Booking a Bed Through Airbnb

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Booking accommodations on Airbnb ( takes a bit more skill than, say, reserving a room at a hotel. Here are tips to help you sleep wisely.

-- The site has thousands of properties around the world, none of which are vetted. To lower your risk, choose a place that features an abundance of information, such as a full profile of the host, a thorough description of the property and, most important, a sizable number of guest reviews. (Guests cannot post a review until after their stay, preventing phantom travelers from writing deceptive accounts.) To avoid surprises, read the property data sheet thoroughly so that you know the bed type, breakfast arrangements, security deposit requirement, etc.

-- The hosts are not required to accept a reservation; they, too, want safe and respectful visitors in their homes. To increase your odds and allay their fears, include a photo and short bio in your profile. But just as in a personal ad, don't reveal TMI.

-- Send out queries before booking to be sure the host has availability; the online calendar is helpful but not always up to date. The host has up to 32 hours to respond, though more than half reply within four hours, according to Airbnb. If you submit several reservations, the site charges only for the first one that's accepted. You can also book a reservation, then message other hosts and retract your previous requests.

-- Cancellation policies vary by host, so before you book, check whether the policy is "flexible," "moderate" or "strict."

-- After receiving confirmation, contact the host to introduce yourself and arrange a time and place to pick up the key. Make sure to pack the host's phone number, e-mail address and street address, plus directions.

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