With some people still trying to squeeze in one last summer trip this travel season, and many still working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, recent reports indicate that more people are staying longer in rental homes and Airbnbs. Demand for vacation rentals skyrocketed and has remained high since pandemic restrictions lifted earlier this summer.

Michael and Debbie Campbell, a retired Seattle couple who call themselves the Senior Nomads, have stayed in more than 270 Airbnbs in 85 countries over the last eight years. Here are their tips for choosing a vacation rental that will meet your needs.

Debbie and Michael Campbell take a walking tour in Tiananman Square in Beijing, China.
This Seattle couple has been living in Airbnbs for 8 years

Know your priorities and do your homework

“I think the reviews are really important. Read between the lines. Look at the photos carefully,” says Michael Campbell. “We’ve never had a [serious] problem; in 270 Airbnbs, we’ve either been particularly lucky or really good at sussing out the right place for us for our budget,” says Debbie Campbell.

“Location is really important … pay attention to where the place is on the map,” says Michael. “The more homework you do, the better experience you’ll have.”

What’s on the checklist? For the Campbells, it’s some outdoor space, a large kitchen table, a central location in a major city so they can take public transportation and walk as much as possible — for health benefits and because they think it’s the best way to see a city.


The couple always interview the host of potential sites before booking.

Be realistic and respectful

Sometimes people idealize their getaway, especially if they are on a rare vacation. “Airbnbs are not nirvana, not hotels,” Debbie says. “They’re someone’s homes and the expectations should be tempered in some respects. Be respectful as a guest. Someone’s opened their home to you, whether it’s run by a property manager or not. Leave a fair review when you’re done.”

Build in downtime and bring an open mind

The nature of vacations is that they are too short. You’re “rushing to the airport having had to finish the last project at work, and then hurry up and enjoy the next two weeks,” says Debbie. However long a visit is, Debbie recommends people “build in some stress-reducing time in your travels to allow for serendipity.  Don’t schedule every single moment, because that’s where the magic happens.”

“Be flexible,” Michael agrees. Cultures act differently. “Go with the flow. It’s not what happens, it’s how you respond,” he says, noting that they remind themselves “we are the foreigner.”

“Having a high dose of curiosity is what leads to growth and expanded understanding of the world, and empathy, understanding and kindness,” Michael says.