What is Airbnb Instant Book?


My name is Max Mackey, and I have been a long-time host on Airbnb.  I have tested and used Airbnb Instant Book and I’ll give you the pros and cons of it.

I’ve been hosting on Airbnb for over two years and am currently in charge of four listings (all within the Los Angeles area). Like most hosts, I maintain a balancing act of trying to provide the highest overall guest experience with maximizing profits from my listings.

What Is Airbnb Instant Book?

If you have come across Instant Book on Airbnb, then you are probably already well aware that it is a feature that several hosts are using. It was introduced as a way to improve the user experience on the platform.

Airbnb’s definition:

“Instant Book listings don’t require approval from the host before you can book them. Instead, you can just choose your travel dates and discuss check-in plans with the host. There is no additional fee for confirming a reservation with Instant Book. You can filter your search to only view listings that are available through Instant Book.

To be eligible for Instant Book, you must have a profile photo.” – Airbnb Help Center

My Experience with Instant Book

From my experience, I’ve seen Instant Book on/off attract a widerange of guests and it’s important to understand which type of guests instant book will attract to a listing. Afterall, these are guests that will be staying in your home.

For example:

Scenario 1: Having Instant Book on for an entire home can attract a large group of friends looking for a last-minute party spot. Having instant book off can attract a family planning a vacation months ahead.

Scenario 2: Having Instant Book on for a room in an apartment might attract travelers who are already in the city and looking to book something quick on their smartphones. Having instant book off could attract a person planning accommodations for an upcoming business trip.

Pros of Having Instant Book On

  • Having Instant Book on allows the guest to book with just one click. This is convenient for travelers using mobile phones or who have access to limited wifi/data.
  • Hosts with Instant Book on often receive 2x the bookings; this could potentially bring twice the revenue, which is amazing.
  • More bookings bring the opportunity to earn more positive reviews.

**Airbnb Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to message guests after their stay and ask for that review! This will help you achieve Airbnb Superhost status much faster.**

  • Having Instant Book turned on will also help get your listing to rank better in Airbnb’s search results.  The more convenient it is for a guest to book, the more likely they are to book. Therefore, Airbnb will promote the listings with the best chance of converting the fastest.
  • The Instant Book feature allows hosts to set parameters for which guests can use it and how far advanced they can book. For my listing, I set it this option for verified guests only and they could book up to one day in advance.

I would highly recommend against allowing same-day requests with Instant Book. In my experience, I’ve rarely had a pleasant time hosting someone who is searching for a same-day reservation.  Try it for yourself and see, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Cons of Having Instant Book On

  • With Instant Book, guests book a reservation and then go over details with the host after the reservation is made. This can be a bit of a roller coaster ride each time because guests using instant book have a tendency to “book first, ask questions later” before reading all of the rules.

This could lead to increased cancellations and lost availability for your unit.  If someone books and in 3 days decide they want to cancel, you just lost 3 days worth of marketing your unit to paying customers.

  • I’ve had experiences where a guest would book using Instant Book and forget to read our 9am check out time, leaving it up to me to explain and affirm that this is a rule for our listing and is non-negotiable.

The benefits of more money and more bookings are great;however, it does come at a cost to the work/life balance of being a host.

Is Instant Book Right for Your Airbnb Listing?

Hosts usually fall into two camps (myself included) with opinions towards Instant Book.

The first is the profit-driven hosts that like maintaining high occupancy by having Instant Book on.

The second group of hosts are more interested in achieving host/life balance by having the ability to respond to requests for bookings and having instant book off.

How to Deal with Instant Book Guests

If you are an Airbnb host and have decided to use Instant Book, then you need to learn the best way for dealing with Instant Book Guests.

First, you need to set up a dialogue. If the guest booking appears to be suspicious or untrustworthy, you should start a conversation with them and see if communication can help ease your worries. Don’t hesitate to ask the Airbnb users what time they plan on arriving, if they have had a chance to review the house rules, and if they are in need of anything special during their stay.

Another tip for dealing with Instant Book guests is to set a one-day notice for instant bookings – which I touched on a bit above already.  Same-day requests may be much harder to manage, and you may not have ample time to get the vacation rental ready for the new guest’s arrival. This is also a great way to avoid last-minute surprise listings. Airbnb will also automatically block specific days as well.

Filters can be applied with instant bookings to help weed out those that may not be the best fit for this kind of service. You can use these filters to avoid one-night stay guests who may only be looking to party. You can also set a max trip length as well to avoid even more problems in the future.

If you need to cancel a reservation at any time, you can call the Airbnb support line. The reservation will be canceled free of charge as long as you are able to provide a reason for canceling the booking.

Finally, you can also set additional requirements for Airbnb guests as you see fit. While Airbnb users will already be guaranteed to meet Airbnb’s requirements, you can also set your own like asking for a government-issued ID and recommendations from other Airbnb hosts who have had experiences with your guests.

Test Airbnb Instant Book

With this info, test Instant Book out and see what works best for you and your listing. Play around with it on/off during busy travel months. The only way to find out exactly what works for you is by testing out each and optimizing for your preferences.

Considering Becoming an Airbnb Host?

Being an Airbnb host has helped my family achieve financial freedom, cover our monthly expenses, and save for a rainy day. If you’re looking to become a host on Airbnb, try it out, there’s no better time to join than right now. You will get a $50 bonus if you sign up today.

Check out ALL of our Airbnb Hosting Tips Here.

Airbnb Instant Book FAQ

Have more questions about how Instant Book works or you want some more summarized info? Read on below for answers to some of the more commonly asked questions.

How do penalty-free cancellations work for Instant Book hosts?

If you are an Airbnb host that has Instant Book turned on for listings, then canceling is going to be penalty-free any time you are uncomfortable with a listing and you provide your reason. This can be due to a number of factors including unfavorable reviews left about the potential guest, the guest hasn’t responded to your questions, and they make it clear that one or more house rules will be broken.

How do you cancel a reservation without a penalty?

Simply go to your reservations on the Airbnb website, find the reservation you want to cancel, select change or cancel and then choose the reason for the cancellation.  When you choose, “I’m uncomfortable with the reservation or the guest has broken my house rules,” any penalties will be waived.

Can you decline an alteration request with instant booking on Airbnb?

As an Airbnb host with Instant booking, you can’t decline the reservation. Both guests and hosts can decline an alteration request as well to keep a reservation as is. However, the request for alteration can still be sent if someone would like to make changes to the confirmed reservation.

What are hosts saying about Instant Book?

Many Airbnb hosts talk about the convenience of Instant Book as well as the boost in response rate, better search results, and better customer experience and customer service. It has been said that hosts can earn up to 52 percent more when using Instant Book.

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