Deciding between booking a hotel or Airbnb is — for many of us — one of the hardest parts of planning a trip.
A travel journalist, who works for CNN, swears by hotels. Her reason is that unlike Airbnbs, hotels are reliable and you know exactly what you’re getting. But, on the other hand, Airbnbs offer their own set of perks such as better value for your money, and in some cases, having access to an entire apartment (or house) rather than just a hotel room.
To help you decide, we’ve put together a list of hotel vs. Airbnb pros and cons, what to take into consideration when it comes to choosing a hotel over an Airbnb, and the benefits and precautions to take when choosing an Airbnb instead of a hotel.
Reasons to Use Airbnb vs Hotel
Airbnb has changed the way that we travel, whether we like it or not. It has presented travelers with options that you may never otherwise get at a hotel. For many people, this has made travel much more affordable and accessible. But, if you’ve never stayed in an Airbnb or you’re wondering what the benefits of staying in an Airbnb vs. a hotel are, it’s helpful to weigh the pros and cons.
Pros of Airbnb vs. Hotel
Airbnb offers a more authentic and affordable travel experience
At a good Airbnb, you can stay in comfortable accommodation, sometimes at a fraction of what a hotel would cost in the same neighborhood. The price of an Airbnb is just one of a handful of reasons to use Airbnb. Though, it’s always helpful to compare the costs of an Airbnb against the cost of different accommodation options to make sure you’re actually getting a good deal.
Along with affordable prices, you might get so much more value for your money staying in an Airbnb over a hotel, especially if you’re looking for a unique cultural experience. Since many Airbnbs are owned or run by locals, you’ll often find decor and architecture that you won’t find in a hotel. Plus, you may even have personal interactions with your hosts, which probably wouldn’t happen at a hotel. Some Airbnb hosts may also offer personal recommendations within the city, and may even prepare a local breakfast for you!
Airbnb can be less lonely than a hotel
Hotels are certainly nice, but they aren’t very personal. The nice thing about many Airbnbs is that your host will usually want to make a great impression (thanks to the review system) and do their best to make sure you’re comfortable and happy.
Keep in mind, though, that if you’re renting an entire apartment or house on Airbnb, your interaction with the host will be minimal. And, of course, not all hosts have a great reputation, so be sure to read those reviews carefully, including checking for the most recent reviews.
Airbnb amenities are hard to find in a hotel
If you’re a traveler with certain needs, you may be able to better meet those needs by staying in an Airbnb instead of a hotel. For instance, if you have dietary restrictions, then having an Airbnb with a kitchen can help you stick to your routine or stay safe while traveling if you have allergies. Additionally, if you’d like to bring a pet, have a parking space, or stable and secure internet access with a desk space, you can filter for all that on the website.
Cons of Booking an Airbnb vs. Hotel
Airbnb is not as regulated as the hotel industry
Do a basic internet search and you will definitely find some Airbnb horror stories. Since almost anyone can sign up as a host, it makes it easy for people with bad intentions or crummy apartments to slip through the cracks. Hotels are far more regulated, and though they can have problems, they are usually dealt with quickly as hotels have to meet certain standards. To be safe, always read reviews beforehand and look out for the “Superhost” badge on Airbnb.
Airbnb’s check-in policy may be more complicated than at a hotel
Having to rely on your host to let you into your Airbnb can be a pain and usually requires some communication prior to your arrival. You will probably have to call your host when arriving to get your keys and access to the property. This can be difficult if you’re in a new country without a sim card or you’re not sure yet how to get around.
Therefore, always make a plan with your host before arriving. Have directions and the address saved as a screenshot as your phone. Or, look for an Airbnb hat has a self check-in option.
Lastly, Airbnbs may have late check-in times compared to hotels, which can be frustrating if you land in a new city and want to get to your room right away.
Airbnb’s cancellation policy isn’t as flexible
Unlike hotels, Airbnb’s cancellation policy is a little more strict than hotels and it can be harder to refute an issue if a problem arises. Usually, with hotels, you don’t pay until you arrive or even until you check-out. But, because Airbnb’s service fee, you’re almost guaranteed to lose some money on your stay even if you cancel in advance.
Airbnb has received criticism for ruining some local economies
A major downside of Airbnb is its impact on local economies. In cities with high tourism rates, Airbnb has actually raised the price of long-term rentals, making it difficult for locals to find affordable housing options. Because of this, many cities are starting to regulate the number of days people can rent their properties out on Airbnb, or they have banned Airbnb altogether. For example, Barcelona has strict regulations on Airbnb (though, there are still ways around it). If this is an issue that’s important to you, be sure to look up local laws regarding Airbnb in the destination you’ll be traveling to.
How to Search for an Airbnb, Find a Good Airbnb, and Book an Airbnb
So, maybe you’re ready to give Airbnb a shot. But, figuring out not only how to search for an Airbnb but find one that’s within your budget can be a little tricky. There are so many options for Airbnbs out there. And, if you’re set on booking an Airbnb over a hotel, you’ll want to make sure you’re going about it in the right way.
Step 1: Search for your destination
To search for an Airbnb, visit the website and type in the destination in the search bar. You can type the city, town, or even the country. Look at the drop-down menu and click the option that’s most relevant to you.
Step 2: Select “Stays”
Once you’ve picked your destination, you will see “Stays” “Experiences” and “Adventures” in boxes side-by-side. These are definitely worth checking out, but for now, click on “Stays”.
Step 3: Select dates, guests, and other filters
Next, you can plug in your dates and how many guests you’ll be traveling with. Then, adjust the additional filters based on what you’re looking for. In the menu up top, you can select the “Type of Place” (if you want a shared or private home), the “Price”, and whether or not you want “Instant Book” on Airbnb, which means you do not need to talk to the host before booking.
Then, you can choose other filters by clicking on the “More Filters” tab at the top of the page. Select the filters you want, but keep in mind that the more filters you choose, the harder it may be to find a place!
SUTip: You can also use the map feature to find an Airbnb in the area you want to stay in.
Step 4: Sort through stays, read reviews, and book an Airbnb!
If you’re wondering how to find a good Airbnb, well, it takes patience. You will likely have to sort through several stay options before making your choice. To start the search off right, consider filtering for “Superhost” which you can do under “More Filters.” You can also filter for Verified Places on Airbnb, like “Airbnb Plus” and “Airbnb Luxe.”
Next, select stays that are appealing to you by clicking on them. They will open in separate tabs so you can compare each option side-by-side. Check for what amenities are included, and look for other features like the cancellation policy, check-in time, and even whether or not there’s a carbon monoxide detector in the Airbnb. Most importantly, read the reviews thoroughly.
When you are comfortable with your choice, put in your dates and the amount of guests one more time. Then click “reserve”. You will be taken to the “Review House Rules” page followed by the “Who’s Coming?” page to confirm your details. Finally, you will reach the “Confirm and Pay” page where you can choose to “Contact Host” first or book right away (especially if it’s an Instant Book Airbnb). Some Airbnbs will also give you the option to pay in increments.
Once you’re Airbnb is confirmed, you’re good to go! Be sure to be in touch with your host before arrival in order to receive special instructions.
Reasons to Book a Hotel vs. Airbnb
Are you unfamiliar with Airbnb or have you tried it and had a bad experience? Then choosing a hotel over an Airbnb might be the best option. Sure, a hotel might be more expensive and less-authentic than an Airbnb. But, what you’re usually paying for is peace of mind which you might not always get with an Airbnb.
To understand the reasons to book a hotel vs. Airbnb, let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
Pros of a Hotel vs. Airbnb
Hotels usually have better customer service
One of the pros of a hotel vs. an Airbnb is that you can generally expect great customer service. This is usually because they’re highly regulated compared to Airbnbs. Hotels will usually do everything they can to ensure the booking process is as smooth as possible.
You know what to expect in hotels vs. Airbnbs
Using Airbnb can sometimes be a gamble and, while you may find gems, this won’t be the case for all Airbnb stays. If you’re jetlagged and don’t have the time or energy to deal with problems that may come up with Airbnb, then booking a hotel might be your best option. And, unlike Airbnbs, you can check hotel reviews across multiple websites, whereas with Airbnb, you can only check on their website.
Plus, with a hotel compared to an Airbnb, there’s often the added perks of having someone carry your luggage up to your room, bilingual receptionists, and reliable wifi. And, of course, “breakfast included” in some room reservation options is the best perk of all!
Hotels have accessible amenities, room service, and cleaning
Airbnb stays offer more of a home-like feel while hotels offer luxuries you won’t get at home. Often, if you’ve forgotten to pack any essentials like a toothbrush or hairdryer, the hotel will arrange to have one delivered to your room. Don’t feel like getting out of bed? Order room service. And, of course, it’s nice coming back to a clean room after a long day of traveling.
One of the things we love most about (most) hotels? ELEVATORS. Depending on what bag you’re bringing while traveling, a hotel may be much more physically accessible than an Airbnb (though, not always). This is also something that travelers with disabilities should consider.
Hotels have better refund and cancellation policies than Airbnb
If you’re not entirely set on a place yet, hotels usually offer more flexibility and transparency than Airbnbs do when it comes to cancellations. Sometimes, you can make a reservation for a hotel on a credit card and if you decide not to stay, you can get your money back. Even third-party booking websites, like booking.com offer more lenient cancellation policies, but it’s always best to read the fine-print before banking on this!
Cons of Booking a Hotel vs. Airbnb
Hotels are more expensive than Airbnbs
Since hotels profit off of hospitality, this is often reflected in the price. And, unlike Airbnb, there aren’t often discounts for longer stays.
A hotel compared to an Airbnb can feel impersonal
Hotels can, after a while, start to feel a little generic and even lonely. This is especially true for box hotels like the Marriott or Holiday Inn. Boutique hotels are becoming a trendier option which may feel like a good mix between a hotel and Airbnb. But, at the end of the day, the differences between Airbnbs and hotels are very apparent.
Hotels are not always comfortable
Although hotels may seem more comfortable than Airbnbs, there are always issues that can arise in a hotel, too. Ever go to a hotel and find stains on the sheets? Or, have you woken up in the middle of the night because the room is so dry? Sure, those black-out curtains are nice, but the noisy neighbors across the hall mean you may be interrupted in your sleep, anyway.
How to Search for a Hotel, Find a Good Hotel and Book a Hotel
Like Airbnbs, there are so many hotels to choose from today. This can make the experience of booking a hotel rather overwhelming. How can you search for a hotel that’s right for you, without overpaying or being caught off guard if the hotel doesn’t meet your expectations? And, how can you be sure that at the end of the day, a specific hotel is where you’ll want to rest your head at night?
Step 1: Check third-party hotel websites, first
To start your hotel search, visit some third-party websites like Orbitz, Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com, or Kayak. You can also check Google. To begin your search, type the name of the destination, select the dates and choose the number of guests. Then, filter your ideal price as well as any other filters that are available. If you’ve been given a recommendation for a good hotel, you can also search for it by typing the name and seeing what prices you get!
SUTip: If you’re a member of certain hotel rewards program, it may be worth looking at those options to earn points on your stay.
Step 2: Read reviews and check room availability options
Based on your search, you will see a list of hotel options come up that more closely meet your needs. Some websites give you the ability to take your search further by filtering the “star rating”, “price lowest to highest” or “price highest to lowest” options.
Once you find a few hotels (try to narrow it down to five) that look appealing to you, read the reviews thoroughly. No hotel is going to have perfect reviews, and what each person looks for in a hotel could be totally different from someone else. For example, if a person complains about the bed not being comfortable but they said that the bathroom was clean and tidy, this might be okay for you. It’s also worth it to look at reviews on other websites for the same hotel.
When you’re confident with your choice, check which room options are available. Some websites may have cheaper rooms, but that may because it’s only available for one person. Or, that room may have a free cancellation option while another room option is non-refundable. This is important to check carefully because you don’t want to end up in a room or with a reservation that you didn’t want.
Step 3: Cross-check on other hotel websites, including the hotel’s direct website
Before booking a hotel on one third-party website, cross-check that price across as many booking platforms as you can. If one website is a lot cheaper than another, be sure it’s not because the room type is different or because certain amenities won’t be included. Also, always consider booking directly through the hotel’s website instead of a third-party website.
The downside of booking directly through a hotel’s website is that they often have higher rates than third-party booking sites. But, the upside is that you usually won’t have to worry about any mistakes with your booking. Sometimes, the concierge is also more accommodating of guests who book this way.
Another advantage of booking directly through a hotel’s website is that you get a direct line of communication. This is useful if you have specific requests or questions (such as having certain dietary requirements).
Step 4: Check the reservation details and follow the hotel reservation instructions
Once you’ve decided which hotel you’re going to book and on what platform, double-check that you are reserving the room that you want. Click on it, and you’ll be taken to the website’s reservation page. Here, you will be asked to put in your details and sometimes a credit card to hold the room. Confirm that the dates and number of guests are accurate, as well as your name and any accompanying information.
Lastly, be sure to read up on the website’s cancellation policies before clicking “confirm.” Check that the reservation details have been sent to your email, and keep that information with you when traveling so that check-in goes smoothly!
SUTip: HotelTonight is a great option if you want to find last-minute deals!
The Strait Up Travel Choice
With all this information, you may still be asking yourself “What’s better: a hotel or Airbnb?” Unfortunately, there’s no right or wrong answer. It all depends on your preferences, how long you’re visiting a place, and what your budget is.
When it comes to our preference, we love using both. It just depends on the circumstances of the trip.
For shorter trips — when we know we’re probably going to be jetlagged and want something easy and convenient without the hassle — we tend to book hotels. If we’re spending more time in an area and know we’d like our own space (and a kitchen), as well as the experience of living like a local, we’ll book with Airbnb.
While we’ve had great experiences with both hotels and Airbnbs, we’ve also had bad experiences, too. It’s really up to you to decide between using Airbnb or a hotel. Whatever you choose to do, it’s a good idea to look at reviews, cancellation policies, and cross-check the prices before making a decision.
And, if you decide to book with Airbnb, use our referral link!
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