On a recent trip to San Francisco, I didn’t stay in a hotel. Rooms there go for more than $200 per night. Instead, I lived in a stranger’s house with her two hilarious cats, saving more than $500 during my stay!
I used an innovative service called Airbnb. Airbnb is a service that matches people seeking vacation rentals and other short-term accommodations with regular people with spare rooms to rent. Options range from a simple couch to renting out entire homes.
Naturally, this is something touring artists should look into. I spoke with Airbnb TV Superstar Venetia Pristavec about how musicians can best use the service on tour. Combine her insight with my tips for a musician’s guide to planning tour accommodations with Airbnb.
Filling out your profile
Start off by filling out your profile as yourself. Don’t pose as your booking agent or another member of the band. That just creates confusion and trust issues.
Use a well lit, clear picture of your face. Mystery is fun on stage, but take off the giant mouse head for your profile picture.
There’s also the option of uploading a 30 second profile video. Since you’re a musician, why not perform a short song about yourself?
Choosing a property
Airbnb’s website has detailed filters to help narrow down the best place for your situation. Search for properties by location, date, price, property type, amenities, and more. Check for somewhere close to the venue where you’ll perform.
If you have dates close to a central area, Chris “Seth Jackson” from How To Run A Band suggests choosing a property in the middle. Young Giant Founder and booking agent Maddie Sullivan points out areas like Baltimore, Annapolis, and Washington, D.C. are prime for this strategy.
You’ll notice you have the option of renting a whole property or just a single rooms. Venetia says, “If you will be out late (especially after a gig), you’ll want to probably stay in a place all your own. However, if you have a couple days off and really want to make a new friend or be immersed in the local culture of a place, you can check out private rooms.”
Be sure to carefully read requirements, cancellation policies, and reviews. Check out the pictures to see what the place looks like. You can even join this group to rent from fellow musicians!
While evaluating different properties, make a note of your top 3 places to stay. If your top pick is unavailable, you’ll save time by having replacements ready to go. It doesn’t hurt scout backup arrangements outside of the Airbnb ecosystem, too. (Note: More on that a bit.)
Just because a date is open doesn’t mean you can automatically book it. Message the host a request to stay at their place. Tell the host a bit about yourself and why you’re going to be in town. Be polite and friendly. Then, if you followed the profile tips and have a clear understanding of the ground rules, you’ll have a much better chance of being accepted.
Airbnb recommends messaging multiple hosts. Some hosts may not respond, their property could be unavailable, or maybe they don’t want any weird musicians in their home. So it’s good to cast a wide net.
Think about your needs when contacting hosts. Ask about parking, gear storage, internet, and other essentials. If you’re on the road, try out their mobile app.
Confirming Your stay
After booking a place, follow up to arrange a time and place for a key pick up. Take this opportunity to introduce yourself more fully. Make sure you save the host’s name, phone number, email, and street address. If you need directions, ask for those, too.
To make the most of your stay, Venetia suggests asking hosts “for local suggestions around what it is that you might love to do. If you love a certain food, or how they would spend their day.”
Being a Guest
When you use Airbnb, you are a house guest. It’s all about being respectful of your host’s property and treating their home as if it were your own. Here’s a “great guest” checklist:
- Be on time for check in/check out
- Clean up after yourself
- Follow the ground rules
- No parties or house shows
- Have a backup plan in case you get locked out
- Keep noise down for the neighbors if getting home late after gigs
- If there’s a problem, communicate with your host
- Leave a thank you note or small gift
- Write a review after your stay
Plan B (Or Having A Safety Net)
Airbnb only works as well as its users do. So obviously the system suffers when there’s a a flaky host or guest. Life happens, and a host might bail on you at the last minute. Maybe your host really did slip on a banana peel, fall on her cat, and now both of their legs are broken. Maybe not.
Regardless, you’re out of a place to stay.
Start by requesting either a full refund or a transfer of the funds to a new listing. There are a few reasons why you’d do that, so check this FAQ to see what’s right for you.
Airbnb seems like it does its best to make sure you aren’t left out in the cold. After you make a reservation, you get access to a helpful concierge service. The company also has a last-minute booking service called Match.
Remember that list of your top alternative places to stay at? Now’s the time to check and see if any of them are available. At worst, you can rely on a traditional hotel.
I had a fantastic Airbnb experience, and I can’t wait to use the service again. Some prep work prior to a tour is worth the big savings. Besides, the road can be grueling. A little more warmth and character in the places you stay goes a long way.
Have any tour lodging tips? Share them below!