How to decide between an Airbnb or a Hotel?

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

Airbnb vs hotel? No matter where you want to go, there will likely be many options in each category. There are definitely pros and cons to each, so it’s a good idea to hoan in on which one is right for you, your travel group, the destination, and your needs. You’ll save yourself a great deal of research time, knowing which one makes the most sense for this particular trip that you are planning.

Here are some considerations to help you determine which option is right for you Hotel or Airbnb. If you are staying in multiple cities, your needs may change for each city you visit.

  • Do you want to have space to hang out? Space is typically costly at a hotel, so a rental would be a good option if you are planning to spend a bit of time there.

  • Will you make small meals or require a large fridge? A suite with a full kitchen at a hotel can also be costly, so a rental would make sense if you are planning to go to a market to pick up some groceries to have on hand for light meals.

  • Will you need to do laundry? If so, how often? If you’re away for a few weeks, maybe you’ll only need to do laundry once and you’ll be fine with going to a laundromat. Personally I wouldn’t want to spend time sitting at one when I could be doing other things, so having at least a washing machine at a rental is nice.

  • Will you require assistance with your luggage, restaurants, activities, directions, language, taxis, etc? While each of my Airbnb hosts have been extremely helpful, especially in Europe, nothing beats a concierge at a hotel. Despite my immense pre-planning for each of those elements, things come up that have been out of our control - a transportation strike has been the most common and has happened on our last three trips to Europe in Spain, Portugal, and France. Not being able to hop in a taxi or Uber when you need to is frustrating. Being stranded because your flight was moved is okay when you can find other accommodations, and not knowing what’s going on feels unsettling. At a hotel, there is always someone who speaks English and can provide a solution. With all the preplanning, nothing beats a bit of help finding a hidden gem of a restaurant that TripAdvisor won’t tell you to go to, or helpful directions around winding streets with no names in an old town, or booking a wine tour with an old winery that only takes reservations by phone and they don’t speak English, or someone taking your suitcase for you after a day of travelling.

  • How much luggage will you have? For a rental, consider what floor you are on and if there is an elevator. Keep in mind that in Europe, floors start at 0, so if you think you are only on the 2nd floor, it’s actually the 3rd. While that’s fine for heading out touring with your comfies on, what does that look like when you have your luggage (nevermind if you have kids, and a stroller). I always like to have an elevator for those moments you can’t plan for.

  • How many nights will you be there? If it’s a long stay, you’ll likely be more comfortable with a bit more space.

  • How easy is it to access the space? Especially if it’s a short stay, and a rental is best, be sure to look for a rental that has an access code. If the host has to let you in, and the time you choose to meet up depends on a flight arrival time, and you have plans to get out touring immediately after dropping your bags - this has not always worked out for us. I would strongly recommend looking for places that have an access code, so you don’t find yourself waiting for the host.

  • If you’ll be there to relax, will you want a pool, bar, or restaurant onsite? Sometimes we go on vacation to be on the go, touring, learning, and exploring. Other times it’s to relax. What will you need at your destination to make either option comfortable?

  • If you get a bad weather day, how will this impact your plans? In a big city, there are lots of things you can do indoors. However, if your plans are to be outside for a daily hike, or to be on the water it may be unsafe or not even possible to carry on. What would you need at your accommodations to make a rainy day comfortable?

  • Do you like to workout while you’re away to maintain your fitness schedule? Will you need a gym, or walking trails available?

  • Will you be travelling with a group of people or just one other? A rental is typically cheaper, but doesn’t have to be. Once you factor in any amenities or other nice to haves, those could make a rental quite expensive.

  • Will you require parking? Oh parking. We’ve stayed in several old parts of Europe that were not designed for cars. While the accommodation, restaurants and character are exactly what we look for, the parking is not always easy. Even getting the car close enough to drop off luggage can be a challenge if cars aren’t able to drive on the streets.

  • What is your cleanliness tolerance? I’m not saying that rentals are dirty, I’ve stayed in many that are immaculate, however I’ve also stayed in a couple that were questionable. What rentals are not, is regulated with unplanned health and safety checks as hotels would be.

No matter which option you prefer, ensure that you review the area. I like to research different neighbourhoods, especially for large cities (ie: Paris and Barcelona). Do you want to be surrounded by parks, restaurants, museums, night life? Know what you want, so you can choose the area that meets your expectations for that city. Also, be sure to review the cancellation policies.

Summary of things to look for with Airbnb:

  • Can you check in yourself, or do you need to meet with the homeowner to get a key?

  • What floor is it on? Is there an elevator?

  • Access with key or keypad? If it’s a keypad, ask how often the code is changed to ensure that a previous guest can’t get in.

  • Reviews, are they from five travellers or 500 - the more the better! Better yet, choose a Superhost so you know they’ve been vetted.

  • Is there air conditioning?

  • Parking, if required where will it be? Is there an additional cost?

  • Does the host speak English?

Here's an example of how I split up our recent three week trip to France:

  1. Paris: we didn’t have a car, we were planning to be out, and we wanted to be central. Central hotels are extremely expensive and we only needed a place to sleep, so we did an Airbnb. We had an elevator to get to the 6th storey and the apartment had a/c, which was great as the windows faced a courtyard so there was little air circulation. The apartment had a large balcony with lights that we could enjoy in the morning or evenings. We stayed in the 6th Arrondissement - Saint Germain because it was about a 30 minute walk to most places we wanted to visit.

  2. Epernay: we now had a car and knew we'd enjoy lazy mornings followed by afternoons visiting Champagne houses. This is a small town so everything was walkable, however we did take the car to explore the countryside, and explore other small towns. We stayed at an adorable Bed and Breakfast so our first meal was worry free.

  3. Lyon: we still had the car and this location was our hub for a few driving days. As this was the middle of our trip, we went with an Airbnb so we could do laundry. We only had a washer which was fine, started in the morning, hung everything when we returned, it was dry by the next morning. The Airbnb was in the heart of Old Lyon, so there was no parking onsite. However, there were big lots nearby that we could walk to. The only time this was difficult was arriving and departing with our luggage. Since we were in the Old town, everything else we needed was just steps away - cafes, restaurants, shops, and tourist sites. This was great before and after a long day in the car!

  4. Marseille: by this point we were tired of loading and loading our luggage, so it was wonderful to pull up to the hotel and have someone come and whisk it to our room for us. Valet service was also lovely after being in Lyon, and parking in Marseille did not seem easy. The hotel was very central, right on the harbour, surrounded by restaurants, ice cream shops, and alleys to explore.. We had our car for a short time here, to take one more day trip to Cassis.. Then we were on foot for the rest of the stay and could easily explore the harbour, and tourist attractions.

  5. Nice: we took a train there from Marseilles, for a vacation at the end of a vacation. Since this was our time to relax and reflect on all that we had seen and done, we wanted a quiet spot with a pool, and views. Here we stayed at a hotel away from the Old Town of Nice, however right on the water, with a rooftop pool. It was perfect, because we could walk around and tour in the morning, then relax all afternoon by the pool or beach. For dinner we rented bikes to ride along the promenade into the Old Town. Since we were so close to Eze and Monaco. Arrangements were easy as we snuck this one in through a guide from the hotel.

Rooftop pool in Nice

Courtyard at the B&B in Epernay

Apartment in Paris

View from our hotel in Marseille

Apartment in Lyon

Happy planning and have a fantastic time whenever you get out there!

Written by Carolyn

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