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photography courtesy of Brandon Melchior

By now, we’ve given you the tools to become the best Airbnb host you can be. But do you know everything you need to know about being a great guest? While Airbnb guest protocol largely depends on your host’s guidelines and where you’re staying (are you crashing at a spacious seaside bungalow, or are you hauling up alongside your host in a tiny city apartment?), one thing is for sure: An Airbnb is not a free-for-all, nor is it a full-service hotel.

Staying in someone else’s home is a special experience all globetrotters should indulge in at some point in their lives. That said, sharing and caring comes with certain responsibilities not all travelers may be accustomed to. Have you ever wondered how much cleaning you should actually be doing at the end of your stay? Or, is it cool to call my host if there’s a mouse roaming about at 2:00 a.m.?

To get the DL on all things proper guest etiquette, we asked three seasoned Airbnb hosts to share their major dos and dont’s. Ahead, 11 things they want you to know before you book.

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illustration by PHUONG NGUYEN

Cover the Basics

While your host certainly doesn’t need (or probably want) to hear the details of your life story, it is important to relay why you’re visiting the area and staying at their home. Think of it as a common courtesy.  

“With our house, we’re pretty laid back,” says Brandon Melchior, who, alongside his husband, owns The Weekend House, a retro-chic rental in Palm Springs, CA. “Checking in to our house is pretty easy, so there isn’t a ton of back and forth. Sometimes we might have a question about who all is coming or why they’re coming to Palm Springs if they didn’t give us that information in the booking message. Really, we just like it when guests reply to the basic questions we might have about their group and their stay.”

Note: It’s especially important to be open if you’re new to Airbnb and hosts can’t look at your past rental history! “We often receive booking requests from prospective guests with no reviews or identity verifications,” says Ryan Southard, owner of the Little Owl Cabin, a tiny, whimsical A-frame tucked in the woods of Mt. Rainier National Park. “We’re not likely to approve that request until the guest is ID verified, acknowledges our house rules, and shares a little bit about themselves.”

If You Need to Talk, Do it Through the Site

While communication rules may vary from host to host, it’s generally best to keep your interactions to the messaging system on Airbnb.com. This will make everything easier on you and your host in the long run if any problems or lengthy back-and-forth conversations arise.

“If you have as many reservations as we do—we’re talking 45 groups of guests just in one month—it’s quite impossible to organize everything between email or WhatsApp,” says a seasoned Airbnb host who asked to remain anonymous. “To make sure none of your communication or agreements with your host are lost, always keep everything at Airbnb.”

“We’re not likely to approve that request until the guest is ID verified, acknowledges our house rules, and shares a little bit about themselves.”

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Make the Deep-Clean Easier

Because you’re staying in someone else’s home (and not a full-service hotel), one tricky question all Airbnb guests face is how messy is too messy? Figuring out to what extent you should tidy up after yourself before you leave can be a challenge—especially if your house rules don’t explicitly lay out crystal clear instructions. As a general rule of thumb, do a polite sweep through of the space. No, you don’t have to do all the dishes or power wash the bathroom, but you should try to leave the space in as close to its original condition as possible.

“Sometimes we show up to the use the house for ourselves after guests check out. We don’t expect the house to be spotless (a cleaning fee is a part of their booking cost) but we do appreciate it when guests pick up after themselves, take the trash out, and leave any used towels in a pile. That makes things easier for us and our cleaners. You never know how soon another guest is going to be checking in, so it helps with getting a quick turnover if you leave the house fairly clean,” explains Melchior.

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photography courtesy of Brandon Melchior

Read the House Rules, For Real

While you should read through the house instructions and guidelines for your own sake and safety, you should also do it for your host. Any rules you break that could possibly have legal consequences don’t just fall on you, but those liable for the property.

“Guests really shouldn’t ignore the house rules. Some house rules are really city rules that can affect the owner of the home being able to rent their house out at all. I don’t think a lot of guests realize that,” notes Melchior. “We make it really clear to guests what are city rules and what are our own rules. City rules include quiet hours from 10 pm to 6 am, not to use it as a party house, and to generally be a good neighbor.”

“We don’t expect the house to be spotless (a cleaning fee is a part of their booking cost) but we do appreciate it when guests pick up after themselves, take the trash out, and leave any used towels in a pile.”

 

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Please Don’t Lie About Your Numbers

While it can feel tempting to fib about how many people are actually staying in your Airbnb to avoid extra costs and fees, don’t do it. Not only do you run the risk of a poor review from your host, but it’s also an inconsiderate expense for your host.

“If you book for just one person, don’t bring seven, or even three. Our housekeepers clean multiple homes and usually have just four hours to turn those places over. They need to know how many people are staying so that they can manage their time and resources. A couple of times a month, they’ll arrive to a cabin with six used beds for a reservation of one. Presumably, guests do this to avoid fees, but we take on more expense and risk with each guest, and we need to be made whole for that,” shares Southard.

Or About Your Stay

“We had a guest who booked for one person, then brought seven people and two dogs to our cabin. They totally trashed our hot tub, then complained to Airbnb that it was unclean after reading our less-than-positive review,” adds Southard.

“If you book for just one person, don’t bring seven, or even three. Our housekeepers clean multiple homes and usually have just four hours to turn those places over.”

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Your Airbnb is NOT a Hotel

The whole point of Airbnb is to immerse yourself in a new space and feel at home while you’re also on vacation. Sure, room service, 24-hour concierge, and a constant flow of clean towels are cool perks when you’re staying somewhere foreign, but you would have stayed in a hotel if that’s what was truly important to you, right?

“Airbnb is not a hotel with 24/7 services,” reminds our anonymous Airbnb host. “Hosts have their rules, and if you book their home, you need to follow them. Also, they’re not travel agents that will book your tickets and plan the holiday for you.”

On that same note, don’t expect your host to fill your day with activities. If you’re going somewhere new, make sure you do some research of your own beforehand.

“Occasionally, we’ll get a high-contact guest who expects a level of concierge service that just isn’t part of the package. We share all of our favorite local businesses and destinations in our house manual, and we keep local guidebooks and maps in our cabins. We expect our guests to have done some homework about excursions and conditions before they arrive,” shares Southard.

 

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Accept Your Surroundings

There’s little we love more than going totally off-the-grid when it comes to traveling. That said, if you’re committed to a remote vacation, commit. Whether you’re out in the depths of the jungle or voluntarily stranded in the desert, understand how the flora and fauna around you might impact your stay before you arrive.

“We are right in the middle of a wild jungle, so our description clearly states that there will be ants, flies, mosquitos, lizards, frogs, rats, snakes, cats, dogs.. well, all jungle creatures,” shares our anonymous host. “Certainly, we do our best to keep them away, but there is only some extent to which you can prevent that. Recently, we had a guest storm out of our place because she saw a mouse. Her exact words were, “I was expecting really any kind of jungle creature, but a mouse was unexpected!”

 

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Respect Thy Neighbor

While your Airbnb neighbors are only temporary to you, keep in mind that they are, in fact, your host’s forever neighbors.

“I think a lot of people use short-term rentals to feel like they’re a part of the city they’re traveling to—something a hotel can really insulate you from—so you have to treat the home, and the neighborhood, as if it were your own. Everyone wants to have a good time while they’re on vacation, but our biggest “don’t” is don’t disrespect each other, our house, or our neighborhood,” suggests Melchior.

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Get Descriptive With Your Review

Once your stay is said and done, it’s time to look back on your trip and leave a thoughtful note for all fellow Airbnb’ers to see. While reviewing your rental is a great way to give your host feedback (or shower them with compliments if you so choose), it’s also the only way to share what you loved or didn’t love about the home with future and potential guests.

Airbnb likes it when guests leave descriptive reviews. When you talk about the things you did at the house and the places you went, Airbnb ranks those reviews higher, and the house ranks higher in search results,” reveals Melchior. “For instance, it’s great when people talk about our Flamingo or Cactus wallpaper, listening to our records, lounging by the pool, cooking in our well-stocked kitchen, or the fact we’re a three-minute drive to downtown Palm Springs. So, if you had a good experience and you want other people to have a good experience, the more descriptive, the better.”

That said, don’t use this as an opportunity to rant and complain if you had a less-than-ideal stay. If things go wrong during your trip that can only be chalked up to bad luck and circumstance, be realistic and don’t take it out on your host (or the rest of the internet).

“Every review is a very personal thing,” shares our anonymous host. “Sometimes everything goes wrong from the moment you get out of bed—there’s a power blackout, no hot water, the food took longer than usual, etc. Don’t let the little things spoil your stay. Take the experience as a whole. Most of Airbnb hosts put their heart and soul into their home.”

“If you had a good experience and you want other people to have a good experience, the more descriptive, the better.”

 

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Show Your Airbnb Some Insta Love

The best review you can give, however, comes in the form of an Instagram. Not only should you be taking pictures to remember your trip (or, if you’re us, practice your interior photography skills), but it’s also a stellar way to share your experience with friends, followers, and, of course, your hosts. Is there one particular room you love in your home? What about the exterior of the house? Whatever design-forward moment has caught your eye, snap a pic!

“A lot of houses have Instagram accounts and it’s one of the main ways that houses get bookings and get people to talk about their Airbnb. It’s just like any business you love and follow. So, if a house you’re staying in has an Instagram account, tag them in a couple of your photos. We love when people tag @thewkndhouse and we get to see our house through their eyes,” says Melchior.

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photography courtesy of Brandon Melchior

Are you a 5-star Airbnb guest? Here are a few things top-notch visitors always do:

  • Acknowledge and observe house rules
  • Arrive prepared with excursion plans
  • Leave the home tidy when they leave
  • Contact the host only if they’re overjoyed or having a problem with the house
  • Friendly to fellow guests and surrounding neighbors
  • Excited to give feedback and share their experience with fellow travelers

Craving a touch of Palm Springs? Book your stay at The Weekend House here, or follow along on Instagram here. Or, if a woodland getaway is more your style, book your trip to the Little Owl Cabin here, or show them a little extra Insta love @littleowlcabin.

See more stunning Airbnbs that are worth the visit: 

The 10 Most Wish-Listed Airbnb Homes Around the World

Fact: Every Home on Airbnb Plus is Gold

One of the Wonders of the World Is on Airbnb