Accommodation might not be everything, but it can make a big difference in how well a vacation or road trip goes. Gone are the days when it was a simple toss-up between a hotel or a B&B – since Airbnb joined the club, our options have increased tenfold. But which, when push comes to shove, is best? Who wins in the war of Airbnb vs. hotel? Are we better off sticking to the tried and tested route of hotels, or is there something to be gained from going the Airbnb direction? Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer. For some, the traditional luxury of the hotel is always going to win out. For those who couldn’t give a hoot about turndown service and onsite spas, Airbnb might well come up trumps. If you’re planning your next vacation and can’t decide between Airbnb and a hotel, here, we help you weigh up the pros and cons of each.
The Case for Hotels
You don’t need an explanation of a hotel to know how one works. Unless you’ve never left your hometown, there’s every chance you’ve stayed in at least a few over your lifetime. Different hotels offer varying levels of service, not to mention a very different set of facilities, but as a general rule, we all know that if we choose to stay in a hotel, there are a few basics we can expect… and all those basics add up to one thing: relaxation.
The point of a hotel is that for however long you can call yourself it’s guest, you don’t have to worry about doing much more besides flushing your own lavatory (and in some places, you might not even have to go that far). Towels are replaced without you having to ask, your bed makes itself, one phone call and there’s a three-course dinner waiting on a tray at your doorstep… if there’s something that needs to be done, a hotel is where you don’t need to feel guilty about getting someone else to do it for you.
And then there’s the safety issue. If you’re traveling alone or to a part of the world where safe streets aren’t really a ‘thing’, having the security of a 24-hour reception desk staffed by people who speak a range of languages, at least one of which you’re likely to have in common, is going to be a huge comfort.
Price is also something to bear in mind. While most people think that Airbnb is bargain city, the reality is that hotels can often be the cheaper of the two, particularly if you’re a club member or get travel points on your credit card. As whereverwriter.com writes, you’re also far more likely to get a discounted rate if you’re a business traveler staying at a hotel where a conference is being held than if you go the Airbnb route – a big plus is you’re traveling up and down the country frequently with work.
Obviously, we couldn’t present the case for hotels without touching on the luxury. As CNN comments, living like a local is all well and good in theory, but in practice, it usually means trudging up 7 flights of stairs after the elevator breaks (again), dealing with suspicious smells coming from the garbage disposal, and having to navigate the ever-changing politics of the laundry room. In a hotel, you can drop the pretense of actually enjoying any of this stuff. Your laundry is done for you, there’s a jacuzzi to relax in, an infinity pool to float in, bars to lounge in, and a legion of staff ready and waiting to serve. Whatever you get at an Airbnb, it’s not going to be that.
The Case for Airbnb
When Airbnb first started, it was barely more than a slightly upgraded form of couch-serving. Willing hosts offered up a bed, a bathroom, and the opportunity to experience life through the eyes of a local, and willing travelers with a taste for adventure and an eye for economy lapped it up. The vacation rental environment has changed somewhat since, and you’re now just as likely to find a sumptuous, balconied, chandeliered, Persian rug strewn apartment as you are a put-up bed in the corner of a mothballed studio. Quality does vary, but then so does it with hotels… after all, for every luxury 5-star resort, there’s a dodgy motel with blinking lights and nicotine-stained ceilings. If you put in the research, you won’t have much difficulty in finding an Airbnb rental that offers preciously the level of comfort you want.
Of course, you’re not going to have a team of staff waiting to cater to your every demand. But what you will have instead is a host that’s more than happy to fill you in on where to get the best coffee in town, the best place for ice-cream, the perfect bar for a mojito, what to do, what to see, and what to avoid like the plague.
And then there’s the flexibility. As travelpulse.com reports, while hotels usually have strict check-in and check-out times, not to mention a no-nonsense approach to extra guests, pets, and smoking, Airbnb hosts tend to be a little more accommodating – providing you don’t bend what few rules there are to breaking point, they’re unlikely to care very much what you do or who you bring into the apartment – ‘leave it as you found it’ seems to be the only real requirement.
And the Winner is…
Well, to be blunt, there isn’t one. it all comes down to what you want. Not everyone is going to want to live like a local. Neither is everyone going to want maid service, onsite gyms, and those tiny little chocolates on your pillow. If you want independence, a place that feels like a home from home, and the convenience of coming and going as you please, Airbnb is likely to be a better fit. If, on the other hand, you’re daunted by the fact Airbnb isn’t regulated in the same way as hotels (and if you’re traveling on your own, not knowing what or who awaits you at your destination is, or at least should be, a big consideration), would prefer to be treated like royalty than slum it like a local, and would rather eat food someone else has sweated over than make it yourself with someone else’s pots and pans, a hotel is going to be your best bet.