Five tips for better Airbnb bookings

Even though my husband misses those sugary shrink-wrapped cinnamon rolls that chain hotels call breakfast, I prefer to stay in more meaningful places. I’ve gotten pretty savvy about choosing a good Airbnb but I’ve learned by making mistakes. Here are some pointers to save you the learning curve.

Filters are your friend

Do you want a spare room or a whole house? How about a pool, private parking or a highchair? You can select dozens of options on Airbnb’s filter menus. You can even choose “Unique Stays” and consider a tiny house, yurt or a tree house.

Recently I booked a trip that included my mom and used the accessibility filter so she wouldn’t have stairs to her bedroom.

You’ll also notice “superhosts” listings which means that the stays have received consistently high ratings from guests, have a low cancellation rate, respond to guest’s questions promptly and rent more frequently.

Everyone is a reviewer

Now you don’t have to rely on travel writers to tell you our opinions. Everyone is a reviewer. But be aware, people are more likely to complain than to compliment. I usually disregard the most extreme bad review unless someone corroborates it. Recently I nixed a house after two people mentioned the bad neighborhood.

It’s also important to read the owner’s responses to reviews, both good and bad. After a guest wrote that he checked out early because of stained sheets, the owner responded that the sheets were immediately replaced. Owners who don’t respond or who disparage the reviewer are off my list.

My worst house renting experience was when my family checked into a house that reeked of mold. After opening windows and lighting candles, we gave up and didn’t stay. The owner gave us a full refund, which we appreciated, but that’s when I learned that because we had not stayed there, we couldn’t write a review and warn others.

The price is not the price

When you glance at the list of options, you’ll compare prices of course, but you really don’t know the price until you look more closely. Make sure to put in a date, even if it’s approximate. The price will change depending on the time of year.

Then there is a cleaning fee, service fee and taxes which add considerably and only show up on the full description. As an example, the $295 a night four-bedroom “Music City House of Fame” apartment in Nashville comes to $402 a night once all is told. Cleaning fees should be reasonable.

A recent reviewer complained “just one gripe was the amount of cleaning that was required by guests on top of the cleaning fee. Having to strip the beds and doing the laundry was a bit much … It should either be a lower fee or less requirements.”

There are various cancellation policies that can cost you too if your plans change. Watch for long-stay discounts for bookings of a week or more and early bird discounts for bookings made 30 days or more in advance.

Click through to the “price details” for a complete breakdown of the charges. Rest assured that you’re not being charged anything until you hit “reserve” and the host confirms your reservation.

Look closely at the photos

After I made a bad choice in Maine which required us to creatively pile up pillows to try to make one comfortable place to sit, I’m very careful to look closely at the living room furniture. It’s where we’ll spend the most time.

I consider everyone’s bed preference. My nephew has to have a king size bed. My granddaughters are delighted by bunk beds and no one wants a fold-out couch.

After being called to the door in only a towel one time, I’m also more aware of the proximity to the owners or neighbors and what the owners write about privacy. We chose our delightful rental in Hot Springs, N.C., because of the photos of outdoor space which included a fire pit and several areas to enjoy a nearby river.

Click on the experiences tab

I’m very intrigued by Airbnb experiences. In addition to borrowing accommodations, you can spend some time with a local doing something unique.

In Nashville where I’m headed, we might book the “Moonshine, Hot Chicken and Dancing” outing or sign up to take home a personalized song. It’s a great way to connect with folks who live there.

I’ve learned that if you need a hotel room, and especially if you need more than one, Airbnb is less expensive and offers room to stretch out, congregate and cook.

Take time to choose carefully — and bring your own cinnamon rolls.

Roadtrips Charleston highlights interesting destinations within a few hour’s drive of Charleston, S.C. as well as more far flung locales. Carol Antman’s wanderlust is driven by a passion for outdoor adventure, artistic experiences, cultural insights and challenging travel. For hot links, photographs and previous columns, please see

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