Last year this time, I put a hold on my career and was embarking on a journey of a round the world travel. Just like most of other Globetrotters, my partner and I had a limited budget but had a long list of places to visit and endless things to do along the way. As avid users of Airbnb, we knew we would be staying in someone's spare bedrooms wherever possible and this strategy worked great for us in saving money as we ended up spending only 53% of the allocated budget on accommodation.
This, of course helped us ticking off more things on our bucket lists.
Home sharing was not only great for the money saving purpose but also was for authentic travelling experience too. From a lake house in Pucon, Chile to a small beachside unit in Chennai, India, we just loved our local surroundings and interactions.
Of course there were outstanding home sharing experiences and some not so flattering ones. So what was the Airbnb experience that stood out for me, things that any hosts can easily take on board and that all travellers will thank you for?
1. Easy check-in
Check-in goes top of my list and here is why. Imagine you are arriving after a long flight, perhaps overnight flight with a couple of crying babies in your vicinity, the last thing you want to do is spending time looking for a place that is not clearly indicated on Google maps - to my surprise, Google maps do get slightly off at times. Or sometimes also the entrance is located on a different street to the one of the address.
So be kind and leave your guests a really thorough direction to your property, especially if you know that Google maps has given your guests a hard time before.
(Our host in Chile sent us a map in drawing because it really was tricky to find the place via Google maps)
Timely communication with guests is another really important duty of an Airbnb host. Going back to the first point, residential buildings are harder to find than commercial buildings or landmarks such as hotels so it is really important that hosts are available for guests especially before and after 12 hours of the booking. Be open to communicating through Airbnb or even Whatsapp in a timely manner to make sure your guests are having a pleasant time at your place and not struggling with connecting to the Wifi!
(With our Airbnb hosts in Andong, Korea who took us around to show their town and made us a nice breakfast)
If you are shy with your English, it is best to also communicate through a messenger or get help from your friend/family who can communicate in a timely manner with your guests on your behalf. We have had experiences where we had to speak to the daughters or the son in law of the hosts for check-ins which worked quite ok.
If only Google maps were always accurate, I would personally put cleanliness as my top priority! Most of the sub-optimal Airbnb experience I had were concerning cleanliness so it could just come down to my personality but I am sure there are a lot of people like me out there, so it is best to prepare and over-do it for some of those picky ones.
Where I get disappointed the most with/hosts tend to overlook are:
- dirty shower booth or shower curtains,
- stained sheets or sheets that are not crisp,
- dust on the bedside table (or anywhere near the bed),
- sticky remote controllers,
- dusty ventilation,
- washing machine with washing powder built-ups in the compartment,
- stuffy air/generally bad smell coming from an unknown source,
- pests due to poor hygiene (roaches, bedbugs!!)
4. Setting the right expectations
When we stayed in an Airbnb listing in Jordan, we were woken up at 4 am every day by a blasting prayer call coming from 4 massive speakers of a nearby mosque. The window was very thin and the call was supposed to reach everyone in the town so the sound was louder than that of a thunder.
To top it off, we had an old style squatting toilet of which the picture was not included in the Airbnb listing. So, you can imagine how we felt about staying in that place - tired and underwhelmed.
Though it was actually our mistake to book a place without any review which I generally tend not to do but these details need to be mentioned so guests can either prepare or not get taken by a surprise.
5. Providing local tips
I see more and more hosts have instructions and guidebooks handy for their guests but some go beyond the norm. These local tips make the travelling experience so much richer and more authentic because generic travel guides you get out there can be quite commercial.
(My host in Athens, Greece sent me a really clear instruction to his place and local tips around the area before I reached there)
If you are a host, be generous with things you share in the guidebook - share things that you as a local person would normally do in your spare time. More often than not, travellers - especially ones that stay in Airbnb - want to experience the life of the locals than of the tourists.
Sharing is caring
It is always important for the hosts to keep in mind that guests are in a very different frame of mind to theirs. Small things can really make or break it because they may be travelling from afar or they may never come back to your home destination again, which makes every experience all the more important.
Although there were some below-average home sharing experiences, for us, these are all part of the awesome memories we took home with. As much as home sharing is a great experience for the guests, I realised it is rewarding for the hosts as well (money aside) as they can contribute to their guests' travel experience. Some of the hosts we met were avid travellers themselves and they just liked having like-minded people in their place sharing what they could.
(Often I was one of very few Asian travellers which made me a celeb among the local kids)
So if you have a great home that you would like to share, don't hesitate! If home sharing is too handful for you, get in touch with MadeComfy and the experts will take care of it from start to finish too.