAMILY ACCOMMODATIONS
Overall, Airbnb is a fantastic option for traveling families. Here are my top 5 reasons why we really appreciate Airbnb while traveling, especially internationally:
AIRBNB PROVIDES EXTRA SPACE FOR FAMILIES
A couple of our kids sleep so much better when they’re not in the same room with us. However, it’s usually cost-prohibitive to reserve two separate hotel rooms. Airbnb gives us the option of having separate spaces, typically for much less than two separate hotel rooms would cost. On that note, it’s also great when you have a big group and want to stay together (so you can put kids to bed at night and stay up way too late eating ice cream and playing Codenames, of course).
AIRBNB SAVES FAMILIES MONEY
While in the US, we often like to stay at Marriott properties, especially Residence Inn and Towneplace Suites. This is because we usually have points we can use, and those two brands tend to allow upgrades to either a 1- or 2-bedroom suite, giving us lots of extra space for free. (And they include breakfast.) That doesn’t work as well internationally, though. In fact, many European hotels won’t even ALLOW 6 people in one room, even if they are small. So Airbnb gives us the option of not being REQUIRED to pay for multiple rooms.
AIRBNB GIVES INSIGHTS INTO LOCAL TIPS
Local hosts often have tips for what to do, where to go, where to eat. It’s awesome. Local tips are especially useful for families who may use grocery stores, playgrounds, and other family spots.
AIRBNB FACILITATES MEAL PREP
Airbnbs will almost always have a kitchen/refrigerator available, so you can save lots of money by not eating out for every meal.
BENEFITS FOR FAMILIES IN AIRBNBS
Many of the locations in which we’ve stayed have had specific amenities that are useful for families. Some of these amenities are washers and dryers, comfortable beds, extra towels, cribs and high chairs, and more. It’s even possible to filter for some family amenities in your Airbnb search (such as washing machines). We’ve never tried Kid & Coe before, but I’m excited to experiment with them this summer, as their properties are all specifically kid-friendly, with cribs, high chairs, etc.
Dozens of Fantastic Airbnbs as Family Guests
We’ve stayed in some pretty incredible Airbnb properties that have enriched the entire experience for our family. One was a cottage with a private hot tub in Iceland, from which we watched the Northern Lights. Another was a lovely home on the Big Island in Hawai’i with enough room for us + grandparents (and provided homemade banana bread!). There was the home in Ireland with the kindest host that was situated on a goat farm, and the one in Athens that was steps from both a convenient Metro stop and the best little local bakery. And there was one in Morocco that was in a beautifully restored riad where the housekeeper made our family a hot breakfast made on site.
We’ve never had a terrible experience as travelers. We’ve had some that weren’t quite as great as others. There was one in Wyoming that had a bathtub that always backed up and had flies all through the house, and another in Oregon that had several hairs on the bathroom floor/toilet).
One Terrible Airbnb Property for Our Family
There was only one property where it was so awful where we felt we actually had to leave. That was during a visit to Utah, and only because the cleaners hadn’t showed up so the house and linens was completely dirty from the previous guests. That was the only time we’ve had to leave and find a hotel (very annoying at 11pm).
If you do choose to stay in an Airbnb, be sure to closely check the reviews before booking. We try to only stay at places that have hosted at least a few times before and have stellar reviews. Get a very good feel for the location, and message the host with questions. In fact, even if you don’t have questions about location or amenities, message the host, anyway. It will be helpful in getting a feel for what he/she is like. HERE is a list of questions to ask a host before booking an Airbnb property.
A REVIEW OF AIRBNB FOR HOSTS
Hosting is where, for us, Airbnb has gotten a bit more dicey. For the most part, we’ve still had perfectly lovely experiences and guests. It’s been great to pad our travel fund. However, we’ve had a few minor incidents that have given us insight into Airbnb’s support for hosts.
Our Review of Airbnb When Hosting a Poor Guest
We’ve only had one incident where we really regretted accepting the guests. We had gone to Hawai’i and got a last minute request after we’d already left on our trip. We’d prepared our home ahead of time in the event we did get a request, so it was ready to go and we accepted. It was a friend group of a few people and they seemed responsible, even if they didn’t have any previous Airbnb experience. Typically, we don’t accept friend groups, nor do we accept first-time Airbnb users.
As we didn’t have any other guests, we decided to give them a chance. In hindsight, we should’ve stuck to our own personal Airbnb rules. These guests ignored multiple rules, smoked outside on our property (we make clear that we don’t accept any smokers), drank heavily, broke some cords, broke a cabinet handle, and used a bunch of our personal food and toiletries. It was not a pleasant return.
Airbnb Didn’t Stand By Their Host Guarantee
What was most insightful and frustrating for us as hosts was that Airbnb refused to help. We’d always felt comfortable hosting with the service because they heavily advertise their $1,000,000 host guarantee. Turns out, it is extraordinarily difficult to actually USE the guarantee.
It was very, VERY difficult to even contact Airbnb. We submitted our claim online fairly easily. And then waited. We waited some more. And waited some more after that.
Trying to Contact Airbnb Customer Service
They never called us back.
Airbnb finally came back with a resolution for us and offered us…$87 for our broken cords. We’d provided them with all kinds of documentation of things the guests broke, used up, left very dirty. Airbnb offered us $87. I was…unhappy.
We kept trying to get them to do something about it, but they refused to do anything more. I swore I’d never use them again.
And then guess what? We, as a last-ditch effort, reached back out to the individual who made the reservation. We were completely shocked when he actually responded, and was super apologetic and kind. He said Airbnb never even reached out to him to try to mediate a resolution.What??He was lovely, and immediately offered to send us money for any damages and extra deep cleaning. We were so grateful.
A Great Airbnb Hosting Experience Depends on Great Guests
So we decided that Airbnb users can be pretty great. If we feel we can trust THEM, it will be a good experience 99% of the time. We’ve had at least 40 different Airbnb groups stay at our home over 8 years in multiple states, and that was the first big issue we’ve had.
So we decided to continue hosting with caution. We only allow families and business travelers (no friend groups). Also, we made our house rules even more crystal clear. For instance, we ask smokers to not even ask to stay, as we don’t want the smell getting from their clothes in our house.
We lay everything out in the rules they must read before even making a request, and message back and forth to ensure everything is clear. It’s not a perfect system, but it makes us comfortable enough to proceed with hosting, which really does offset a significant portion of our travel.
With all that in mind, here are the top 3 reasons we (continue to) host:
AIRBNB OFFSETS TRAVEL COSTS
Whatever else is in this review of Airbnb, one thing is clear – Airbnb can help with travel costs. Travel is expensive, and it is usually more so for accommodations with kids. This helps offset it.
HOME SECURITY DURING TRAVELS
While some people get concerned about their stuff being stolen, we’ve fortunately never had that problem. Perhaps it’s because we don’t have anything terribly valuable, anyway ($200 couch from Amazon, anyone?), but that’s never been a huge concern. And frankly, it gives me some peace of mind that someone is actually staying in and caring for our place while we’re gone (alongside extraordinarily aware and helpful neighbors).
CONTRIBUTING TO THE COMMUNITY
Especially as a traveling family, we truly have benefitted from having Airbnb as an option. It’s nice to be able to help other families, as well.
Overall, Airbnb is extremely traveler-centric, which is nice if you’re the one doing the staying. However, I would recommend proceeding with caution as a host. Make sure you are EXTREMELY clear about your house rules. Discuss with any guests in advance (don’t just assume they read everything). Because Airbnb is so focused on travelers having a good experience, I would not count on them going to bat for you. Make sure you do your own due diligence.
I’m hopeful that by enough hosts sharing their review of Airbnb with the lack of support/service that Airbnb will recognize that hosts are the lifeline of their business. As this review of Airbnb makes clear, they need to ensure protection on that end to maintain their business model.
In the meantime, renting your place has obvious financial advantages and can enable travel, so if you choose to do it, proceed with diligence and caution. And enjoy some extra scoops of ice cream with your extra funds. 😉