From calling ahead to the chef at a restaurant to packing special cleaning supplies, it can take a lot of planning to make a trip safe for those who suffer from allergies. The rise in short-term, in-home rentals, such as those available through Airbnb, creates an added complication for travelers with allergies to certain foods, cleaning products, bedding, or mold.
There’s only so much you can learn about your rental in advance (the renters, in fact, might end up knowing more about you), and anyway, reactions can happen, even with meticulous planning and well-meaning hosts. So, what recourse do travelers have if an allergic reaction prevents them from staying in their pre-booked and pre-paid Airbnb (or Homeaway, VRBO, etc)? In most instances, the host’s posted cancellation policy—to which you’ve agreed by making the reservation—will apply.
However, it pays to read the fine print. An allergic reaction could fall under a corporate extenuating circumstances policy; Airbnb’s, for instance, allows for a refund in the event of “unexpected death or serious illness of a host, guest or immediate family member.” Based on its severity, an allergic reaction could qualify as a serious illness. Under the policy, the guest must file a claim with Airbnb directly to receive a refund.
While this is specifically Airbnb’s policy, allergy-prone travelers should review all cancellation policies, procedures, and corporate relief programs before booking a stay, regardless of provider.
Know before you go
While a corporate refund policy might help in the wake of an allergic reaction, the best defense is a good offense, particularly when health and safety are involved. Therefore, savvy travelers will look for hotels that have partnered with PURE or similar companies to create allergy-free environments in designated hotel rooms. These rooms are equipped with specialized air purification systems and hypo-allergenic bedding, and they undergo deep cleaning and treatment processes.
Odds are a homeowner’s extra room listed on Airbnb won’t offer nearly the same level of allergy protection. It pays to contact the host ahead of time to ask about bedding, pets, and how often and how extensively the rental, including any kitchen facilities, is cleaned.
Being up front and asking tough questions (and maybe skipping the single-room option and going with a whole-home rental instead) is just smart and strategic travel planning for someone with allergies.