Living on the road full time for the last year, we’ve spent the majority of our time in Airbnb apartments – 62% of the time or 227 days from December 2016 through November 2017, to be exact. In the last year, we’ve rented Airbnb apartments in England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Italy, Malta, Greece, Canada and the United States, and some have been great, some okay, and a couple of spots – well, we left and went to a hotel.
At the top of our Airbnb annoyance list – #2 would have to be receiving instructions advising us to hide from the condo staff or apartment building personnel because running an Airbnb is a violation. Notification usually occurs far after booking and paying, in a subtle statement along with the address and directions which we receive a day or so before we get there. Upon arrival, it gets more direct and places us in a very uncomfortable situation.
If that is #2, what is the #1 Airbnb issue? The apartment actually needs to be at the place where the listing says it is. That happened in May in the U.K. – the owner apparently didn’t want to change the listing address, even though he’d actually moved because he would have lost his Airbnb ratings. We found out when we showed up to the address in the email sent by Airbnb and the owner was at a different address about a half mile away. He must have gotten the new place for quite a bit less and seemed to no longer find it necessary to use a quality cleaning service. Yep, that was fun.
This wasn’t our only encounter at a place of questionable cleanliness. We only rent entire homes, typically in the range of $125-$175 per night (daily rate), and there are certain things we consider to be table stakes (the minimum required) for every rental: kitchen with fridge, TV, working internet, decent sheets, and the apartment should be professionally cleaned. The unit should also be well maintained with repairs made to issues caused by former occupants.
If someone drops nail polish and it splashes on the wall, remove it and repaint.
If the toilet seat has issues, buy a new one – don’t paint it.
Fortunately, there’s been much more good than bad, but almost all missed something that would have enhanced the experience – things that would elevate the stay to truly deserving a five-star rating. I’ll reserve speaking to the failings of the Airbnb rating system for a later article but, let’s just say that a great stay isn’t about showing up to greet the guest with water or wine and cookies (it’s a popular thing in Europe). That’s nice, but there are other things far more important.
With this roaming lifestyle, you learn to adapt and flexibility is key, but there are certain things that, if every owner would provide them, would make life as a guest easier and more enjoyable. And, to any Airbnb guests out there – if your host provides these items, don’t steal them. If you break them, pay to replace them. Let’s keep it working for all of us.
So, to all of the Airbnb owners out there, this is to you, and here’s our list of….
The 10 things every Airbnb needs
1. A supply of essentials
Arriving to find no toilet paper or soap is so annoying. Sure, we will be heading to the market soon after arrival, but if it is late afternoon or evening and we’ve been on train or plane all day, drinks and dinner sound far more appealing than finding a store for soap, shampoo, and toilet paper.
We always carry a small bar of soap, shampoo, and conditioner and, if space permits, a roll of toilet paper but, most people don’t do this, so come on owners, add an extra five bucks on to the cleaning fee or rate and make people’s lives easier. And, with that, throw in some rolls of paper towels (not 4 sheets leftover from the last cleaning), adequate hand soap, a bottle of shower gel or a bar of soap (new in the box), dishwashing detergent, and, if there is a washer, laundry detergent.
2. Cleaning supplies
If you want us to keep the apartment clean, you need to leave some cleaning supplies – a broom, Windex, paper towels, toilet brush, trash bags and new sponge at a minimum. Even for a rental of just a few days, we want to keep the place clean, but you really shouldn’t expect us to go buy a broom to do so.
3. A fan
Nothing fancy here – just a fan. They can typically be purchased for the equivalent of $15-$20 USD (we know, we’ve purchased and left them as we went). If the apartment doesn’t have air conditioning, then get at least two – a fan is all that is needed sometimes to circulate air when it is still cool outside, which will save you money in the long run and makes guests more comfortable.
We travel light and try our best to find a place with a washer, minimizing the clothing we carry with us, but we do tend to bring more than a couple of shirts between the two of us and like to hang them up. Do people steal the hangers and that is why so many places have so few? You don’t need to spoil us with wooden hangers – just get 20 inexpensive ones and replace them if they disappear.
5. A kettle and a coffee maker
One of the best things about staying in an Airbnb is having the option to prepare some meals at home in the apartment. Even if guests don’t want to get their Julia Child on, nearly everyone likes to have coffee and/or tea in the morning before going out. That said, the coffee maker and kettle are key items to an Airbnb guest’s happiness.
For a kettle, the electric ones predominantly found in Europe are great. For coffee, a Nespresso or K-cup is perfect, providing no need for the guest to figure out how to use a Moka pot or which filters to buy. While Nespresso pods can be a bit harder to find (so, leaving a pack of them is really nice – hint, hint), they make such a great cup of coffee, it can really add a luxury feel to the experience.
6. Power supplies and power adapters
We’ve been in 15 countries in the last 10 months, so we carry multiple power adapters and have a couple of small, power strips we found on Amazon and take them with us everywhere we go.
However, most people don’t bring power strips and many forget their adapters, so having a few commonly used adapters and a couple of power strips on hand would be helpful to guests. People have phones, tablets, camera batteries and laptops to charge and fighting over outlets is no fun.
7. Kitchen supplies beyond the pots and pans
Items for the kitchen that are an absolute minimum – clean pots, pans, dishes, glasses, wine glasses, mugs, silverware, cooking utensils, a baking tray, coffee maker, kettle, and at least one larger bowl (for salad, chips, etc). Most (not all) Airbnb owners provide these items.
But, the other kitchen supplies that are frequently missed are a corkscrew/wine opener, can opener, ice trays, scissors, aluminum foil, and plastic bags. The foil allows baking without requiring extensive cleaning of the tray. We also buy or bring a Brita water filter pitcher for locations where we’ll be a week or more so that we don’t have to carry bottles of water home and that would be amazing to find in a rental.
To the European Airbnb hosts – Americans love ice. Ice trays are cheap and you can usually fit one, if not two, even in the smallest of European fridge freezers.
However, finding ice trays in Venice or Athens can be a little challenging if you are staying in an area that doesn’t have many home goods stores. I carry two ice trays with us everywhere we go but would love to free up space in my luggage by knowing ahead of time they were waiting for us upon arrival. And, if you have the extras, please add the details to your listing so we know ahead of time – it may be the reason we book with you.
Last, in the kitchen items area, some reusable shopping bags and a discount/loyalty card for the nearest markets would be great additions. We generally leave these items behind after time in month-long rentals (as well as the Brita pitcher and other kitchen items) for the next guests to use.
8. Big, fluffy white towels and bath accessories
Towels in many Airbnbs passed the well-worn phase before Airbnb was founded (FYI- that was in 2008). More often than not, the towels are small, a mish-mash of colors, and look like they were the towels discarded by the owner when they bought themselves new ones.
Ever wonder why you see big, white fully towels in photos of the baths of high-end hotels? It’s because guests love them. They are sumptuous. They exude luxury. Why white? Pure white means clean and spa-like (and they can be bleached to stay that way). If Airbnb owners want to compete with hotels, they need to match the things that people like/love about hotels, and then exceed in additional areas. High-quality towels – they’re a big deal.
Those plush bath towels will last longer if they aren’t laundered every day (as well it cuts down on utilities and water usage), so towel hooks can more than pay for themselves in the bathroom. Hooks are better than towel bars as it is easier to hang and keep track of multiple towels for multiple guests. The bath also needs a hair dryer and, if you want to knock our socks off, add a bath scale. We once went six months without weighing ourselves. You typically only see a bath scale in a high-end hotel and it would be a most welcome addition.
9. Make sure the keys and locks work
It sounds like a no-brainer with people coming and going all the time, but the keys and the locks need to work well. We’ve had locks where you spent five minutes every time you left and returned to get the door locked and unlocked. We’ve had doorknobs fall off in our hands. The locks need to be good and they simply need to work well and, if there are two/multiple adults renting, two sets of keys are always appreciated.
10. Apartment, building and neighborhood instructions
Nearly every Airbnb owner has house rules on their listing – don’t have parties, no smoking, and no occupants beyond those listed on the rental. Some hosts will provide local tourist information, but many miss the details of actually living in the apartment – where and when to take the trash out, how to operate the TV and cable or cable-like programming, how to operate the heating and air conditioning, and if the building has a gym, common area, or pool, where it is and how to access it.
Next, where’s the closest transit station, the best grocery stores, and a nearby pharmacy? If the building doesn’t have a gym, is there a fitness center close by that offers short-term or day pass memberships? If dogs are allowed, where’s the closest green space for walking them? Are there any farmer’s markets nearby? What are the best nearby happy hours, restaurants and coffee shops? Is pocket wifi available in your city? If so, who are the carriers and what is the approximate cost?
There are thousands of travel websites and blogs to tell you about the tourist attractions in practically any city, but those sites don’t know about your apartment, your building, and your neighborhood. Write out the information, print it and laminate it, leave it in the apartment and then send a digital version upon arrival. That would be truly helpful.