Booking & Choosing an Air bnb for travel

Saturday, April 27, 2019

My first time using Air bnb was January 2018 when I visited New York (picture above), and since then I have stayed in an Air bnb in Paris and in England. Booking an Air bnb for the first time can definitely be NERVE WRACKING, and I can't tell you how many HOURS I spent browsing listings online to find the perfect place for my travels, but in the end I have become more comfortable and confident with Air bnb and wanted to share some of the tips and lessons I have learned along the way:

  • Look At All Your Options: Air bnb can seem overwhelming at times, and to be honest there are so many options to choose from, but if you are on a budget or looking for something specific you really do have to take the time to look at all your options. Make sure to save your top places in a folder for that trip so you can go back to look at them. Once you have narrowed down your options then you can choose from those. If I am being honest I probably spent over 2 hours finding our air bnb for NY and about an hour for my Glasgow trip.
  • Thoroughly Check Reviews: Reviews are my lifeline on Air bnb....granted, I have only used air bnb 3 times, but I never add a place to my list or book unless the reviews are good. I always look to see if the host communicates well with guests, is available to help with questions or once you arrive, give you plenty of information, has the place clean, etc....
  • Check To See How Long They Have Been A Host: I also like to see how long they have been a host on Air will tell you on their profile, but also if they have been a host for awhile they will have more reviews which helps you narrow down your choices. The crazy thing is that when I booked our Air bnb for New York the place we chose was very new, there was only 1 review and the host had only been on for about 6 was kind of nerve wracking and I almost didn't book, but everything seemed perfect and the host got back to me in a timely manner and thankfully by the time our trip came around here were many more reviews (which were all good).
  • Message Them: Always reach out! I never book a place or even seriously consider it until I message the host and see how long it takes them to get back to me, even if it's just a simple general question like "Hey, I am thinking about booking your place and was wondering ___________". I like doing this simply to see if they are really active and if they would be able to answer questions if I need them to. It also shows them that you are interested and sometimes they will go ahead and put those dates on hold for you. 
  • Make Sure it Offers What You Need: Air bnb always lists what the place offers like, wifi, and extra bed, coffee maker, etc....look to make sure it has all the amenities you need for your stay, especially if you are staying for a longer time. 
  • Location, Location:  Always consider the places you are wanting to go and see where you are traveling. I always like to try and pick a place that is in a central location to the sights I want to see. On air bnb, you can see the general location of the place, so you can visually see where it is in regards to sights you want to see. However, don't book a place just because it is cheap if it is super far from the places you are wanting to go. Also, if you are booking an Air bnb in a place that uses a Subway system as it's major form of transportation I like to find a place to stay that is near a subway station, bus stop, or train. 
  • Mapquest and Research The Neighborhood: On air bnb they never give you the exact address of a place until you book it, so when you look on their map you will only get a general idea of where the place is at. For my New York trip I actually asked the host more about the neighborhood and location and they answered some questions for me. The helpful thing is that on air bnb they show you a map with the star of the general location, but you can actually zoom in to see a 3D google earth view and sometimes see the street, which is helpful in determining a location.
  • Pay Attention To Security Deposit: Air bnb always gives you a price breakdown for each place, but when you are searching places they only give you the general amount, so if a place says it $87 a night you won't know that it could have a $20 security deposit and $10 cleaning fee until you look at the price breakdown, so in total you would nto be paying $87, your total would be $117. This sometimes causes me to take places off of my "potential list" because when you add up all the costs it is more expensive. When I traveled to New York last January our apartment in New York was a higher price per night than some places, but the security deposit was lower so it evened out. 
  • Check In and Check Out .... always ask if they are flexible with it: some places have self check in which is helpful so you have a lot of flexibility there but others have a specific time frame which might not always work with your travel schedule. A lot of hosts are flexible with times and are usually accommodating so ask before you decide. If you needed an early morning check in because of an early flight I might suggest booking the day before that way the place is already yours, and just communicate this with your host. Some hosts even have "self check in" where they give you the code to a lock box with the key to the apartment, that was the case for our Air bnb in England and it was so helpful with out weird schedule. 
  • Communicate With Host & Arrive When You Say: Air bnb has a built in messaging interface (you are not supposed to contact them outside of the app) for you to contact and communicate with your host. Let them know your arrival/departure time frame and make sure to arrive when you actually told them you were arriving so that things are ready for you :) All the hosts I have had so far were great about communication and super helpful with my odd schedule. 
  • Leave The Place Better Than You Left It: I have always been taught to leave any place I am visiting better than when I first arrived, so make sure to clean up after yourself when you leave so that there is less work for your host! 
  • Go With Your Gut: It can be a bit nerve wracking booking on air bnb because you are choosing to stay at a random persons house/apartment. If something doesn't feel right stick with that feeling. Sometimes you might find a great place with perfect pictures and an awesome price, but if it is new to Air bnb and has no reviews yet I would be cautious. 
Following these steps has helped to relieve any uncertainty about booking an Air bnb and I hope it helps you when planning your next adventure!

- Madison

A Day In Paris

 This post might be late in making it to the blog, but better late than never :) 
Back in December when I went to Scotland my friend asked if I wanted to go to Paris for 2 days. Once you are in the UK it is fairly easy to travel to Europe so of course I said YES!! Paris had always bee on of my Bucket List places to visit and going there was a dream. While our trip was quite short, we managed to fit A LOT into our short time there and completed most all of it in just ONE day. Keep reading to see what we did on our Day in Paris: 

Arc De Triomphe - Apart from the Eiffel Tower this is such a central landmark to this city and totally worth seeing! If you ride the metro or stay in a hotel or apartment a bit on the edge of the city there is a good chance you will walk by the Arc De Triomphe. This is such a great place to stop and explore, even if it is only to take a few quick pictures in front of the iconic structure. However, if you want to see more of the city and explore it then you could actually schedule a time to go up in it.
Place Du Trocadero/Tour De Eiffel - If you want to go up in the Eiffel tower that is definitely an option, but if you are short on time your best option is to stop at Place Du Trocadero early in the morning to take pictures on the ledge and steps with the Eiffel Tower in the background. The Place Du Trocadero is between the Arc De Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower and is seriously the most visited spot by photographers in Paris (and its a top blogger spot too). We stopped here around 8:20 our first morning in Paris and it was the perfect time to take pictures and not to overly crowded by people.
Louvre - The Louvre is such an iconic museum full of such treasures and art that most of us have only ever seen in pictures. We all know the Louvre as the museum where you enter through a class pyramid but what you might not know is it is a HUGE museum that is partly hidden underneath the pyramid and also takes up the buildings around it. I never knew the Louvre was so HUGE! You could probably spend an entire day there and still not see everything, so if you are trying to fit it into a short trip I would suggest choosing your top 4-5 things you want to see and focusing on those. We really wanted to see the Venus De Milo and Mona Lisa, but in the process of trying to find where those were located in the museum (signage is confusing) we actually got to see a good bit of other artifacts, sculptures, and art.
Palaise Royal - This is a great place to stop if you are already at the Louvre. If you have ever seen the pictures of people in Paris standing on black and white columbs this is at the Palaise Royal and it is just a few streets over from the Louvre and is totally worth checking out for a picture spot or break place.
**Tourist Shops**
Musee D'Orangerie - If you are a fan of Claude Monet or simply want to take the #cliche picture standing in front of the Waterlillies than you have to go to the Musee D' depending on the time of day that you go the line for this museum might actually be shorter than others and the museum is small enough that it won't take all of your time and if you simply want to stop in just to see the two rooms of Claude Monet's Waterlillies than that in itself is worth it.
Musee D'Orsay - So this museum was on our list to visit and we actually had tickets for it (we got a combined ticket for the D'Orangerie and D'Orsay) but we didn't consider that even though we bought tickets online we might still have to wait in a line so when we got there and saw the line wrapped 2 blocks we took that stop off the list.
Tuileres Garden (Jardin des Tuileries) - Definitely not as stunning in the winter (Even if there was the Christmas market) but still a beautiful place to explore or walk through from the Louvre to the D'Orangerie.

BONUS (Day Two):
Notre Dame - We wanted to visit Notre Dame but were not able to fit it into our main day so we managed to stop by the famous Cathedral on our departure day, early in the morning before we headed to the airport. We were not able to go up in the tower, but we were able to look around inside. Going inside the Cathedral is free, but you had to pay to go in the tower. The sad thing is that Notre Dame just caught fire a week ago and now most of the inside details are destroyed....seeing the famous cathedral on fire was so sad, but it also made me appreciate the opportunity I had to visit it in December.

Have you Visited any of these places in Paris?

- Madison