How to Find the Perfect Airbnb (Plus 15 of My Faves)

Airbnb Secrets and Tips

You guys asked for a post highlighting tips for finding awesome airbnbs, so here you go!! After staying in my last airbnb, a shipping container on the beach, I’m going to have super high expectations for my next getaway. I actually really love searching for homes and rentals, just because I like seeing the different aesthetic, architecture, and style each place has to offer. After getting pretty good at searches, I’m happy to share my secret to finding the perfect airbnb (plus 15 of my faves). Bring on summer- the season of travel!

How to Find the Best Airbnbs1. // Optimize your search. Contrary to what most people recommend, I try not to let dates or location hinder my search. For me, sometimes the rental is more important than a certain location. For instance, the beach container I stayed in was less than 200 feet away from the beach (a short and easy walk), but it wasn’t actually on the sand or “oceanfront”. Sometimes you have to sacrifice design or location and that’s ok… just be open minded to a certain extent!

The same goes for dates. I never key in the specific dates I’m looking for- unless it’s a last minute, quick booking (like, needs to be finished and scheduled in less than 20 minutes). Leaving the dates open ended means you’ll have wayyy more options. Sometimes I get caught up in a search and find a place I really love, but it’s not available during the actual dates I need, so I save it for later. I add it to my wish list and move on. Yes, it’s time consuming in the beginning, but later on- you’ll plan a vacation or stay around one of the really cool places on your list and it will be easy peasy!

2. // It’s all about the photos, reviews, and THE HOST! The more images a listing has, the better- if they’re high quality photos, bonus points. It’s a simple equation! The host isn’t afraid to show you the entirrrrre space… they’re laying out the listing room by room, and aren’t hiding anything. Now it’s your turn to analyze the photos: does the space look tidy? Does it look inviting? Is the vibe or style appealing to you? Look at the details… do you see linens readily available or other items you mind need on a daily basis?

Next, do the obvious: read the reviews. It’s always reassuring to see multiple positive reviews. However, don’t let quantity (or lack there of) scare you away. The shipping container I stayed in only had 1 review when I made my reservation. I had to rely on other ways to determine if this listing was legitimate. I noticed it had only been available for 1 month (a new listing), I knew the host was incredibly friendly and responsive (bonus points), and the images met my standards. If a review has the following, I’m reassured and ready to commit: repeat stays, lots of praise, lots of positive reviews, and compliments. The following are automatic RED FLAGS: negative reviews, reviews that are positive- yet have one annoying consistent theme (like difficulty of obtaining the key), or defensive comments.

Last but not least, gage the host. You can usually tell if a host is responsive, friendly, and helpful based on the reviews, or if they are prompt with a response.

3. // Know the specifics. You’re convinced by the photos and reviews that this is the place for you, so now it’s time to begin the research. Analyze the location. Is it appealing? Check a map, see what’s nearby, and use Google Street View to scope out the surroundings. If you’re sold it’s in a cool or decent spot, now’s the time to check the dates or decide if this one will move to your wish list. If the dates check out, you’re ready to book- now the ball is in your court!

4. // Be a person. You’re ready to schedule the airbnb… it all falls on your profile! Sadly, in this day and age there are some crazy and dangerous people out there. It’s reassuring to actually connect with someone, be kind, ask questions, and let them know you’re a “real” and kind individual. Reach out to the host, introduce yourself, be friendly, cordial, and tell them why you’re planning a visit. Airbnb is typically safe and easy to use- don’t make anyone uncomfortable… always pay and communicate through the app or website! It is a business, after all.

In addition to being a friendly human, keep your bio up-to-date! Make a good first impression, upload a profile image of yourself smiling and looking put together. It may be biased, but people automatically formulate an opinion… make sure it’s a good one.

5. // Get excited and take advantage! Once you’re accepted and the itinerary is set, get excited! Your host is the best resource. Ask where to find the best food, transportation, or events happening during your stay. A good host always provides super helpful tips to make the most of your vacation or getaway.

Ok, now the fun part… I thought I’d share 15 (!) places on my personal wish list with you guys! If you like these sort of airbnb roundups, I’ll branch out the searches, but for the first one… the following are all within the United States and are all pretty affordable:

Dreamy Hawaiian TreehouseHawaiian Treehouse Bedroom

Secluded Hawaiian TreehouseI’ve been to Maui, so next time I visit Hawaii, I’d like to try a different island… something totally new! Insert a dreammmy treehouse. It’s tucked away, off the grid on the big island, deep in a volcanic national park. Of course it’s stocked with the expected high-end amenities… and then some. Talk about a romantic getaway!

Trendy Loft in Downtown Salt Lake CityUrban Loft in Salt Lake City

Downtown Loft in Salt Lake CityIt’s no secret that I love Utah. Kalyn and I have visited Salt Lake 3 times in the last year and find things to love about this fun city each and every trip! I love the look of this loft and quickly saved it after reading the description. There’s even an open roof for entertaining and sipping cocktails overlooking the city. It’s completely renovated, affordable ($70!!), and the perfect size for a couple.

The Joshua Tree HouseThe Joshua Tree House California

The Joshua Tree HouseI actually found this airbnb on Instagram. Welcome to the Joshua Tree House! This hacienda was built in 1949, with over 100 Joshua Trees on the property, the views from the house are said to be magical. This desert, mid-century jungalow is what California dreams are made of. I’d love to spent a night or two here beneath the stars. They say the sunrise is pretty amazing, too.

A Glass Bungalow in Austin, TexasModern Glass House in Austin

Modern Kitchen in AustinThis place obviously had help from a designer and architect. This impressive listing is just 10 minutes from the epicenter of downtown Austin. With high-end amenities and a perfect set up for entertaining, this would be the ideal airbnb for a getaway with multiple friends.

Lido Beach House in Sarasota, FloridaLido Beach House FloridaThis fresh and bright beach house is located on the beach in Sarasota. It has a mid century vibe and is a refreshing alternative to the typical nautical and coastal themed beach house. This spacious rental would be great for a family vacation.

Modern Cathedral in Wicker Park, ChicagoModern Church Loft in ChicagoThis find is one of the coolest! Chicago is a short weekend trip for me, and although I have plenty of friends living there who lend us a place to crash… this converted 100 year old cathedral is calling my name! With 35 foot ceilings, stained glass, and modern decor, this place is a designer’s dream. Plus, it’s directly across from Wicker Park, so the location is pretty great.

Modern Beach Cottage on Lake MichiganModern Michigan Cabin

Modern Beach Cabin in MichiganYou might recognize this place. Do you guys follow the talented Sarah Sherman Samuel? She renovated this beach house nestled in the dunes with her husband, but they sold it a few years back. One day, I stumbled across it on airbnb and it’s been on my wish list ever since. There’s a big deck, sports gear (hello, paddle boarding), panoramic views of the lake, and a private beach.

Atlanta Glass Modern LoftModern Glass Bungalow in Atlanta

Modern Glass Bungalow in Atlanta Georgia

Modern Glass Airbnb in AtlantaThis is a brand new house. It was architecturally designed to be raised high in the air, surrounded by mature hardwood trees. I love the natural light, beautiful large doors and windows that open to outdoor living space, and modern floor plan. This place is really creatively inspiring for me! I’d love to reserve a spot and see it in person. You wouldn’t guess this, but it’s pretty close to downtown Atlanta.

Light Filled Cabin in OjaiBright Bungalow in OjaiThis house is nestled at the East end of Ojai at the base of Horn Canyon. You can spend the day hiking the Ojai mountain range, drive 20 minutes to the beach, or follow the trail past the rental to the “Pink Moment” bluffs, with local flora and fauna, crystal streams, and a natural climbing wall, complete with a Pilates studio offering world class massage in the great outdoors. This gem is also located next door to artist Beatrice Wood’s previous home and studio.

A Modern Loft in BrooklynModern Loft in BrooklynThis listing is a duplex located in the heart of Williamsburg. The bright white interior, happy houseplants, rooftop terrace, and private balcony are particularly enticing. Even though the location isn’t perfect, it’s just 5 minutes from the subway and a 10 minute train ride into Manhattan. The price really can’t be beat!

South Lake Tahoe ChaletSouth Lake Tahoe Ski Chalet

Lake Tahoe Chalet

South Lake Tahoe ChaletThis outdoor lover’s paradise is perfect for a large group of people- it accommodates up to 10! I dream of skiing, hiking, and mountain biking while staying at this location. It’s refreshing to see modern finishes mixed with rustic elements unlike the typical ski chalet. I’m definitely keeping this one on the list for winter.

Logan Circle Loft in DCLogan Circle Washing DC AirbnbMinutes from downtown DC, this sophisticated and curated loft is located in the heart of Logan Circle. I love the floor to ceiling built-ins, wood burning fireplace, and long list of amenities. This charming and designerly space looks like it would be easy to entertain, cook, and explore during your stay.

Haena Ocean View Modern CottageHawaii Beach Vacation

Kayaking on the Napali Coast, Kauai, HII couldn’t help but adding another Hawaiian favorite. This one is located in Hanalei and is pretty much the exact opposite of the Hawaiian treehouse previously listed. It’s secluded with ocean and jungle views, plus minutes from world famous Tunnels Beach & Na Pali Coast! Sometimes it’s difficult to find an airbnb in Hawaii with modern updates outside of the large resorts (because who wants to stay inside when you’re in Hawaii?!), but this place looks like it’s the best of both worlds.

Cabin in the Woods in Hillsdale, New YorkNew York Cabin in the Woods

Glass Cabin in the Woods

Glass Cabin in New YorkThis gorgeous glass cabin is set in the Hudson Valley, deep in the woods, surrounded by the wild. It sits on six acres of private woods, has views of rolling farmland, lush forest, and is a five minute drive from Catamount Ski Resort. 4-wheel drive is a mandatory requirement for renting this airbnb (um, yes!!). I’d love to check out, go off the grid and recharge in this beautiful home designed by architect Adam Rolston, not to mention the interior is exquisitely styled.

An Adventurer’s Malibu Airstream DreamMalibu Airstream Under the Stars

Dreamy Malibu AirstreamI know. This one is pricey for an airstream. C’mon, right?! Well that’s what I thought UNTIL I started reading the description. This one also requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle- it takes seven minutes to reach this airstream after leaving the paved highway. Renters must drive on a dirt road up a mountain to reach this beautiful, secluded spot. Since it is fairly expensive, it’s probably a good thing there is a one night minimum. I can just imagine watching the sun rise and set from this location, as well as star gazing on that gorgeous cushioned deck! The hippie in me is reaching for the credit card. Ha!

Malibu Airstream BedroomDo you guys have any airbnb tips? Or other apps that making traveling easy? Share your favorite resources, places, and rentals in the comments! I’d love to add them to my list.

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  1. Jamie Roulstone says:

    Great post, I love love love Airbnb. I always shy away from listings with no reviews, but perhaps I will be less shy now. We are Seattle natives living in an Airbnb short term in Oslo, Norway at the moment. Many Airbnb listings offer you a discount for a month or more which is pretty cool. When choosing the perfect Airbnb I like to find cool pubs in cities we are going to visit and then look for an Airbnb around that area…. what can I say, good beer and food are a necessity! We just went to Edinburgh, Scotland and the place I chose was by a pub called the Hanging Bat. It was awesome! Your places look dreamy, especially the Malibu Airstream.

    1. So glad you liked this one Jamie! That sounds amazing… Norway?!! I would love to do that. Yes, good food is a must. xo

  2. Great finds, thanks for doing all the hard work for us!

  3. Hi Sarah,
    Thank you for this post. Very helpful indeed. I am looking for a family friendly place in Miami in Feb for me and my two small kids, ages 4 and 7. I want something on/as close as poss to a quieter bit of the beach with a heated pool. If you or your readers have any tips or recommendations I would be so so grateful as right now, I don’t know where to start.
    Thank you again.

  4. Hi. Any recommendations for San Diego. June 30-July 5 2017

  5. Mercedes Lohnen says:

    Love your recommendations and article. I am just wondering how do you look for places if you don’t let dates or location hinder your search? What kind of keywords do you use to search?

    1. I’m big on images! I like scrolling and browsing the photos… it’s pretty easy to tell which listings have quality images, good decor, etc. That’s usually a good sign you’ve found a good option! It does require a lot of digging though. I rely more on that than keyword searches. Hope this helps!