Airbnb and short term home rentals have become the first choice for families’ travel accommodation. Especially in a travel landscape with coronavirus at the forefront of travellers’ minds, Airbnbs have been seen as potentially a safer option, given you, as the renter, have a place to yourself, rather than staying in a hotel room.
As a long-time guest and host on Airbnb, I normally feel very secure in an Airbnb. However, when visiting Lisbon alone with my then 4-year-old before the pandemic, I felt unsafe when staying alone with my son in an apartment in Lisbon.
I asked other families for tips on how to feel safe when staying in an Airbnb. I suffer at times from anxiety which compounded the situation. If you’re looking for ideas on how to make sure your Airbnb is secure for your family, keep reading. This article doesn’t talk about Covid safety in Airbnbs.
Know what the entrance looks like to make your Airbnb stay safer
My first safety concern with our Lisbon Airbnb apartment came before we even arrived. We arrived after midnight with a cab driver winding through the dark, rainy one way streets of Lisbon. My son slept and the Uber driver was lost. The listing didn’t provide a photos of the exterior. Finally, the exasperated Uber driver let us out a few hundred meters up the street. I scrambled to pull up a map and find the entrance at 12:30 a.m. with my child and belongings in tow.
Tip: Upon booking your Airbnb, look up the address on Google Street View to check out the street and area. The host can also provide you with a photo of the entrance and area – many do not do so for security reasons. Another tip is to arrive at Airbnbs during daylight. It just makes everything easier. Have a light ready for the keypad and double check that no one is around watching you enter it.
Ask about fire detectors to make your Airbnb stay safer
My prime apprehension with the Lisbon Airbnb apartment concentrated on fire safety. Our Airbnb apartment in Lisbon was on a top floor without a clear fire exit, lacking smoke detectors or fire extinguishers. While looking at the listing, I focused on the great views, not the worst-case scenario. Other expert family travellers told me that they bring their own smoke alarms and extra batteries just in case.
Tip: Check the listing beforehand and consider travelling with your own smoke and CO2 detectors. Test to make sure the Airbnb’s alarms are working when you arrive. A parent who travels with their own devices told me to be sure to put them in your checked luggage or expect additional screenings of your carry-on through security.
Read more: How to travel alone with small children
Make an exit safety checklist to make your Airbnb stay safer
With tiny children, you grab your children and get out. However, families with more grown children informed me that they discuss entrances and exits with their older children when they arrive at an Airbnb.
A safety checklist when arriving at an Airbnb:
- Review the emergency exits locations as a family
- Open all windows to ensure they open and you can do it if needed.
- Inspect for ledges or a roof to climb up and down to get out
- Check on how easy it would be for thieves to enter
When was the code last changed on the Airbnb?
When I arrived in Lisbon and entered the code to get into the Airbnb building, I instantly wondered how many people know that code and could get into the building and easily up to the door where we were staying. Smartlockboxes tend to update after every guest but old fashion manual ones may have the same code for years.
Tip: Before arrival, ask your Airbnb or home rental hosts how often they change their lockbox code.
Pack a motion alarm and door stop to make your Airbnb stay safer
Parents who frequently travel told me that many travel with multiple types of alarms for extra peace of mind in their short term home rental or Airbnb.
Tip: You can bring a small door jam with an alarm as a small and inexpensive way to feel safer in a hotel or Airbnb.
Look for concealed cameras to make your Airbnb stay safer
As an owner of an Airbnb, I know that the policies are strict against hidden cameras and recording devices. Many hosts do use some form of survaliance to monitor their property if they don’t live on site.
A few Airbnb camera/recording device rules:
- External cameras allowed if clearly disclosed in the listing
- Internal cameras prohibited in any bathroom or bedroom,
- A “bedroom” includes any living space with sleeping space, such as a sofa in a living room or office with a daybed.
- Internal cameras require clear disclosure.
Tip: Bring an infrared light to do a quick scan for recording devices.
Does your travel insurance cover theft from an Airbnb?
Locked safes are commonplace in hotel rooms, but rarely available in a home rental or Airbnb. Yet, your travel insurance policy may require that your electronics and valuables be in a locked safe for a loss claim. According to the Airbnb support centre representative with whom I spoke, Airbnb does not have a specific process of what happens if there is a burglary. If robbed, Airbnb advises that you call the local police. They also suggest using Airbnb’s resolution centre where you may or may not receive compensation for any theft and damage.
Tip: Check if your Airbnb has a locked safe for valuables or consider locking your electronics and keeping your passport with you.
Travel in a post-2020 world is nerve racking enough without adding additional concerns that don’t concern the virus. With all the benefits that short term home rentals and Airbnbs offer families, it’s worth taking a few extra steps to ensure your Airbnb stay is safe.