Top 10 Tips for Airbnb Hosts

Does the lure of extra money tempt you to rent out an extra bedroom or your vacation home?  Sounds good but if you decide to profit by sharing your personal space with complete strangers, use these tips from my experience as an Airbnb host to make it a successful experience.

The last three years we have rented out our second home, a cute 1912 cottage in Boise, Idaho when we aren’t using it.  As an Airbnb host, there are definitely great moments when that rent money is deposited into your account or guests rave about your property but temper those delightful moments with the calls at midnight when the renter is drunk and lost their key or when the lovely 2 person renter in reality turns out to be a raucous house party that trashes your home.  With this reality firmly in mind, here are my top 10 tips for Airbnb hosts.

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Our adorable Hyde Park Cottage in Boise, Idaho
  1. Do your research before you commit to being an Airbnb host.  Stay at several Airbnb‘s yourself and see what you like/dislike.  Go through the booking process, examine how other hosts present their properties, look at reviews of properties where you stay and properties that are located near your property.
  2. Have an emergency plan.  We have a family member who lives locally and oversees our property for us.  If you aren’t lucky enough to have a friendly family member to assist you, then you will need to hire a property manager.  In addition to handling emergencies, this person/company can check people in and walk guests through your property so they have a great experience.  We also keep a lockbox on property in case of emergencies.  A guest WILL lose a key so, to prevent midnight calls, get a lockbox that goes on a door knob with a code you change after every guest.  Stuff happens.  Be ready.
  3. Cleanliness is key to bookings. Guests will let you know in their reviews if there are housekeeping issues and then you will miss out on future income.  Face it, no one wants to stay in a dirty place.  We deep clean every time we visit and our property manager handles the cleaning after each guest leaves.  Have cleaning supplies handy for guests to use as needed, especially if you have long-term clients staying longer than a few days.  Same goes for toilet paper, paper towel, garbage bags, etc.  Extra is better.  If a guest runs out of toilet paper, you are guaranteed a less than stellar review.
  4. Little touches make a difference.  We provide complimentary bottles of shampoo and body wash, coffee/tea/sweeteners, umbrellas, strong Wi-Fi, board games, cards, a Frisbee and a couple of bikes.  Guests love the bikes at our cottage as we are close to downtown Boise and parks and tend to attract an outdoorsy clientele.  We are kid-friendly with a port-a-crib available as well as kids books/,movies, and games.  After a client leaves, Airbnb will send an email to guests so they can leave a review.  When we check in a guest, we encourage them to complete the reviews.  Great recommendations will get you listings. The more, the better!
  5. Comfy bed, linens and towels are essential.  We learned the hard way that cheap towels don’t last.  Buy everything in white so you can bleach out the crazy stains you will find and spring for nice quality, not WalMart specials, so they last longer with frequent use.  Same with your mattress.  When we rent an Airbnb for vacations, I always read the reviews specifically looking for a great bed that won’t torture our backs.
  6. Tourist information is up-to-date and plentiful.  We gather the latest tourist brochures and magazines from downtown hotels and restaurants when we stay at our cottage and leave the information for our guests so they know awesome places to eat and visit in Boise.
  7. “Above and beyond” perks are appreciated by all.  We have stayed at Airbnbs all over the world and the best perks were: Bluetooth Bose speaker at our Waiheke Island, New Zealand Airbnb so we could listen to our playlists while lounging in the giant beanbag chairs on the patio and fresh soda bread upon arrival at our thatched roof cottage in Galway, Ireland. That’s great service!
  8. Fully loaded kitchen with everything needed to cook.  I know many people go on vacation to eat out at restaurants but I like to explore the local groceries and cook to save $$ that we use on other travel splurges like zip-lining, shopping, and concerts.  Upon arriving late in Portugal, we found out that coffee was not a big deal there so thus no coffeemaker just instant coffee and a hot water pot.  Bummer.  I will be first to admit I am a coffee snob who grinds beans fresh every morning.  We immediately went out and bought a coffee press for the apartment which we left for the next guest. Also, we supply salt and pepper as well as  plastic wrap, Ziploc bags, tin foil and every kitchen utensil, pot and pan that you need to make a meal at our cottage.  Guests love it!
  9. Safety first.  Provide a fire extinguisher just in case. Hopefully no one will  need it.  Of course, you should have working fire detectors and carbon monoxide alarms too.  We don’t provide candles or a grill due to fire safety concerns with our wood cottage.  Be prepared for the worst and provide a first aid kit.  I was injured on the ferry ride to our Airbnb cottage in New Zealand and the host promptly provided a cold pack for my injured hand.
  10. Finally, expect to make money but understand the expenses you will incur.  First, price your property within similar market offerings but not at the low-end.  Airbnb might encourage you to drop your price but we did our research and kept our pricing firm.  Guests may try to do side agreements to sidestep Airbnb but we politely refuse.   You run risks if you don’t have backing of Airbnb in case of damage and there will be damage.  We’ve been lucky with only one issue and the guest paid for the damage quickly so we didn’t even have to get Airbnb involved.  We allow only dogs due to my husband’s allergies to cats, which helps bookings because not very many properties allow dogs.  In our three years as hosts, we have only had people “acting like animals” damage and no true animal damage.  Go figure!  To save on energy costs, we installed a programmable thermostat that we can monitor via an app on our phones to make sure that in between guests, the temperature is appropriate.  You will need to have a landscaper, pest control, HVAC person, handyman and plumber identified and use as required.  The costs do add up–a broken water line here and an ant invasion there will reduce your profit.  Save some of that rent $$ for regular needed maintenance and emergency repairs or you will be sorry.  If you plan to occupy the property like we do on a regular basis, it will be convenient for you to have one closet locked and for your use only for your personal toiletries and extra clothes. We just bought a mini fridge for the basement so we don’t have to keep throwing out condiments after each of our personal visits between guests. Buying ketchup, mayonnaise, and butter every visit can add up and you can’t really leave food stuff for guests to use.

Hopefully these tips will help you if you decide to become an Airbnb host.  Overall, it’s been a good experience for us and a great assistance financially to help us pay for our second home to spend time near our family.  Good luck and happy hosting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dublin Westin Delights

After a very long flight, really only 6 hours from NYC but felt like more, we landed, grabbed the bags and off we went on the one of many double-decker buses to the city of Dublin.  AirCoach double-decker bus is only 6 euros one way to get to downtown and from my perch in the upper front seat, it was thrilling/frightening to see just how close the driver could get to the car/bus in front of him (I’m guessing less than an inch) and how he could maneuver the big rig through Dublin’s curvy tiny streets.  With the entire downtown all torn up and under construction for streetcars being built, it was traffic cones galore for the bus to avoid.  WTF-who tears up the Entire Fauking City??  Hint-do it block by block Dublin urban planners.  Pedestrians beware-those buses go fast and do not stop—look left for oncoming traffic and cross with the lights in a group-safety in numbers!day-1-5

After sweating and silently screaming just a little bit, we were dropped off a block from the hotel and in the midst of Freshers Week at Trinity College near our hotel, The Westin.  Freshers are the college freshman who were packing the streets to get enrolled and meet/greet with upper classmen.  We learned to avoid this block as we walked Dublin.  Red heads are everywhere.  The ginger runs strong in Ireland. 

After the long flight, we decided to check in and take a quick nap before heading out for our first adventure.  The wake-up call was quite interesting—a loud banging on our door and the guest clerk subsequently opening up the door just a little bit to ensure we were indeed awake.  This was certainly personal service.  As we were dead to the world with jet lag, we appreciated their dedication to making sure we got our asses out of bed to see the city.

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Exiting the hotel after nap time, we asked the doorman to verify that where we were going was on the next block.  Instead of just pointing as most would do, he proceeded to walk us to the corner, talking and assisting the whole way.  Now, here’s a guy who has been trained in world class customer service.  Never point when you can show.  I appreciated his efforts.

BTW, we got breakfast buffet included in the Westin package and the next day after a 12 hour catch-up sleep, it was delicious.  Lots of pastries, Irish soda bread to toast, Irish cheeses and Irish yogurt.  Yes, there was fruit but it just didn’t call to me like the carb and dairy offerings. 

All in all, the Dublin Westin delighted this weary jet-lagged traveler.

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Andaz is Special, Park Hyatt Not So Much

Through the generous offer of two free nights at any Hyatt property (all categories) with the opening of a Hyatt credit card, we were set for our NYC trip.  Booking one night at the Andaz Fifth Avenue and one night at the very pricey Park Hyatt (up to $1200/night), we had two very different experiences.   Andaz treated us like royalty even using points.  Park Hyatt, you disappointed and treated us like ugly stepchildren.  Andaz, you win hands down!  You have now got my loyalty for life–even as a paying customer.

Having stayed for two months at the Andaz in Shanghai for our transition housing when we moved to China, I did have high expectations.  The Shanghai Andaz had the most amazing service and amenities, including complimentary snacks, beverages, nightly wine and morning buffet.  In addition the rooms were lavish and service over-the-top.  Checking into the Andaz Fifth Avenue felt like coming home–no counter between myself and the Andaz host.  Without even asking:  Bottled water?  Yes please.  Early check-in and late check-out?  Yes please.  Even though we weren’t “paying” customers, we had a view of the NYC Public Library with a spacious especially by NYC standards, luxurious room featuring 20 foot ceilings, a marble bathroom with a shower bigger than most bathrooms and separate foot bowl/foot shower, great after a long day of walking around Manhattan.  At our last hotel, while they provided nice postcards, they did not have stamps available.  Of course the Andaz not only had stamps for our postcards but no charge and happy to mail them for us.  Classy and convenient.  We got in a little after the free wine happy hour last night so the bottles were put away but when I asked, they quickly poured me a complimentary glass to go to the room.  Ahhh….love the Andaz so much I would gladly pay the $300-400 a night to stay there if I was out of free Hyatt points, which I am now.

Now, on today to the Park Hyatt where there seemed to be a lack of service altogether and at up to $1200 a night, you would expect more.  Finding our way up to the check-in, there was no offer of water and no early check-in.  Yes, I’m spoiled.  The lobby was teeny tiny and I was already missing my Andaz.  But wait…the Park Hyatt decided to favor us with the worst room at the inn with a brick wall/construction/air vent view in a room so small you can hardly walk around the bed, which is typical for a NYC hotel but I thought the Park Hyatt would be different.  Guess I was wrong.

Now, the high tech tv in the bathroom mirror with remote control was cool and the tub is nice but don’t eat those snacks, Thom, because they surely aren’t free.  No complimentary wine for you, Ms. George!  So, we quickly escaped to the top floor pool that we had heard was very nice and it was.  Thom is taking his nap now while I write this and then we’ll enjoy the lap pool, cucumber water and hot tub.

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Park Hyatt Pool is nice

Tonight it’s off to dinner with Ronnie and Andrea, old friends, and then Dublin tomorrow night.  Vacation is THE BEST and yes, I appreciate it even looking at a brick wall.  Life is good.

Amsterdam First Impression-Bikes & Beer

Hot Damn-I finally made it to Amsterdam!  I have dreamed of this trip for years and I was right-it is gorgeous AND the perfect walking city for us to explore.  My Fitbit is loving me with 12,000+ steps in on our first day.  Touching down at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, we fumbled our way through buying a tram ticket at the machine, dealing with ALL our credit cards being rejected before I finally got an ATM to spit out some euros with the debit card.  Then, we were jumping on the #5 tram with a little help from a local who scolded us that the tram lets people off first, moves down the lane and THEN you are allowed in.  Okay-I had to appreciate the orderly fashion that they follow here in public transportation vs. my fond memories of the clusterf*&k of using China mass transit.

Bikes, Beer and Canals!
Bikes, Beer and Canals!

First impressions–bikes, German beer, brick streets and bridges over impossibly picturesque canals where the tour boats glide by slowly.  The architecture reminds me of SoHo in NYC with no big new ugly buildings ruining the vibe of little boutiques.  We noticed quickly that every building has a large hook hanging from the roof, probably we figured out to haul up furniture and such into the apartments.  Quirky and charming, our neighborhood is the perfect blend of residential and commercial.

After receiving the best service EVER from Corrodo at the Andaz Amsterdam, we checked our bags and off we went.  Learning very quickly that the sidewalks are narrow with random steep stairways to lower levels jutting into your way so you have to watch every step or fall, it seemed a relatively quiet Sunday with primarily (not a helmet in sight) bike riders and some sassy scooters filling the one way streets lining the canals, I can’t imagine the chaos that will ensue tomorrow when everyone jumps on their bikes to go to work.  We’ll be dodging and weaving to cross the streets for sure.  I figure if I lived through China though, I’ll probably survive here.

Gorgeous Andaz room!
Gorgeous Andaz room!

We ducked into the local grocery to check it out-to feel the culture is to see how the locals shop.  Lots of prepared foods and smaller portions (didn’t see a lot of families living around here) bread, waffles, chocolates and calories galore.  YUM!  Got a small bottle of wine tucked into my bag for later.

Cozy nook to sip wine at Andaz
Cozy nook to sip wine at Andaz

We’re saving the famous red light district for another night.  More to come on that experience!  I hear it is quite interesting.

For those not familiar with the weed culture like we have in Seattle, there is probably interest to visit the head shops here.  I’ve smelled more pot in the hallways of our building than I have here so no big deal for us.

Tomorrow we leave for the Hague and another train trip.  Every day is an adventure!

New and different in NYC

Brooklyn Bridge at sunset
Brooklyn Bridge at sunset

It’s a bit of a challenge for us to do new things when we are in NYC because we have lots of favorite haunts and habits from our prior life here. But this trip, we actually managed to have some never-been-done-before adventures. HALLELEUJAH! From new events to new stores to new walkabouts, we had a fantastic time getting out of our comfort zone and taking that road less travelled.  Well, there is no road in crowded NYC that is “less travelled” but you know what I mean.

Summer Streets on Park Ave
Summer Streets on Park Ave

Stumbling into a NYC outdoor experience, Summer Streets, we got to join the crowd biking/walking/skating down Park Avenue that was closed to all but pedestrian traffic from lower to upper Manhattan. Taxi’s were hating it but we loved it! Very well organized, there were free bikes and rollerblades along the way, water stations, singers to entertain us and all played out on a beautiful sunny day. Free fun for all!

Music along the way celebrating Summer Streets
Music along the way celebrating Summer Streets

Our destination on Saturday was my favorite store, Fishs Eddy, but along the way we found a new, first-in-the-US store that I just love. Flying Tiger from Copenhagen is filled with under $10 stuff that you probably don’t need but have to have. I got super cute hostess gifts with a mustache theme for my boss—something about that crazy black curly mustache just makes me smile so hopefully she will find it amusing too especially in the form of mustache scrubbies for the kitchen and potholders to match. Just what ever kitchen needs to make it a happier place!

After buying as much as I could carry and storing it all away in my new canvas “RECYCLE OR DIE” bag (how Seattle!), we were off on the subway to visit Thom’s niece who had a baby and moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn so they could buy a house. And what a beautiful house it was! After visiting with Thom’s sister and brother-in-law too who were in town for the baby’s 1st birthday, we Ubered it out of there to go to Dumbo to meet up with Thom’s best friend since Kindergarten, Ronnie, and his wife, Andrea.

Our group caught up on our busy lives and walked along the East River and right into a Hindu Lamp Ceremony, called Aarti, complete with make-your-own ceremonial containers that you lite up to signify life and the burning of negative tendencies to purify our hearts and serve others with humility. What a great message to guide our existence! Thoroughly embracing the custom, we watched the containers drift out into the waters and listened to the chanting taking place to honor the ceremony.  Cool.

Wood fired pizza joint-cash only and gin-infused lemonades!
Wood fired pizza joint-cash only and gin-infused lemonades!

Eschewing the long lines at the local popular Brooklyn eating joints, we pooled our cash for a pop-up pizza outlet, no wait, and happily munched on wood fired pizzas and gin-infused lemonade. HAPPINESS IN A GLASS!  I was struck by the message of life that the pizza guy was putting out there on the back of his shirt, “Eat Pizza, Make Love”.    HELLO!  Another great message for all to heed!

Enjoying the suite life!
Enjoying the suite life!

Going back to the lovely Grand Hyatt, we enjoyed watching the Mets win (again!), drank wine and relaxed in the Presidential Suite that the hotel was nice enough to upgrade us to. SPOILED ROTTEN, WE ARE!

We appreciate every moment of our blessed lives and don’t expect to be able to visit NYC again, though we can always hope.  My work here is done for the foreseeable future and budgets are tight at work.  With friends and family here plus our love of this urban wonderland, the connection to NYC is so strong.  If the stars align, we hope to live here again some day.

In the meantime, we will continue to expect nothing and appreciate everything! Life is so good.

Savoring the Manhattan Experience One More Time

Back in NYC after a business trip to Orlando (in July…HELLO, event planner, what were you thinking???–so hot and humid I was always moist) I couldn’t help but immediately take to the  streets.  It’s what I do and makes my FitBit so happy.   On the way to work on Sunday morning, yes I work 24/7, I managed to walk by Rockefeller Center, the LOVE sculpture, Central Park and St. Pat’s Cathedral.  Only in Manhattan is that all in a morning’s walk.

FishEddy's is my go-to store every time I am in NYC
Fishes Eddy is my go-to store every time I am in NYC
St. Pat's Io's always awe-inspiring and iconic
St. Pat’s Io’s always awe-inspiring and iconic

Waiting for Thom to join me later in the week so we can celebrate out 27th Wedding Anniversary, I wanted to save the fun stuff so we could do it together but I did manage a walk to my favorite store, Fishs Eddy, on Sunday.  The lure of kitschy hand towels, Hillary mugs, and fun stuff always has me leaving with a bag of goodies to bring home.  Putting in 17,000+ steps = 7+ miles on Sunday left the feet hot and tired for sure but, fueled by my beloved $1 cheese pizza, I just kept on walking, walking, walking….

With Thom finally here, we set off for the TKTS booth in Times Square to get a deal on Broadway tickets.  Having scoped out the Tony Awards and the NYTimes reviews, I knew exactly what shows I wanted to see and, sure enough, at 7:00 p.m. last night we scored 50% off 4th row seats to see Taye Diggs in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  AMAZING.  GO.  He’s only been the lead for 7 shows yet I can’t imagine anyone else pulling off that story with the grit and sassy bravado he showed off in this explosive drama musical.  We were just shy of the water spout he shot out into the crowd and three rows away from him grinding on me like he did the lucky gal in the first row who really was into it.  That’s cool–little too up close and personal for me anyway.

Despite some microphone miscues, Taye just rolled with it and shook his fist at the so-called ghost who haunts the Belasco Theater and cussed him out.  Leaping out into the audience, he picked on the preppy guy in the second row, licking his glasses and then politely handing them back.  Sharing spit is caring!  This is the type of show I could go to again and enjoy it even more.  If you’re in NYC, go to TKTS, get your tickets at 50% off and enjoy it–may want to avoid that third row middle seat, however, unless you wear a raincoat.

Classic theater and explosive drama musical
Classic theater and explosive drama musical
Adding to my Broadway sippy cup collection makes me so happy!
Adding to my Broadway sippy cup collection makes me so happy!

Today, we celebrate our 27th anniversary.  Seems like yesterday that I was in NYC at the Cadillac Bar picking up the cute guy with the long hair, earring and fur-lined leather jacket.  We went dancing the night away at the trendy Limelight Bar in an old church and have never stopped the adventure of enjoying our lives together.  While I had to work today, Thom braved the rain and got to see his Mets play (and lose-pity!) but enjoyed the experience thoroughly.  Tonight we will go to Toshi’s, our favorite bar in the Flatiron District with Hello Brooklyn singing on stage and will thoroughly enjoy the Presidential Suite the lovely Grand Hyatt just upgraded us to.

Using my many Diamond status perks, we had been promised last night to be moved but there were Secret Service here who took priority, watching over somebody far more important than us.   Hmmm… wonder who??  Could Thom be wearing the very hotel robe that a foreign President just wore???  Yes, we are not only blessed with ridiculous adventures but, more importantly, we have each other.   I don’t have to worry about anything because, no matter what, I know Thom has my back and will be there to support me and love me and, really, what else matters??  Best friends and soulmates for the last 27 years.  How lucky I am.

Presidential Suite at the Grand Hyatt is amazing!
Presidential Suite at the Grand Hyatt is amazing!
The adventure continues...
The adventure continues…

Best Place to Stay in Saigon-Park Hyatt At Your Service

Lobby is warm and inviting with music in the evenings
Lobby is warm and inviting with music in the evenings

Yes, I am a hotel snob. I spend months every year staying in hotels for business so in many different cities so I consider myself very picky in my hotel standards. I have stayed at glorious hotels and ones that make you want to take a bath after sleeping on the questionable linens. Just thinking about that makes me itch and want to scratch all over. Thank God I don’t travel with a blacklight—it would be a nightmare to discover what else is staying with me on hotel surfaces in China.

But on to a happier review-The Park Hyatt in Saigon is THE place to stay. First and foremost, the service was ridiculous from the multiple smiling faces to open the large doors at the entrance to the desk clerk to the pool guy to the restaurant staff. All happy, smiling, engaging and over the top with their friendliness. All spoke great English as well which makes everything easier for us when we travel. We appreciate it, Park Hyatt!

Now, as a Diamond Club member for Hyatt due to my frequent travel, I do get special perks that I do so appreciate. We were upgraded to a suite mid-way through the visit as one became available—all at no charge. The regular room was very nice but, oh my, the suite featured a huge living room, bedroom and massive marble bathroom. When we came down for our huge complimentary buffet breakfast (another perk), we had to share our room # with the hostess. The difference in service from the regular room # to the suite # was very noticeable. The manager was summoned and ran to our table before the coffee to ensure that we were happy and he even came back again at the end of our meal to get reassured again that all was good. Mr. George—What can we do to make you stay happy? It was F*&!ing amazing! My motto is always, Expect Nothing/Appreciate Everything, so we just grin like silly kids and soak it all in—the cold skewers of fresh fruit served poolside every day and the fresh fruit platter that magically appeared daily in the room as well were all immensely enjoyed.

Pool was warm with cold fruit kabobs served every afternoon-delightful!
Pool was warm with cold fruit kabobs served every afternoon-delightful!

Although there was construction going on at the spa next to the pool, it wasn’t too distracting as we soaked up the ambience of an urban outdoor setting with palm trees and a delightful pool-not too hot or cold and large enough to do some laps. The Park Hyatt is definitely not a kids/family hotel so it was fairly quiet as well, unlike the Grand Hyatt pool in HK that was filled with kids.

The lobby was gorgeous with tall ceilings, lush upholstered chairs and couches and live entertainment in the evenings as you sipped your cocktails. The business center was staffed with eager to please staff who helped us research some business information. The concierge assisted us with information needed on taxi’s and shows. There is a beautiful Opera House across the street that has a running show “O” that we wanted to see but just didn’t have time. Next Time!

Every room in a hotel in Asia has complimentary water because you can’t (or shouldn’t unless you want to get very, very sick) drink the tap water but when we got to the suite, we discovered that the chosen few get even better bottled water when you are a suite resident. Perk! Thom was fascinated with the metal Vietnamese one cup coffee press so we ended up buying several at the airport gift shop to bring home. We love our coffee! We picked up some Vietnamese coffee too at the airport with our last Dong.

Enjoying room service in our fabulous suite
Enjoying room service in our fabulous suite

The view of the street from the suite (we could now see the river) was always fascinating, though we learned to keep the windows closed because there were several birds very interested in coming in to join us in the suite. One morning we woke up to very spirited singing as the business across the street started the work day with the guys (in black pant/black tie/white shirt) and ladies in traditional green Vietnamese tunics/pants singing loudly what could have been the national song as the video playing above them on the building façade showed the Vietnam flag. They ended their chorus and filed into work at 7:30 a.m. ready to start the day fully energized. Awakened by their lovely voices, we were ready to being our day in Saigon as well!

Thanks to the Park Hyatt for your truly World Class Customer Service. It was appreciated and will be remembered.