How to Have the Best Airbnb Experience Ever

Ryan and I spent the weekend in Milwaukee, exploring the many local breweries and distilleries and enjoying the slower Midwest lifestyle. We haven’t had a real “vacation” since our anniversary last September, and this weekend in Brew City was much-need.

To keep this trip budget-friendly, especially considering we’re only a few weeks away from our Ireland vacation, we decided to try out Airbnb for the time. Traveling with our dog, Ruby, plus parking downtown gets expensive fast, and going this route saved us some serious cash.

However, there are a few things I’m incredibly glad we did beforehand and a few other things I wish we had done to make our trip more enjoyable. I’m mashing this list of to-dos together in a quick guide for you to reference when planning your next Airbnb trip.

Read the Reviews

There’s a reason Airbnb relies so heavily on its reviews. People want different things out of their stay, and great hosts are rewarded for providing the place they promise. Reviews often reveal the little things that can immediately make or break your weekend but most hosts don’t include in their listings. This includes negative points such as loud neighbors, a short window of hot water in the shower or spider infestations but can also include positive points such as heated floors, a high-quality bed or a well-stocked fridge.

Contact the Host Before Booking

It wasn’t until I had returned to Chicago Sunday night and was sharing my Milwaukee stories with a few friends that I realized I had committed a major Airbnb faux pas – I didn’t contact the host before we officially booked the loft. In retrospect, it makes sense – hosts don’t want crazies staying in their own homes, so of course they want assurances that you’re a normal person with normal accommodation concerns. We rookies, though, just went ahead and booked a cool-looking, inexpensive place.  We got lucky – hosts can deny your stay request, and apparently some of them will reject you if you don’t contact them first. It comes off as weird. The more you know, friends.

Research the Neighborhood

When Ryan and I pulled up, we immediately loved the neighborhood, an obvious art district. We dropped our stuff off inside and took Ruby on a long walk to The Horny Goat, a local brewery. Unfortunately, we had a few uneasy moments on the mile and a half walk, and I wish we would’ve taken better care to research the neighborhoods in Milwaukee before booking our stay. Late nights out mean late night dog walks, and while we were careful all weekend, I would’ve rather known about the situation beforehand.

Map Distances to Destinations

Ryan and I chose an Airbnb acccomodation a bit removed from the touristy parts of the city because of our budget and curiosity, but that meant we had to find transportation to and from downtown at night. Luckily, Uber in Milwaukee is shockingly inexpensive. $4 rides. Woot!

That being said, if you’re planning on hanging out in a specific area for your whole vacation, it makes much more sense to pay $20 a night extra to stay there than to stay ten miles away. On the other hand, if you’re going to many different parts of a city, staying in the middle of all of them is a sensible compromise.

Clarify the Bathroom Situation

When booking our stay, I forgot the one piece of advice all of my Airbnb-experienced friends gave me – make sure the place has a private bathroom. When we walked by community bathrooms on our way to our corner loft, I knew, before we even unlocked the apartment door, we didn’t have our own bathroom. We showered college dorm style in weird little stalls all weekend.* Not ideal but not a deal-breaker. Luckily, all the other lofts on our floor were businesses, so we had the bathrooms to ourselves all weekend.

But seriously guys, don’t forget to ask the host about the bathroom situation before booking the place. Apparently it’s a common issue.

Ask About Amenities

Everyone has a unique Airbnb experience; it’s a huge part of Airbnb’s allure. I have a friend who stayed in a spare bedroom, and the host gave her welcome basket with gourmet soap and cooked her breakfast every morning. But not everyone (ok, hardly anyone) can expect that kind of stay.

Airbnb isn’t like a traditional hotel – there’s no guarantee of shampoo, a hair dryer or cable tv. There may not even be WiFi.  I brought everything I thought we might need, but we were halfway to Milwaukee before I thought of bath towels. Luckily, our host left a few clean ones for us. Detailed conversations about these kinds of things before your trip are crucial to an enjoyable stay.

Expect the Unexpected

We slept on a futon after crawling up a loft ladder that should’ve killed us after a few drinks. You will probably see weird things and have to deal with unanticipated situations. Try and think of it as the charm of Airbnb. It’s an adventure!

If you haven’t tried Airbnb before, I highly recommend checking it out. It was a lot of fun. Ryan and I had definitely had some interesting moments. Just be cautious, and ask more questions than you would when booking a stay at a traditional hotel.

If you have booked an Airbnb accommodation before, I want to hear about your stay. Do you have any other tips to share? Drop me a comment below.

*It’s funnier now that it’s over.


  • Brianna Weldon
    August 27, 2015

    Our airbnb had towels that smelled like the towels at Spencer’s bachelor house. Rank when wet! I should have noted that on the feedback to the host but I didn’t want to make her feel trifling.

    • Allison
      August 30, 2015

      Gross. I definitely would’ve said something.

  • Brian Sirimaturos
    August 27, 2015

    Great post and good points. The neighborhood research and bathroom issues…may be deal breakers for me. It sounds like a lot of fun the way you did it. Sort of adventure style and learning as you go. And the weekly email feature – it’s works so good…I love it!

    • Allison
      August 30, 2015

      Airbnb is definitely an adventure every single time, which is why Ryan and I wanted to try it. We’re considering trying it again on vacations for which it’s cost-effective.

      I’m glad you love the emails! They’re more fun for me to write than the blog posts.

  • Angie
    August 30, 2015

    Another good post about your trips. Enjoy reading all of them, our favorites are the travel, books and cooking. That bacon fiasco was funny. Good luck on your journey to Ireland. We want to go to Europe and might look into Ireland after your review. Have to get back to reading Seveneves now.

    • Allison
      September 1, 2015

      Hi Angie,

      I’m glad you’re enjoying my posts! How are you liking Seveneves? I couldn’t put it down! It was my first Neal Stephenson, and I think I’m going to read Anathem next.


      • Angie
        September 1, 2015

        It’s the best book I’ve read in a long time, I can’t put it down. I’ve just started the 5000 years later part, supper’s cancelled. I’m always wondering what to read next. iBooks has a trilogy before Anthem and a dozen others authored by Stephenson. Since I bought my iPad I always have at least three books open.

        • Allison
          September 4, 2015

          That’s impressive I could never read more than a book at a time. I get distracted too easily.

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