Airlines & Airports
Airbnb vs. Hotel: Which is Right For You?
Photo courtesy of Airbnb
Saving money when you travel is always a good thing. When you’re able to create a unique and memorable travel experience and save money, well, it doesn’t get much better than that. Enter Airbnb. We were introduced to this online home-sharing marketplace in early 2014 and it has changed the way we travel and see the world ever since.
Where we used to rely solely on what hotels were in the area for lodging, we can now choose from studio apartments, houseboats, castles or even treehouses through Airbnb. Sometimes we find ourselves searching the website for the oddest accommodations and planning trips around what we find!
But what does home-sharing really mean? And does Airbnb offer the safety, cleanliness and quality of a 5-star hotel? Well, the answer is yes and no. Because each listing on Airbnb is owned and operated by people just like you and me, the concepts of “quality” and “standards” can have vastly different interpretations.
Here is a breakdown of the major dissimilarities between Airbnb rentals and hotels so you can decide if home-sharing is right for you.
An Italian villa, retro trailer or Spanish yurt are just some of the wild and wacky places you can rent on Airbnb. These homes can be your key to exploring relatively private areas of cities and countries — where you can literally be in the middle of nowhere under the stars, or high in the rainforest canopy with all (or none, if you prefer) of the comforts of home.
Yes, there are hotels in the farthest reaches of the world too, but renting someone else’s home can transport you into a culture where no corporate footprint can be seen for miles. You are experiencing life as a local, not a tourist.
Many of our rentals included brochures and coupons for nearby restaurants and attractions for us to use. Sometimes hosts live upstairs or down the street so they can answer questions or offer advice on things to do. I have found that seeking out the intimate and more personal touches of Airbnb rentals gives it a “home away from home” feeling, and that’s the kind of travel we prefer.
Standard hotels must follow rules, adhere to specific guidelines and usually offer run-of-the-mill experiences. On the other hand, hotels are more able to cater to your needs, whether that’s the concierge arranging for a taxi, a steward bringing an extra blanket or the front desk switching you to another room for any number of reasons. There is a more luxurious side of hotels that sometimes can’t be beat. But Airbnb can offer an authentic experience like no other.
Quality is relative, unfortunately. We’ve stayed in gorgeous, awe-inspiring and impeccably designed resorts and hotels. We’ve also stayed in cheap, basic motels. Airbnb has been no different — we rented a beautifully constructed one-bedroom apartment with a decked-out kitchen, heated bathroom floor and walls complete with personal photography taken by the hosts themselves.
In contrast, we also rented a home that had no clean towels, dishes in the sink, clothes in the closet, hair on the bathroom floor, a raccoon in the roof and bedding that appeared to have been recently slept in and not washed for weeks. Needless to say we canceled that reservation and found refuge in a nearby Hilton!
We recommend doing your research — whether that’s for a hotel or for a rental. Read reviews, look at other traveler’s photos and trust your gut. Hotels can vary in their quality as well — most of us have heard the horror stories — but they usually have higher standards, strict regulations and a staff to clean, maintain and assist when issues arise.
When it comes to price, both Airbnb and hotels will range widely at every destination. Hotel prices take into account the running of a profitable business and are usually more expensive because of overhead costs and staff wages.
Airbnb hosts choose what to charge per night so it might be an amazing deal or ridiculously high. With Airbnb you have to make sure you are taking into consideration any cleaning fees, extra guest charges and deposits. The website is pretty clear in listing these but it’s better not to be surprised by them later.
Hotels and rentals may have different prices depending on time of year or weekday versus weekend night. While hotels can offer several kinds of themed packages, the closest thing you’ll find on Airbnb are weekly or monthly rates.
It’s important to note that a lot of Airbnb rentals will include full kitchens where you can cook your own meals and save money by not eating out. One rental we stayed in had groceries left by previous guests and we enjoyed free tea, condiments, pasta and other non-perishables. Most rentals will also include basic amenities like toiletries, bedding, towels and utensils. You may also find that Airbnb is more flexible with policies on pets, smoking and occupancy.
This is probably our biggest concern when renting with Airbnb, as you are essentially trusting that a stranger will provide you with a safe environment. Airbnb does not adhere to the same strict health and safety regulations as hotels and no one visits the rentals to do in-person inspections.
Hotels, however, are legally required to offer safe accommodations. On the plus side, your payment is processed through Airbnb’s secure website and hosts won’t receive your payment until 24 hours into your reservation just in case anything is wrong.
According to its website, “accommodations…should meet minimum quality standards regarding safety, access, and cleanliness, and should be consistent with the description provided by the host,” otherwise guests are entitled to refunds. Although there is potential danger no matter where you go or where you stay, hotels do win in the safety category. Sometimes the assurance of strict safety protocols is what you need to feel at ease.
No matter where you choose to spend your travels, your options on pricing, location and accommodations can really open up if you add Airbnb to your repertoire. Just make sure to do your research first!
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