You've probably heard a number of both inspiring and nightmare Airbnb rental stories: from the dreamy, cheap as chips Moroccan riad to the cockroach-ridden basement in Paris, the quality of accommodation ranges widely. If you're paying good money - heck, any money - to kick back on a much-needed vacation, you probably want a clean and comfortable experience.
But how on Earth do you find somewhere that ticks all the boxes?! With over 2 million listings worldwide, the sense of overwhelm you might feel in taking your pick is hardly a surprise.
First of all, no matter how pretty the images, don't underestimate the importance of the part of your city you choose to stay in. It pays off to do a little bit of research about your destination, for you could end up stranded in a part of town miles away from where your preferred tourist activities. This is especially apt if you're travelling to a metropolis like London or New York. Thankfully, Airbnb has a handy 'Maps' search tool, so once you find a place to your liking, go ahead and do a Google Maps Street View search to further scope it out.
Equally as important is to take your time to read the reviews (not just glance at the ratings). Something that happens to be a welcome quirk to one person is a dealbreaker to another (eg. a tiny bathroom with no tub), so don't be hasty with your selection and read those reviews! Also, be mindful of the fact that some reviewers may avoid going into less-than-pleasant specifics in a bid to spare their host's feelings, so try to read between the lines.
Don't hesitate to get to know a little bit more about your host, and set realistic expectations. Are you looking for someone hands-on, who will help you find local markets and restaurant gems? Or perhaps you enjoy a light touch host, someone who leaves you to do the exploring yourself? Regardless of your preference, a good way to judge a host's professionalism and willingness to help is their response rate. Do they take a week just to get back to your straightforward questions? Unless they explicitly state that they're very busy, a lag in response rates can certainly be an alarm bell.
And lastly, make the most of customising your Airbnb. The easiest way to do this is to rent everything you need via an online platform like Rentuu.com. Customisation in travel is all the rage and it's easy to see why: who wouldn't want their holiday let to be kitted out with their favourite coffee machine, an extra air bed for the unexpected overnight guest, additional cutlery and kitchen supplies for a dinner party and more?