5 Steps to Airbnb like a Pro

If you’ve never stayed at an Airbnb before and are feeling hesitant, here are our best tips to make booking that dream home just a little bit easier.

And if you’re still not sure Airbnb is for you, check out my Airbnb Addict post to become convinced!

(An Airbnb we stayed at in Seminyak, Bali)

Make an Airbnb account if you don’t already have one

This is the first step in wanting to stay at an Airbnb. You won’t be able to stay at a home without one. Setting up an account is pretty straight forward. You’ll need your basic information; name, email, password, birthday and a short paragraph about yourself. This paragraph is what hosts read when they’re trying to decide if they’re comfortable with you staying in their home. Make sure you write a detailed description about yourself and your family (if you have a family you travel with), being as personal as you can. The more you share, the better. If you’ve never used Airbnb before and have no reviews yet, your description is especially important.


Start your hunt for the perfect home

This is the fun part and why I love this company so much. So this is what I usually do when I’m planning a new trip. I’ll first decide if I want to stay in one or two homes while I’m traveling. Waseem and I don’t really ever travel for less than 10 days at a time to one place, and if we do, we will almost always split our trip down the middle so that we can stay in two homes on opposite sides of the city, so we feel like we got to see as much as we could on our trip. I will then zoom in on the area I’m interested in and open up a new tab with each home I find interesting.


(An Airbnb we stayed at in Mattituck, NY)

Send messages to hosts whose homes you’re considering 

I then narrow it down to 3 or 4 that I think are the most exciting to us and immediately send the host a message asking if their home is available for my dates (the calendars are sometimes off) to open up communication lines and buy us some time to decide where we want to stay. Then I’ll just wait to hear back from the hosts I messaged and compare and contrast all homes that are available and decide where we want to stay then. A big part of making our decision is reading the reviews the home has. If I’m torn between two places, the one with the better reviews always wins. Some homes also have “super hosts” (there will be a small medal near their name up top) and those are the ones we tend to lean towards.

I think sending messages to hosts before booking is a great way to ask any questions or give the host the opportunity to ask you anything they may want to know about you or your family, or what type of trip you’re taking for example. We recently traveled to Bali and while I was looking for an Airbnb for Waseem and I and our son Zayd, I wanted to know if the hosts had a baby cot for Zayd to sleep in so I asked them all in the messages I sent prior to booking. Just a good way to add an extra step to help with the choosing which home to stay at option.


Review every home you stay at

A tip I can’t stress the importance of enough is reviewing the homes you stay at even if you didn’t enjoy your stay. Airbnb works as a model because of reviews. The fact that you are able to learn more about a place by what others say about it is key to the type of experience you’ll have. When I’m looking at a potential home I want to stay at, reviews are everything. The pictures could be amazing, the location could be on point, the price could be out of this world, but if there are no reviews or none that excite me, I’ll immediately forget the place and move on. By the same token, if the pictures could be better and the location not the best and the price a little more than I want to spend but the reviews are really great and the host seems to really care about their guests, I’ll be more likely to keep it in the running.

What’s really awesome about writing reviews on Airbnb is that, you won’t be able to review a host until your stay is over. After your stay, the host is given a week to review you and you are given a week to review your host. What’s great is that neither of you will be able to read the others review if you don’t both write one! This entices you to write one even more!


(An Airbnb houseboat we stayed at in Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Ask if it would be possible to get a discount (nicely)

Last but not least, always ask if you can get a price deduction. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does and it’s so so great when it does! A little treat to get you even more pumped for your new adventure!


If you’re still not sure Airbnb is for you, check out my Airbnb Addict post to become convinced!

Airbnb Addict

If you’re new to Airbnb be prepared to become addicted! In the past you were forced to stay in hotels when you traveled, and hotels can be great, if you’re going away for work that is. If you’re going away with family or a group of friends, there’s nothing more convenient and fun than being able to share a kitchen and a comfy living room couch together. Gone are the days where everyone gets their own room and has to call each other to coordinate what time to meet in the lobby!

Waseem and I used to stay in little boutique hotels when we traveled. The smaller the hotel the better in our opinion because we enjoyed feeling like actual people instead of just being numbers. When you stay at a small hotel you’re treated more like a friend or even family sometimes. Big hotels barely know you’re staying there. How many times did you walk into the lobby of the Marriott let’s say to use the bathroom and think, I wonder if anyone will notice I don’t have a room here haha (and of course that never happens)

 

(Airbnbs we stayed at in Long Island, NY – Achrafieh, Beirut and Bali, Indonesia)

Airbnb has been around since 2008 believe it or not. It took Waseem and I a few years to get comfortable with the idea (we stayed at our first Airbnb in 2014), but once we discovered how much we loved staying in someones home in a city we’d never visited before, we were hooked! Since our first apartment in Berlin, we’ve since stayed in places all over the world thanks to this amazing company! I believe Airbnb has given people the flexibility to see more of the world through the eyes of a local as well as offer lots more variety in the price you can pay per night while traveling.

 

(Airbnbs we stayed at in Canggu, Bali – Sanur, Bali and Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

One of the best parts of staying in an Airbnb is the fact that you can really find some unique homes to enjoy, which ultimately adds so much to your travel experience! You may not know this, but you will enjoy a city a lot more if you’re staying in a home that is loved and cared for, than if you were staying in a typical hotel room with a minibar and a bed. With the number of places to rent on Airbnb, it’s sometimes even hard to choose! It can take me weeks to decide where we want to spend our time, and we’ve almost always gone away and stayed in several homes in the same city just to be able to get a few nights in each!

Thanks to Airbnb we’ve stayed in several houseboats in Amsterdam, a tiny rooftop apartment in Beirut, a cozy little hideaway spot with a huge glass skylight in Berlin, an unbelievable house on a cliff overlooking the Indian ocean in Bali, a cute tiny renovated studio in Chicago, a very traditional apartment in Vietnam and a couple places high up in the high-rises of Dubai. It really is amazing!

 

(Airbnbs we stayed at in Nusa Dua, Bali – Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Long Island, NY)

If you’ve never stayed at an Airbnb before, we highly recommend giving it a try! And if you’re feeling intimidated by it, I’m more than happy to give you a hand finding the perfect place. Feel free to send me a DM on Instagram or a comment down below.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to know a bit more about why we decided to do a bunch of traveling as a family, click here.

Our Best Family Travel Tips

We’ve been traveling for a while now and we’re definitely not experts, but we’ve picked up a few things along the way. Below are our top travel tips.

1. Always try to stay at AirBnbs
We’re not really the hotel-staying type. For starters we definitely need accessibility to a kitchen since we’re always on the move and we have a young child. We’ve been using Airbnb since 2014 and have stayed in more than 25 different homes all over the world! (Berlin, Amsterdam, Beirut, Chicago, Bali, Vietnam and Dubai to name a few!). I’ve become such a pro at researching and booking places on Airbnb that I would say out of the 25 different places we’ve stayed, we’ve only really had bad experiences in maybe 2 of them. When you stay in Airbnbs, it feels less like you’re visiting and more like you’re living there.

2. Enjoy some Pb&J sandwiches! 
It’s not practical to eat all our meals out, not to mention that it can become pricey. Waseem and I usually have about two meals a day, breakfast and an early dinner. Zayd I would say has two big meals also but does more snacking throughout the day than we do. Peanut better and Jam are the two first things we buy at the supermarket when we first arrive in a new city. Sometimes it’s hard to find healthy options but we do our best. We usually put some banana in our pb & j sandwiches as well to add some more sustenance. Luckily Zayd’s not allergic to anything so peanut butter is something he’s been introduced to since he was about 8 months old and he loves it! I would say we have at least 3-4 sandwiches a week. They’re a great easy go to and can be packed into a day-pack and enjoyed on the go!

3. When shopping less is more (and bring a camera)
It can be tempting to buy all kinds of souvenirs when traveling. From pretty rattan bags and colorful sarongs in Bali to cute wooden clogs in Amsterdam to bags and bags of delicious coffee in Vietnam! Because Waseem and I try to travel as compact and light as possible I would say we take more pictures of things we may want to buy rather than actually buy them. Most of the time you get excited when traveling and buy things in the spur of the moment that you may use on your trip, but these purchases actually end up sitting at the bottom of a closet back home. Every once in a while we’ll make the odd cute baby Bali tourist shirt for Zaydo but I find that the next time I’m packing to move on to our next destination, the shirt for example will only bother me when I have to find room for it. We generally will take pictures of things we may want to buy and veto actually buying them!

4. Use packing cubes, lots of them
I’m a bit OCD when it comes to packing for trips. It usually takes me the entire day before our flight to organize and pack our suitcases. I generally like everything to be in an order that makes it easy to pack and unpack. Our Eagle Creek packing cubes have been absolute life savers! First thing I do is layout all of our clothes in neat piles on the bed. Then, I’ll designate packing cubes for each pile and roll the clothes into them so they fit perfectly. Finally, I’ve started using post its and writing what’s in each pack to label them (okay, very OCD). I find that this makes it really easy to unpack at our next destination. Unless we’re staying somewhere for a week or more I’ll keep the clothes in the packs and just lay them out on a surface making it easy to find things we’re looking for. If we stay somewhere for longer than a week, I will sometimes unpack the packs and put our clothes in a closet. Definitely wouldn’t be able to pack and unpack as much as we do without these amazing cubes! They are truly life savers.

5. Keep Zayd’s sleeping arrangement as consistent as possible
When we decided we were going to start traveling I knew I had to find a travel cot that was light and easily portable for Zayd to sleep in. At around 6 months we moved Zayd from sleeping in the Chicco Next2Me Co-Sleeper to a crib at the foot of the bed so he wouldn’t see that we were in the room with him and want to wake up and play. It worked! After lots of research we decided to go with the Phil & Teds Travel Cot. It’s the lightest cot on the market weighing less than the baby (it only weighs 6 lbs!) and is just the right size for any bedroom you end up in while traveling. It also comes with a compact self inflating mattress pad. I love that Zayd is always sleeping in a familiar spot. It really makes it easy to be moving around as frequently as we are. The first night sometimes takes him a little time to get comfortable as he sees the room is different, but shortly after that he’s fast asleep and we can all breathe a sigh of relief. We also bring along Zayds nest from Etsy. I love it but really wish I had purchased a nest from this amazing company LoveBirdsSewingCo. Their nests are absolutely adorable! Such beautiful patterns and the fabric seems to be extremely durable for indoor and outdoor use. I will definitely be investing in one of these if and when we decide to grow our little family! You can also check out their Instagram account here.

Long-term Travel with Baby

No matter how you travel, travel is never “easy” when you have a little one. Between making sure Zayd’s fed, slept and bathed it’s really a full time job and a lot of the time it feels like that’s all we ever do! But, it’s also amazing! We don’t get to do as much of the touristy/sight seeing things couples who are traveling without kids get to do but, we do get to experience the joy of seeing the world through Zayds eyes. Instead of going rafting we go to the kiddy pool at water parks. Instead of going to fancy restaurants, we go to more family oriented ones that have kids play areas in them. Instead of checking out night time safaris, we go to zoos during the day. All still fun activities, just tweaked a bit.

We’ve been traveling since Zayd turned 11 months old. Bali had been a dream for us for the last few years (since Waseem and I checked it out summer of 2016) and we knew we had to go back. (Check out our favorite places to eat in Ubud and Canggu, Bali) After Zayd was born and we spent the beginning of his life between Toronto where he was born, New York where a lot of my family is and Saudi where a big part of Waseem and my family and friends are, we decided it was time to hit the road and try out this whole travel thing.

One of the most important things for us when it comes to travel is to travel as light as we possibly can and to have the most compact and functional products for our trip. From our luggage and packing cubes from Eagle Creek to our super light and comfortable Xero Shoes, to Zayds travel cot and portable high chair from Phil&Teds and really lightweight stowaway fold-able stroller from BabyZen we really wouldn’t be able to travel as easily without them.

More on our favorite travel products to come. Happy traveling!