Why I Use Airbnb and Some Search Tips and Tactics

the beauty of not staying in a hotel

it’s no secret (or it shouldn’t be, by now) that i’m a fan of using Airbnb instead of hotels when i travel. while i’m sure the perks of being hotel l33t are great, there are a couple reasons why i prefer an apartment:

when don’t i stay at an Airbnb? the only times i can think of in recent memory where i consciously made a decision not to were a) in Russia because you need an invitation from a hotel to get a visa, and similarly, in countries that require visitor registration with the police, it’s easier when a hotel can take care of it, and b) if i can get a hotel deal i can’t refuse, like the cheapish room at a Hyatt in Dubai that i was able to upgrade to a suite via elite status (that i was gifted).

are you new to Airbnb? if you use my referral link to sign up or if you just recently signed up you will get a $25 credit — and i will as well once you complete your stay. thanks in advance!


there are a couple pitfalls to Airbnb searches: the results don’t seem to be sortable (they were before, as i remember and as @travelpeon pointed out) and you don’t know the exact location of a place. keeping this in mind, here’s how i rummage through the results to find rentals that i like. (this post is quite timely since i’ve been trying to find a place for my upcoming trip to Malta, thanks to the random United business class fare mistake/sale which unfortunately is now over.)

The default screen after you type in your destination and dates.


  1. location — i normally do some research (Wikitravel can be useful) beforehand and look the different neighborhoods at my destination and narrow my search in the ones i like. on the main search screen, make sure “Search when I move the map” is checked and move the map around, zooming in and out, until your top neighborhood choice is front and center. the properties list on the right will update. note that by doing it this way with direct manipulation of the map you get a better idea of the layout of your destination city as well — bonus!
  2. filters — this is a very key step for me. the following screenshot shows my usual settings. while i have stayed in a private room before, i would only check this if i wasn’t planning on being there very much, so i almost always choose “Entire Place”. usually hosts are super welcoming (they wouldn’t put their shared place up on Airbnb if they weren’t social, i’d hope) but i prefer having an entire place to myself so i can work and well, just be myself. i adjust the price slider to my budget (which is never over $100/night if i can help it), and select the amenities that are important to me. i want wifi, i want a washing machine (i only travel with a carry-on and having laundry access makes that much more doable), and i want air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter.
  3. sorting — unfortunately this is where Airbnb is sorely lacking in usability. hopefully after you’ve narrowed down your location and filtered your results you will have a manageable set to deal with. i quickly scroll through and open the ones that have the highest number of reviews (the number in the speech bubble above the price) in new tabs. if after looking at your results you don’t find anything you like, remove some of the filters and/or change your location. hopefully there will be something out there that suits you! unfortunately chances are you will go through several rounds of this. if anyone has any tips for making this easier, PLEASE comment! be sure to save properties you like to a wish list or simply add to your browser favorites for quick access later.

being picky with your top results

i can’t emphasize how caveat emptor this whole thing is. if you misread something, it’s your fault, so do your due diligence and review everything in front of you carefully. when i have a property open, here are the things i check:

i found my dream location. now what?

in most cases, unless you’re reserving an “Instant Book” property, you will have to be approved by the host. you need to write them a little message — i tell them a little bit about myself (remember, they reserve the right to judge you, too!) and why i like their place, and any special needs i have — like speedy internet or odd check-in/check-out times. you should get a response within 24 hours either approving or denying you. i’ve made a couple requests that have never been answered and were allowed to expire; i tend to think of non-responders as losers and people i don’t want to deal with anyways, so no skin off my back. if you were denied for some reason or another, sadly you’ve got to start over. hopefully you found a second-best dream location!

some additional advice


hopefully these tips will help! and if you’re afraid of Airbnbing, try with a domestic location first before you graduate to international. i’ve used Airbnb over a dozen times outside of the country and loved every moment of it — but that requires a combination of research up front and being flexible and open-minded when you’re there. have fun!

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