If you are wondering what is a digital guidebook then you might be new to my blog because I’ve mentioned digital guidebooks quite often in the past six months. Welcome. A digital guidebook is a tool that will elevate your Airbnb hosting. Plus, it’s free.
If you know what a digital guidebook is and do not already use one, then you are not allowed to read past the next sentence. Go to Hostfully and create you free account. Seriously, let’s start with actual action. I’ll wait. It takes 30 seconds to sign up for a free account.
Don’t even think about reading further without doing the above step. I will hunt you down.
Joking aside, this is one thing you can do for yourself for long-term and continued growth. For an increase in your ‘Value’ rating on Airbnb. A guidebook is not an over-the-night occupancy booster like my Super Host Listing Optimization.
However, it is free and once you complete it in about 20 minutes you can forget about it.
There are a couple of overarching rules that you should apply to your hosting strategies that remain true for your digital guidebook:
- At all times, respect your guest’s attention and communicate the most information in as few words as possible.
- Use your text wisely and communicate to the majority. In other words, if you find that one guest out of ten rearranges some furniture in your home, you will not plaster your digital guidebook with text reminding only 10% of guests to not rearrange your furniture while wasting 90% of your guests time. This simple action seeps out into all aspects of your hosting style.
Number two is important. Knowing what NOT to include in your digital guidebook is even more important than knowing what to include. Keep it snappy, catchy, and thorough. Below I will be focusing on what to include.
While this article will apply to any digital guidebook whether you pay for a service or create one using a document, it is written with my preferred digital guidebook, Hostfully, in mind.
Digital Guidebook: Directions
That is, directions to the property from the most common points of arrival (ie airport). This is not the section to explain how to reach the front door for check-in (that will go in the check-in or access section).
In most cases, you can simply provide the full address and the guest can do the rest with their preferred map application. If there are oddities in reaching your property as you live in a gated community or in a remote area, you’ll need to provide further instructions.
By the way, your listing platform should allow you to restrict the full address until after the cancellation period. Always select this option.
On Airbnb, it’s located at the bottom of the “Location” section:
If you live in a single-family home, your job ends here because there is only one front door at the provided address. All of these homes across the world look very similar. Don’t overthink this part.
If Google Maps can find your home, you do not need written directions in your digital guidebook.
It is a good idea to provide a photo of the front of your home so the guest is certain they’ve arrived. If you use an online image, ensure that it’s up-to-date. Upon arrival to my Airbnb in Kyiv, Ukraine the host used an image from Google Maps, but it was not current and did not match what the front of the apartment building looked like when I arrived causing some confusion.
Pro Tip: Tell the guest how much an average taxi ride will cost from the airport to your property.
Why not take your hosting up a notch and recommend the best route to your home? If it’s Uber, provide your discount code. If it’s a car rental, say so. Here’s a snippet of my text:
“I highly recommend using ride-sharing services:
→ For $20 in Uber credit, use my code – iyql4
→ For $20 in Lyft credit, use my code – daniel4661
For an affordable car rental, I recommend EasyCar.com
Turo is the Airbnb of car rentals. For $25 off, use code DANNYR380”
If it’s public transit, provide where to catch the bus, the bus number, and cost. If it’s Luxury Taxi Co., tell the guest how to reach the front counter to order a taxi.
Keep in mind your guest when making this recommendation. A guest paying $500 per night for a luxury penthouse is probably not going to take public transit from the airport.
Airbnb Hosting Tip: Tell your guest the average taxi cost to your home from the airport. Click To Tweet
This is where you explain how to get to the front door once the guest has arrived at your property. Be extremely specific if it’s any less than completely straightforward for your guest to enter your home. This is a HUGE pain point for guests, please make it easy for them.
Have someone unfamiliar with the property follow your check-in instructions to verify the effectiveness. You may need to add more information, text or images, to clarify any confusion.
While I was in Miami Beach, my Airbnb host gave me the full address to an easily findable property. However, my front door was actually located in a connected building showing a different address. This was extremely confusing for me until a neighbor helped me out.
Be sure to also provide the floor, if necessary. In Chiang Mai, the host created three homes out of one. They all had the same physical address, but the front door was on a different floor for each unit causing some confusion upon arrival.
This is where you can identify your luggage storage policies. If you are not equipped to offer luggage storage, I recommend you offer an alternative:
“The next guest has already asked for an early check-in :/ If you need to store your bags, use a service called Bagbnb and if you use OPTIMIZE you will get 10% off. It’s only a few bucks per day.”
This is the one area it’s ok to over-explain. Include a link to a YouTube video showing how to operate your digital lock or add a photo of the lockbox location.
If you provide parking, explain where to find the parking spot. It could be as easy as clarifying that parking in the driveway is acceptable. Or, you’ll need to explain where to get the parking garage key fob, how to use it, and how to get to parking spot #94. Then, how to find the elevator to your Airbnb.
If the parking space is small, be sure to identify the maximum size of the car that an average driver can figure out how to park in your space or driveway.
If you live in a city like San Francisco, which has street sweeping, parking time limits, frequent car thefts, and different parking rules per side of the street, you’ll want to make your guest aware of these oddities.
If you don’t provide parking, identify your preferred nearby paid parking lot and cost.
Host And Emergency Contact Information
Let the guest know who they should contact for both non-urgent and urgent situations. If it’s the same person, even better.
Tell the guest your preferred way that they can contact you. If at all possible, you should request the guest contact you via the Airbnb app. If you provide a phone number, include the country code.
Don’t make the guest download an application to contact you. A property I manage in New York with a live check-in required the guest to download WhatsApp. This caused check-in issues about 20% of the time and bad reviews about 5% of the time.
If there is space to introduce yourself or your property management company to the guest, do so. Additionally, take this opportunity to set your guests’ expectations. Here’s what I say:
“Hi! I’m Danny and I own Belo: Airbnb Property Management who will be responsible for your stay. The best way to reach me is through Airbnb. Welcome!
You have selected a 5-star Airbnb (mine!). Please tell me if at any point your experience is below 5-stars so I can remedy the situation.”
Wi-Fi Information And Router Location
Provide the network name and password. If your Wi-Fi goes out often, get it fixed. But, in the meantime, tell the guest where the router is located and how to reset it.
All of my managed Airbnbs have Wi-Fi network passwords like “PleaseLeave5*Review”. Besides its obvious purpose, it’s easy to remember and pass along. It’s extremely annoying for a party of 8 people with two devices each to share a password like “8Hfy^hbv936Gjts”.
While we’re at it, here are some creative Wi-Fi network names:
- Mom this is my Wi-Fi
- FBI Surveillance Van
- Tell My WiFi Love Her
Pro Tip: Measure your Wi-Fi speed at and include this in your Airbnb listing text.
Measure your wi-fi speed free at fast.com and advertise that in your Airbnb photos. Click To Tweet
Any amenities that you have might need instructions. A common amenity needing instructions is the TV, especially if you have more than one remote. In Medellin, Colombia I had a remote for the surround sound, the TV, and the cable box with no instructions. Did you know there’s like twenty buttons per remote!?! Poor, Danny boy. Eventually, the host sent over someone to figure it out for me.
Another common amenity needing instructions is the washer and dryer. They’re so simple to operate if you know what you’re doing or read the local language. But if not, these things have a lot of options. Provide a photo and highlight the two buttons to push. Press “1” to turn the machine on and press “2” to start the wash.
Pro Tip: Tell the guest how to turn the shower knobs to get hot water, espeically if there’s a special giggle needed.
Other potential amenities that could need explaining are the thermostat, stovetop, or coffee machine.
While staying at an Airbnb in Mumbai, India, I came upon a unique stovetop that I was unfamiliar with. I needed to use a tool that I was unfamiliar with, a spark maker, to light it up. The host did not have an Airbnb digital guidebook and so the delay was hours. In fact, I create a how-to video for the host. It all could have been solved with a video or a photo showing me what tool to look for.
If you have any unique amenities, almost always you’ll want to explain how they work. These could be heated flooring, security system, or hot tub.
You’ll even want to mention oddities with your amenities. All homes are unique. Think about where you live now. Will the guest know they need to hold down the toilet flusher for four seconds? Or that the back-door knob needs to be pulled up and wiggled to the left a bit to close properly?
A major point of the digital guidebook is to decrease your time involvement as a host. Throughout the reservation process, you are going to direct the guest to your digital guidebook.
You are going to elevate it to bible status. For this to work, you need a completed digital guidebook with common issues the guest is going to encounter so they know they can consult the digital guidebook instead of messaging you, the host.
Trash And Recycle Information
Especially important for long-term stays, tell the guest about any specific garbage rules and where to take the kitchen trash.
If you live in a city with trash days, tell the guest what days and time they are to bring the trash to the curb. In New York City, my host gets a fine if the guest brings it to the curb on the wrong days.
Your digital guidebook platform should include a section for you to recommend local shopping, dining, and activities. The enjoyment the guest receives in your cities affects your review.
Avoid generic recommendations like Starbucks or Disneyland with the exception of a convenience store (7/11 is a worldwide phenomenon) unless you have a unique tip to go along with it. A host in Mill Valley, California recommends a popular national park hike, but they provide a trick on how to get free parking and entrance.
Provide the following local recommendation:
- 1-2 coffee shops
- 2-3 restaurants
- 1-2 nightlife venues
- 1-2 grocery store
- 1 park
- 1 convenience store
The point is to get your guest acclimated quickly. If you don’t have a washer or dryer, then you may want to recommend a nearby, trusted location, especially for long-term stays. Long-term stays also require a grocery store, one should be a conventional grocery store and one can be specialty like organic.
If your city is known for something like deep-dish pizza in Chicago or Khao Soi in Thailand, you better provide a recommendation to the best or most unique place. But, don’t over provide!
Trust me, if your two restaurant recommendations were solid, the guest will ask for more. If enough guests ask for more, then add another dining recommendation.
On Hostfully, you can create a recommendation-only guidebook. Additionally, on Hostfully, you can use their “Wizard” tool to auto-populate relevant recommendations for your neighborhood. I send this to my guest upon booking confirmation, no matter how far in advance, as this is an exciting time for them.
As part of my Airbnb property management company, I encourage my hosts to think about how they can improve their guests’ trips. I want you to do the same. A host in LA came up with the following: “I highly recommend ‘The Infatuation’ for the best of restaurant reviews in Los Angeles.” Los Angeles is known for world-renown food. Now your guest feels a little bit more like a local.
Acclimate your Airbnb guest to their new environment quickly so they can start enjoying your recommendations! Hello, 5-star reviews! Click To Tweet
Along with a message reminding the guest of your checkout process I recommend you send 18 hours before checkout (around 5pm the day prior), you’ll want to include this information in your Airbnb digital guidebook.
If you’re charging a cleaning fee, I recommend against having the guest do any arduous checkout day cleaning tasks like washing clothes or dishes.
The checkout day is already stressful and everyone is always running late anyways. Don’t add to the stress by requiring your guest complete a time-consuming checkout list. I remember one of my hosts asked me to shut off the water to the home which required me to find a small lever in the garage after climbing underneath a bunch of tools.
Instead, ask them to do anything essential or super important. Also let them know if they can store their luggage at your home, whether that’s inside or in a breezeway and for home long.
Recommended Local Apps
Almost everywhere has its local Uber-copycat. Bolt in Colombia. Grab in Thailand. Yandex in Russia.
Same thing for messaging apps like WhatsApp, Viber, and Line.
Food delivery is another common useful app.
In Rio de Janeiro, I found out about this super-awesome mobile app that listed free yoga, dance, volleyball, and exercise classes on the beach. It would have been great to hear about it from my host!
Why not tell your guest about these! Remember, get the guest acclimated as quickly as possible. If you have a new user promotion code, tell your guest about it so they save and you earn money.
A recent Elevate Host purchaser from Colombia came up with the following: “Recommended Local Phone Apps: Bolt (on-demand driver) or Rappi (food delivery). Call #8294 for 24-hour taxi service.” That’s great! Again, don’t overdo it. Just a few recommendations.
Hostfully-Specific Feature: Sell Extras With “Marketplace”
Available to Hostfully Pro users (use code OPTIMIZE for 2-month free), Marketplace allows you to sell additional items for extra revenue. Common offers include mid-stay cleanings, stocked fridge, or local rentals.
Related Reading: Creating Additional Revenue Streams From Your Airbnb
Hostfully Pro comes with additional features as premium templates, custom recommendation categories, guest email records, secure links, additional languages, and more.
Other Information To Include In Your Digital Guidebook
Always tell the guest if the water from the faucet is safe to drink. After a full day of traveling, arriving at your home at 11pm, and not knowing if they will get sick if they drink the tap water nor aware of where the convenience store is, this is valuable information. It’s a good idea to always provide at least one bottle of water per arriving guest.
Is there anything unique to know about the neighborhood or the neighbors? There’s always that one odd neighbor. Does he hate it when someone parks even a single inch over his driveway? Tell the guest of this. You always want to respect the neighbors.
Conclusion: Digital Guidebooks To The Rescue
Do you see how useful these things are now?
Trust me, the guest doesn’t want to have to reach out to you when they can’t figure out how to operate the wireless Bluetooth speaker (you don’t provide one?). All that does is cause a delay in them taking advantage of your awesome home to increase their experience and lengthen their positive review.
Ok. I can tell you’re on board with the usefulness of the digital guidebook, but you might be thinking “My calendar is full and my reviews are positive. Plus, I’m busy right now.”
That’s a bad mindset and I’ll likely be hearing from you in 6-months when one day it seems all your bookings vanished. I’ll ask you what changes have you made and you’ll answer ‘nothing because everything was fine’.
The above information is what I provide in my digital guidebook. Is there something that you provide that I did not discuss above? Can you do me a favor and tell me in the comments below? #AirbnbLove
Also published on Medium.