Three tips for choosing and celebrating at an Airbnb –

Aperitifs and board game from Catania.

Text and Photos
By Shari Benyousky
Guest columnist

“Get a hot tub this time,” my adult children begged as we browsed Airbnb vacation options. So we did. Even though winter brought us -40° and we had to wear furry boots and bathrobes to walk on the ice to the hot tub, it was totally worth it. Above all, it’s really worth it. Getting the Airbnb voucher isn’t as easy as ordering your favorite Marriott hotel room. Every Airbnb is different. To be honest, this range of differences is part of their charm. So how do you choose a good one?

TIP 1: Choose the right Airbnb amenities

In 2022, we’ve stayed at 18 different Airbnbs in the US and Europe. We enjoyed them all, though the level of cost, charm, and amenities varied widely. When browsing through these available options, some things are imperative to consider.

A smart refrigerator in an Airbnb.

For example, it is important to choose a high host rating (4.5-5.0) and carefully read reviews from other guests for advice. Are the mattresses comfortable? Are any of these beds only for a child? Do you need to walk out the front door of the house to get back to the hot tub (yes, we neglected to learn that for our freezing trip, so I’m warning you)? Are towels and shampoo included? Are coffee pods only included in butternut rum? Are spices included in the cabinets if you plan to cook? What’s the vibe — cozy, cool, or industrial?

We like to find the quirky, lived-in Airbnbs with bookcases and cabinets full of kitchen essentials, but that might not be your thing. Maybe you want something more like a hotel room with clean, anonymous decorations and smart devices. Our final pick in Indianapolis had a refrigerator that informed us of the expiration dates of everything in the refrigerator and occasionally changed the paints on the display.

TIP 2: Choose the right Airbnb location. Location. Location.

The location of your Airbnb is even more important than the amenities. Think about what kind of place you need and who will be with you. We like to find a walkable neighborhood where we can walk to amazing restaurants, cafes and parks.

Use Google Maps to see where things are in relation to the Airbnb you need. Although you won’t have the Airbnb’s precise address before you book it, you will have a map that will get you close enough to see the neighborhood. Use this little image in the bottom left of Google Maps to see Google Street View and drive yourself virtually for context.

TIP 3: What to bring with you.

Even if you brought your laptop to work on the counter like I do, you’re still far away from all the to-do lists and nagging worries of home in your Airbnb. But you probably don’t want to eat every meal, and you probably have a kitchen if you chose wisely.

We bring a cooler with staples – coffee, half and half, English Breakfast tea bags, sugar, spices and all the fixings to put together a charcuterie board to snack on – nuts, crackers, cheeses, sausages, dark chocolate caramels with salt seafood, dried fruits, etc. You don’t have to be fancy or even spread things out on a real charcuterie board – we didn’t even bother to take everything out of its container for this satisfying version while we played the game of Catan company. We’re also a big fan of bringing make-ahead slow cooker lasagna. It’s easy to make and easy to carry.

Find an Airbnb near a walkable neighborhood.

Oh yes, bring games, books and puzzles if you are relaxing. Some Airbnbs are stocked with these items and some are not. We spent Christmas at an Airbnb and brought in Mexican bingo for a stocking opener game, for example.

What else should you bring? You read the list of amenities correctly, right? I have a list of things that I usually check off in the amenities list: WIFI, kitchen, washing machine (abroad you won’t find many dryers), free parking (if I’m in town in particular), towels (extra towels if there is a pool or hot tub), and air conditioning if it’s summer (in Europe, air conditioning is not standard, so read carefully).

Bring a few things to personalize your Airbnb if you have the room in your luggage. If you like to cuddle with a blanket, make sure they have one. If it’s a holiday, bring some lights or ornaments to hang around. If you’re going on a birdwatching adventure, bring your binoculars and a hat. Things don’t have to be complicated to be enjoyable.

Finally, don’t forget to ask your Airbnb host about their favorite places to see and eat. Sometimes those suggestions are invaluable, like the most recent one which suggested local restaurant Bluebeard which resides in a former printing warehouse and offers food to make water for the palates of foodies. If you visit Indianapolis and get an Airbnb with a hot tub in the back, check it out.

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