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Hotel vs. Airbnb: Which Is Best For Your Next Vacation?

By Daniel Bortz
December 3, 2019
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Igor Stevanovic | Dreamstime.com
Answer these questions to determine what lodging option is right for you.

The battle between hotels and Airbnbs has been waging since the peer-to-peer vacation rental company launched in 2008 – spurring a great debate between these two types of accommodations.

Deciding where to stay on your next trip, though, depends on what’s most important to you, since both lodging options have their share of pros and cons.

Need help determining whether a hotel or Airbnb is right for your next vacation? Ask yourself these questions.

How much space do I need?

One factor to consider is how many people you’re traveling with. A family of six could conceivably share a hotel room, but it would be a tight squeeze – and cramped quarters can put a damper on your vacation. (Teenagers want their space!) A large home through Airbnb would give your group more room to spread out.

Do I want to meet other travelers?

If you’re looking to strike up conversation with fellow travelers, hotels offer a number of shared spaces, such as the hotel bar, restaurant, or gym, where guests can mingle and meet people. Some Airbnb properties provide guests opportunities to socialize with other people through shared rooms or common spaces, but many of them don’t.

Do I want to live like a local?

Some travelers relish being able to experience a city like a local, which makes them preferential to Airbnbs. Moreover, many Airbnb owners give guests insider tips, such as their favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants, watering holes, and hidden gems throughout the city. Some hosts will even meet you when you arrive and give you a tour of their city.

What services am I looking for?

Airbnbs don’t provide the same hospitality services that traditional hotels do, such as valet parking, bellhop, housekeeping, security, free breakfast, room service, and 24/7 concierge. Therefore, you need to assess how important these services are to you; if you don’t mind making your own bed, for example, an Airbnb may meet your needs.

Which is the cheaper option at my destination?

Want a budget friendly accommodation? Many travelers presume that hotels are more expensive than Airbnbs, but lodging prices vary depending on the city, a recent analysis of Airbnb and hotel rates by Money.com found. For example, in Charleston, NC, the average hotel rate per night was $180, while the average Airbnb nightly rate was only $112. But in Augusta, GA, the average Airbnb rate of $350.25 was more than triple the average hotel rate of $107. Those findings echo a busbud.com study of hotel and Airbnb rates in popular cities. The takeaway? It pays to research hotel and Airbnb prices at your destination before making a reservation.

Another thing to consider: Airbnb hosts may be willing to negotiate their rate, depending on factors like demand and how many nights you’re staying. (A longer rental could help you nab a deal.)

Do I need a washer/dryer?

More than half (53%) of travelers surveyed by Clever Real Estate said they prefer Airbnbs because of household amenities. So, if you’re taking a long vacation where you’ll need to clean your clothes, staying at an Airbnb that has a washer and dryer offers convenience – and it can save you a ton of money, considering hotels charge top dollar for laundry services.

Do I want to cook my own meals?

Similarly, if you’re planning to cook while you’re on vacation, you’ll need a home with a kitchen where you can prepare meals. And though some hotels offer suites with kitchens, these hotel rooms are often pricey.

Do I have privacy concerns?

In the Clever Real Estate survey, 58% of travelers said they were concerned about hidden cameras when staying at an Airbnb – and 7% said they've stayed in an Airbnb where they discovered a hidden camera. (Eek!) Hotels, meanwhile, are held to security standards that prevent them from putting cameras in hotel rooms, giving guests peace of mind that they’re not being watched.

Am I comfortable staying in someone else’s home?

Many Airbnb hosts leave behind personal items, like family photos or religious keepsakes, that make some guests feel like they’re intruding. Meanwhile, hotel rooms are depersonalized and de-cluttered.

Do I want a guaranteed reservation?

In many cases, Airbnb hosts can cancel reservations with little or short notice to guests. If that happens, you could be left scrambling to find a place to stay. This is an area where hotels have a competitive advantage, since hotel reservations cannot be canceled unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as a natural disaster that renders the hotel uninhabitable.

Do I like to stay at the same hotel chain?

If you’re a frequent traveler, you may be able to earn nice perks, such as complimentary room upgrades or even free nights, through a hotel’s loyalty program. (Despite rumors of an alleged “Superguest” program, Airbnb has not rolled out a loyalty program for travelers.)

The verdict

Deciding between a hotel and an Airbnb is a big decision – one that hinges on a variety of factors. Some travelers prefer to be pampered by a luxury hotel, while other travelers could not care less about having 800-thread-count bed sheets or turndown service. By answering these questions honestly, you’ll be able to determine the best lodging option for your needs.

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