By Angelica Recierdo, inside columnist

Yes, I’ll remember the gondolas parked at every canal and the colorful face masks stocked in every gift shop, but I’ll never forget searching all of Venice for toilet paper. It was a mission that had to be done after I discovered my Airbnb only had a toilet and a bidet, with the nearest paper waste products probably in North America. By agreeing to stay with a local, this is the type of thing bound to happen, but there are ways to utilize Airbnb to minimize surprises in your travels.

1. Be as specific as possible in your search.

Instead of searching Los Angeles, type in North Hollywood. Instead of searching Brooklyn, type in Williamsburg. If you know you want to see the Alhambra, know the address in Granada where it is ahead of time. Narrowing down by neighborhood allows you a smaller scope to better plan other parts of your trip like transportation and where to eat or visit.

2.Check off every filter you require.

Does your puppy need to come along on your trip? There’s a way to search for pet-friendly places only. If Wi-Fi and air conditioning are musts for you, express that in your search. You set the standards for the place you choose, and if it doesn’t list the items or features you need, message the host about it.

3.Seek out “Superhosts.”

These are the host professionals on Airbnb. They have hundreds of reviews and have been deemed by the company as going above-and-beyond the normal host requirements. Their prices may be a little higher and they definitely get booked up faster, but these are the people to trust with making your stay seamless.

4. Weigh the reviews.

Does the place you’re considering have two reviews or 60? More reviews means the host has had more guests and more chances to improve their place and hosting skills. If the 60 reviews are a mix of positive and negative experiences then it could be a toss-up, whereas a few strong reviews could mean a host with the beginnings of a good track record.

5. Be wary of photograph quality.

We all know that the photos of these places were posed in photo-shoot fashion. They’re taken when the listing is at its cleanest state. There are also others that are grainy, low-quality photos, which could mean a host was just sloppy in putting their listing up. Use your judgment when browsing through.

6. Titles, descriptions, and bios are revealing.

“Bright, central room” and “Quiet rural getaway” mean two different things. The more specific and creative the title, the more thoughtful the host is in providing details about staying with them. Long, detailed descriptions of their place and neighborhood means they’re proud to live there and willing to share their space with you. You can learn a lot about your host just by getting a feel of the whole profile. These are real people inviting you into their homes, and every little detail offered or omitted can affect your trip.

Staying with locals is the whole point of Airbnb. You have an insider guide and friend in a strange, new city if you need one. Be kind and leave nothing but gratitude.

-Angelica Recierdo can be reached at

Photo courtesy Allan, Creative Commons