John, Erin and I love going on holidays, so much so that we managed to get 3 in this year. Somewhere we have never stayed though is an AirBnB and honestly, I wouldn’t even know where to start with choosing one. Today I have the lovely Cath who blogs at Passports and Adventures. I love hearing about her adventures with her family so she’s here today with some travel advice!
Our family travels quite a lot, both together and separately. And our preferred accommodation for our holidays and getaways are AirBnB’s. There are a few reasons behind this which I’ll explain in a minute. But how do you know which one to pick in the ocean of available listings? How do you choose one that’s right for your family? In this post I’ll share our experiences and tell you how to choose an AirBnB for your family holiday and what to watch out for when deciding which one to book.
Our experiences with AirBnB
We first stayed in an AirBnB in the UK during a bank holiday getaway to Chester. It was a lovely two-bedroom property attached to a main building of a sports and activity centre. We had looked at hotels in and around Chester, but none were giving us what we wanted. For us, a separate bedroom is a must. Ever since we went on holiday with our then eight-month-old son and holed ourselves up in a darkened room for the evening once he was asleep, we decided after that we needed a one-bedroom option whenever we travel.
Admittedly this doesn’t always happen such as when we went to Disneyland Paris, but for 90% of our trips, we choose AirBnB and at least a one-bedroom property. And so, we discovered the world of AirBnB when trying to find the perfect accommodation for our long-weekend in Chester.
Also, we struck lucky. Not only did we get two bedrooms and an open-plan kitchen/dining/living room, we also had the run of the entire sports and activity centre (the outdoors section) once it closed to the public at 6pm. It was the start of our relationship with AirBnB.
Our next experience with AirBnB was when we were planning our first family trip to New York. Hotels were looking horrendously expensive and none gave us a one-bedroom option. We also choose a one-bedroom option when it comes to accommodation as one of us snores so loudly, it keeps the other one of us awake. I’ll say no more. We requested to book a one-bedroom apartment in Lower Manhattan and heard nothing more. Just two months away from our trip, I followed up and found out from the owner that the apartment was no longer available. Cue panic. However, we struck lucky again and booked a fabulous two-bedroom apartment in Astoria, just across the river from Manhattan Island, albeit at a slightly higher price than our original choice.
The following year we booked AirBnB’s for our two-week USA road trip. Our first was a log cabin in the woods just 30 minutes from the West Gate of Yellowstone National Park. And it was amazing! Our son kept calling it our cave, like the Gruffalo’s, in the deep, dark wood. Next up was another two-bedroom apartment in Missoula, Montana which was lovely as well. We had our morning cup of tea while watching deer in the back garden.
However, our third AirBnB for that trip didn’t turn out as expected. Despite great reviews and just a 20-minute drive into Portland, we arrived in an area that looked extremely shady. The house itself was exactly as per the description but the surrounding area was less than desirable. There were boarded up houses and cars on bricks with no wheels in neighbouring houses.
When we drove to the nearby Wal-mart to get supplies, we passed gun shops next to marijuana shops, and there were billboards asking for information leading to the arrest of the murderer of an eight-year-old boy from the area along the main road. To say it gave us a very uneasy feeling would be an understatement. We decided not to stay there and, while sat in the carpark of the Wal-mart, we booked a hotel. It’s the only time we’ve ever done that when it comes to AirBnB’s.
Since then my son and I have stayed in two great AirBnB’s in Ireland, one of which was the most amazing, modern two-bedroom house. If it had a third bedroom, it would be my ideal home. And we’ve also used AirBnB’s during trips to the likes of Barcelona (was a nice apartment but the stairs were a nightmare, not kid-friendly), Central Portugal and we are staying in AirBnB’s in Finland, Thailand and Dubai in forthcoming trips.
So, you could say we’re fans. But what if you haven’t used them before. How do you know what’s a good one to pick and what ones to stay clear of? We’ve learned a lot in the three years we’ve been using them for our family getaways. So, to try and help you navigate the minefield that is AirBnB, here are our top tips to help you choose the best one for your trips.
Tips on how to choose an AirBnB for your family holiday
There are many options in the search field when it comes to AirBnB’s but you should always try and remember to click the “Instant Book” option while searching. This will show you listings that can be booked instantly. This means you can secure your chosen accommodation without having to go through a vetting process by the letting agent/person. It also only lists accommodation that is available for your dates. I always choose this option as I don’t like to be kept waiting, having learned my lesson during our New York planning.
There are also two options when it comes to booking a place on AirBnB, under “Home Type”. You can choose to rent a room or two in someone’s house. Or you can search for listings where you have the entire place to yourselves. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to chance staying in someone’s house with them there and our son kicking off and making a show of us. I prefer privacy and space to cook meals as and when we want. If your family needs sound like ours, choose the “Entire Place” option.
Really consider the location of the listing before you hit that book button. If you are doing a city break and will be without your own transport, consider whether it is near public transport. You can often find mention of this in the reviews for the listing. You can get a rough idea of the location by checking the map for the listing, usually found near the bottom of the page.
And beware of the price too when it comes to location. My sister’s and I were considering a girl’s weekend in Amsterdam next year. One of my sisters sent me a listing that would fit the 5 of us for a cheap price. However, when I looked at the location it was over a 30-minute train ride from the centre of Amsterdam. You can tell she isn’t an AirBnB veteran. It would have made no sense for us to book it when the hub of the action was so far away.
So really do investigate the location of the listing. Obviously if you have your own transport, you will have more options open to you but do check it out before making a final decision.
Do a Google Street View of the local area
Although you don’t get the exact address of the listing until after you’ve made your booking, each listing does include a locality map to give you an indication of where the accommodation is located. Do check out the area using the Street View option of Google Maps. We didn’t do it before booking our Portland accommodation and, as I mentioned already, while the house was lovely and exactly like the pictures, the surrounding area really made us uneasy. So much so, we didn’t stay there and booked a hotel.
Check the Facilities Fine-print
Does the listing have the right number of beds for your family? Many now show a layout of the sleeping arrangements. Just be aware some extra beds might be sofa beds or even inflatable beds. So, pick one with the kind of beds everyone will be comfortable in.
Consider other things such as does the listing include towels and toilet rolls in the bathroom. If you need to work or want to watch Netflix when the kids are in bed, does it have free WiFi. Does it have a microwave (for heating food or sterilising baby bottles). Is it really child-friendly with a cot and highchair available and a lift in the building if the listing is not on the ground floor.
If you are doing a staycation and taking your own car or are travelling abroad and will have a hire car, is there free on-site parking. Really look hard at the facilities or “Amenities” list for the places you are considering.
Read the reviews and be wary of new listings
Make sure you read the reviews for the listing you are considering booking to see what others thought of it, especially if you are travelling with kids. Have people loved it or hated it. Have they complained about noise at night, dogs barking, loud music? Have they mentioned the lack of a lift or lack of cot/highchair for listings that say they are suitable for families? Is the accommodation near public transport as I’ve said above? Many will comment on just how near and easy it is to pop on a bus, train or metro when on city breaks. Some will even mention supermarkets nearby or restaurants for those not wanting to cook themselves. You might read something of interest to sway you one way or the other.
Also check what the response has been to any grievances mentioned in the reviews. It could just be someone being pedantic, or it might be something the host wasn’t aware of but will try to rectify.
And be wary of new listings. These won’t have any reviews, so you are really taking a chance when it comes to booking these. They might sound brilliant but turn out to be awful. I’ve also heard of people booking a newly listed place only to find the one they are staying in looks nothing like the listed one as it isn’t available and is being handled by agents or AirBnB’s hosts on behalf of rental agencies or management companies listing their properties on AirBnB. It might be in the same building but isn’t the one advertised.
Keep all communications through AirBnB
Ensure you keep all communications between yourself and the host within AirBnB, either via pc or on the mobile app (which you should download if you decide to use AirBnB). Do not engage in conversations via WhatsApp or text message, unless you need to get hold of them quickly by phone. Follow up any outside communications on AirBnB through the app or on desktop so there is a record of it and include what you mentioned/agreed with the host. Should anything go wrong or if you need to make a claim through AirBnB, they will be able to check your messages to view conversations. Outside communications cannot be verified. So, if this is the way you’ve communicated with the host and anything has gone wrong, you have no come-back where AirBnB are concerned.
One other thing you should be aware of is, just because it says AirBnB, don’t expect a breakfast. If you are after breakfast, you need to look for traditional BnB’s. You might get some basic things like tea/coffee/sugar left in the accommodation but a continental or cooked breakfast, not a chance.
AirBnB’s can provide a great alternative to families than more traditional accommodation options such as hotels. It certainly is our preferred choice for accommodations for our family holidays. My husband has even used them once or twice when away for work in cities where hotels were looking very expensive. They are also a great choice for girlie weekends away. My sisters and I have used AirBnB’s in London and Edinburgh in the last eighteen months and we’re using one next year when we hit London again for a concert. And with the tips I’ve included here, you’re sure to be better equipped to pick the right one for your family.
Cath is an Irish expat who now lives in Portugal with her husband and son. A former scientist, she gave up working when they emigrated south from the UK. She is a family travel and lifestyle blogger and hopes that, through her blog, they will inspire more families to travel, especially with the toddlers in tow. As a family they love travelling and have started working their way through their family travel bucket list. Cath writes about their family travels and experiences on her blog Passports and Adventures.
PIN IT FOR LATER