Oh, the Places You'll Go | Vacation Rental vs Hotel

If it’s time to start making travel plans, you may find yourself wondering what’s a better value for your trip: a home rental or a hotel.

A vacation rental via Airbnb or VRBO is often cheaper than a hotel because there’s less overhead for a homeowner vs a hotel. But are they always the less expensive option?

Vacation Rental vs Hotel

Depending on your reason for travel, you may find one option more convenient than the other. If convenience is of greater value than a few dollars, a hotel might be best for proximity to attractions or work-related activities. Or, if you have your own vehicle at your vacation home rental, it might provide more flexibility for your trip. Let’s break down some of the specific pros and cons of Airbnb/VRBO rentals compared to a hotel.

Benefits of Airbnb
When traveling in a large group, it can be incredibly convenient to have a whole house, condo, or apartment for the trip. An Airbnb or VRBO rental can include separate sleeping, living, and cooking areas to allow everyone to spread out. This not only makes a vacation more enjoyable, but it can help you save money by allowing you to prepare some of your own meals instead of eating out. 
  • Residential surroundings - get the local experience
  • Amenities - pool, parking, Internet, streaming television, games, movies
  • Long-term availability and comfort - more bedrooms and bathrooms, living space
  • No-contact check-in/check-out (if keyless entry or lockbox is provided)
  • Access to laundry - conveniently do laundry onsite
Many home rentals list what fun extras are included at their places, such as board games, outdoor toys for a pool, BBQ, and sleeping arrangements for children (bunk beds, cribs, pack ‘n plays). This can make packing for your trip a whole lot easier as you’ll have less to bring, and less to worry about upon checking in. 

Cons of Airbnb

There are some downsides to a vacation rental as opposed to a hotel, but it will be about your personal preferences and needs during your stay.
  • No services - no daily cleaning, room service, restaurant, or bar
  • No standard of customer service - hosts are essentially landlords, not trained employees
  • Cleaning fees are usually higher than a hotel
  • Lacking luxury - lower quality linens, furnishings, or fixtures
  • Not what you expect - listing photos may be misleading
  • Strict or unexpected cancellation policies
If driving to your destination or renting a car while there, the location may not be as much of an issue for you; maybe it’s even a highlight. Airbnb or VRBO can be a great way to stay off the beaten path, whether or not you plan to head into the city for supplies or events.

Pros of Hotels

Sometimes for work or as a couple, staying in a hotel just hits the spot. It provides a consistent standard of service, conveniences, and policies. 
  • Reward points - accumulate during travel, and can be redeemed for discounted/free stays
  • Discounts for multiple-night bookings 
  • Luxury amenities - high-quality linens, dining, or furnishings
  • Shuttle services - convenient transportation to and from other venues
  • Standard of service (cleaning, customer service) - employees are trained to follow consistent procedures
  • Safety standards - property is up to code when it comes to safety procedures
Cons of Hotels

Despite the many bonuses to staying in a hotel, sometimes they’re lacking in amenities or features. Again, it depends on your reasons for traveling, but common complaints about hotels may be as follows.
  • Smaller space - no room to spread out, or let younger children nap away from everyone else
  • Higher nightly rates - pricing is determined at a corporate level
  • Extra fees - hidden fees aren’t always obvious when booking
  • Limited access to laundry - you may find yourself packing home all your dirty clothes
  • Noisy neighbors - you can’t always get away from other guests, or rooms that face noisy streets
When making your travel plans, read the reviews. No matter where you stay, don’t rely solely on descriptions and photos; look at what other visitors have said recently about the accommodations. See if there’s a social media presence for the property you’re interested in and read the comments on recent posts. Combine those reviews with what you can find on search engines result pages such as Google, as well as any first-hand recommendations from friends and family.

Safety When Traveling

If you’re traveling alone, a hotel might be a good choice for your safety. There’s the added comfort of a lobby that monitors all comings and goings, as well as the potential for security cameras to keep tabs on elevators, hallways, and parking. If you use a driving service such as Lyft or Uber to get around your destination, there are often designated drop-off and pick-up spots in front of a hotel. This can add to a sense of security as your rideshare experience may be caught on camera as you come and go.

On the flip side, when staying at an Airbnb there may not be anyone taking note of your presence. This can be both good and bad, depending on how comfortable you are in a new place by yourself. If you’re looking to get away from the hustle of your everyday life, a home rental in a regular neighborhood may make that more possible for you.

Other Safety Measures to Consider
Hotels follow strict cleanliness guidelines, especially in the wake of recent events. They are structured to handle turnaround times between rooms to get them cleaned for the next guest. An Airbnb or VRBO rental may not implement the same stringent cleaning policies, leaving you with a less-than-stellar experience.

And not to completely play devil’s advocate, but if you see a personal vacation rental has a lot of availability before your stay it may mean the home is actually in better shape than a heavily trafficked hotel room or comparable rental. Odds that the home is spic and span may be greater than if you’re attempting to check into a hotel room that was only just vacated four hours earlier.

It comes down to doing your research and finding what works for your budget and personal preferences. Where you may save money on hidden fees, you might spend more to travel from your lodgings to the activities you have planned. When in doubt about anything, contact the hotel or property manager personally to get a better understanding of what to expect at your destination.