Given the length of time that Ryan and I were going to be on the road for this sabbatical we knew that lodging was going to be our biggest expenditure. We also knew that we weren’t going to be able to afford even modest hotels for very long, and we are too damn old for hostels. So the rise of the vacation home rental business has been a great middle ground for us. We used Airbnb whenever it was available and had a lot of success.
The upsides: They are cheaper than hotels, the beds tend to be more comfortable (because they’re newer), and you can cook a meal for yourself.
The downsides: Airbnb is powered by Ikea, so it can often feel like the furniture is mere moments away away from disintegrating. The apartments can also be oddly quirky, like there’ll be a piece of broken shelving in place of a cutting board in the kitchen or a duvet cover instead of a top sheet on the bed. Nothing life threatening, just odd. The biggest downside, though, is that you can get turned down by the host if you don’t have good reviews.
With nearly 40 rentals in 14 countries under our belt we have figured out the secret to getting great reviews from hosts. This means that we are never turned away when we request to book a place.
We have three easy pieces of advice:
- Communicate first: Don’t wait for your host to ask you about your arrival time. Let them know when you think you’ll be in and how you’re getting there (car, train, bus) at the time you initially request to book the place. Sometimes a host will offer to pick you up, which is great, but don’t expect or demand it. If the host is offering you breakfast in the morning, proactively tell them when you will be there.
- Clean up after yourself: It’s not a hotel, despite the fact that a fair number of rentals are operated by agencies these days. Wash, dry, and put away any dishes you use. Put all your trash in the bin.
- Strip the sheets: This is the key to getting consistently great reviews. It’s incredible how much hosts appreciated it when we started stripping the sheets from the bed and putting them in a big pile along with our towels. It makes it easier for them to toss the linens in the wash and get the place ready for the next guest. We were getting decent reviews before we started doing this; afterwards our reviews were gushing with praise.
Are there other things that you do as a guest to secure great reviews? If you’re a host, are there things you wish guests would do? Let us know in the comments section.