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6 Ways To Book the Perfect Airbnb [Research, Reviews, Ratings & More!]

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Juan Ruiz
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Juan Ruiz

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Juan has extensive experience in writing and editing content related to credit cards, loyalty programs, and travel. He has been honing his expertise in this field for over a decade. His work has been ...
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Michael Y. Park is a journalist living in New York City. He’s traveled through Afghanistan disguised as a Hazara Shi’ite, slept with polar bears on the Canadian tundra, picnicked with the king and que...
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Let’s be real: There are times when renting an Airbnb makes more sense than using points for a hotel stay. Whether you love or loathe Airbnb, securing the perfect home rental requires more effort than simply booking a hotel room.

Investing time and effort in selecting the perfect Airbnb for your travel needs is critically important.

Are you interested in finding out the distance between the Airbnb and a nearby attraction? Maybe you would like confirmation on the number of beds available in the listing or whether the host allows early check-in. Unfortunately, in many cases, the only way to obtain answers to these questions is by reaching out to your potential Airbnb hosts.

I’ve stayed in over 100 Airbnb properties, all of which I’ve personally vetted and researched, and most of my stays (minus a handful) have been excellent and without incident.

These are the 6 steps I take every time I book an Airbnb to ensure I find the ideal home for my needs.

1. Be Willing To Do the Research

I frequently stay at hotels, but I also consider Airbnb as an alternative when there are no high-quality hotels available or when the destination I’m considering has a thriving Airbnb market.

Whenever I have the opportunity, I choose Hyatt for my travels because I am a top-tier Globalist with the World of Hyatt loyalty program. Thanks to the hotel points I earn every year from travel credit cards and co-branded hotel credit cards, I have both of these lodging choices at my disposal.

One key distinction between hotels and Airbnb is the level of trust in staying at a hotel. When you select a well-known hotel chain, you can confidently make your booking fully aware of what to expect. There are websites that offer valuable hotel reviews, or you may have friends who have stayed at these hotels and can personally vouch for them.

However, because each Airbnb home is unique, you must be willing to devote extra time to researching and reading through Airbnb listings in your selected destination.

Woman smiling at computer
While choosing an Airbnb may take longer than choosing a hotel, it’s imperative you spend time researching listings to make an informed choice. Image Credit: iana_kolesnikova via Adobe Stock

2. Consider Airbnbs With Multiple Reviews and High Ratings

The overall rating of an Airbnb listing is made up of 6 different factors: cleanliness, accuracy, check-in, communication, location, and value. Guests can grade hosts in each category on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. This rating provides a good indication of the quality of both the Airbnb host and the listing itself.

When researching Airbnb listings, I look for those with an overall rating of at least 4.8 out of a total possible 5.0 score. While a low rating in specific categories may be a red flag, a score of 4.8 or higher usually indicates high-quality listings and hosts.

Guest reviews airbnb screenshot
Always strive for an Airbnb with a high guest rating score and many guest reviews. Image Credit: Airbnb

In addition to a high overall rating, to maximize my chances of being satisfied with my choice, I never reserve an Airbnb without any reviews, no matter how nice it appears. I believe in the tried-and-true technique of others before me staying at the listing and having a positive enough experience to write a review about it. While I don’t aim for a set number of reviews, my rule of thumb is double digits or greater.

You may have your own standards for what makes or breaks an Airbnb, but for me, a minimum overall rating of 4.8 and several positive reviews are must-haves.

Hot Tip:

Airbnb and Vrbo are the 2 dominant players in the home-sharing market, each with unique characteristics. Check out our in-depth comparison of Vrbo vs. Airbnb for both guests and hosts.

3. Make a Wishlist of Your Favorite Airbnb Listings

If you find the idea of spending hours researching Airbnb listings to be overwhelming, a helpful solution is to create what Airbnb calls a “wishlist” and focus your time on reviewing only those listings.

Airbnb Wishlist Screenshot
A wishlist keeps all your favorite Airbnb listings in one place. Image Credit: Airbnb

A wishlist is a collection of homes that you can mark with a heart to indicate your interest and save for future reference.

Airbnb Wishlist Heart
Make an Airbnb wishlist of your favorite properties in a destination. Image Credit: Airbnb

This list is designed to help you narrow down your Airbnb options from a wide range to just a few.

Whenever I start browsing Airbnb listings in a particular area, I typically add 10 to 12 listings to my wishlist. After carefully considering my options and reviewing each, I narrow my wishlist to a few top contenders — typically around 5 listings.

After thoroughly evaluating the remaining top choices on my wishlist, I find it much easier to select the perfect Airbnb from a well-reviewed selection of exceptional listings.

4. Communicate With Hosts

How quickly a host responds to potential guests is crucial to whether a listing on my wishlist progresses or is removed.

I recommend anyone considering booking an Airbnb to avoid the instant book tool and always contact the hosts first. Share some information about yourself, your trip’s purpose, and any particular questions you have about the listing (location, amenities, check-in procedure, etc.).

Airbnb Host and Guest Conversation
Always contact an Airbnb host before booking a listing. This will help you gauge their communication skills and attentiveness. Image Credit: Airbnb

Now is the perfect time to assess the host’s responsiveness and willingness to assist. Look for the tone of their response. Is it friendly? Are they terse? Did they not provide an answer to your question?

An excellent host will answer your inquiry promptly and thoroughly. Once you’ve got a better feel for the host, you can then decide whether their Airbnb listing is worth considering.

Hot Tip:

If possible, look for Airbnb Superhosts, who are experienced hosts who consistently provide exceptional hospitality to guests. They are known for their quick responses to inquiries and favorable reviews. The host’s listing will proudly showcase a badge that signifies their noteworthy status as a Superhost.

5. Look Through Previous Guest Reviews

Guest reviews are the most reliable way to gauge the level of satisfaction of an Airbnb experience. When an Airbnb is reviewed by numerous guests and receives high guest scores, it’s an encouraging sign that you’ll also have a good experience with your host and listing. The power of collective feedback cannot be underestimated.

Exploring the reviews further can be the difference between having a positive experience and ending up utterly disappointed with your Airbnb. Look at the reviews left by previous guests and use specific keyword search terms to find reviews that reference them.

For instance, I am a notoriously light sleeper and require near-complete silence to sleep peacefully. When I’m sifting through reviews of Airbnb listings, I will input keywords such as  “noise” or “sleep” to check if any previous guests have made related comments.

Airbnb Reviews Search Field
Type in keywords that are important to you when dissecting reviews on Airbnb. Image Credit: Airbnb

Another scenario in the reviews search field would be if I wanted to know if an Airbnb was situated near a particular attraction.

For instance, let’s say I’m searching for Airbnb listings in Rome and would prefer to be within walking distance of the Vatican. If the listing does not clearly mention its proximity to the Vatican, I would suggest searching for “Vatican” in the reviews to see if any guests have mentioned the distance between the Airbnb and the Vatican. This information would be extremely valuable to me as I evaluate Airbnb listings that are conveniently near the Vatican, which is my preference.

By digging further into the reviews, you can discover additional information about the Airbnb that you may not have known otherwise.

6. Have Fun With the Process

First and foremost, I recognize that most individuals have busy schedules and prefer not to spend excessive time deciding on where to stay for a trip. However, when it comes to choosing the perfect Airbnb, it’s important to dedicate time to research. Each listing has its own qualities that set it apart.

Additionally, there is nothing more satisfying than conducting thorough research and investing time in finding an Airbnb that not only fulfills your needs but also enhances your travel experience and suits every person in your party.

Couple sitting on floor on laptop computer
Try to enjoy the Airbnb booking process and get your loved ones involved in helping you choose the perfect listing. Image Credit: Prostock-studio via Adobe Stock

Try to enjoy the process as much as possible. Get your friends and family involved. Share your wishlist with them and ask for feedback. After discussing the options with those individuals traveling with you, remove listings from your wishlist that do not meet your criteria.

By enlisting the support of others in the Airbnb selection process, you not only make the vetting process more enjoyable but also reduce the wishlist to only a few possibilities, bringing you closer to your final decision.

While it may not be your favorite pastime, dedicating a little time to finding the ideal Airbnb for you will ultimately pay off. Once you’ve found the perfect one, you’ll appreciate the effort, and future searches will be less burdensome.

Final Thoughts

Sure, booking an Airbnb may be riskier than booking a hotel stay. After all, you know precisely what you’re getting when you reserve a room with an internationally-recognized hotel chain. However, it does not have to be risky.

By following the tactical actions outlined in this article, you will likely boost your chances of having a positive Airbnb experience, which will only add another tool to your travel toolbox.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Airbnb and how does it work?

Airbnb is an internet platform for booking accommodations such as holiday homes, private rooms, shared rooms, and hotel rooms. Hosts place their properties for rent, specify the available dates and prices, and guests can book them online or on the Airbnb app.

Does Airbnb enable you to message a host prior to booking their home?

Yes, you can send a private message to the host of an Airbnb rental you’re interested in. In fact, this is exactly what you should do before booking a rental so that you can thoroughly evaluate the host’s responsiveness and have any questions concerning the rental answered.

What is an Airbnb Wishlist?

Wishlists are a collection of bookmarked Airbnb properties that guests can “heart” and return to when they are ready to book.

How do I know I'm choosing a good Airbnb?

To increase your chances of finding a good Airbnb, it is important to carefully examine the reviews and consider the number of reviews from past guests when looking at listings. It is also advisable to prioritize Superhosts, those hosts who go above and beyond for guests, or hosts with ratings of 4.8 or higher on a 5-point scale.

Juan Ruiz's image

About Juan Ruiz

Juan has extensive experience in writing and editing content related to credit cards, loyalty programs, and travel. He has been honing his expertise in this field for over a decade. His work has been featured in various prestigious publications, such as USA Today, CNN Underscored, Forbes and The Points Guy. Juan is the visionary behind JetBetter, a premier award booking concierge service.

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