3 Best Airbnb Guidebook Alternatives: Create 5-Star Experiences

Aug 06 2019
Alternatives to the Airbnb guidebook

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


What’s in this article?

Providing a guidebook for your vacation rental guests is the best way to improve their experience and save yourself time and hassle as an Airbnb host.

The best Airbnb guidebooks help short-term rental hosts to: 

  • Save time and stress answering repetitive questions
  • Make more money with extra upsells
  • Please guests by offering helpful pre-arrival information and local recommendations
  • Tailor the guest experience by offering personal and tailored tips
  • Enable easier management of your property including smart lock check-in and codes
  • Earn more 5-star reviews

Airbnb offers a basic guidebook page, but it has serious limitations, including only working on Airbnb, and having limited scope for customization, adding extra information, or offering upsells.

So it makes sense to look for alternatives. We’ve covered Airbnb guidebooks’ benefits, their limitations, and three powerful alternative platforms that could work better for you and your business.

What are Airbnb guidebooks?

A preview of a typical Airbnb guidebook with listings on one side and map on the other
Airbnb offers a simple welcome book feature with local attractions and an interactive map.
Source: Airbnb.com

Features & benefits

Offering guest guidebooks has multiple benefits, both for you and your guests. These include:

  • Differentiating your listing and unique location by showing the uniqueness in your area
  • Reducing guest questions about local shops and amenities 
  • Keeping guests happy by recommending favorite restaurants, bars, and experiences
  • Orienting guests in the local area with links to sites online

Airbnb guidebooks have categories, such as Drinks & Nightlife, Food Scene, Essentials, and Others, so you can organize sites in a helpful way for guests. 


Despite their advantages, however, Airbnb guidebooks have a number of limitations.

No multimedia

The Airbnb Guidebook is simply a list of links to nearby locations. It also only includes stores and branded sites that appear on Google Maps.

In contrast to a digital guidebook platform like Hostfully, there’s no way of adding how-to guides for amenities such as your coffee machine or hot tub. Nor can you add images, videos, or extra notes. The only real customizable parts are the title and cover image.

This simplicity makes it easy to use but limited in creativity or extra usefulness.

No house rules or instructions

The Airbnb Guidebook only features local listings, with no place to add house rules or policies. This makes it a useful list of nearby recommendations, but there’s no way to remind guests of these extra instructions within the guidebook itself.

Including how-to guides for in-property gadgets or amenities, plus house rules, requires you to set up a separate feature (a separate page that guests have to look at separately).

In contrast, Hostfully lets you list house rules and how-to guides—including videos, links to manuals, and photos—in the same place, to make the guidebook even more useful and preempt common questions even further. 

This saves the guest the frustration of having unanswered queries, or amenities in the home that they can’t use. It also saves you from answering the same questions over and over.

Tied to Airbnb

If you move from Airbnb to other platforms (or your own direct booking website) you can’t take your guidebook with you. It lives on the Airbnb website and belongs to your Airbnb listings only. 

In contrast, using a separate digital guidebook platform means that you can share your guidebook with guests regardless of the website they book with. This makes it easier for them and saves you from having to manually make new guidebooks for each platform you list on.

Less easy to share with guests  

Airbnb guidebooks are tucked away on the confirmation page after booking. So they’re not easy for guests to find. They may not even see it unless they already know it’s there. 

In contrast, Hostfully’s guidebooks can be shared via automated message before their stay. They can also be opened from a browser on a smartphone. You can also share them via QR code, for example, next to the coffee machine, so guests can scan and get a how-to guide instantly.

No automatic upsells 

Airbnb guidebooks don’t feature upsells, so they won’t help you boost revenue. You can manually offer upsells and request payment from guests via the Airbnb app. However, this is not offered via the guidebook, nor is there a way to offer upsells automatically. 

In contrast, a platform like Hostfully lets you list your upsell opportunities as part of the guidebook and take payments automatically. You can offer upsells like early check-in or late check-out, mid-stay cleans, extra towels, luggage storage, sports equipment, local transportation, or day trips. 

Best Airbnb guidebook alternatives 

Using a dedicated guidebook platform as an alternative to Airbnb’s guidebook helps to overcome these limitations. It offers all of the benefits of a guidebook, with even more advantages.

Here are some of the best Airbnb guidebook alternatives.


A view of a Hostfully Guidebook with a list on one side, sections, and map on the other.
The Hostfully Guidebooks platform has sections for check-in, local attractions, and house rules.
Source: Hostfully.com

Hostfully Guidebooks is a deceptively simple mobile-first mini website. It’s packed with powerful features to make your guests’ stay–and property management–much easier and more streamlined. It has won major industry awards including at the VRMB Keystone Awards, and The Shortyz.

Features include:

  • In-property information like directions, check-in details, Wi-Fi code, and how-to guides
  • No app to download, sent via link, PDF, or QR code
  • Available via smartphone, making it easy to access, and portable
  • The Guidebook Wizard makes it easy to create and update content in minutes
  • Logo and colors customizable to your business
  • Embed multimedia including images, video, and interactive Google Maps
  • Include local recommendations and how-to guides for amenities or gadgets in your property
  • Boost revenue with upsells within the Guidebook, including early check-ins, mid-stay cleaning, airport transfers, or day trips
  • Easily printable if you want to give guests a physical copy
  • Automatic translation into 15+ languages, including English, French, and Arabic
  • Ability to request ratings and let guests leave positive reviews

A major bonus of Digital Guidebooks is that they’re also easy to integrate with the Hostfully property management platform, if you’re using it.  

Integrating with Hostfully’s property management system (PMS) gives you access to time-saving features beyond Airbnb, such as automated messaging, distribution channels, a centralized calendar, and direct booking options. It’s a powerful tool you can use when scaling your vacation rental business in the future.

Touch Stay

A view of three smartphones with different Touch Stay guidebook screens.
Touch Stay has digital welcome books with interactive maps and information on each property.
Source: TouchStay.com

Touch Stay offers digital welcome books and makes it easy to share information via links. It’s a solid platform that has also won awards at the VRMB Keystone Awards and The Shortyz.

Its features include:

  • In-property information like directions, access, check-in and check-out instructions
  • Interactive maps with local recommendations via Google Places
  • Logo and colors customized to your brand
  • Works offline (with Progressive Web App technology)
  • Built-in printing option
  • Available in several languages via multi-language option or Google Translate

Touch Stay has email and SMS scheduling for reminders and links. This makes it an easy-to-use option if you are looking for a straightforward, guidebook-only platform. 


A view of RueBaRue’s guidebook page.
RueBaRue offers a simple digital guidebook with a range of different sections.
Source: RueBaRue.com

RueBaRue specializes in digital guestbooks, alongside automated text messaging. It’s scalable and optimized for all devices. 

Features include:

  • Information like arrival times, door codes, house rules, parking information, and Wi-Fi passwords
  • Area guide and local recommendations
  • Share guestbooks via email or text, and QR code

Alongside its Digital Guestbook product, RueBaRue also offers a text messaging option. This includes automated text messaging and smart lock access (and automatic code generation for new guests) to reduce the time you spend on manual messaging and coordination. It also offers extra revenue boosts in the form of extended stays as upsells.

DIY guidebook alternatives

If you choose not to go for a specialized guidebook platform, you could try some of these more DIY options. Just like Airbnb, though, they do have their limitations. However, these may also work as short-term alternatives to your Airbnb guidebook while you consider which dedicated platform is best for you. 

Text document or PDF 

A text document or PDF page is a simple way to present guests with all the information they may need before check-in, including directions, Wi-Fi code, and local recommendations. You can send it via link or text if it’s uploaded somewhere (such as an online drive).

However, it may be more complicated to adjust if something changes (especially if it’s a PDF that needs changing manually). It may also be more difficult to offer dynamic upsells and take payments. Similarly, it is more complex to embed multimedia like videos and maps or translate to multiple languages.

Website page

This is similar to a text document or PDF, except it lives online. This offers some of the functionality of a digital guidebook, such as easy updating, sharing via a link or QR code, and video or GIF embedding.

However, it requires you to build and maintain a website and pay for hosting. You also need to do everything manually, including embedding videos, photos, an interactive map or including contact details and other links. This can be time-consuming compared to using a dedicated platform that pulls imagery, information, and links and handles formatting automatically.

Video guide

A video guide may work for you if you particularly enjoy talking to the camera rather than writing, or if you want to build rapport with guests quickly. You can share all the important details in a friendly way.

However, this may be more difficult to make a good quality version, as you may need a script, good lighting, and editing. It could also be tougher to share and access as video typically needs more data or higher bandwidth to play. It may also be challenging to offer subtitles for multiple languages, and much more complicated to update.

Physical guidebooks 

Old school physical guidebooks can take the form of paper booklets or printed PDFs. You could even leave guests published books and information on the local area. These are easy to understand and offer a good impression when guests arrive at the property.    

The problem with physical books is that they’re easy to lose or steal, or damage (such as with water spills or coffee). They also need to be updated manually if something changes. This could be challenging if you’re managing your properties remotely, or have many booklets to update. 

In addition, you can’t share physical books in advance to offer guests important information before they arrive. Nor can you carry them on a smartphone, share via QR code, or embed videos or maps. Physical guidebooks are also difficult to scale and manage if your business is scaling.

Electronic photo frames or tablets

Installing electronic photo frames or tablets in your Airbnb property is an innovative way to present information to your guests. You can set it up to show digital versions of images or documents. You can change or update the images remotely, or tailor them to guests (for example, showing child-friendly attractions to families). 

However, these photo frames and tablets are only available once the guests have checked in, and can’t be shared beforehand. There’s also a risk of them breaking or being stolen. And while some are interactive, they may not be “clickable” in the same way as a smartphone map or digital guidebook.  

Hostfully vs Airbnb: Guidebook examples 

Both Airbnb and Hostfully create guidebooks that present a digital page to the guest. However, they look quite different and don’t have all the same features.

Graphic showing preview of Airbnb guidebook and Hostfully guidebook and comparison of major features.

What can you do?  Airbnb Hostfully
Share local bars, restaurants, and recommendations
Pre-empt guest questions and save time on manual messaging
Share useful local sites like pharmacies and grocery stores
Digital, easy to update remotely
Available for multiple properties
Interactive map locations for local sites
Available outside of Airbnb for other platforms or direct bookings X
Share pre-check-in guest information, including check-in details, Wi-Fi code, parking, transportation details in the guidebook itself X
Share upsell offers within the guidebook with no manual work X
Online payments able to be taken with no manual work X
Share house rules within the guidebook X
Embed videos and GIFs X
Share discount codes and vouchers within the guidebook X
Ask for a review and send a link to where the guest can leave it X
Option to integrate with Hostfully PMS for even more features X

Airbnb guidebook alternatives: create an excellent guest experience  

Providing a guidebook for your Airbnb guests saves you time, increases revenue, and gives guests a better experience. 

But Airbnb’s in-built guidebook feature has serious limitations. For example, you can’t upload multimedia, share house rules, or offer upsells. It also lives on the Airbnb site and can be hard for guests to locate there. 

Some great Airbnb guidebook alternatives include Hostfully, Touch Stay, and RueBaRue. These go beyond Airbnb to offer more functionality for a better guest experience. For example, Hostfully’s browser-based Digital Guidebook can be easily shared with your guests pre-check-in no matter which platforms or websites you list on. It also supports videos, photos, and GIFs, and lets you include local recommendations, property details, check-in info, and how-to guides. Not to mention create revenue-generation opportunities with upsells. 

All of which makes for happier guests and a more successful business.

Learn how Hostfully Guidebooks reduce your workload and skyrocket the guest experience.


Frequently asked questions about Airbnb guidebook alternatives

What should be in an Airbnb guidebook?

An Airbnb guidebook should make it easy for guests to find local attractions, bars, coffee shops, and restaurants, and essentials such as pharmacies or grocery stores. It can include your local and personal recommendations and a photo for each site. It can show guests what’s around your location and what’s unique about your property’s area. 

However, Airbnb guidebooks are limited in what they can show, and don’t have separate sections for how-to guides, check-in details, or Wi-Fi codes. A dedicated guidebook platform like Hostfully offers those features.

How do I make a guidebook on Airbnb?

You can create a guidebook on Airbnb via your host login area. Your guidebook is linked to your host account, not the individual listings. You can create multiple guidebooks if you have properties in different areas. You can select sites for recommendations, such as restaurants and bars, as well as useful suggestions for grocery stores or pharmacies. The guidebook acts as a list of useful places and links. 

How many hours a week should I manage Airbnb?

Airbnb can take as many hours as you like, but it requires you to at least cover the basics, such as communicating with guests and coordinating check-in and check-out. You can do this yourself, which will take much longer, or outsource it. You might take 5-10 hours per week per property if you include manual typing, cleaning, and review coordination. But it could take many more hours.

It’s much easier and takes less time if you use technology to automate as much as you can. For example, a digital guidebook can reduce the time you spend answering common guest questions by providing useful information. Some, like Hostfully Guidebooks, also integrate with property management systems (PMSs) like Hostfully, which offer even more time-saving automations.