The beauty of Airbnb for someone with Celiac is that it offers you the ability to cook your own meals. If you are ever concerned about how you will eat on the road you should book an Airbnb or VRBO etc. I personally like Airbnb. I find their site is really easy to navigate and have had wonderful hosting experiences all over the world. Airbnb has strict cleanliness standards for their units, so I can be assured the kitchen will be clean on arrival and if it’s not (which I’ve never experienced) I know I can reach out to their support team and have it resolved. Airbnb allows me to cook my own meals because I always book places with access to the kitchen. Plus, I like that when I stay in an Airbnb I am helping to stimulate the local economy. But if you’ve never stayed in an Airbnb, or you’re newly diagnosed and normally don’t cook for yourself on vacation it can be overwhelming to know where to start and what questions to ask. So I thought I’d put together a list of the 5 questions you should ask your Airbnb host before booking if you have Celiac Disease.
1. How close is your unit to public transit?
Public transit will be your best friend if you’re staying locally in an Airbnb. Renting cars abroad and domestically is expensive, adding to your daily costs at an average of $60/ day. In major metropolitan cities like Portland public transit is the easiest and best way to get around. You want to be within 5-10 minutes walking distance to transit. This ensures you can easily access the city and it makes schlepping groceries home easy.
2. Are there any specialty grocery stores or farmers’ markets near your unit?
If you’re staying in an Airbnb so that you can have control over your food while traveling you are going to need to get groceries. I personally choose my Airbnb’s based on their proximity to a farmers market and or specialty grocer. This question is also a good time to bring up the fact that you have Celiac Disease and have to eat gluten-free. You’re going to want to look for stores that would carry things such as gluten-free bread and pasta. While your host may not know exactly where to find GF sandwich bread they may know where the nearest “Whole Foods” or “Trader Joe’s” is.
3. What is your neighborhood like at night?
This question is geared toward safety. I also phrase it this way in an effort to not offend the host. If you say “Is your neighborhood safe?” It can come off as rude, especially if you’re traveling internationally and your host doesn’t speak English as a first language. BUT, you don’t want to be coming home from a day tour or walking home from the grocery store in a sketchy neighborhood. I’ve always had hosts be honest with me about the safety of their neighborhood. I have even had hosts let me know that they do not recommend their place if I am staying somewhere by myself. Airbnb hosts get their business through reviews from guests. So it doesn’t benefit them to lie to potential guests about the units. I will ALWAYS pay more for safety when traveling. So if staying in a nicer neighborhood means paying $25-50 more each day I will do it.
4. What types of cookware do you have in the kitchen?
This is where you may need to ask some more probing questions. As many of those reading this with Celiac Disease know even a small amount of Gluten can set off a reaction. Therefore you need to know if the pots and pans are made of a porous material/ do they have wooden cooking utensils or silicone etc. Don’t be afraid to be a bit pushy about this. I will say 90% of the Airbnb’s I have stayed in have stainless steel pots/pans, and silicone utensils. But it’s worth checking. ALSO- I recommend bringing a foldable cutting board for yourself. They cost less than $15 USD and ensure you won’t get microscopic bread crumbs in your food as many cutting boards are made of wood or other porous materials. Here is one that I personally recommend
5. Ask what types of cooking supplies/dry ingredients the unit is stocked with.
Most Airbnb units are equipped with the basics, salt, pepper, olive oil dried spices, etc. Ask if they have those things ahead of time, and when you arrive at the unit take an appraisal of the pantry BEFORE you go to the market. It could save you money on basic cooking supplies. Additionally, you should ask if you purchase non-perishable items at the grocery before you leave if you can leave them behind for the host/ future guests. They will 9/10 times either let you know they’ve already got it, or be glad to let you leave it behind.
Remember at the end of the day you’re renting this unit so you can have an awesome vacation. So don’t be afraid to ask your host questions and advocate for your health.