Airbnb vs Hotel: How to Pick the Best Accommodation
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One of the most important parts of planning any kind of trip, whether it be for work or for fun, is finding the best place to stay. Accommodation will really make or break any travel plans, as this is essentially your “home” during your trip.
Two of the most popular accommodation types are currently hotels and Airbnbs. So how do you know which to choose for your trip? There are several options to weigh when making this decision.
What amenities do you need? Are you going to need parking at your accommodation? Is location very important to you? There are many factors to consider when you’re looking for a place to stay on your travels, often making this a very stressful part of planning.
But it doesn’t need to be! With a plethora of hotel chains, boutique hotels, and now Airbnbs, finding the best place to stay can be narrowed down by starting with what type of accommodation you would like. Enter the duel: Airbnb vs hotel. Dun dun duuuun.
With so many options on the market, the choices seem nearly endless. But I have some helpful insider tips to help you book your stay. Let’s dive into the differences between these two accommodation types, the pros and cons, and find out which one will better suit your travel style.
Airbnb Vs Hotel
When it comes down to deciding between an Airbnb vs hotel, the first thing you should think about is the amenities you will need during your trip. These might be essential to you, such as onsite parking, or something you would just prefer to have but can do without, like a full kitchen.
Oftentimes you can save money by booking an Airbnb rather than a hotel. But you’ll probably be forfeiting location or size. While Airbnbs can be cheaper, you might be further from downtown for example, or you’ll be renting just a room rather than an entire condo or house.
You can always find several hotels in any city center. Say you’re planning a trip to Dallas, you’ll be able to find multiple chain hotels and even boutique hotels right downtown close to many popular attractions.
But this more often than not comes with a heftier price tag. For the convenience of a great location, you might want to pay a little more for a hotel downtown. This probably also means you’ll be able to save money on transportation and walk to many places.
It really comes down to personal taste when deciding between a hotel vs Airbnb. But there are several things to consider that will help you make that decision. So let’s get to the important stuff.
Renting an Airbnb is a popular decision, but is it right for you? If you’re looking for specific amenities such as a kitchen, laundry facilities, or a quiet neighborhood Airbnb is a great choice. With so many different kinds of homes to choose from, there is bound to be a place that checks off your requirements.
Another important thing to remember about Airbnb is that most of the time you will be renting from an actual person, the host of the place. Sometimes they live on site, or in the same town, and you might run into them. Or they might be on the other side of the country and you’ll never meet them.
What is an Airbnb?
For starters, let’s clarify. If you’re new to traveling, or maybe you’re a hardcore points collector for one hotel chain, it might be confusing to see the term “Airbnb” so commonly used. So what is an Airbnb? This magical accommodation floats on clouds in every city in the world, unicorns are…No, no no, not that one.
An Airbnb is a privately owned and furnished, rentable living space. This can range from an entire house to an apartment or condo, to a private room in someone’s home, to a treehouse, a houseboat, or a yurt. The options of an Airbnb are endless, and the nice part about being in someone’s private living space is they’re so much more “homey” than a hotel room.
And I think that’s part of the fun! Most Airbnbs are owned and hosted by one person, typically the owner of the house. This might be an extra dwelling they purchased specifically to rent out, or maybe they rent their own home when they’re out of town.
However, sometimes Airbnbs are hosted by a company. This has recently become more common so people can rent their homes on Airbnb but not worry about the logistics themselves. Instead, they will hire a company to deal with the hosting and cleaning of it.
You can always find out who hosts an Airbnb as their profile will have a name and photo. Hosts also have a profile with a little bio about themselves and a rating. The rating is based on how guests have rated their stays.
As an Airbnb guest, the person who rents the Airbnb, you will also have a profile so hosts can know a little more about you. You will also get reviews as a guest when you stay in places so future hosts can see what kind of guest you are. So be polite and clean, or you might not be able to book an Airbnb again.
Important note about Airbnbs, you are responsible for cleaning them to the degree that the host wishes. This usually consists of taking out the trash, making sure any dishes are clean or at least in the dishwasher, and sometimes stripping the sheets off the bed. However, you can stay with a host who expects you to do nothing but take your stuff at the end of your stay.
Whatever the cleaning rules are, just remember you are staying in someone's private space, so treat it with respect.
This can be a pro and a con depending on how you view it. There have been multiple times where I’ve run into the host and they’re very friendly and even helpful with local suggestions, as well as times when I’ve never heard from the host during the stay.
You might want more privacy and not want to stay on the same property as your host, or you might want to see a friendly face while in a new place who can give you some local pointers.
Airbnb has a filter you can apply when looking for homes called “entire place.” This means you want to rent an entire condo, house, apartment, etc. However, some listings, while they are the “entire place” are still in the host's home. For example, I’ve stayed at an “apartment” that was the entire basement unit of the host’s house.
If this is the case, they are supposed to have their own private entrance to give you more privacy. This didn’t bother me as the host never invaded our space. However, this might be a big con for you, so my tip here is to always read the Airbnb descriptions! They will describe what the place is like so you can know before you book it.
And if the description doesn't do a good job of telling you what to expect, that seems shady and is probably a good reason to skip to the next available stay.
Is Airbnb cheaper than hotels?
If you’re savvy at looking for great Airbnbs, you can often find a deal, but it usually takes quite a bit of time and you need to know what to look for. What is the rating? Are there mixed reviews? Do the pictures show you the entire space? Are there any weird details in the description?
It’s relatively common to be able to save money on an Airbnb if you’re willing to forfeit a little extra space and possibly the most convenient location. While this is not always the case, it happens in very popular destinations like Chicago in the summer or Salem during Halloween.
The best deals go quickly so always book well in advance if you can, especially if you're traveling to a popular destination. But sometimes you may not necessarily need the most convenient location. If you’re traveling to a big city, you might prefer staying in a quieter suburb or quieter neighborhood.
Take Chicago for example, while staying downtown is really fun, you can save a lot of money by staying in a northern neighborhood and catching the train downtown. This also allows you to explore an area you might not have explored if you weren’t staying in it. And honestly, taking the train in Chicago is its own fun adventure.
You can browse Airbnb by looking at the “total price” rather than the nightly price, but remember there will always be cleaning fees and taxes on top of this price. Airbnb has recently gotten a lot of hate about how high these extra fees can be, but they are determined by the host. Always double-check the full price before booking, and thankfully you can still find stays that have reasonable fees.
If you know when and where you’re traveling months in advance, book your stay ahead of time! If you’re able to book an Airbnb well in advance, I recommend doing so as there will be more options and often cheaper rates.
If you are traveling with a larger group, of more than four people, staying in a shared Airbnb will most likely be the cheapest option. While bigger homes will cost more, you can split the cost between all the guests and save money this way. If you’re all booking separate hotel rooms, the price will add up quickly. This makes Airbnb the best option for groups traveling together.
If you’re a solo traveler or a couple and you’re open to meeting new people, save money by booking a private room in someone’s home! This is always cheaper and generally, the hosts are friendly and want to help their guests enjoy their stay.
Overall, Airbnb isn’t cheaper than a hotel. There are luxury Airbnbs that cost more than some hotels, but there are also Airbnbs that cost less than most hotels. However, it’s easier to find a cheaper Airbnb that is still of nice quality, rather than staying at the cheapest hotel with horrible quality.
How long can you stay in an Airbnb?
Each host is allowed to set the minimum and maximum number of nights you can stay at their Airbnb. For example, you might have to stay at least three nights, or maybe no more than five. It can vary greatly, but generally, the minimum is two nights and the maximum is longer than a month.
This makes Airbnb a great option for long-term stays. Many people often book an Airbnb for a month or even longer. When you’re setting your check-in and check-out dates, Airbnb will automatically filter the options to those that allow long-term stays.
If you need to stay somewhere for a week or longer, I highly recommend booking an Airbnb. You can save money by finding one that equals your monthly rent, by cooking your own meals if it has a kitchen, and by paying less nightly.
You will often see that the nightly price of an Airbnb will decrease if you’re staying for a week, and decrease more if you’re staying for a month. So if you’re staying somewhere long term, like a month, an Airbnb is cheaper than a hotel, especially for the amenities you can get.
Often cheaper than a hotel:
Save money on an Airbnb by booking in advance, splitting with a group, renting a room, or staying a little bit further out of the city center.
Amenities like a kitchen are easy to get:
Most "entire home" Airbnbs, those that are the entire condo, house, etc. rather than just a room, often have great amenities. This might be a full kitchen, laundry room, onsite parking, and sometimes even cooking basics.
Feels like a home away from home:
You accommodation is essentially your "home" when traveling. It's easy to feel relaxed in an Airbnb when it's a house, apartment, or someone's home.
Long-term stays are common:
Airbnb is the best option for long-term stays. With many places specifically designed with this in mind, they're cheaper than hotels for long-term stays and have better amenities for longer stays.
Space might be limited:
You might have to forfeit some space to save money on an Airbnb. Rather than renting an entire house, you can find much cheaper stays that are just private rooms in someone's home.
Privacy can be hit or miss:
Because Airbnbs are privately owned, you might be staying on the same property as the host, even if it is the "entire place" you're renting. Read the description to see specifics.
Cleaning might be your responsibility:
There are usually some cleaning rules that apply when renting an Airbnb. These vary from host to host, but you're staying in someone's home; you can't leave a mess like some people do in hotel rooms (not that that's polite either).
Rarely hosts will cancel last minute:
I've heard one horror story of a host canceling someone's stay the day before they were meant to arrive. This meant those guests were left scrambling to find accommodation. This is very rare, but hosts do make the final call.
The convenience of hotels is often what draws guests to book a stay. This might be due to its proximity to the airport, the shuttle service it offers, included breakfast, room service, or room cleaning.
Usually, these services and amenities are only available at more expensive hotels, so you are essentially paying more for them. However, you might prefer paying for the convenience, especially if your stay is only a few days.
Or you can try to save money on hotels by sticking to one chain, like IHG or Marriott, for example. Some hotel chains have a great rewards system which can then be claimed for free future stays. This costs more upfront as you’ll generally be paying full price for your stays until you have enough points to cover a stay.
However, this can be a great choice in the long run. If you’re loyal to one or two hotel groups, you can end up acquiring a lot of points which means many free hotel nights in the future. Another option is to stick to one booking platform. Many of these also have their own rewards systems like points towards a booking.
Using a booking platform to gain points and save money on hotels might not give you as many points as say using IHG’s rewards system, but you can usually book other things on a general booking platform as well, like flights or rental cars, which will also give you points.
Some of the best booking platforms to gain rewards and in turn save money on hotels, flights, and rental cars are:
How long can you stay in a hotel?
Just like Airbnb, individual hotels or hotel groups can choose the maximum number of days you’re allowed to stay. Generally, you can keep staying as long as you are paying, but some hotels will only allow you to stay a certain number of days.
Some hotel groups, like Marriott, have specific hotels in their group that are designed for long-term stays. These are often designed more like studio apartments and sometimes even have kitchens. The downside to staying in a hotel long-term is the cost.
It is much more expensive to stay in a hotel long-term than it is in an Airbnb. This doesn’t mean you can’t find expensive long-term Airbnbs, there are plenty. But with more options better suited for long-term stays, you can often find a reasonable monthly rate on Airbnb vs hotel rates which are generally higher per night.
The Convenience of location:
There are always a few hotel options in a city center or right next to an airport. If you don't want to rent a car for your trip, for example, it would be easier to stay in the city center and be within walking distance of many places, or a quick train ride away.
Rewards systems for hotel groups:
Many hotel groups have a rewards system that allows you to earn points for your stays at their hotels. This will allow you to claim those points for free nights in the future. These vary from hotel to hotel, but they're great to utilize if you find yourself staying at hotels.
Another great option is to utilize a general booking platform to earn points, such as Booking.com.
No cleaning needed:
Hotels generally have cleaning staff that will clean your room during and after your stay. You don't have to worry about taking out the trash or stripping the bed sheets.
Generally more expensive:
Nice quality hotels are often more expensive than Airbnbs. If you want the convenience of an airport shuttle, included breakfast, or room cleaning, you'll pay for it with a bigger total price.
Fewer amenities, often at an added cost:
As mentioned above, when hotels have nicer amenities, it usually hikes up your total cost. Maybe you want the convenience of room service. This will definitely cost you more than cooking a meal in your Airbnb kitchen.
Recap: Hotel vs Airbnb
While it really comes down to personal choice when picking between an Airbnb vs hotel, the pros and cons of each will help you decide what is right for you and your trip. You can easily find Airbnbs that have full kitchens, laundry facilities, onsite parking, etc. But hotels are often the most convenient if you want to stay downtown or near an airport.
You can find cheaper Airbnbs if you’re not too picky about size, or you can start racking up hotel points to book free stays in the future. Maybe you want to meet your host and talk to them about local restaurants, or maybe you want full privacy once you’ve checked into your hotel room.
The best option for long-term stays is Airbnb as you can get an entire home to yourself for cheaper. Hotels are convenient for shorter-term stays if you need an airport shuttle, included breakfast, or a location within walking distance of many sites and attractions.
Personally, I love staying in Airbnbs as they are all unique and it feels like I’m a local living in the city I’m traveling to. After staying for multiple month-long stays in Airbnbs, I highly recommend them. But I’ve also come to love the convenience of a downtown hotel in say Las Vegas or New York City.
Whichever you choose when it comes to planning a trip, Airbnb vs hotel, always read the description, and find out what the total cost is with all taxes and fees included. If you need a certain amenity like parking, double-check that it is included in your stay no matter what type of accommodation you choose.
Picking the right accommodation for any trip is one of the most important parts. You want to make sure you are comfortable, in a nice area, but not spending all of your budget on this portion of your trip. I hope these pros and cons help you decide between Airbnb vs hotel, the two biggest competitors in the travel accommodation world!
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