15 Ways Airbnb Hosts Can Keep Demanding Guests Like Me Happy

Sometimes it’s the little things — lighting, pillows, bathrooms— that make or break holidays.

Six and a half months ago, I started sleeping around . I’ve been bed-hopping a lot since leaving Sydney in June after nearly three years living and working there. I’ve been tossing, and turning, and regularly waking up under unfamiliar covers. Ah, yes. The joy of… traveling.

Who knew sleeping single in one double bed after another could be so enlightening?

After sampling dozens of double beds in hotel rooms, aparthotels, and Airbnbs around Asia and Europe — from Bangkok to Yangon to Bangkok to India to Bangkok to Frankfurt to Berlin to Prague to Budapest to Zagreb (so far) — I’ve confirmed what might be the most important travel truth: We’re more likely to love a city if we love where we’re sleeping while we’re there.

Sadly, not everyone who offers temporary resting places appears to be in on that one. So listen up, captains of real estate. This is how you satisfy the people who sleep in your beds and can send your Airbnb and TripAdvisor rankings up up and away or down in the depths.

1. Be on call 24/7. Just because there’s no front desk, no concierge, no housekeeping, and no room service doesn’t mean your work there is done after check-in. People are needier and more demanding when they’re away from home and paying dearly for it. The faster you respond to a text message or email, the less likely a guest is to gripe because you can’t solve that annoying plumbing problem until tomorrow.

2. Ugh, plumbing problems. Preempt them by testing all drains before each check-in. Nothing ruins a perfectly lovely shower more annoyingly than when clumps of clogged hair from previous guests leave you standing in dirty water up to your ankles.

3. Give the bathroom the special attention it deserves. Always include lots of photos of it in your advertising. What the shower and toilet look like is a lot more important to most guests — or maybe just this one — than the view across the street. I can’t speak for other travelers, but it’s the room that’s most likely to make me love or hate a place.

4. Smell all towels before putting them out for use — and remember, softer is better. It won’t matter how great the shower experience is if we have to dry off with a towel that’s funky and/or feels like sandpaper rubbing against our clean, wet skin.

5. Mops and toilet scrub brushes should be out of sight so they can be out of mind. And it’s never a bad idea to keep a plunger wherever you’ve stashed the mop and toilet scrub brush… you know, just in case the worst kind of plumbing problem strikes unexpectedly.

6. Replace the kitchen sponge after each check-out. (And if you’re still living and renting in the shower-curtain age, replacing it every month or so wouldn’t hurt either.) They’re dirt cheap, and a new one makes washing dishes by hand seem less appalling. MH Apartments in Prague includes a cleaning packet — complete with dishwashing liquid, a tablet for one dishwasher run, detergent and fabric softener for a single load of laundry, two plastic trash bags, a kitchen towel, and, yes, a brand new sponge — with each check-in. This is how you do it.

7. Specify the payment options on every website you use to advertise and rent out your accommodations. People don’t generally run around with hundreds of dollars or euros in cash unless they know they absolutely have to. That said, “Cash only” is so 19th century. Welcome to 2017 going on 2018.

8. Make sure the batteries in every remote control are charged. While you’re at it, leave instructions for how to use the devices. They’re probably not as self-explanatory as you presume.

9. In fact, explain explain explain, in writing or orally. After all, all dishwashers and washing machines are not created equally. My Airbnb host in Berlin had to make a special trip to the rental on a Saturday afternoon just to show me that the washing machine wouldn’t start running until I pulled the metal coverings over the clothes together and snapped them shut. Did he really expect me to figure that out on my own?

10. Test all the lights between check-outs and check-ins. That way if any bulbs are blown, you can replace them before the next guest arrives. A light that won’t turn on can be a bit of a turn-off.

11. If you send a substitute to greet a guest, make sure they can communicate in the same language. To slightly paraphrase what I recently rhetorically asked an Uber driver in Zagreb: Who cares if you can speak seven languages if you can’t communicate with a Spanish-speaking guest in Spanish, or an English-speaking one in English?

12. Don’t forget to tell us where to find the nearest supermarket. Part of the beauty of renting an apartment and living like a local is not having to go out for every meal.

13. Invest in a microwave. It’ll likely get more use than a toaster. Other not-so-obvious kitchen essentials: a can/bottle/wine opener.

14. Splurge on quality linens and pillows. Guests are more likely to leave nice feedback if they’re feeling well-rested.

15. Flat-screen TVs only… and no wire hangers… ever!

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