The thrill of an adventure can be so intoxicating that we can easily fixate on the destination itself and forget the fact that it’s where many live and work. As a result, we as travelers come to forget about common courtesies like respecting personal space and etiquette. This can become an awkward, expensive, or possibly dangerous mindset to have if you’re staying with locals as an Airbnb guest. After staying in more than 50 Airbnbs with people of different backgrounds and generations, we’ve found the following steps to be quite helpful in not only having a safer stay, but a more enriching one, too.
Know What You Want Out of Your Airbnb Lodging
The first step to planning any successful and safe trip begins with certainty about what you need and expect from your lodgings. For instance, do you need to stay someplace that doesn’t feature stairs because of injured knees? Don’t pick a room that’s on the second floor. Do you need to be on a certain side of town because it’s close to an activity or an event you need to attend? Narrow your search down to particular neighborhoods. Do you need your Airbnb to be quiet so you can recharge after busy days out? Don’t choose a house with more than one Airbnb guest room or with many kids as it can feel like a hostel or playground. Know what you want and book accordingly.
Make Sure You and Your Host Will Get Along
Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a couple of options, read through each listing thoroughly to make sure you and the host will get along, especially if it’s a longer stay. If their personality and their hosting style is not clear in their listing, send them a message letting them know about any requests or questions you might have. If you need access to a kitchen, you might want to ask if they allow space in the fridge for your food, or if they allow you to cook at any time of day. If you like to be the only Airbnb guest and stay in the only room rented, write them to verify that you plan to book the only room they list.
Verify Any House Rules with Your Host
Being a good guest continues past the check-in. Once you have done so, and if your host is present, take the time to ask for a list of the rules and even a tour of the place. It might seem superfluous, yet taking this time to do so will help you know the layout so that you don’t go into anywhere you’re not allowed and know where everything is located. This is also the time to ask for any local recommendations. Hosts love to tell their guests about their favorite spots so ask away!
Get to Know Your Host and Any Other Airbnb Guest, if There’s a Common Space
One of the best strengths of Airbnb, that is not replicated by many other companies, lies in that it allows for travelers and locals to get to meet, learn, and even form friendships in ways that no other setting or hotel arrangements can provide. Our hosts during our first visit in Vancouver were so friendly and interesting that we’ve ended up forming a friendship that has lasted for years. We’ve also had many hosts invite us back to look after a space or their animals after connecting with us during our stay. At the very least, you will have taken the time to learn about your host and other travelers, and it may open your eyes to new ideas and points of view.
Respect the Space
The maxim “make yourself at home” often comes from good-intentions—i.e., “do as you please so that you may consider this place as safe as your home.” However, as many guests can attest, “home” for some means being tidy and treating the living space with respect; to others it is interpreted as being allowed to make a mess with abandon. Always keep in mind that while you are paying to share a space, you’re not entitled to do as you please. Messes and damages that you leave aren’t exactly done away with a quick clean. Serious ones can cause extra damage that would cost your host extra time, money, and possibly even future guests if they have to take extra time cleaning up after you. Ask your host how they like to keep their space and what they expect from you. More often than not, their rules and expectations will be simple enough to follow, like picking up after yourself and putting things back in their proper places. However, they may also add on things like keeping the television volume to a minimum, a curfew as to not disturb their kids, or not to cook certain foods in the house per their religion or diet. Bad reviews can prevent you from booking future stays in other places you may want to visit. You don’t to be denied an excellent stay just because you didn’t take out the trash or laughed too loudly at a comedy in their living room.
Properly Dispose and Collect Your Recycling and Trash
Children in the U.S. are taught that certain kinds of waste are recyclable and others are not. However, what’s recyclable now may depend on the country, state, or county you’re visiting. To ensure that you don’t inadvertently leave any contaminated waste and cause any fines for you or your host, always ask them about their trash and recycling rules when you arrive. Most cities also list their laws concerning waste management on their official websites.
Say Goodbye in Person or Leave a Note
Even if you didn’t form an everlasting friendship during your stay, you still occupied someone’s home for a period of time, during which that person devoted resources and time to accommodate you. Taking a few moments to leave even just a simple thank you note, electronic message, or even an in-person farewell goes a long way in showing that you are grateful to the host for their efforts.
Leave an Honest Review
Your review shouldn’t be made to excoriate or flatter one’s ego. Be honest and objective. Simply listing what you liked and didn’t like is a great help and makes for a clear review that hosts will use and appreciate. Moreover, if there is a personal matter that the host can quickly address, then send them a direct private message about it. Don’t put your personal problems on blast in their review section unless something really awful happened that other guests should know before booking.
Being a guest in someone else’s home is tough, let alone a good guest. You often don’t know what to expect and are outside of your comfort zone, which could lead to awkwardness, seclusion, and even some hostility between guests and hosts. Remember, the primary goal of ethical travel is compassion, and getting to know others to broaden your understanding of the world. Taking the time to show empathy and kindness to you host and fellow guests will go a long way in not only achieving that but improving your experiences, too. Happy traveling!