When it comes to finding accommodations for your next trip, many travelers must weigh the pros and cons of booking a hotel vs Airbnb apartment.
Both types of accommodations have their advantages and disadvantages that should be carefully considered before making a decision.
On one hand, hotels offer the convenience of on-site amenities and services, while alternatively, Airbnb rentals provide travelers the opportunity to live like a local.
This travel guide evaluates the pros and cons of booking a hotel vs Airbnb rental apartment to help you make an informed decision on which option is best for your next travel adventure.
What is the difference between an Airbnb and a hotel?
Airbnb is a booking website where you can rent apartments, condos, homes, and even a single bedroom in someone’s house, in some cases.
Although we used Airbnb exclusively for years to book apartments and vacation rentals for our trips, in recent years, we have switched to VRBO as our go-to booking platform.
Airbnb has come under heat in several cities like Venice, Italy and New York City for driving up the cost of rent for locals, making it unsustainable to live there.
Additionally, extra fees tacked onto the price by Airbnb hosts have increased the cost on the Airbnb platform making it less desirable of an option. But we’re already getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s first evaluate the pros and cons of booking an Airbnb vs hotel.
Hotel vs Airbnb | Which is Better?
When planning a vacation, one of the most important decisions to make is where to stay. A great accommodation can make for a great trip, while a bad accommodation can ruin an otherwise good vacation.
Whether you’re looking for convenience, amenities, or budget-friendly accommodations, there are both benefits and drawbacks of booking a hotel vs an apartment when traveling.
Top 5 Benefits to Booking a Hotel vs an Airbnb
- Generally Safer
- Consistent Quality / Luxury
- Convenience: Typically More Centrally Located + 24 Hour Service
- Amenities usually provided
- More socially responsible
Top 5 Benefits of Renting an Apartment or Airbnb vs a Hotel
- Feels More Authentic and Unique
- More Spacious
- Can be Less Expensive (Although Not Always)
- Provides the Comforts of Home
Closer Look at the Advantages of Booking Hotels vs Airbnbs when Traveling
Although there are definite benefits to staying in an apartment when traveling, there are times hotels are, hands down, the better option.
Hotels are best for:
- Short Stays
- Business Travelers
- Solo Travelers
- Small families (3 people)
Let’s weigh the top advantages to hotel stays.
Whether you are booking a boutique hotel or a large chain hotel, there is a certain level of assurance that you are booking a safe lodging option. In most hotels, you can expect a deadbolt or a chain lock on the entry door to your hotel room.
Additionally, 24-hour desk operations, and in many instances security staff add another layer of safety for guests.
In contrast, an Airbnb or vacation rental is a private home or apartment. There is typically no security staff, front desk, or extra lock on the door to ensure no one can enter other than the tenant.
Consistency / Luxury
When traveling solo or as a couple, hotels can be a relaxing and pampering experience. In many cases, you know the quality to expect.
Large hotel chains have a certain standard, albeit a bit sterile, that their hotel properties must uphold.
Additionally, many hotel chains order loyalty programs that make hotels more affordable and desirable for frequent travelers.
Some hotels also offer a continental breakfast, which can save money on dining out while also providing a consistent start to your day while traveling.
Another major factor when deciding between an apartment or hotel is location and convenience.
If you are looking to be close to tourist attractions, you can always find hotels within walking distance whereas apartments aren’t always as readily available. However, in most major cities, you can still find them fairly close to popular sites.
The check in process for a hotel is typically much easier than an apartment, as well. While some apartment owners will leave a key for you to let yourself in, others will not.
When staying in a vacation rental, you will likely have to call ahead to meet someone at the apartment to let you in, and walk you through the studio, go over any rules and features, and answer questions.
This can be tricky when traveling internationally if you do not have the ability to make calls without acquiring international roaming charges.
Additionally, in hotels you often have 24 hour customer service, housekeeping or cleaning services, and concierge assistance.
While this is standard practice in hotel chains, in Airbnbs and VRBOs amenities, even basic ones, aren’t always provided.
You may have to bring your own toiletries, like shampoo, conditioner, and soap, and will likely need to bring a travel crib for your baby, if one is not provided.
Luckily, you can find some fairly compact travel cribs that are great for babies and toddlers.
As mentioned earlier, Airbnb has come under fire in recent years as investors have bought up apartments and condos in popular cities and turned them into vacation rentals.
This limits the housing market for locals, ultimately driving up the cost to live there beyond what many locals can afford.
The hotel industry, on the other hand, is considered more socially responsible and does not affect the local housing in communities.
Hotels are zoned, approved, and intended for tourism, whereas private apartments and condos weren’t originally built to be vacation rentals, and take away housing options from locals.
Search hotels, read reviews, and find the best rates on Booking.com
Closer Look at the Advantages of Airbnb or Vacation Rentals when Traveling
Whether you book a vacation rental on Airbnb or VRBO, there are several key reasons you may prefer it over a hotel.
Who Airbnbs or Vacation Rentals are best for:
- Longer Stays
- Digital Nomads
- Large Families
- Multi-generational Trips
Here is a detailed look at the benefits to staying in a vacation rental or Airbnb vs hotel room.
Renting a local apartment vs a hotel often provides a more authentic experience. You see how locals live and get to live like one during your stay.
The accommodations are typically more unique compared to the more sterile atmosphere of a chain hotel.
Additionally, you get a better feel for a neighborhood and the community which can make you feel a deeper connection to or appreciation for a place you are visiting.
When deciding between an apartment or hotel, space is also a factor to consider. This is one of those benefits to renting an apartment vs hotel that I never thought about prior to parenthood.
My pre-kid mentality was that most of my time would be spent sightseeing, so even a cramped hotel room was plenty good enough. My post-kid mentality is a little different.
Anyone who has ever shared a single hotel room with a kid with a 7:30 p.m. bedtime will understand. An extra room is a must. For us, the extra space means we can stay up and enjoy the evening after our daughter goes to bed.
When we rent an apartment, we can actually sit and enjoy adult time in a living room, have a glass of wine and discuss all of the awesome things we did that day.
If you are someone who just likes having extra space when traveling, an apartment may provide that added area you desire.
While hotels may give you the luxury of meeting other travelers, they don’t offer the same level of privacy as a private home or apartment. When you rent an apartment, the noise level isn’t as much of a concern.
When staying in an apartment with a baby, you don’t have to worry as much about your jet lagged baby waking others up.
You don’t have to worry about them being too noisy. Your children can be their normal selves without being completely discourteous to others.
Cost / Price
Renting an apartment can actually be cheaper than a hotel, which will help you save money during your trip. This is especially the case if you are staying in a place longer than 3 days.
However, when renting a VRBO or Airbnb vs hotel, be sure to look at any additional fees. Often, hosts will tack on a substantial cleaning fee. Others might even add a service fee or fees for extra guests.
These hidden fees are not visible until after you click on the listing, so be sure to check for cleaning fees and other “junk fees” before you book.
Another cost savings comes in the benefit of having a kitchen. Unlike most hotels, vacation rentals have a kitchen, which means you can cook meals instead of dining out all the time.
Although hotels can offer a bit of luxury, apartments offer those traditional comforts that you would find in your own home.
A full kitchen to cook in, a washing machine and sometimes even a dryer to do laundry, a refrigerator to store food or keep breastmilk and formula fresh if you are traveling with some.
When considering whether to stay in an apartment or hotel, it’s good to take into account your child’s daily routine at home.
Chances are, just the feel of an apartment will make a child feel more relaxed and comfortable in a new environment, as well. That will lead to better sleep for everyone!
Search for apartments and vacation rentals, read reviews, and compare rates at VRBO.
Airbnb vs Hotel Frequently Asked Questions
While this guide lays out the advantages and disadvantages of booking a hotel vs Airbnb, naturally you may have a few questions that haven’t been addressed yet.
Is Airbnb more expensive?
Airbnb rentals have become more expensive in recent years due to added fees, like cleaning fees and service fees. But it is still possible to save money staying in an Airbnb vs hotel.
Where to rent apartments or vacation rentals?
Although Airbnb is a well known website for vacation rentals, most Airbnb properties are also listed on VRBO. In recent years, we have had a more positive experience with the VBRO platform when booking vacation rentals, and therefore recommend booking there instead.
Are hotels or Airbnbs cheaper?
The price of hotels and vacation rentals vary. However, it is very possible to save money by staying in an Airbnb or VRBO property. However, be sure to account for any additional fees that will factor into the final cost of the rental.
Conclusion AirBnB or Hotel: Which is best for you?
Nowadays, we stay in both hotel rooms and VRBOs about equally. But determining which is best for you depends on your individual travel style, the length and purpose of your visit, budget, and your destination.
When we were in our 20s, we would have never thought about renting an apartment when traveling. Hostels worked just fine. (Sometimes, hostels still work, even with kids.) Of course, this was before the days of booking websites like Aibnb and VRBO, so finding an apartment to rent took extra effort.
The apartment vs hotel debate really became more prevalent when we became parents. Things are different traveling with kids. While hotels typically have all the amenities needed for kids, there are definitely benefits to renting an apartment vs. a hotel when traveling.
If you are staying in one place for an extended amount of time you may want to consider renting a vacation home if traveling with kids. Having an entire vacation home will give you even more space and comfort than hotels or even smaller apartments can offer.
Have a question about staying at hotels vs Airbnbs that this guide didn’t answer? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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This Airbnb vs Hotel Pros and Cons Guide was first written in May 2017 but was most recently updated in April 2023 for accuracy and current information.