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A First Timer’s Guide to Using AirBnB

AirBnb rental

Get $20 Towards Your First Stay

New AirBnb users can get $20 USD towards their first stay by signing up using this special link, and making a qualified booking (a booking of $75 or more). Yes, you get a little something, and we get a little something. Win-win!

How to Use AirBnb

AirBnB has revolutionized the travel industry by offering guests a chance to stay with locals, or at least in the place of the locals that are currently renting it out. Choosing AirBnb generally puts you in different neighborhoods than you might otherwise stay in when booking traditional hostels or hotels, and it allows you to have your own space– a luxury that is often foregone for cheaper travel.

Apartments, and spare rooms in apartments, tend to be the most popular options, but AirBnB also has some unique properties, including boats, teepees, campers and treehouses all over the world. Staying in someone’s home through AirBnb can also cut down on your costs, especially if you’re in one destination for more than a week and plan to do some cooking instead of eating out for every meal.

Inside a Spanish treehouse up for rent on Airbnb.
Inside a Spanish treehouse up for rent on Airbnb!

Why Stay with AirBnB?

There are a handful of apartment and home rental companies on the market, but AirBnB has the largest variety, with properties in nearly every country. They also have their own system of reviews and references, so your friends can vouch for you, and visitors to a property can leave comments about the hosts and their stay.

Set Up a Profile

Create an AirBnb Profile

Before you can book a stay on AirBnB, you’ll need to set up your profile so that your hosts can learn more about you before letting you into their homes. Here you’ll provide your email address and profile picture, and you’ll need to verify your account via SMS (so do this before you leave for your travels). You can also describe yourself, including your favorite destinations, likes and dislikes.

Add things to make you memorable to hosts! You can connect your social media accounts and your blog (check out our guide on how to start your travel blog) so that your potential host can find out more about you, but it goes without saying that linking to countless pictures of you partying is probably not the best idea.

Your potential host has the ability to approve or deny your booking request, so it’s best to show him/her your true, relatable and trustworthy self. Remember, they are letting you into their home after all!

Finding Accommodation

Once you’ve created an AirBnB account, it’s time to find a place to stay. Enter your dates, location and number of guests.

Next, decide whether you’d rather have the whole place or just a room. If you’re traveling solo, you might want to stick to someone’s room, because they can make local recommendations, but if you’re in a group, the whole place is a better option.

Paris Pad on Airbnb
Maybe an eclectic Paris pad is more your style.

Look closely at the profile. It may say it sleeps 4, but one may be a mattress on the floor or a pull out couch. How many bathrooms does it have? Is it near public transportation? Check the amenities it includes, such as a kitchen, WiFi and parking.

When you see one that catches your eye, read the reviews on your selected accommodation. See what past guests have said. If you don’t see any reviews or if guests have negative things to say, you might want to look elsewhere.

Also check your accommodation on the map feature to see where it is in relation to the rest of the city. You want to make sure that it’s either close to the places you want to see or close to public transportation.

Brooke and her boyfriend stayed with a fun couple in Jamaica Plain outside Boston, and it had the most adorable dog!
Brooke and her boyfriend stayed with a fun couple in Jamaica Plain outside Boston, and it had the most adorable dog. They became instant besties!

Making Arrangements

Once you’ve picked a place and it’s available for your stay, it’s time to book it. It’s also nice to send your host a message to let them know you’re excited about visiting.

Now you need to sort out specifics like check-in time and how you’ll get the key. If you’re traveling overseas, you may not have a local cell phone you can call your host with, so it’s important to have a contingency plan, like the key left with a neighbor or doorman.

It may be necessary to bring a few things in case your host doesn’t have them. The home should have essential kitchen items and bedding, but if you want wine, bring an opener (or check with the host first if there’s one available). It’s also a good idea to bring something to lock up your valuables (just in case!) and a gift for your host if you’ll be spending time with them in their home.

Do you best to arrive within your intended timeframe, and once you do, kick back, relax, and enjoy your stay!

We’ve had some great experiences by choosing AirBnb over traditional hostels and hotels, but we want to hear from you.

Have you used AirBnb yet? What sort of places have you stayed in using the service?

First Timer's Guide to Airbnb

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Viator – Enhance your trip experience by booking from thousands of tours across the globe. – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions


  1. Morgan says

    Myself and three others are traveling to England in two weeks and are staying for 8 days at a home we found on AirBnB. It’s a great site, and allows for communication between hosts and travelers, definitely reccomend!

  2. Kelsey says

    AHHH! I am so happy you guys have made a post about this. I am using it for the first time next month when I fly to Scotland. The process is so easy, even with my hiccup. The website is very thorough in my opinion, as it allows the host to list all of the amenities they have.

    Personally I found it quite simple, though I want to make sure people avoid what happened to me. It was no one’s fault, some things are a learning experience. When I contacted the host to request the room they gave me the go ahead.(don’t forget this is a time limited thing – I think 48hrs). Anyway, they contacted me saying the room had been booked because someone else had requested the room for the same time, but had paid before the confirmation, so their confirmation had booted mine because they had paid. Thankfully the host was super amazing and had another room available, so we got that for the same price as the original room.

    I’d be more than happy to elaborate on my experience with AirBnB once I have returned. If anyone has any questions please feel free to ask now and I will get back to you when I have the answers,

    • Brooke says

      Thank you Kelsey! Yes, it is important to know what you mentioned. A host may pre-approve several people for the same potential booking, and it basically goes to the first person who follows through and pays. So if you’re requesting to book and a host says they will accept you, then you should follow through sooner rather than later.

      Have a great trip, Kelsey!

  3. Abby Woody says

    Air BnB was a lifesaver for us last summer–we had wedding guests arriving from three different countries and Air BnB was easily the most affordable housing option. Our wedding guests connected online thru Facebook and coordinated shared rentals, I think it was probably the #1 reason so many of our guests could make the trip happen!

  4. Stef D says

    Thanks for this! I only recently discovered AirBnB while looking into accommodation for our upcoming trip to Hawaii. It has a great range of options for the budget traveller – especially if, like me, you prefer the convenience of having your own kitchen instead of eating out every night and eating into your budget! I haven’t made a booking yet, and wasn’t aware that I needed to set up a profile; so this article has been really useful. Thanks! 🙂

  5. Siena says

    My family of four has used AirBnB a few times, in Paris, Rome, San Francisco, and New York. It’s a great option for big cities with pricy hotels. We got to experience an actual neighborhood with real Parisians, not tourists. We lived in the Mission district of SF and St. Mark’s Place in NY. We had an apartment in the heart of Rome’s Trastevere district. In addition, it’s a great option for people with disabilities in inaccessible destinations. Be sure to read the fine print, ask lots of questions, read reviews, and check the address on Google Maps before you book. It’s a great experience, but you need to be willing to research to ensure a smooth stay.

  6. Mechelle says

    Good to see this article. I’m currently using AirBnB in Australia ive used it in perth, Melbourne, cairns, Brisbane & Sydney. I’m looking at also using it for my america trip. Like Siena mentioned make sure you use maps to check location and check small print. Try it out it gives you a different view of towns or cities.

  7. Amy says

    I love AirBnB. I’ve used it in Edinburgh, London, San Francisco, Krakow, and Barcelona, and have just used it again to book a room in Hawaii for two weeks as my wife and I are moving to Oahu! It’ll be our base whilst we get ourselves set up. (We’re moving from Wales!) We always pick pretty homes rather than what’s cheapest (but still affordable) and it’s always worked out great! I would definitely be a host one day too.

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