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40's Couple In Apartment
Credit: (c) Kelvin Murray

Lizzie Post, the great-great granddaughter of Emily Post, author, and co-host of The Awesome Etiquette Podcast, has agreed to weigh in on a few travel etiquette questions from a politesse perspective. She’s covered airplane seat backs, to recline or not to recline, arm rests, and kids on flights. Here, she weighs in on short-term rental etiquette.

No matter your go-to style of travel lodging—hotels, B&Bs, or Airbnb and VRBO—it’s fair to say that short-term rentals have upended the rules of etiquette. At a hotel you can check in with relative anonymity and hang out the “do not disturb” sign, but at an Airbnb, introverts and those who want personal space might face a challenge. Here’s how to handle yourself if want solo time—from Post and from a 33-year-old Airbnb host in New Orleans, Louisiana.

How much do you have to chat with your host? Do you have to be social?

Post: “As much as to communicate any appreciation or concern, and to find out the rules. That’s whether you’re staying in someone’s [whole] house or in a room. That’s a different beast than a hotel, but at the same time, it’s a service and ‘You are going to stay at my place, and you can pay me for it,’ but these are things that are always agreed upon before the booking. You should already have the rules and regulations understood of what you’re walking into.”

Host: “We tend to be more of a hands-off host unless someone indicates a desire to hang out.”

Do you tell someone right when you meet them that you’ll want solo time?

Post: “Wait till there’s an infraction; it’s too quick to strong-arm someone—to put your arm out against them. [But] when you exchange emails, you could say, ‘Just so you know, the nature of my trip, I’m really looking for this time to be quiet and have some self-reflection; I’m really looking to be quiet and not social and engaging people. I’d love to know your rules; please know that I’ll follow them, but I’m going to keep to myself fairly closely.’”

Host: “It’s right in our listing that we’ll be as social or not social as you want us to be. We want guests to know that we’re available and we’re happy to chat and we’re happy to give them recommendations, but there are also going to be times when we don’t want to chat with our guests. I’m an attorney. I get busy.”

What if a host is pushy about socializing—say, comes to your door at a bad time?

Post: If the person is trying to come down and have tea or something, you could say, ‘I really appreciate the hospitality; however, I really want some time on my own.’ If they come to the door and it’s a bad time, you could say, ‘Now’s not a great time, but thank you so much; I’m deep in the throes of work’ or whatever it is. ‘Goodbye.’ You don’t open the door all the way; you don’t invite them in; you keep the physical barriers up a little bit.

What if they’re offended?

Post: “Not everyone who comes to your Airbnb wants to be treated like they’re at a bed and breakfast. If the host says up front, ‘We really like treating you like you’re our guest; be prepared for tea service if we drop by at 4 o’clock in the afternoon,’ then you should be ready. Hosts should communicate how much they want to be a host. And people searching for Airbnbs should know themselves. They can check in with airbnb host: ‘I’m really looking for this sort of experience, but I want to make sure it matches up with what you as a host are offering.’ It’s OK if it doesn’t match up. You can say, ‘I think I’m going to look for a different type of place.’

So communicating in advance can help?

Post: “Yes. Exchanges ahead of time really set the tone; hosts and guests alike should notice it. If the host doesn’t do it, you should. You’re the guest; you’re paying the money.”

Host: “Yes. For a host, knowing as much about the goals of your trip as possible is always useful; what’s the purpose of this trip and what do you want out of it?”