Airbnb Self Check-In: 5 Steps to Automating the Check-in Process

Do you struggle to keep up with your Airbnb check-ins? If so, have you ever thought about taking a more hands-off approach?

In-person key handovers are time-consuming. They’re very hard to work into a busy property manager’s schedule. Plus, things don’t always go to plan: guests can miss their flights, get stuck in traffic, or simply lose their way en route to your rental. You end up wasting the best part of a day waiting for your guests to show up and, when they finally do, they’re tired and embarrassed, meaning their post-stay review of your property could suffer.

Furthermore, in-person check-ins require face-to-face contact. Today, with the pandemic still raging in many parts of the world, the need for social distancing is clear. As a consequence, guests expect short-term rental hosts to cater to this need where possible.

So what can you do to take the stress out of check-ins once and for all, while saving time and making the process more pleasant for you and your guests?

The answer is Airbnb self-check-in.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about automating your Airbnb check-in process, from the instructions you need to send your guests to the tools you need to use. 

Host Tools is a simple and affordable automation tool for short-term rental hosts who want to save time on guest messaging and other tasks. Try it now – it’s free for 30 days.

What is Airbnb self-check-in?

Self-check-in, as opposed to host-led check-in, means that Airbnb guests can enter your rental without you meeting with them to hand over the keys.

There are several ways that you can start using self check-in for your rentals. You can install a lockbox or key safe where guests can pick up and drop off keys. You can opt for a keyless entry solution like a smart lock or a keypad. Or, you can have 24-hour building staff take care of meet-and-greets and key handovers for you.

How does self-check-in work on Airbnb?

Once you’ve automated your check-in process by installing a smart lock, keypad, or lockbox, you can let your guests know by updating your check-in instructions on Airbnb. You can even specify which self check-in method you’re using. 

Then, ‘self-check-in’ will appear on your Airbnb listing page, and guests who filter for it when searching will be able to find your rental.

Airbnb self check-in listing badge
02 Airbnb self check-in listing badge with a smart lock

Why you should use Airbnb self check-in

There are many reasons why Airbnb hosts should consider automated check-ins.

  • Save time – for both you and your guests. You’ll no longer have to sit around in your rental property waiting for guests to arrive and they won’t need to wait for you in the event that they arrive early.

  • Take control of your schedule. After adopting self check-in, you won’t have to adjust your schedule to suit the arrival times of guests. No more excusing yourself from work in the middle of the day or staying up into the night to greet a late arrival.

  • Enhance the guest experience. A smooth, tech-enabled self check-in process provides a great first impression and elevates the guest experience. This means higher review scores for you and, ultimately, a better ranking on Airbnb - driving up your bookings. 

  • Show that you trust your guests. By leaving your property in their hands without meeting them in person, you show that you trust your guests and give them the benefit of the doubt. This will inspire your guests to take good care of your rental and prove that they can be trusted.

  • Make check-ins less stressful. When you switch to self-check-in, you can be more flexible with arrival times. Guests don’t need to worry about holding you up if they’re late and vice versa. 

  • Give your guests some privacy upon arrival. As guests begin to explore your property for the first time, they will have a more genuine, unrestrained reaction than if the host was looming over them. They will appreciate the privacy of this moment. 

  • Accept last-minute bookings. The greater flexibility that comes with automated check-ins will allow you to accept last-minute (if your rental is clean, maybe even same-day) bookings. This is a huge benefit in times like these when travel plans are uncertain and guests wait until the very last moment to book their trips. 

  • Attract business travelers. Self check-in, next to other amenities like high-speed Wi-Fi and laptop-friendly workspaces, is highly sought after by business travelers who often don’t have time for a friendly social encounter. Attracting these types of guests can get you high-value bookings. 

  • Meet health and safety goals. Automated check-ins allow you to minimize or completely eliminate contact with your guests – which is safer and more hygienic than in-person meet-and-greets. 

  • Make more money. By improving the guest experience with self check-in, you’ll get more positive reviews, which will ultimately drive more bookings. Being ready to accept last-minute bookings and attract business travelers will also increase the reservations you get. As a result, putting self-check-in into practice helps you make more money.

Airbnb self check-in ideas: How to automate your check-in process

Now that you’ve been convinced self check-in is the best way forward for yourself and your guests, how do you automate your check-in process? Let’s go through it step-by-step.

Step 1: Add self check-in to your Airbnb listing

Here’s how to add self-check-in to your Airbnb listing:

  1. Log in to Airbnb.com.

  2. Select the listing where you want to add self check-in.

  3. In the ‘Listing Details’ tab, scroll to ‘Guest Resources’. 

  4. Click ‘Edit’ next to ‘Check-In Instructions’. 

  5. Select the method of self-check-in you use (‘Smart lock’, ‘Keypad’, ‘Lockbox’, or ‘Building staff’) and provide all the necessary instructions.

This is a good way to inform your guests that you’ve implemented contactless check-in at your rental. However, keep in mind that Airbnb sends the detailed check-in instructions to your guests 3 days before check-in. This is not ideal because 3 days is plenty of time for a message to get lost in a guest’s inbox.

If you want your guests to have the information ready exactly when they need it – which makes for a better guest experience – we recommend sending them a separate check-in message the day before or on the morning of arrival. 

By this time, your guests are probably getting ready for their trip or on their way to your rental. Travelling is always stressful, so guests will appreciate you providing them with all the necessary information at exactly the right time. 

But what should your check-in message contain? Let’s take a look.

Step 2: Send your guests a check-in message

The check-in message is one of the most important steps in the standard Airbnb message flow. It’s especially key for listings with self check-in since you won’t be there to meet your guests in person.

Your check-in message can serve several purposes. You should use it to:

  • Reassure guests that you’re expecting them and the rental is ready for their arrival.

  • Send your guests detailed check-in instructions, accompanied by photos or videos to better explain the process (if it’s complicated).

  • Include other important information such as address and directions to your property, parking information, Wi-Fi password, etc.

  • Let guests know how they can contact you if they have any questions, need recommendations for things to see, etc. 

Adding check-in instructions to your Airbnb message flow is a great way to ensure that your guests will know exactly what to do when they arrive at your rental. Whether you’re using a lockbox, a smart lock, or a keypad, it’s crucial to provide clear instructions on how guests can let themselves into your property.

If you need help writing your message, check out our collection of handy templates for Airbnb messages

And don’t worry: you won’t have to type out a personalized message every time you want to send it to a guest. With a messaging automation tool like Host Tools, you can send automated messages – this way, your timing will always be perfect, whilst also ensuring you save time and minimize the risk of making a mistake. 

Step 3: Provide an informative house manual

Since you won’t be giving your guests a tour of your rental, it’s a good idea to provide an informative Airbnb house manual that they can refer to.

A well-put-together house manual can save you a lot of time on guest communication. Instead of having to call you when they can’t get the coffee machine to work or figure out how to switch on the patio light, your guests can flip through the house manual and find the answers to all their questions.

You can add a house manual to your Airbnb listing and Airbnb will send it to your guests once the reservation is confirmed. However, we recommend either printing out your house manual and leaving a physical copy of it in your rental, or sending it to your guests in a digital format as part of your Airbnb welcome letter. This way, the house manual will be easier to find. 

Here’s what your home manual should include:

  • A short welcome message

  • Check-in and check-out times

  • Parking instructions

  • Wi-Fi details

  • Your Airbnb house rules

  • How to use appliances

  • Local transport information

  • Sights to see and things to do in your area

  • Emergency information

  • Your contact details

If you need help putting together your house manual, check out our foolproof Airbnb house manual template

Step 4: Make the welcome feel personal

A downside of self-check-in is that you don’t get to interact with your guests in person or show them the unique details of your rental. However, you can still make them feel special when they arrive.

Consider adding a few nice touches to your rental to make the welcome feel personal. For example, put some fresh flowers in a vase and leave them on a table in the entryway. Or, leave a chilled bottle of champagne in the fridge. 

You can also surprise guests with some high-quality chocolate or fresh, seasonal fruits arranged in a basket on the kitchen counter.

If you want an even more personalized welcome gift, you can write a handwritten note with your guest’s name on it (or ask your cleaners to do it for you). 

While these may seem like insignificant details, they play a big role in creating a positive first impression. They will ensure that the contactless check-in process is not only smooth but outright impressive.

Step 5: Send your guests a check-up message

Last but not least, you should send your guests a check-up message the morning after check-in when your guests have settled in and spent a night at your place. This is to make sure that everything is going well and your guests have everything they need.

Not only will this make you seem like an attentive host – if they reply, it will also give you peace of mind that your guests are enjoying their stay. 

Remembering when to send a check-up message is tough – and it’s easy to forget when you’re busy, or managing many rentals. That’s why you should use a messaging tool to automate the process. For example, in Host Tools, you can set up an automated check-up message using a template, and the tool will send it at exactly the right time without you having to lift a finger.

Tools for a smooth Airbnb self check-in

Now that you know the steps to automate your Airbnb check-in process, let’s take a look at the tools you’ll need to make it happen.

Key safes or lockboxes 

Lockboxes – which usually open by putting in a code on a keypad or a dial – are the simplest and cheapest way to eliminate the need for in-person check-ins.

You can install the safe yourself: most of them come with a handy wall-mounting kit, and some simply attach to your door handle. Once you’ve installed the key lockbox, all you need to do is program the code and send it to your guest in a message.

The downside of lockboxes is that some are easy to pick. And, if you don’t reset the code on a regular basis, they’re not the safest option. 

If you like the idea of lockboxes, we recommend the Kidde Permanent Keysafe – it’s very durable and holds several keys. You can also find a wide range of options on Amazon.

Smart locks

If you’re looking for a secure, convenient solution that completely bypasses the need for physical keys, smart locks are your best bet.

Smart locks attach to your existing lock or replace the one you have on your front door. Guests can open them with a unique passcode, which you generate and send to them (a new one for each guest). Some smart locks are Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-enabled and can be opened with your guest’s smartphone. 

As a result, these keyless entry devices can free up a lot of your time and allow you to automate your check-ins in a perfectly secure way.

The best thing about smart locks is that they integrate with other vacation rental host tools which makes them very easy to manage. For example, Host Tools has a smart lock integration that allows you to send unique access codes to guests automatically, based on the last four digits of their phone number. 

What’s more, automating your smart lock access this way can give you lots of extra information that you can use to improve your guest communication.

For example, when a guest checks in using a smart lock code generated by Host Tools, you can send them an automated welcome message as soon as they step into your rental. This will make you seem like you’re always at your guest’s beck and call without requiring any added time investment from you.

Host Tools currently support August Smart Locks, and we’ll be adding more providers in the future. To find the best smart locks out there, check out our list of the best smart locks for vacation rentals

Digital welcome books

Digital guidebooks or welcome apps can be of great help when automating your check-ins. They essentially act as digital concierges, preemptively answering guests’ questions, providing tips and recommendations, and saving you time on guest communication. 

With their help, your guests will have all the information they need to make the most of their stay and won’t feel the need to talk to a host in-person. 

Our favorite digital guidebooks are:

Messaging automation tools

Last but not least, messaging automation tools are essential for property managers who decide to take a hands-off approach to check-ins. 

Since you’ll need to send your guests vital details about their stay instead of relating it to them in person, Airbnb automated messages can help you make sure that everything reaches your guests at the right time.

For example, Host Tools lets you create message rules for every step of the Airbnb message flow – from the booking confirmation message, to the check-in message, and the check-out message. You can use premade templates to compose your messages and add tags that pull unique information from the bookings to personalize them. 

How to set up automatic messages in Host Tools for Airbnb self check-in

There are lots of different settings that you can use to fine-tune your messages but the tool is intuitive and easy-to-use. 

What’s more, if you connect your Airbnb and Vrbo accounts to Host Tools, you can send messages to guests from both platforms. Plus, Host Tools now also integrates with houfy, a direct booking site. 

Host Tools is a simple and affordable automation tool for short-term rental hosts who want to save time on guest messaging and other tasks. Try it now – it’s free for 30 days.

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