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By Shari Benyousky
“Get a hot tub this time,” begged my grown-up kids as we scrolled through the holiday Airbnb options. So, we did. Even though winter brought us -40°, and we had to wear furry boots and bathrobes to walk over the ice to the hot tub, it was totally worth it. Mostly totally worth it. Getting the right Airbnb isn’t quite as simple as ordering your favorite Marriott Hotel room. Each 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: Choosing the right Airbnb Amenities
In 2022 we stayed in 18 different Airbnbs ranging across the United States and Europe. We enjoyed all of them, although the level of cost, charm and conveniences varied considerably. When you’re perusing those options available, some things are imperative to consider.
For example, it’s important to choose a high Host rating (4.5-5.0) and to read other guests’ comments carefully for tips. Are mattresses comfortable? Is one of those beds intended only for a child? Do you need to exit the front door of the house to walk around back to the hot tub (yes, we neglected to learn this for our frigid trip, so I’m warning you)? Are towels and shampoo included? Are the coffee pods included only butternut rum? Are spices included in the cabinets if you intend to cook? What’s the vibe — comfortable, cool, or industrial?
We love to find the quirky, lived-in feeling Airbnbs with bookcases and cabinets stocked with cooking essentials, but that might not be your thing. Perhaps you want something more like a hotel room with crisp and anonymous decorations and smart appliances. Our last choice in Indianapolis had a fridge that informed us of the expiration dates of everything in the refrigerator and changed paintings on the screen occasionally.
TIP 2: Choosing the Right Airbnb Location. Location. Location.
The location of your Airbnb is even more important than the amenities. Think about the kind of place you need and those who will be with you. We like to find a walkable neighborhood where we can amble out to amazing restaurants, coffeehouses and parks.
Use Google Maps to see where things fit compared to the Airbnb you need. Even though you won’t have the specific address of the Airbnb before you book it, you’ll have a map that gets you close enough to see the neighborhood. Use that little picture in the bottom left of Google Maps to see Google Street view and virtually drive yourself around to get context.
TIP 3: What to Bring With You.
Even if you brought your laptop to work on the counter as I do, you’re still away from all the to-do lists and nagging worries of home in your Airbnb. But you probably don’t want to eat out every meal, and you probably have a kitchen if you chose wisely.
We bring along a cooler with staples — coffee, half and half, English Breakfast teabags, sugar, spices, and all the fixings to throw together a charcuterie board to snack on — nuts, crackers, cheeses, sausages, dark chocolate caramels with sea salt, 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 taking everything out of its container for this satisfying version while we played the board game Catan. We are also partial to bringing along crockpot lasagna made ahead of time. It’s easy to make and easy to carry.
Oh yes, bring some games and books and puzzles if you’re relaxing. Some Airbnbs come stocked with these items and some don’t. We spent Christmas at one Airbnb and brought along Mexican Bingo for a stocking opening game, for example.
What else should you bring? You read the amenities list carefully, right? I have a list of things that I generally check off in the amenity list: WIFI, kitchen, washer (abroad you won’t find a lot of dryers), free parking (If I’m in a city especially), towels (extra towels if there’s a pool or hot tub), and AC if it’s in the summer (in Europe AC is not standard so read carefully).
Bring a few things to personalize your Airbnb if you have the room in your packing. If you like to cuddle with a blanket, make sure they have one. If it’s a holiday, bring along a few lights or ornaments to hang around. If you’re on a bird-watching adventure, bring your binoculars and a hat. Things don’t need to be complicated to be enjoyable.
Last, don’t forget to ask your Airbnb host for their favorite places to see and eat. Sometimes these suggestions are priceless such as the most recent one which suggested the local restaurant Bluebeard which resides in an old printing warehouse and features food to make foodie palates water. If you visit Indianapolis and get an Airbnb with a hot tub out back, check it out.
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