We’re a family of 6, as you probably know by now. And, as we imagined, finding accommodation for all of us isn’t easy nor cheap. But we manage, and we’re here to share how.
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There’s a lot we need, but our main needs are basic:
– washing machine
– enough beds
– private bathroom
This is really what we look for when we’re searching for a place to stay.
Since most hotels end up being way too expensive (well, we do need 2 rooms, mostly) and most of them aren’t equipped for cooking, we end up choosing to rent an apartment or house.
That’s almost always been our choice for the last 10 months, with rare exceptions.
We do stay in hotels, bus it’s mostly only for the night before travels. When we do so, we look on booking.com and book the cheapest option that offers free transportation to the airport + breakfast. We’ve had some great hotels and some strange ones, but either way, we think it’s always nice to have a hotel night. We don’t always book through that website. Sometimes we just use it to browse the options and get in contact with the hotel asking for a discount. If they don’t offer, we book through booking.com just for the free cancellation.
Today I’m sharing with you a few steps for a great holiday rental stay.
1 – Choose well
Obvious, but not so easy. First of all, use the filters. They help a lot on narrowing down your options. When there are INTERNET and WI-FI as 2 different options, see what fits you best. We always try with one and then the other, and never with both options ticked because it doesn’t all the places with one or the other.
Read the reviews. Really read the reviews. The longer ones, they’re the best ones. And read the bad ones carefully, because they’re a great indicative of what you’ll find. We’ve rented places with no review too, but I’ll get to that later.
2 – Talk to the owner before booking
We always do. There can be ‘Internet’ on the listing, but it might be limited or really slow or shared between tons of people. The washing machine can also be at a nearby coin laundry. The very important stuff needs to be communicated and asked through the website if you’re using Airbnb or anything like it. If you contact the owner in private, then in the case of a problem, it’ll be more difficult for the managing website to address it so always contact the owners there. Don’t hesitate to ask anything, and always follow your gut. It’s important that the owner responds, that he/she is nice and willing to help. Plus, if you really want a certain place and the price tag doesn’t match your budget, ask for a discount! We’ve heard very few ‘no’s so far. This step is very important when booking a house with no review.
3 – Play with the dates
We visit 2 or 3 cities in most countries we go to. If we don’t have anything major scheduled, we just play around with the dates to see when each house is available. Sometimes we end up not getting to see one or other place we wanted to because of the availability of houses and dates, but it’s all part of the deal. We found out that staying less than a week is a bit stressful and we don’t really relax and feel ‘home’ but we also found that staying for longer than 2 weeks means heavy cleaning and we want to avoid that too. Anything between 1 and 2 weeks is our aim, but yours is probably different! Don’t be afraid to try out.
4 – Confirm with the owner everything that’s important through the website
Again, always through Airbnb, Homeaway, or any other website. Only contact the owner in private for silly stuff like ‘Where’s the best restaurant’. It’s super important that those websites have all the messages so they can assess quickly in case of a problem. We’ve never had any major problem, so we don’t really know how that’d work, but we follow it just in case.
5 – Book
I don’t know about you, but it’s super exciting for me when we book a new place. Oh, the possibilities! Double check dates, prices and confirmation for all the important things before clicking the book button, but then click it thinking of all the great things that’ll happen!
6 – Talk to the owner about the best way to get to the house, if they hadn’t sent you already – and others
We’ve found that owners from around the world are different. And even in the same country, they’re different, but some things are similar. In NZ, we didn’t meet the owners. We arranged a place or were given a code to find the key. In Japan, the owners gave is a map and detailed guides on how to get to their house from each place (airport, train station, etc), plus the nearby cheaper supermarket, best restaurant, and all the rules. Some even stated some prices. In Uruguay and Chile, we met all our hosts and it was super nice. We asked them about everything on the spot and they gave us personal views.
7 – Check in at the arranged time
If someone will be there on check in time, you should be there on time. We know we take a long time to walk a little distance when carrying our bags, so we plan accordingly. If it’s a self-check-in thing, then you should arrive after check-in time unless arranged with the owner prior to arrival, so there won’t be anyone still working in the house when you get there. Communication is the key. If the bus or plane is late, let the owner know. If it’s early, go have a coffee. It’s just a matter of respect.
8 – Really look around the house, see if everything is as it should be
My kids enter a house and go search for ‘their’ bedroom. Angelo and I talk to the owner if he/she is present. Otherwise, we go and check if everything is working. Internet, fridge, washing machine, stove, shower. Open and close windows, cabinets, and wardrobes. Check cleanliness, sheets, towels. Really check everything. It’s not rude, not even if the owner is present. It’s even better, so you can walk around checking things while asking for the closest bus stop, the best place to buy fruits, something you shouldn’t miss. If something’s wrong, talk to the owner first. Give them a couple of hours to reply before filing a complaint. We’ve never needed to.
9 – Follow the rules
If silence is required after 10, then be silent. If linen is to be stripped and put in the laundry, do so. If windows are to be closed at night, close them. If no laundry can be hung on the porch, don’t. Well, kids have nightmares and cry. Movies get loud sometimes. Cups fall on the floor at night. Sometimes sheets need to be washed in the middle of the night. Things happen and it’s OK, just be considerate. Also, accept that things happen to other people too, so that loud neighbor might just be having a really rough time. Some places disclaim that you can be asked to leave if the rules aren’t followed. Be aware of them.
10 – Leave the house as you found it, before or at check out time
I don’t mean it as ‘clean the walls, wash the curtains, wake up at 5 am to wash all the linen’ kind of thing, but we do our dishes and put them away, throw our garbage out, strip beds, put things back in place. If we break or stain something, we’ll replace it or arrange with the owner the best way to fix things. If we use the things in the house, we replace them or leave something else. We even vacuum or sweep the floor before leaving. If communication with the owner was nice, we ask if they’d like us to leave the washing machine running with linen, but otherwise, we just leave everything at the laundry or toilet. We water the plants and do our best to maintain the house as it was. Yes, we pay the cleaning fee, but it doesn’t mean we’ll leave our fingerprints all over the place, juice stain on the couch, and food scattered on the floor just because we paid for it. We really try to leave the place as it was when we entered. We tidy up our things the night before so we can leave at check out time, not later unless arranged with the owner. Tidying up the house is also a great chance to see if there’s something we’re forgetting: there’s always a sock behind the couch or a toy under a bed.
That’s basically how we roll it.
We’ve been basically Airbnbing full time for 10 months now and only had one bad review (the owner thought that vacuuming was deep cleaning, and did not like that we left a few items for the next guest or our usage of the internet – and it was accorded that we needed a lot of data beforehand). We’ve had mostly great hosts and houses, but not all was love and roses and chocolate (even though some were).
Good communication is the key, so look for an owner willing to talk to you because chances are you’ll need it, even if it’s only for asking trivial questions. Plus, don’t forget to NEVER click the Instant Booking button! Always talk to the owner before you decide.
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