Travel Talk | Hotel or Airbnb?
Traveling these days in many ways has never been better…as far as accommodations go. Airfare may be through the roof, but at least we have plenty of options for lodging!
With companies such as Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, Kid & Coe, FlipKey, and so many more, destinations that in the past may have been out of reach have suddenly become obtainable. It’s had an enormous impact on the travel industry, changing the very nature of the way people travel and make plans.
But of course that’s old news. We all know that! I’m really writing this post to reflect on peoples’ preferences for a home rental vs. a hotel, and to see where people stand. It’s something that’s been on my mind ever since being part of a conversation where most everyone said they prefer staying in a house or apartment when they travel. Especially with kids. Obviously we know that Airbnb is much more cost-effective (hence its having taken over the world), but there are other reasons people prefer a home rental – having the extra space, a kitchen to be able to cook in, certain amenities, and feeling like they “live” in the destination, as opposed to “visiting” the destination…being a “part” of a place, and not an outsider.
As much as I can empathize with and relate to the above, I have a confession – I have and probably always will, prefer hotels! I felt this way even when my kids were tiny. Whenever I travel, I always look for a hotel first, and if it’s too expensive or there’s no availability, then I will turn to Airbnb. Why? I’m not crazy about sleeping in other peoples’ homes – that is, homes of people I don’t know. What makes many people feel “at home” makes me feel a little out of place – someone else’s dishes, sheets, figuring out the heater, coming across clothes in a chest – it all makes me feel just a bit off.
Yes, having a kitchen to cook in is pretty sweet, but honestly, if I could have my way I think I might prefer a hotel room with a mini fridge and trying to make it work. I am talking all within the same budget too. I know choosing a home rental is usually much cheaper, but it’s not about that for me. It’s just about a feeling I get when I’m in someone else’s home. I guess the best way to put it is – I feel slightly on edge. God forbid I break anything!
However, having said all this, there are certain, important exceptions. I will absolutely stay in a home rental when the cost difference is big and I will be saving a considerable amount of money. I’ve done it plenty of times. Can’t find a decent priced-hotel, but came across a reasonable Airbnb – problem solved. I will never not go somewhere because I can’t find a hotel room. The thrill of the destination, and discovering a new place, always comes first.
I’ve stayed in some nice Airbnb’s and some not nice ones. I’ll never forget the one where we were out in the middle of nowhere in the Berkshires, and the owner’s apartment was below ours, and his smoking made it practically unbearable, seeping through the floorboards and taking over our apartment. I wanted to throw up every time we came back to the apartment – the house reeked like no other. I couldn’t even sleep at night. Needless to say, experiences like that have left a bad taste in my mouth.
But then there have been the experiences like the Airbnb on Cape Cod, the adorable little cottage with the very nice owner who mailed my tiny faux-diamond earrings back to me after I left. I thought I’d never see them again. That’s stayed with me. And then there are the experiences with renting homes for group travel with friends or extended family, where having a house is totally key. This, I will say, is when turning to Airbnb or VRBO for a house is necessary, and the only way for a group of people to hang out. I have had amazing stays in various places for group gatherings like school reunions, family reunions, and just friends getting together which would have been a totally different experience had we stayed in a hotel and not had a common area to hang.
Speaking of group trips, on a side note we have booked homes through management companies in places like Hilton Head, SC and Tuscany, Italy. I consider these different because they are being looked after by management companies, and provide services like new linens and a certain level of upkeep that is far different from an Airbnb. We’ve paid a premium, but it doesn’t feel as much like we’re a foreigner in someone else’s home. It feels like exactly what it is – a vacation rental.
Back to Airbnb and VRBO…another scenario supporting the case for these accommodation sites is long-term travel, or a long vacation. Thank goodness for them! It’s way too expensive to stay in hotels for that many nights. So, believe me, as far as I’m concerned, these companies have their place. But when it’s just me and my family on a regular trip, I always prefer staying in hotels. And in fact, sometimes I’ve found cheaper deals staying at a hotel. On our trip to Barcelona, for example, we wound up finding a nice hotel cheaper than any Airbnb in the neighborhood we wanted to stay in. We were a bit shocked, actually – we just assumed we’d be priced out of a hotel for that time of year (August) and would be staying in a rental. Oh no, the hotel was much more cost effective!
These days, with sites like Booking.com and TripAdvisor, there are many deals to be found. I scour these sites non-stop until I’ve found something that suits our budget. And we are no high-rollers over here. Sometimes we will spend more for a beautiful hotel if the destination is that special to us, such as our trip to Mallorca, but most of the time we stay in mid-priced hotels. We have no problem staying in a Holiday Inn! There’s just something about a hotel I love – perhaps the convenience of it, perhaps knowing that it’s mine for the night and not someone else’s home.
The lack of cooking and laundry factors don’t really bother me as I have no problem eating cheese and bread from a local market for a meal instead of dining out so as to save some money. And laundry? I’m an overpacker anyways! But, in conclusion, yes, a hotel will most of the time cost more, and for that I think the Airbnb phenomenon has been fantastic. I guess I just prefer spending a little more so I don’t have that uncomfortable feeling of being in someone else’s home. Many people don’t mind it, but many times I do.
So those are my two cents. I didn’t write this to make a case for hotel or Airbnb, but simply to discuss. Both have their place, and each to their own. Which do you prefer?