The Authoritative Guide to the Airbnb Check-in Process [+5 Tips]

May 01 2022
How does Airbnb check-in work

Get tips on how to use Hostfully to optimize your vacation rental business and make more profit.


What’s in this article?

Many Airbnb hosts are changing how guests check in to make the process quick and efficient with a smooth transition into rest and relax mode. The check-in process is all about the guest, so if you want to increase your 5-star reviews and get recurring bookings, improving and streamlining the Airbnb check-in process is a great place to start. One of the best ways to change the game when it comes to check-in is offering Airbnb self-check-in. This is especially a game-changer as the risk of COVID still persists. Since the process does not need to involve you at all, you and the guest continue to remain safe. Plus, since Airbnb has seen such a rise in popularity throughout these COVID times, this is an essential point for you to consider.

Here’s our complete guide to the Airbnb check-in process with everything you need to know to be able to give your guests a fabulous guest experience.

Download it now for free:

Step-by-step guide + templates for Airbnb self-check-in

Follow this process and you’ll boost the guest experience, cut down on repetitive questions, save time, and get more 5-star reviews.

What is the Airbnb check-in process?

The Airbnb check-in is a process where hosts give their guests direct access to all the information they need to get into the vacation rental and settle in smoothly. There are two types of check-ins: the self check-in and the host-led check-in. No matter which one you opt for, the goals are the same: ensure that guests feel welcome in the house, and make sure that they have and know where everything is for a wonderful stay. You do this by providing explicitly clear and step-by-step instructions that make the arrival process simple and easy, plus important information on amenities, services, and also local recommendations.

There are two types of guest check-ins

There are two main ways hosts can set up the check-in process for their rentals: host-led and self-check-ins. Some hosts leave keys in lockboxes, while others leave keys with a doorman or front office staff. In some cases, hosts meet the guest upon arrival, while others implement a smart lock on the door and an individualized door code.

Whichever way you choose to grant your guest access to the home, it probably falls under one of two categories: host-led check-in or self-check-in. So let’s take a look at both!

The host-led check-in process

Many hosts like to meet their guests upon arrival. This allows them to put a face to a name and offer a warm welcome to the home. In addition, a host-led check-in process can help both hosts and guests get to know each other, and provides an opportunity for the host to answer any questions guests may have.

In the age of automation, the host-led check-in process takes some time but comes with benefits that help get a 5-star review. The steps are the same no matter what the property:

Warm welcome

Many guests arrive at their Airbnb after a long day of traveling. Typically, they are tired but excited to start their vacation. Naturally, hosts need to cater to that mix of emotions. So why not welcome guests with a small welcome treat, such as a cup of coffee or refreshments?

A towel to wash their face and hand sanitizer upon arrival is a nice touch to help guests unwind, sanitize, and renew after a long travel day. Whatever the personal touch is, make sure it’s appropriate for the local area.

The welcome stage is also an excellent time to provide guests with a way to contact you if they need your help during their stay. If you wanna take it the extra mile, think about putting together a cool welcome basket – your Airbnb guest will love it!

House tour

Meeting your guests at check-in also allows you to provide them with a tour. A house tour will enable you to show off the things you love about the house and give guests helpful insights to make their vacation more enjoyable.

If you have baby equipment or children’s toys hidden away somewhere, use this time to point it out to guests traveling with children.

If there are issues that parents should be aware of, such as a lake nearby or a steep staircase, let them know. The more information you can give them at check-in time, the better. But be careful to strike the right balance of helpful information and time spent explaining.

House rules

The house tour is a great time to remind guests of your house rules. Including your house rules on your Airbnb listing is a great start. However, if certain things are important to you, you should reiterate them during the check-in process.

Note that if you offer a guidebook to your guests, you can spend less time during this process as you can include the rules there. In addition, if you go digital, services like Hostfully’s digital guidebooks have an easy way to add the rules in a clear and easy-to-read layout.


Local insights

One of the reasons people choose Airbnb over hotels is because they want to experience the area like a local. Being a local, hosts have valuable insight into what guests can do to make their experience memorable, so use this check-in time to suggest local dinner restaurants or explain where the closest grocery store is. You can even print out a map of your area and circle your favorites during the check-in process!

Since this part of the process can take a considerable amount of time (especially if your guests are chatty), include recommendations in your digital guidebook instead! According to our study, the typical Hostfully host includes about a dozen restaurant recommendations and a handful of local attractions and shopping recommendations. It’s as easy as googling the venue and dragging it into the guidebook.

Benefits and drawbacks of a host-led check-in

One of the best parts about a host-led check-in is that you can give your guests that extra special, in-person welcome. They will be able to ask questions without interrupting something in your day, and they will feel right at home much quicker and improve the host-guest relationship, making it more likely you’ll get a 5* review. 

However, these in-person check-ins do take time. You may struggle to fit in enough time to make these a reality with your already busy schedule. Also, there are many factors of travel that are entirely out of your control and could impact timing. For example, late arrivals, traffic, delays, and getting lost could lead to a significant alteration of plans. Then, when your guests finally arrive after you spend a big chunk of your day waiting, they may feel embarrassed or frustrated. To this end, this may not help your review. So it all comes down to how you can be flexible at the moment. If late check-ins are hard for you to handle personally, then self check-ins are obviously the way to go. 

The Airbnb “self check-in” process

While many guests appreciate the personal touch and warm welcome of a host-led check-in, others prefer a more hands-off approach to checking in. The self-check-in is as simple as a guest picking up keys from a specific location such as a hidden lockbox, or using a smart lockbox on the door. This means that guests and hosts can also rest assured that there will be no COVID exposure risk with this type of check-in process.


Hosts can also opt to leave keys with a bellman or a front desk agent, if this feels more secure. There are many ways to offer a self-check-in process, but they all involve the host leaving detailed instructions on how to get into the vacation rental. Hostfully’s property management platform also assists with self check-in and can make this process even more seamless with a remote lock system that provides unique, auto-generated access codes to your guests.

Why you should use the Airbnb the self-check-in option

Guests love having as much information about their vacation as they can before they arrive. They don’t want any surprises, especially when staying in an unfamiliar place. The self-check-in process helps guests and hosts in the following ways.

It saves time for everyone

Guests have been waiting for weeks, months, maybe even years for this trip. When they arrive, they will be ready to transition into vacation mode. Giving guests all the information they need about check-in will reduce questions and delay in their vacation.

For the host, it saves a tremendous amount of time. In addition, the self-check-in process removes the need to be at the property exactly when the guest arrives, which can be helpful if the guest is coming in the middle of the night or if the host lives far away. You also can have complete control over your schedule because guests will no longer cause frustration from delays.

Allows you to accept last-minute bookings

If your rental is clean and ready to accept visitors, you can offer very last-minute rentals because you will not need to be there to welcome them physically. This will give you greater flexibility and can be a massive benefit, especially when recently guests seem to wait until the last moment to book a trip because of all the uncertainty.

Reduces guest stress and enhances their experience

Traveling can be stressful, especially if families come with young kids or have a long travel day. An effortless check-in process can be just what tired travelers need to end a long, busy day. Your guests will love checking in without talking to someone and just being able to kick off their shoes. They’ll love starting their vacation and feel at home right away.

The Airbnb self check-in gives guests all of the information three days ahead of time. That gives them the chance to ask you any questions long before they arrive at the front door in the middle of the night. By having all the information ahead of time, the process will be as smooth as can be.

It offers an exciting arrival process

There is a special moment that happens when guests walk through the front door of their vacation rental for the first time. They take in their surroundings, explore the area, point out the things they like (and ones they don’t), and begin to feel comfortable in their new space. When the host is there, this experience may not be as organic.

Demonstrates trust and privacy 

Sometimes, guests can feel that a host-led check-in is more of an interview or inspection process rather than a way to be welcomed into the home. However, the self check-in process demonstrates trust. It shows guests that you are confident that they will take care of your home and that they do not need your supervision or micromanagement.

You can meet health & safety goals

Automated check-ins allow you to either minimize or completely eliminate contact with guests. During COVID times, this is a big plus as it is often sought for.  

Gets the host closer to earning Airbnb’s Business Travel Ready badge

Along with having speedy Wi-Fi and laptop-friendly workspaces, you’ll need a self-check-in process if you are working towards the Airbnb Business Travel Ready badge. It helps hosts secure more bookings since the badge is a filter option that many business travelers use. Attracting these business travelers on a repeat basis can increase your earnings.

Financial opportunity

You will see more positive reviews when you improve your guest check-in experience with a self check-in process. More positive reviews will lead to more bookings which will lead to more money.

How to communicate your self-check-in instructions

Since you will not be at the property for a self-check-in, you will need to communicate the instructions for check-in ahead of time. Thankfully, Airbnb has a whole process set up for this convenience, and it is very easy to enable.

Set up self check-in

The Airbnb check-in process allows guests to prepare for their check-in before they even arrive. Once the reservation is booked (and if the host has turned on self-check-in), guests receive the instruction package three days before the check-in date. Airbnb handles the entire process in-app and makes it available offline for the guest. So even if they don’t have internet, they will have access to all the essential information they need to get in.

To add the Airbnb check-in process to your listing, simply follow these steps:

  1. Visit your listing at
  2. Click on “guest resources”, then “edit”
  3. Under “directions”, click “add self-check-in.”
  4. Select the method of self-check-in you use (‘Smart lock’, ‘Keypad’, ‘Lockbox’, or ‘Building staff’) 
  5. Provide all the necessary instructions.

Create a great message with instructions for your guests

Perfecting this is key in a self-check in listing. In the message, you should share detailed check-in information. This is likely your first opportunity to welcome your guest into your rental, so make sure you spend some extra time making this message excellent. In your message, be sure you include several important points:

  • State the address of your property so that guests know what to plug into their GPS.
  • Include a photo of your rental so guests know what they’re looking for from the street.
  • Be sure to give instructions for finding the key if you place it in a lockbox and include the code they should use to open the box.
  • Any access codes your guests will need for doors or gates.
  • Add any contact information and ways for the guests to reach you.

Of course, a digital guidebook like the one Hostfully offers is also a great way to do this.

Message template

To make your life easier, consider creating a message template that you can just plug information into each time you need to use it. Here’s a message template we’ve written for you that you can feel free to use:

Hello [guest name],
Welcome to your home away from home! I’m thrilled you’ve decided to stay at [property name], and I know you’ll love it here. Please remember that your check-in time is at [check-in time]. The property will be ready to go when you get there. Here’s what you’ll need to check-in:
Property name: [property name]
Address: [full address of property]
Lockbox passcode: [lockbox passcode]
We have a lockbox at [location], which you will find near [location]. Just enter the password I gave you above, and the top will open for you to collect the keys for the house.
Once inside, you may want to access Wi-fi. Our password is [Wi-fi password].
Please make sure you read through our house rules and house manual if you haven’t already. And if you have any questions about your booking, I encourage you to check out our digital guidebook. It will have everything you need to make your stay incredible. I’ve also recommended some of our favorite places around town!
Of course, if you ever have any questions, I am here for you. Please reach out through the Airbnb app if I can help make your stay more comfortable in any way.
Have a wonderful stay, and thank you for choosing [property name]!
[Your name]

8 tips for a smooth check-in

As we mentioned above, a smooth check-in process is the best way to make a first good impression. Here are the five tips you can quickly implement for a smooth check-in:

  1. When you activate the Airbnb check-in process, include photos for each step of the process. Each picture should be self-explanatory.
  2. Let your guests know that you can be reached easily during check-in time. Communication is vital, and this is where Property Management System (PMS) can come in handy. It manages communications in one app for all your property’s vacation rental platforms. A PMS will even help you automate emails to save time.
  3. Test your check-in process by having a friend follow your guide. Hosts know their properties intimately. You may find a critical step that impedes a smooth check-in that may not be obvious to you.
  4. Make sure you choose the best option for storing keys. A key safe is a box that will hold your physical keys to the building. It can be mounted on the wall by your door, and you should be able to install it yourself. Your guest will use a code to unlock the key safe to retrieve the keys to enter your rental. Unfortunately, key safes can be picked pretty quickly and they may not be the most secure option if you do not frequently change the code. A smart lock eliminates the need for keys entirely. For these, you will share the code with your guests, and they will use it instead of keys to open the door. Smart locks are also very easy to install on your front door. Smart locks also easily integrate with PMS systems like the one Hostfully offers, and you can even have an automated welcome message sent to the guest when they get in the property using a smart lock for the first time. How cool!
  5. Be proactive and regularly check that the lockbox is where it should be or that the smart door lock is not running low on batteries.
  6. If you have not received any updates from your guests, or you just want to ensure that everything was perfect with their stay, consider sending a follow-up message after their first evening. It could be very simple like this:Good morning [guest name],
    I’m just sending a quick message to make sure that you were able to check-in without any difficulty. I want to make sure you comfortably settled in and had a restful evening. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need anything at all.
    Enjoy your stay!
    [Your name]
  7. Provide a welcome basket or gift. This makes up for the lack of face-to-face communication in a self check-in and makes the guest feel at home and truly welcome. A handwritten letter adds the cherry on the cake.
  8. Perhaps the least obvious but most important tip: leave the outside lights on if your guests arrive at night! Not only does it make the experience more welcoming, but it also makes it easier for guests to open the lockbox combination and fiddle with the lock and key.

Final thoughts

Living through COVID, many guests would prefer to do a self check-in. However, there will always be people who prefer face-to-face interactions. Be sure you choose the best option for your rental and guests. No matter what you choose, remember to give your guests all the information they need to have a wonderful stay. At Hostfully, we have a Property Management System and Guidebook tools that makes the guest experience as best as it can be!