Gone are the days where travel automatically implied staying in a hotel and having a maid clean up your mess. With today’s sharing economy, sites like AirBnB are thriving (along with similar sites like VRBO, Hovelstay, Couchsurfing, and others). People are looking for more interesting places to stay that go beyond what a hotel can offer, and for people like me who enjoy having human interaction with locals while traveling, these sites offer an experience that intrigues me way more than a Holiday Inn.
There are different types of rentals or stays you can have using these sites:
* You might rent an entire apartment or home.
* You can have a private room in a space where other people and/or your host may be staying.
* You may be staying in the same room as your host (aka a shared room).
* You could be offered alternative sleeping space, like a couch through someone you know or tents/huts/etc., depending on the site you use.
With so many people opening up their homes for travelers in such a variety of ways, how can you be a good — nay, kickass — guest in a stranger’s home?
Remember that this is someone’s home, not a hotel.
Keep this in mind during your stay if you want to be a good AirBnB guest. Whereas you may leave some trash in a hotel room upon checkout, this is a bit inconsiderate in someone’s home. Yes, with many of these services you pay a cleaning fee, but that doesn’t mean you have permission to go heathen on the place. It’s fine if the room and space look a little lived in after you go, but try to leave it in as clean a condition as you can. I usually make the bed, clean any dirty dishes, and place any trash in the garbage bin. Which, when you think about it, is like the easiest thing to do and probably takes about 5 minutes total.
Follow house rules.
Before you commit to a place, make sure you can follow the house rules. Talk to the host prior to clicking “Reserve” if you need to discuss them further or talk about any strange circumstances for your travels (like if you’re taking vacation with a pet, for instance). Once the reservation is made, these are the rules you agree to, so you just sort of have to deal with it. Not only is it just plain rude, but not following them means you could get kicked out (with no refund) and/or get a bad review.
If you’re staying for free (i.e., Couchsurfing or a friend of a friend of a friend), offer your help around the house or bring something nice in return.
This is certainly not required, but it’s a kind gesture if you want to make a great first impression and be a good guest. Bring a bottle of wine to the house, offer to do dishes, provide toilet paper, whatever small thing you can. At my Couchsurfing house in Missoula, I provided laundry detergent for the home and cleaned the kitchen. It didn’t require much from me but I know my hosts appreciated it it a lot.
For rentals where you are paying a fee, this is not at all required or expected. Is it super nice? Yes. Should you feel stressed or pressured to bring your host something? No. I don’t think it’s too much trouble to bring something small, but only do this for a space you’re paying for if you’re so inclined.
Part of being a good guest in someone’s home is letting your personality shine. Aside from having a filled out profile on the respective site you’re using, just be yourself in the space. Sure, it’s not your home, but your host certainly wants you to feel comfortable and happy.
Ask about your host’s schedule and share yours.
Your host will likely be living out his or her day-to-day schedule, so it’s good (and respectful) to be aware of their schedule and their general availability and also share your commitments. It’s especially useful if you’re sharing the space so that you don’t run into any conflicts with bathroom or kitchen use or something.
On all levels this is important: before, during, and after.
Before: Let your host know when you expect to arrive, and if anything changes let them know as soon as you can. Chances are, your host isn’t just going to wait around all day for you to show up, so the more you can respect their time, the better.
During: Talk to them the second you run into an issue. Any hosts I’ve ever dealt with are happy to quickly resolve issues — but they have to know about them, first!
As far as chatting them up, this will entirely vary on your host and whether you’ve rented an entire home or just a room. Hosts will have different degrees of communication during a stay, but in the very least you will have to communicate your arrival and departure. I enjoy talking with my host, getting any local’s advice, and just being friendly. I’m not looking for best friends or anything, but I will be social and house-sharing sites allow for this. My dude and I were talking with one of our AirBnB hosts in Iceland and they then invited us to eat New Year’s Eve dinner with them. It was one of my favorite memories from the trip, and the reason they extended that offer was because we seemed like relatively sane, sweet people.
After: Leave a review. Don’t wait like three months to do it, either! Hop on the interwebz shortly after your trip (or for a hot minute during it, if it’s a little longer) and leave a fair and thoughtful review. What did you like? What was unexpected? How did you feel in the space? This is not your chance to air grievances of your entire trip, but simply to talk about your experience in that home.
Leave a note.
In addition to the review, you can also leave a handwritten note of thanks. I usually resort to a text, but if you want to go above and beyond, this is an easy way to show your gratitude.
What is your experience using sites like AirBnB and VRBO? What do you and don’t you like about staying in someone’s home versus a hotel? What are your tips for being a good guest?
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