chairs on a deck overlooking a city

I’ll go ahead and say it – I’m staying at a lot of Airbnb’s these days, rather than hotels. They’re both vital, but now that Airbnb has finally listened, and is making huge changes to pricing, its more tempting to find that little bit of extra, or unique space.

Sometimes it’s the location, other times it’s having 3 bedrooms to invite friends and family over – and sometimes it’s a private infinity pool overlooking the ocean. To each, their own!

Whatever the reason you end up considering an Airbnb, finding the right one can be a daunting process. It doesn’t have to be that way. Airbnb has some powerful filters, and we’ve got some hot tips from Airbnb hosts, to help find you the perfect stay at the right price.

Here’s the ultimate guide to picking the right Airbnb, to haggling (yes, sometimes you can)- and having the perfect stay which makes you understand just how powerful this dynamic option can be for your travels.

a pool with lounge chairs and a radio

Let’s Get Haggling Out Of The Way

I’ve spoken to countless Airbnb ‘super hosts’, and each have a fairly similar opinion on haggling.

The gist of Airbnb haggling is simple: if it’s a long stay, go for it. If it’s a one night stay, you better be pretty compelling!

Many hosts expect some level of haggling over rates and extra fees for stays, but most say they’ll only play ball if it’s for a multi night, and ideally – a multi week stay.

That doesn’t mean you can’t ask – unless of course the host specifically says not to – but you’re less likely to succeed on short stays.

If you want to save money and find the right balance, perhaps prioritize your best negotiating skills for longer stays. Which keywords help with the haggle, you ask?Saying things like you’ll agree to a strict cancellation policy, or “no refund”, help to incentivize the host to confirm the booking at a lower cost.

If a host can lock in a monthly booking they know they’ll get to keep, even if you cancel, that might be more attractive than hoping for a few scattered nights, or a higher priced booking which could cancel up to a few nights before. Be respectful and be polite, but there’s nothing wrong with trying, unless it’s specifically mentioned as a “no-no”.

a pool with a view of the mountains

Location, Location, Location

There are some powerful filters to cut down on the many thousands of listings in any particular city or destination, but none more powerful than the laser precision of an ideal location.

In many cities and destinations, hotels tend to be in one area, and where you might want to be, can be in another. Airbnb often allows more precision and flexibility as to which area you choose.

a screenshot of a map

Knowing that ideal location for your Airbnb stay, before you search, allows you to pinch and zoom on the map of Airbnb’s which will instantly eliminate thousands of places. If I want to stay in Santa Monica, but only really in Ocean Park, this helps to avoid the many listings in Venice, or further downtown.

Destination Discovery Tool

Some vacations are all about the city, or the beach. Others, can be built around a cool place to stay. Maybe it’s a castle in Scotland, or maybe it’s an Airstream on a Hollywood hill.

If you are destination agnostic, but desperate for an inspired place, let Airbnb’s new discovery tools, which allow you to play around with different themes inspire you. At the very least, it may give you fun ideas for home.

Finding Your Airbnb: Filter, Filter, Filter

Want a private bedroom, with a shared bathroom? Not for me. Maybe it is for you? That’s the point: Airbnb knows everyone has different needs, from budget to level of privacy, so there are filters to help pinpoint what you want – first.

Type Of Place

The first filter to use is the “type of place” tool on Airbnb, which can also help to eliminate many undesirable listings, either offering too much, or too little for your needs. This handy tip allows you to choose either: an entire place, private room, or shared room, before results pop up.

Airbnb has also launched a few defining factors, which filter more results than others via its verified ‘Airbnb Luxe’ or ‘Airbnb Plus’ collection. These properties have been vetted by Airbnb and attest to having certain levels of amenities required to gain the honor of these titles.

An ‘Airbnb Plus’ listing is guaranteed to have hotel quality bedsheets, towels, coffee setups and other perks, among others. Airbnb Luxe is an entirely different level, with only the finest, and typically more space too. Airbnb Plus should satisfy any four or five star hotel needs, and Luxe would likely far surpass most dreams.

a pool with palm trees and chairs

Amenities Tool

Going further, you can customize the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you require, and so much more — even things like “I’d like a tennis court”.

Simply tap ‘Filters’ to bring up the full list of choices, which can include number of bathrooms, washing machine, air conditioning, hot tub, pool, and even style of house – aka bungalow versus multi level. If you don’t have time to chat, this is also where you can select only “instant book” properties, which are confirmed immediately.

Airbnb Budget “Price” Selector

Sometimes it’s great to dream, other times it’s just a distraction. The simplest way to get what you’re looking for, or are budgeted for, is to use the ‘Price’ tool, which allows you to customize your night budget.

In a helpful feature, Airbnb lets you know the average nightly price of a place in your selected destination, so you have a better indicator of costs. Don’t forget – haggling can be totally ok, and can change the price significantly, so perhaps set a little room above your top budget!

Pet Or Kid Friendly?

In the filters tool, which is typically found to the far right of the search options, you can instantly save the hassles of finding the perfect place and then finding out your animal friend cannot come, or kids aren’t welcome.

Typically, if a place is pet or kid friendly it will list itself as so, but in my experience, I don’t always find this to be true. Some places which say ‘no kids’ are very happy to have kids, after hearing more about the potential guest.

In other words, if you find a dream place without selecting pet friendly, or specifying kids, it may still work out – you just need to speak with the host clearly and honestly about it.

Superhosts Only

Some people only want to deal with very experienced Airbnb hosts. I’m not necessarily one of them, so I don’t bother selecting superhost only, but it’s there, if you like to use it! If you only want to see listings from super experienced and well regarded stay hosts, there’s a click for that!

This can be useful in dense cities, where thousands of properties can leave your head spinning, but I’ve never bothered, since I value other factors more.

a shelf with hats on it

Essential Airbnb Booking Tips

Between good use of filters and precision with moving the interactive map around, the perfect Airbnb shouldn’t be too far away. To avoid frustration though, there are a few more key things to note, like flexibility.

Cancellation Flexibility

As people return to a new “normal” in travel, naturally, plans are a bit more up in the air. Airbnb hosts set cancellation policies, not the Airbnb platform, so they can vary wildly between places, just like a hotel.

One host may say no refund at all once you book, while others will offer full refunds for cancellations up to the day before! Even hosts with no-refund policies have been willing to refund, if they’re able to find a replacement guest, in my experience.

Be sure to really read the cancellation policies before confirming a booking, in case plans are still fluid. This is also (hot tip) a great area for haggling, if a stay merits some. Saying you’ll happily agree to inflexible terms for a better rate has worked many, many times!

Can You Still Earn Airbnb Referral Credit?

Sadly, no! Airbnb shut its referral credit program down in October of 2020, which means sharing a link to sign up will no longer earn you credit for stays. If you want to save money on an Airbnb stay, this guide to earning points on Airbnb stays is your friend.

Don’t forget that you can earn points on Airbnb stays, and even airline miles too!

What About Credit Card Tips?

Yes! Chase currently offers Airbnb as a ‘Pay Yourself Back’ option, meaning you can pay for your Airbnb normally, then after the fact, Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cardholders can use points to cover some, or all, of the purchase they’ve already made. Capital One is also working on new opportunities with Airbnb.

Finding The Perfect Airbnb

Finding the perfect Airbnb is ultimately very personal. It’s about your budget, your dream location, amenities needed and a dash of luck. Many of the best Airbnb places book up early, as repeat visitors seek them out year after year.

Start early, filter the no-go’s, and don’t forget the possibilities that home sharing can unlock. For families, a place with multiple bedrooms can be far cheaper than booking multiple hotel rooms and worrying about connecting rooms. For budget travelers, having access to a kitchen can bring huge daily savings.

I’ve had more Airbnb stays than I can count throughout the years, and almost all have been wonderful and exactly as described. Don’t hesitate to read the comments and reviews. When you do, look for consensus. There’s always going to be “one” grouch, but if there are many echoing the same thing, take it as warning.

Travel should be fun, and with these tips, your Airbnb search should be short, sweet and perfect!

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. AirBnB seem to have messed up their filters now, with places outside your filter still being listed lower down, which is a really unhelpful change.

  2. Airbnb filters no longer include en-suite or private bathroom which is completely unhelpful as for guests like myself, that is one of the very top priorities.

    1. Yes! Why did the get rid of THAT filter? That’s like the most important criteria! I don’t want to share a bathroom.

  3. As a Superhost, sometimes you get better deals by booking direct. Reverse search photos for example to find the property if it’s not named. All – and I mean all – of my AirBnb, Booking and other OTA bookings now book directly after their first stay. Their friends and families also get referred. We split the commission rate charged which suits both parties to a T. Of the OTAs, from a host’s perspective, AirBnB are the best. The other ‘big names’ are dreadful to work with and always lean in the customer’s favour. EG: My villa sleeps 6. 8 turn up. We advise the OTA of this and tell them and the customer that we can accommodate the two extras with fold-out beds, linen and breakfast – for an extra fee. Of course, this means my staff have to work harder to accommodate them all. They moan to the OTA and the OTA threatens me for charging outside of the platform. The day of the OTAs is hopefully over soon.

  4. Gilbert, Great article. Wish we had known about the haggling factor. 😃. We stayed 3 months in SE Asia for a month each at 2 of the 3 Airbnb’s. But had a fantastic trip. Now we are heading to Italy (3rd try) this month and staying primarily at Airbnb’s. A couple of stays actually honored last year’s price which was lower than the current pricing. Again fantastic article!

  5. As a single woman, I only use Airbnb if I’m going to be in a safe area I know well. For example, I have spent a lot of nights in Switzerland, and have found Airbnb’s there to be great, clean and secure. However, usually in the U.S. hotels provide more safety and certainty than Airbnb’s IMHO

  6. Having upped my traveling this year and stayed in three Airbnb’s; NJ shore in June, London in September and Washington, DC for Thanksgiving, I can say I am very distrustful of the platform. Our “hosts” cancelled us less than a week before we were to arrive in London. Airbnb gave me a $600 credit (b/c it seemed clear the hosts were pulling a fast one and our cancellation was not warranted) towards a new rental. Hours spent trying to find another rental and over $1,000 more than our original booking, left me very leery of Airbnb. I appreciate the tips you suggest in your article when booking on the platform, but including information, or possibly even writing an article on what to do when your Airbnb host cancels your reservation would be helpful. Thanks! Fingers crossed our DC stay goes well and no cancellations.

    1. This is one of the biggest downsides of AirBNB. Hosts are very protected but travelers can be left stranded if a host is flaky.

  7. One frustrating thing is you cannot rank Airbnb listings say on price, review score etc. as you can on many other booking sites

  8. I’ve been an Airbnb superhost for more than five years. I don’t haggle because I noticed that the guests who haggle are the biggest complainers and leave my place in the worst shape, ie messy and dirty. I don’t know why this correlation exists and it is a small sample size. Big enough for me not to haggle and actively avoid those who do.

    1. Interesting perspective. For me, I think it’s fair play but based on good faith. I often rent for a month in expensive areas and know all too well from other superhosts that rates are inflated, so when it’s $1000’s at play, I am not afraid to send an email to help them lock in a long term booking and me avoid getting a gouge.

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