(Psst, this post may contain affiliate links, which means if you purchase something through one of my links, I get a commission at no extra cost to you.)
As full-time travelers, we stay in a lot of Airbnb apartments.
In fact, in 2016, I spent about six months of the year in Airbnbs, while Chad spent a whopping nine months. In 2015, that number (for me) was 4.5 months. In 2013, about six months. And in 2014, while I was staying put in Switzerland instead of traveling, I was an Airbnb host for most of the year, welcoming solo travelers to my tiny spare bedroom in the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
Which is why today I thought I’d pull together all that experience and share it with those of you who are or are thinking about becoming an Airbnb host. Because it’s not that difficult to be spectacular—if you have the information you need.
So, our tips for being a great Airbnb host:
1. Make space for guests to unpack.
Unpacking and settling into a new place–be it a holiday rental or a hotel–can make a new city feel homier. We need a couple hangers, a couple drawers, space to unpack our things.
It always feels a little odd and unwelcoming to me when I get to a new place and find that I’m expected to spend a week or a month or two months even with my things still stored in my backpack.
Give your guests a place for their things.
2. Make space for food storage.
Speaking of making room…the other place this is really important is the kitchen. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gotten to a new apartment and the found kitchen pretty fully stocked with dishes and pans…but with no room whatsoever for food!
When I ask other people why they rent apartments instead of living out of hotels, “having a kitchen” is the top of pretty much everyone’s list. And if you want a kitchen, surely you want to cook in it…which also means you’ll be buying food and need a place to store it.
Make sure to leave at least a cupboard (and preferably a very easily reachable one–not in a faraway corner of the kitchen, not the cupboard with the door that sticks, not the cupboard you need a stepladder to access) for guests to fill up with the spoils of their grocery runs.
3. Clutter is stress, so please de-clutter.
Speaking of making space, studies show that clutter creates stress, hurts focus, and inhibits creativity.
You don’t want to do any of that to your guests, so go easy on the furnishings, the trinkets, and pretty much everything else. Your guests don’t need 10 kinds of coffee and two coffee makers. We don’t need a wall of tchotchkes. And we really don’t need a cupboard full of spices, half of which are expired or duplicate from previous guests.
Take a minimalist approach to your space, providing what guests need, but not lots of extras and duplicates, to make your space feel low-stress and relaxing.
4. Check all the dishes (and the cupboards and the fridge) between each guest.
Unfortunately, not all guests are thorough dishwashers and shockingly often people put dishes away when they aren’t truly clean.
This happens to us over and over again: we arrive at our rental, often exhausted from a day of travel, and open up the cupboards to secure bowls or plates, knives or spoons, to make a quick lunch or dinner, only to find that the bowls are full of crusted on food, the pans are greasy, the forks are covered in a mystery substance.
We get it: hosts don’t think to check the dishes that have been put away, assuming (wrongly) that nobody would put dirty dishes back into the cupboards.
Unfortunately, people do put dirty dishes back. All the time.
And so we beg you, please, please check all the dishes between each guest. Run them through your dishwasher or just pull them from the cupboards and give them a once-over. Future guests will be eternally grateful.
And speaking of dishes, the other way to quickly ruin my arrival is to have cupboards full of sticky mystery spills of a fridge full of half-eaten food. It quite literally turns my stomach and ruins my first impression.
Please, please check the cupboards and the fridge. Clean them out between guests.
5. Have the right mix of kitchen supplies.
Speaking of the kitchen, it’s a bit strange when you arrive at an apartment rental and find a fully stocked kitchen with 20 coffee mugs and two very nice red wine glasses and no water glasses at all.
Or your host has kindly left you a bottle of wine…but there’s no corkscrew to be found.
Or there are six steak knives, but no bread knife.
(Speaking of knives: make sure they’re sharp. As chefs say, “the sharper your knife, the less you cry.” Dull knives are dangerous.)
When you’re stocking your Airbnb kitchen, make sure you’ve got all the basics, not just some. Ask yourself, if you were cooking in this kitchen, what would you need? Then go from there. If you don’t really cook, ask a friend who does. And check in between guests to make sure your water glasses or corkscrew or pans haven’t been broken, lost, or taken.
6. Get the basics right before you get fancy.
The same place that had 20 coffee mugs and no water glasses?
They also had a full alcohol cart with stirrers and shakers and shot glasses and an ice bucket and a price list for use of the alcohols.
While this is an interesting idea and might make you a few extra bucks, make sure you have the basics right first. We need water glasses and a well-cleaned place, good towels, and extra linens before the alcohol cart.
7. Provide linens, including an extra set.
Both myself and a friend of mine have run into Airbnbs that didn’t automatically provide linens and towels (and one of the two didn’t tell us up front, which is doubly uncool).
Don’t be that person.
People don’t travel with linens anymore. Up your price if you need to, but always include these. And don’t forget that stuff happens. Someone may need an extra set of linens along the way. Make sure you have a spare set handy.
8. Provide basics.
Nobody wants to spend their first day in a new place searching for toilet paper.
For stays of a week or less, provide enough toilet paper, soap, dishwashing liquid, and cleaning supplies to last the whole stay. For those of us staying longer (like Chad and I), we’re totally cool seeking out our own supplies, but make sure you provide enough to last a few days. It might take us a little while to locate the grocery store, recover from jet lag, or otherwise get the things we need.
More than once, I’ve arrived somewhere and gotten immediately sick; in those cases, I’ve always been almost tearfully grateful to have enough to get me through a day or two when I wasn’t well enough to make it to the store.
If you really want to up the ante, you can provide the first dinner for guests arriving later in the day like my lovely hosts in France’s Loire Valley, who left me a fridge full of stew, a handful of eggs, and a loaf of bread.
9. Choose dark towels.
This is probably a personal preference thing, but I always hate when I arrive to white fluffy towels. There’s just too much that can go wrong. If I cut myself shaving, but don’t notice, suddenly there’s a bloodstain. If I miss a spot when I’m wiping off my makeup, now you’ve got mascara. I’d never buy white towels for my own house and I wish less apartment rentals went white.
In fact, let’s not do white anything in a rental. White rugs, white comforters, white couches…it all feels like an accident waiting to happen.
10. Provide instructions.
Your washing machine, dishwasher, and thermostat might seem intuitive to you, but there’s no guarantee that a guest (especially a guest from another country) will feel the same. A book of instructions for all appliances, any special trash or recycling requirements, etc. helps a lot.
11. The number of guests = the number of keys.
Not every group wants to be together every second of the day. If you have a couple staying in your apartment, they’ll need two sets of keys. Four people will need four.
The place we rented in Central Bosnia this summer only gave us one set and poor Chad ended up locked out several times. This is less than ideal and really really easy to fix by just making another key.
Airbnb allows you to up the price for larger groups; if you need to, factor getting additional keys made into that extra moolah.
12. Don’t ask us to text you three times before arrival.
Many international travelers either won’t have a cell that works in your country or will be paying a hefty fee for international text messages.
Have an alternate way to get in touch or pick a meeting time up front and expect everybody to stick to it. Even better, if possible, have a lock box and send instructions to the renters ahead of time so that they can get their keys when they arrive.
13. Only advertise Wi-Fi if it works well and consistently.
Many people, especially digital nomads like myself and my partner, need Wi-Fi on a daily basis. We filter apartments to make sure we get one with Wi-Fi. And one of the most frustrating things that could happen to us would be to arrive and find out the internet isn’t working, has low data limits, or runs very slowly.
If you have internet but it tends to go slow, say so prominently in your listing. You’ll still get the guests for whom internet is not a priority, but you’ll save us and yourself a lot of grief on arrival.
Even better, run an internet speed test in the apartment and post the results in your listing.
14. Make sure you have someone in town to manage your place.
So, you don’t live near the place you rent out? No problem. But make sure you have access to someone who does. In emergency situations, you’ll need someone in town to handle things right away.
We’ve had several situations that needed to be immediately resolved (like when we had no running water in Sicily), but where the property manager lived an hour away (or worse, in another country). This is totally not okay, especially when you’re charging Airbnb guests four times what they’d pay to rent through a local site.
15. Invest in a comfortable bed.
This is the most important piece of furniture in the apartment. Make sure it’s really cozy. And if you already have a mattress that isn’t so cozy? You can get really comfortable foam or down pads that fit on top of a mattress and make it like sleeping on a pillow.
16. Don’t freak out.
If a guest contacts you because something’s wrong, apologize, fix the problem, and, above all, don’t freak out and put all your anxiety on the guest.
We just had this happen in our Bosnia place and it was exhausting. There were a lot of little things wrong, but none were earth-shattering and all could have been easily fixed. Instead, our hosts just sent lengthy emails about how they were afraid we hated their place and then called us demanding for telling them that the kitchen wasn’t clean and the dryer wasn’t working.
Your guests should not have to babysit your anxiety (and I say this as someone with an anxiety disorder). Just get it fixed right away, thank them for letting you know, and drop in a quick “sorry that happened!”
Now, once you’ve covered the basics (and all the above is basic), if you want to get extra bonus points from your guests, try these:
16. Use unscented laundry soap on linens and towels.
You never know when you’ll get a guest who has allergy issues.
17. Provide salt, pepper, and olive oil.
Anyone doing some cooking will be delighted to find you have those essentials.
18. Leave us a map and a few suggestions.
Having a city map (usually your tourist office gives them away for free, so you can probably grab a bunch there) is a huge win on your first day in a new place. And having some suggestions for the host’s favorite eateries, where to find the local grocery store/market, etc.? Priceless.
Looking for hosts that get it right? Here are a few of my favorite Airbnbs and other holiday rentals from the past few years:
Enormous thanks to everyone on my Facebook wall who weighed in with their own Airbnb must-haves and pet peeves!