Finding Sustainable Holiday Accommodation with AirBnB

Amazing plant filled Airbnb in Auckland New Zealand
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Are you keen to make your travel more thoughtful and ethical? Are you struggling because you love AirBnB but have heard bad things about what it’s doing to local communities? This post will help you work out how to find the best responsible stays with AirBnB.


I’m sure you know that where you stay can literally make or break your holiday. Maybe you want to make new friends, but having a quiet sanctuary to retreat to at the end of a busy day is important to you. Either way, you have to pick the place that’s going to be perfect for you.

If you want to spend the evening quietly reflecting on a day of amazing sights, it sucks to find out that you’ve booked a place next to the area’s loudest party hostel.

One of my favourite parts of travelling is planning where I’m going to stay. I’m that person with a dozen tabs open on their computer, simultaneously searching 5 different properties to find the perfect place to sleep. The sense of triumph I get from finding the perfect home away from home is hard to beat.

One of the other things you should know about me is that I adore interior design. I’m not saying that AirBnB was created just for me to be nosy, but I’m not NOT saying that either! I always love staying in other people’s houses, and I’ve had a lot of great decorating ideas from places I’ve stayed.

In my past doctoring life, I attended a whole lot of conferences around the world so I’ve used a lot of accommodation over the years. Some were hidden gems, and some left a lot to be desired. Here’s where you get to benefit from my mistakes and see where I look to find the perfect place to rest my sleepy head after a day of really boring work stuff exploring.

So here we go, in no particular order, Cat’s hot tips on finding the perfect place to rest your weary head (is it weird that I’m referring to myself in the third person? Probably).


Finding ethical accommodation with Airbnb


How to Stay Responsibly with AirBnB

Responsible travel is all about supporting local communities and making sure that the money you’re spending goes back into the local economy. Whilst it’s pretty reasonable to assume that a site built on a sharing economy would do just that, you might be surprised to discover that’s not always the case.

At one point there seemed to be an article coming out every few weeks about how Airbnb was destroying cities, but most of the evidence was anecdotal. The only really robust evidence was published in the Harvard Business Review, confirming that absent landlords lead to increasing local rental prices.

The rooms at Carleton County Gaol, a hostel in Ottawa Canada
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a green hotel in bali
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What’s the Problem with AirBnB?

In essence, the worry is that there are some places where local people are being priced out of the rental market as a result of Airbnb.

How?

Well, in a nutshell, big corporations buy up entire buildings. Instead of renting them to locals, they then put them on Airbnb at a higher price than the local market can support. It means that there are fewer places for locals to rent, which forces them out of residential areas.

That, in turn, has a knock-on effect on the local economy. Businesses that depend on people living in a place, not just passing through (think local grocers, restaurants, hardware stores and bookshops), suddenly no longer have a local community to supply. The result? They can’t pay rent themselves, and their business goes under. 

Now I know that all sounds rather doom and gloom, but I’m not here to tell you not to use Airbnb (that would be pretty hypocritical of me). Instead, I’m going to help you make wise choices when you’re searching for somewhere to stay on the platform!

READ THIS | How to Choose the Best Green & Sustainable Hotels

8 Thoughtful Travel Tips to Consider when Booking an AirBnB

1. Where are you going?

Some cities, such as LA, NYC and Amsterdam, have taken matters into their own hands to ensure that locals aren’t disadvantaged by huge companies taking over the rental market. If you’re going to one of these places then your Airbnb is unlikely to be causing problems.

2. Share your space

Picking a room in someone’s house is probably the best way to make sure that you’re not pricing locals out of their own rental market.

3. How many listings does the person have?

Book a place that’s run by someone with only 1 or 2 listings – if they’ve got a property empire on Airbnb then they’re not helping anyone.

4. Read the user profile

I aim to always book with someone who has an actual photo of their face and an “about me” that actually talks about them, rather than their 3 other properties.

sustainable hotel in the atlas mountains
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5. Read the reviews

The best way to find out if the place you’re staying supports the way you want to travel is to read what other people have to say about it!

6. Look at the photos

If a house looks like a home then it probably is. I know a lot of people who put their places up temporarily when they’re out of the country for a couple of weeks, and their property listings show that there’s stuff in their houses. Somewhere that looks like a hotel probably is, and won’t have anything in the way of cooking supplies, which is a major bummer if you’re planning on self-catering.

7. Book a local experience

These are hosted by members of the community and often there are some really cool things to do. My favourites are cooking classes and walking tours.

8. Pay it forward

Airbnb has some pretty great initiatives that get nowhere near the same press as the negatives. Take OpenHomes for example, where you can offer your space for free to someone who needs temporary housing. If you don’t have space then you can donate to help fund stays for other people.

How to Use AirBnB to Find the Best Place to Stay

When I’m travelling solo I love the option of staying in a room in someone’s house aka the AirBnB purist method! If you’re going to do this then it’s really important that you read through the reviews carefully. You need to find a host you’ll be comfortable around and that you’re likely to have things in common with. 

When you’re looking at a listing you can click on the person’s photo to be taken to their user profile. You’ll find a little bit of information about them here, in addition to any other properties that they’re responsible for. Every review that they’ve received is also on this page, so it’s a really great resource.

a green hotel via airbnb
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Amazing plant filled Airbnb in Auckland New Zealand
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Local Experiences with AirBnB

Get insider info about great things to do in the area by staying with locals. I truly think that’s the main benefit of AirBnB. A recommendation from my host is how I ate some of the best tacos of my life in LA. Some hosts also offer to make you dinner, which can result in a mind-blowing meal, like the one I enjoyed in a converted courthouse in New Zealand.

Why not check out the “experiences with locals” section of AirBnB while you’re booking?

If you’re not a fan of sharing then there are plenty of options where you can rent out a whole apartment, or even a house, ensuring that you get the place to yourself. Although it may not be the cheapest option around, you usually get a full kitchen and laundry, which can be great if you’re on a longer trip.

Just make sure that you’ve followed the tips above to make your visit as sustainable as possible.

a sustainable guesthouse in pioneertown
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Top Tips for Booking with AirBnB

The listing page has all the information that you need to make a decision about whether you’ll be a good fit for the place you want to stay. Check the amenities section to see whether there are things like free parking and wifi. The sleeping arrangements are always clearly displayed (check the reviews to make sure that everything is as advertised).

One thing that may make you hesitate is the fact that you don’t get an exact address until after you’ve booked on Airbnb, but I’ve always found the little maps of the neighbourhood to be pretty accurate in telling me whether the place I want to stay is in a decent area (I sound like a broken record, but the reviews will help too!). 

Always check the cancellation policy before you book since you don’t want to go booking somewhere that will charge you the full amount if you’re not sure that you’ll make it. I also think that it’s a great idea to drop a note to your host when you book to say hi and introduce yourself.

So there you have my top tips for being a thoughtful traveller with AirBnB. Let me know your top tip and hints that I might have missed. Either leave a comment or head over to my socials.

TRAVEL INSURANCE | Don’t go anywhere without it! I use and recommend Safety Wing.

THOUGHTFUL TRAVEL | No matter where you go, try to always be aware of the fact that travel impacts the place and people that live there. Being a thoughtful traveller is more important than ever. Here are my top tips to make your trip a mindful one.

PHOTOGRAPHY | Love my photos and want to know how to take better shots on your own trips? Then my photography guide is for you. Here’s all the photography gear I use too. Want to buy one of my images? Head to the Print Store.

ESSENTIAL GEAR | You’ll find my travel essentials here, and a complete guide to all my hiking gear here.


a treehouse sitting in the middle of a forest
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