Airbnb has totally changed the way I travel. Instead of staying in mostly mediocre hotels, I use Airbnb to book character-filled apartments and houses. Airbnb allows me to live in beautiful homes like a local for a considerably better value, which makes extended stays for remote work travel possible.

Booking the perfect Airbnb for your trip isn’t always easy though. I’ve had my fair share of mishaps, but over the years as both a guest and host, I’ve refined my process of picking the best Airbnbs. 



Step One: Define your perfect Airbnb

Every trip is different, so before even looking at listings, I reflect on the kind of trip I’m going to be having so I can think through requirements and priorities. These are my main considerations:

Budget – Budget is always my starting point and most important priority. I like to set my budget before I even start looking at listings because I like to optimize for the absolute best Airbnb for what I can afford but never be tempted to go above my budget. In some places, this means I can afford serious luxury, but in more expensive cities, it means I have to find more modest accommodations.

Amenities – The more time I plan on spending at the Airbnb, the more important amenities are. If I plan on working from the Airbnb, which is usually the case when I work remotely, having a solid internet connection is absolutely critical. I typically also look for an Airbnb with a kitchen. I love to indulge in local cuisine, but just eating breakfast at home can save a lot of money. Also, if I’m working US hours in a significantly different time zone, a kitchen is a must. You won’t find many restaurants serving lunch at 3 AM in Bali.

Design – Design of the listing is typically my next priority. There’s something about a well-designed space that puts me at ease. Travel can be hectic, so it’s nice to have a home-away-from-home that can serve as my sanctuary. To stay within my budget, this sometimes means I need to sacrifice in other areas – like having a little less space or fewer amenities.

Location – I don’t usually have access to a car when I travel, so I like being close to all of the action. I often Google the best neighborhoods in [city name] to get an idea of where I want to stay. If I’m in a rush or location isn’t as important, I’ll skip the research and just look at a listing’s location rating and shoot for 4.5 stars or higher. So far, this method hasn’t failed me.

Size – Considering size is most important when traveling with a group. It all comes down to how much privacy everyone needs. You’ll be able to get a prettier place if people are ok with sharing beds or sleeping on the couch.

Experience – Airbnb can also offer unique experiences beyond a traditional house or apartment. You can book tree houses, vintage trailers, yachts, or a pod 1000 feet off the ground in Peru (highly recommend the last one).




Step Two: Pick your search criteria

Picking your search criteria on the Airbnb website is mostly common sense, but I’ll give you a couple tips that I think are useful.

The first thing I do is slide the price down to my predetermined per night maximum budget. I don’t even want to be tempted by the beautiful listings that are out of my budget.

Tick the Entire home/apt box unless you’re willing to stay with strangers, which I actually mistakenly did once. It turned out to be a good experience, but I prefer a place of my own where clothing is optional for the midnight walk to the fridge.

Airbnb will search wherever you have your map placed, so I’ll set it to my ideal location and then zoom out a click or two. Widening my search distance, means a greater chance that I’ll be able to find a beautiful place in my budget.

If you’re searching for a group, choose the absolute minimum number of beds and/or rooms that will be needed. Sending pictures of a really beautiful home is usually enough to make people reconsider how much privacy they really need.



Step Three: Create a wish list

Once I’ve set my search criteria, I look through every single listing in the search results. Yes, that might mean I’m looking at 200+ listings, but sometimes that’s what it takes to find the best place (and maybe satisfy my OCD urges). I don’t actually click into any listing just yet. if I like what I see from the search results page, I’ll click the heart in the top right corner and add it to a wish list. After a couple less than ideal stays, I’ve learned to not even consider listing with less than four stars.



Step Four: Evaluate the listings

Now that you’ve created a wish list, which should be no more than your top 5 contenders, it’s time to evaluate the listings. There are a few things I will use to evaluate listing on:

Photos – Look through every photo. If something seems weird, out of place, or dirty, do not expect it to be fixed when you visit. I’ve found that if there are few pictures or the pictures seem to focus on non-relevant objects, they are more than likely trying to hide something.

Amenities – There are a few amenities that are must haves for me: internet, kitchen, and essentials (which means towels, sheets, and toilet paper are provided. Depending on the climate, I may also look for heating or air conditioning.

Reviews – Reviews are extremely important. I can’t stress enough to take them very seriously!  I’ll typically read through the first 4 pages of reviews to get an accurate sense of the place. The things I’m looking for:

  • Common themes in issues. Did the hot water not work? Did the host cancel right before the stay? Was there street noise? Even if the issues could be solved easily, do not assume that the host has fixed the problems.
  • If there were problems, how did the host handle them? You might not think the host would be very important, but the moment you run into an issue, they can make or break your trip.



Step Five: Ask Questions

After I’ve evaluated the listings, I often still have some questions about information that I couldn’t find in the listing or an issue I saw in the reviews. Instead of making assumptions, I just message the host. Common questions I ask:

  • How fast/reliable is the wifi? This is important if I’m going to working from the Airbnb or if I’m international and relying on wifi as my main source of communication. Most hosts will say their wifi is fast, but I’ve found that doesn’t have a direct correlation to internet speed. You need to get more specific and ask them the speed of their connection. If they don’t have a good answer for this and you’re going to be working from your Airbnb, move on to the next listing. 
  • How much street noise is there? I like to be near the city center, which can be very noisy.
  • How well-stocked is the kitchen? Some kitchens don’t even have the basics. 

Happy Hunting

The final tip I’ll leave you with is just to start looking as early as possible. Don’t put off booking your stay because the best listings are always the first to get booked. Happy Airbnb hunting! 


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