Airbnb self check-in with personalized chalkboard sign outside British Columbia Airbnb

Airbnb Self Check-In: 5 Reasons Why and 5 Steps to Success

From the very beginning of our Airbnb travels, we have been huge fans of self check-in. If you’re a host who’s never considered letting your guests arrive and explore your Airbnb without you there, this idea might provoke some anxiety or a furrowed brow. Before you check-out (yes, pun intended), keep reading and learn why these two full-time guests love self check-in.

5 Reasons to Use Self Check-In

1) It Saves You Time

For how quick an in-person Airbnb check-in usually is, the amount of time and energy sunk into the process is surprisingly intense. First, there’s the time spent on communication. The quick task of coordinating a guest’s arrival can easily turn into a day-long drip of messages about plane delays, traffic jams, and revised ETAs. Usually, no one feels worse about these messages than the guests. Then, in addition to the actual time you spend with the guest, there’s the buffer time before and after where you still feel like you shouldn’t actually leave your house. What if they arrive early or need something right after they’ve checked in? The mental energy and time restrictions just aren’t worth the effort for an in-person check-in that many guests would actually prefer to avoid. Bringing us to reason 2.

By the time we stepped out of the car, we were stiff, crumb-covered shells of ourselves with bags over our shoulders and a dog leash wrapped around our legs.

2) Less Stressful for Your Guests

We adore meeting Airbnb hosts. We pick each home for a reason, and we always love meeting the masterminds behind these incredible spaces. But the most memorable conversations we’ve had with hosts always occur during the course of our stay, not in the moment we arrive. Check-in days are travel days, and travel days can be unpredictable and stressful. For example, the day we checked in to our third Airbnb, we woke up in a tent at 4:00am, drove across all of British Columbia, and then took a car ferry across the bay where we found our Airbnb. Needless to say, for two folks from Kansas navigating a car ferry for the first time was an intimidating situation. By the time we stepped out of the car, we were stiff, crumb-covered shells of ourselves with bags over our shoulders and a dog leash wrapped around our legs. Not exactly our best first impression nor our most chatty state. In that moment, self check-in felt like a godsend.

Photo from car window on British Columbia highway
Cars waiting to board a ferry

3) Allows Your Guests to Explore

We, like most folks, are more comfortable around friends and family than complete strangers. Most guests will respond to an Airbnb differently when alone than when the host is standing right there. Each Airbnb is distinctly unique and becomes an integral part of the travel experience itself. Self check-in gives your guests the privacy to explore and authentically react to their temporary home with their travel companions. Plus, without your guidance, your guests have the opportunity to discover the personal touches you’ve added instead of you pointing them out. For us, these first few moments alone in an Airbnb are like a treasure hunt. Set your guests up to relish those moments!

These first few moments alone in an Airbnb are like a treasure hunt.

4) Ideal for business travelers

Self check-in, along with fast internet and a laptop friendly workspace, is one of the best ways to attract business travelers. As remote work continues to become more and more common, being recognized as a business travel friendly stop will set your Airbnb apart. The convenience that self check-in provides business travelers will extend to all your guests. Plus, this increased flexibility will allow you to accept same-day requests with greater ease. Even if you won’t be at the property when the guests arrive, if your Airbnb is clean, you’re ready to host.

Circular window looking upon garden
Clipboard with Airbnb instructions

 Featured Products: Clip Board (the mini clip boards are cute too)

5) Demonstrates Your Trust

The time to decide whether or not you trust a guest in your space is when you approve their request, not when they arrive. Once you’ve read their past reviews and confirmed their reservation, it’s time to give each guest the benefit of the doubt. By allowing your guests to check-in on their own, not only are you creating a less stressful arrival for them, you’re demonstrating your confidence that they’ll take care of your space. The motivation behind meeting your guests should be to get to know them and provide hospitality, not to inspect them. Trust is the key variable on both sides of the Airbnb equation, and self check-in is a great way to get off on the right foot!

Door on porch with tree
Featured Product: Master Lock Lockbox

5 Steps to Make Self Check-In a Success

1) Message Your Guests the Day of Check-In

Even though you won’t need to send the typical “What’s your ETA?” message, we still recommend sending your guests a message on the day they’ll arrive. First, you want to let them know that you do indeed remember they’re coming, which can put guests at ease when the reservations were made weeks or months in advance. Second, you can use this message to open up the lines of communication with your guests. Let them know you’re eager to make their stay as perfect as possible but that you won’t hover. Here’s a good starter template:

“We’re looking forward to your stay! The suite will be ready for you anytime after 3:00pm. The key is in the lockbox on the door and the combination is 6135. Once you’re settled in, let us know if there’s anything at all we can do to make your stay more comfortable. We’d love to meet you and say hello over the next couple days whenever it’s convenient for you. Enjoy!”

2) Provide Clear Entry Instructions

We’ve seen several different self check-in strategies. Maybe you’ll leave the key in a lockbox hanging from the door knob or attached to the inside of the door frame. You might opt to install a door handle with a keypad for entry. Or perhaps you’ll just leave the door unlocked with the key on the kitchen table. Whatever you decide, make sure that each guest knows exactly how they’re supposed to get into the space. It’s never fun to be the stranger testing whether a door to someone’s home is indeed unlocked. Consider leaving your guests some sort of indicator they’re at the right door, like the Airbnb symbol. 

suggestion box and keys

3) Personalize the Greeting

Just because you’re not in the room when you’re guests arrive doesn’t mean that you can’t personally welcome them. We’ve arrived at self check-in Airbnbs to find locally brewed beer in the fridge, a bottle of wine with a handwritten note on the coffee table, and the most delectable chocolate bar ever waiting with the keys. Get creative and incorporate your personality into the first few moments guests are in your space.

The truth is that most of what’s explained during an in-person check-in goes in one ear and out the other.

4) Create a House Manual

We’ve never stayed in a space that actually needed a tour. A bedroom’s a bedroom, a kitchen’s a kitchen, and if the shower takes a weird trick to turn on, that’s what a house manual is for. The truth is that most of what’s explained during an in-person check-in goes in one ear and out the other. When we actually need information about how to work the gas fireplace or where the recycling goes, we typically look for some sort of reference material. This might be additional information in the app, but our favorite strategy is a tangible house manual. These are lovely because guests can sit down with them once all the travel is behind them, and flip through all of the information you have about how to get the most out of your space.

5) Follow Up

If your guests are just staying for one night, follow up in the evening after you know they’ve arrived. If your guests are there for a longer stay, follow up the morning after their first night. Send a quick text and ask them if there’s anything you can do to make their stay more comfortable. This has a different feeling than: “everything’s great, right?”. It gives your guests the opportunity to ask for anything they might need to improve their stay. If you’re a host that loves to meet Airbnb travelers in person, this is a great moment to ask if there would be a good time to swing by and say hello. Give folks an easy out too though! They may be headed off to a big event, like a wedding or interview, and have a jam-packed schedule.

Happy Hosting!

Whether you’re a self check-in host or someone still firmly committed to the in-person strategy, we want to hear from you. What has been your experience? Let us know in the comments below. And as always, happy hosting!

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5 Responses

  1. Hi,

    Your suggestions have vastly simplified my life. No more ETA, text us when you are one hour away emails. My evenings are now free…and I think our guests like it as well.

    Cheers, and have fun… Paul and Juliana

    1. Hi Paul and Juliana! We’re so glad to hear that our suggestions are working well for you. Enjoy those free evenings! We’re sure your guests are enjoying those beautiful Airbnbs:) – Erin & Jay

  2. Hi Erin n Jay

    I host in India and I do it remotely because of my husband’s transferable job. I was doing this research for business travel ready apts and looking up community forum on Airbnb to see whether it’s worth shelling out some cash to get my apt ready for it by way of a self check in system, lap top friendly work space, smoke detector etc. I came across your website in self check in options and I should say it was fun and informative reading it. I always try and step in the shoes of the guests and this check in was something I wanted do better. Thanks for this article!
    What’s the most cost effective self check in option which you know of that cannot be tampered with and is most reliable?


  3. I agree with this post as a guest who has dealt with both kinds of check ins.

    I much prefer being able to get into our accommodation after the stated check-in time without a lot of additional drama. It does take a lot of time to communicate (usually by typing text on a phone) with a host who wants a personal check – in, when I really just want to be in vacation mode without a strict schedule I need to try and meet.

    I understand and don’t want to inconvenience the host, so it stresses me out when I am not arriving exactly when I planned. It’s inconvenient for both parties.

    When I need to, I will do it, but driving any distance or taking a flight are prone to delays. Or at times I’ve arrived earlier than expected because my flight, driving or navigating though an unknown area turned out faster than expected. It’s hard to judge exactly when you travel. Why add more stress to your own life and your guest’s?

    I know some hosts want to give a personal touch, which is nice, but doesn’t have to involve a long personal interaction on first arrival. Even if you are available when guests arrive (such as living on site), keep it short and sweet on arrival and allow guests have opportunities to interact with you more later if they wish.

    I feel like the hosts that need to give a long tour are doing so more for their own benefit than for the guest’s. If something is very unusual about the accommodation, then it’s fine to demonstrate or give a quick pointer or two and put it in the manual, but I agree that most people will know (or figure out how) most things work.

    If you are fishing for compliments or reaction to your space, you can get that info later by chatting at a more relaxed time. Or leave a survey for guests to give you personal feedback and Airbnb also allows guests to leave private comments in addition to the rating after the stay.

    IMO, the best hosts are responsive and personable when guests interact with them, but do not push or force interactions when they may not be convenient or the guest is feeling drained.

  4. Hi Guys, We are AirbnbUniverse. I have come to your website for many different suggestions. Also would love to catch up and know where you guys are in life. Hope everything is well and you guys are traveling the world!

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On some days, being an Airbnb host isn’t exactly what you had imagined. Maybe it’s overwhelming, isolating, or just not making the kind of money you had hoped for. At bnbNomad, we’re on a mission to help hosts thrive, not just get by. We create step-by-step resources that bring together the best hosting strategies from around the world. We’ll give you the knowledge and community you need to finally create the joyful, prosperous Airbnb you deserve. Happy hosting!

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The definitive guide to outfitting your Airbnb

Finally! You’ve found it. After all those online searches, you’ve discovered the all-in-one guide you need to prepare your Airbnb with confidence. We’ll go room-by-room, step-by-step until your Airbnb is just perfect.