Since it started operating in 2008, Airbnb has become a popular alternative to hotels for short-term rentals. Along with possibly saving you money, the platform offers a wide selection of property types ranging from single rooms to entire islands and the convenience of being able to stay locally around the world. Since the addition of new tier options in 2017 and 2018, you can now choose from Airbnb Plus and Airbnb Luxe alongside basic Airbnb rentals. Understanding these tiers will help you choose the right rental for your travel plans and budget.
Basics of How Airbnb Works
Airbnb allows property owners – also known as hosts – to list their properties for rent on the website. You can use the site's property search tool to sort by location, price and characteristics to fit your needs. For example, you can specify whether you want an entire home or don't mind a shared space with a private room. You can also note whether you're seeking a specific property type such as a guest house or apartment, how many bedrooms you need, which languages the host should speak and which types of amenities you want.
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The property's host will charge you a specific rate for each day of your stay, and this can depend on how long you stay and the time of the year. You'll usually also pay a service charge and cleaning fee. Once you book a rental and the host confirms it, you may incur a cancellation fee if you need to cancel without a certain amount of notice or if the host doesn't allow any refunds. Airbnb allows hosts to choose their own cancellation policies, so you'll want to always check this before booking.
When you're ready for your stay, you'll follow the host's check-in process which might involve a self-check-in or require the host's intervention. You'll need to follow the host's designated hours for check-in and check-out as well as adhere to all the rules specified in the listing. For example, it's common for hosts to not allow you to host parties at their properties and to ban smoking, while some may also not allow you to bring your pet or make noise during a certain timeframe.
Since the addition of new tier options in 2017 and 2018, you can now choose from Airbnb Plus and Airbnb Luxe options alongside basic Airbnb rentals.
Finding a Basic Airbnb Rental
If you're looking for the most economical vacation rental option, you can explore the basic properties on the Airbnb website. For example, this tier includes everything from single room rentals that can cost you less than $50 per night to entire homes and apartments that can exceed $1,000 nightly. At the same time, you'll notice plenty of variety with pricing, property styles and amenities with this tier. So, even some more expensive high-end options can be mixed in.
These more affordable properties are a good option if you're mainly focused on a comfortable place to stay where things are in working order, but you don't care about special experiences or fancy interior design. Amenities will vary depending on the property and Airbnb host, but you can usually expect to have basic items needed to sleep, cook, bathe and relax. Essentials include items such as towels, toiletries, bed linens, a hairdryer and basic cooking supplies, while air conditioning, cable TV service and Wi-Fi are popular too.
When browsing basic Airbnb listings, you'll find some properties with the Superhost designation, and this can help you tell which properties meet very high quality standards. These rentals have experienced hosts who have a high response rate, receive few cancellations and met a minimum quality rating of 4.8 stars over the past year. Choosing a Superhost property is a good idea if you want more consistent and accommodating customer service during your stay and don't mind a slightly higher nightly rate.
Upgrading to Airbnb Plus
Known as a mid-range option between economy and luxury, the Airbnb Plus program includes properties that go beyond the basic Airbnb quality standards and include unique interior design features. Airbnb markets such properties as being "more like home," and it requires Airbnb Plus hosts to have a 4.8 or higher rating. You can find these properties on the main Airbnb website with the identifying Airbnb Plus badge. Such properties may have been featured in architectural magazines, designed by someone famous or are otherwise worthy of the premium designation.
When reviewing Airbnb Plus listings, you'll notice that the properties appear clutter-free, have detailed design features throughout and come equipped with the items needed for an enjoyable stay. You'll find standard amenities such as Wi-Fi and a full kitchen, and Airbnb Plus homes must have working appliances, bedroom locks for safety and clean spaces throughout. Other items that can come with Airbnb Plus properties can include a hot tub, bottled water, hair styling tools and an indoor fireplace.
Due to the high host rating associated with these rentals, you can expect very good customer service throughout your stay. For example, your check-in process should be quick, and the host should be available to handle any issues promptly. The high level of service and quality typically comes with a higher cost than basic Airbnb rentals, but it depends on the property and location. For example, one Airbnb Plus property might be $250 per night while another might be $1,000 or more.
Choosing an Airbnb Luxe Property
Originally proposed as Beyond by Airbnb in 2018, the Airbnb Luxe tier offers luxury retreats that let you take advantage of special experiences and amenities. You'll find these properties in select U.S. cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Maui, Hilton Head, Miami and Austin as well as internationally in places like Dubai, Tuscany, the Bahamas and Costa Rica. They often include mansions, fancy oceanside houses, other high-end properties and even private islands. In any case, you can expect a unique space that meets the highest Airbnb quality standards.
Compared to the other Airbnb tier options, the Luxury tier includes the most expensive rentals that can cost several thousands of dollars per night and include fees that cost several hundreds of dollars. Therefore, it's not a good option if you're working with a low budget or have a long stay. However, if you can afford the high price, you'll enjoy a unique luxury experience designed to fit your needs. This happens with the help of an Airbnb trip designer who is available to assist you around the clock.
For example, you can have the designer add paid services such as a private chef or butler, on-site childcare, a personal masseuse and other luxury amenities. They'll also help arrange a custom itinerary to keep you active throughout your stay. In addition, your arrival is handled for you starting with your airport pickup, and the property will be stocked with what you need before you even step foot inside your vacation rental.
Deciding on an Airbnb Tier
You'll want to select from one of these three Airbnb tiers depending on the size of your vacation fund and your desired experience. You'll also want to consider how much time you plan to stay at the property in your decision to get the most out of your money.
For example, if you'd rather focus your spending on attractions in the area or you'll mainly use the space to sleep, you might opt for a basic property to minimize lodging costs. However, if you don't mind paying somewhat more for the unique property design and perks you get with Airbnb Plus, you could still find this option fits your budget and provides extra comfort. A basic rental with a Superhost designation could also suffice if you care more about customer service than interior design.
On the other hand, you might have a large vacation budget and prefer the carefully designed experience and superior customer support that you get with the Airbnb Luxe option. However, you'll want to consider the cost of added services you choose since these can significantly increase the already expensive daily rental fee for such properties.