Hotel or vacation rentals – which is better for you? It’s a common question with no easy answer. There are pros and cons to each option, and your choice ultimately depends on your destination, group size, and personal priorities.
But at the end of the day, you’re probably interested in whichever choice saves the most money. When it comes to basic nightly rates, rentals are typically less expensive—but there are exceptions and a lot of caveats.
Once you factor in hidden fees, amenities, local taxes, and hotel loyalty programs, the financial scales can really tip in any direction.
So what’s the verdict? Are hotels or vacation rentals cheaper? The answer is: it depends. To help you make the best decision for your next trip, we’ve compiled a list of 13 things to consider before you book.
Let’s weigh the options and figure out which one is the best for you.
Hotel or Vacation Rentals – 13 Factors To Consider
Here are a few factors to consider when trying to decide whether a hotel or Airbnb is better for your next trip.
Hotel or Vacation Rentals
Type Of Trip
The type of trip also makes a difference. If you’re planning a family vacation, then you might want the amenities that come with a hotel, such as on-site laundry, pools, and restaurants. Airbnb‘s are typically more geared toward solo travelers or couples. That being said, there are plenty of homes and apartments that have all the amenities you need for a family vacation. It just takes some time to sift through the options.
Your choice of hotel or vacation rental also depends on your destination. If you’re going to a big city, then you’ll probably want to be in the heart of the action, and a hotel is your best bet. But if you’re headed to a beach town or somewhere more rural, then a vacation rental will give you more space and privacy. And in some cases, it’s the only option—you simply can’t find a hotel in certain areas.
At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing between a hotel and a vacation rental. It all comes down to your personal preferences and what will make for the best trip for you and your group. So take some time to weigh your options and happy travels!
Where you stay plays a big role in how much you’ll spend. If you’re visiting a major city, then chances are hotel prices will be higher than renting an Airbnb. On the other hand, if you’re traveling to a more rural area, vacation rentals might be scarce and hotel prices could be lower.
If cost is a concern and you wish to be in the city, booking a vacation house or apartment several miles away might save you a lot of money.
If you’re traveling with a large group, then it’s probably more cost-effective to book an entire rental property rather than multiple hotel rooms.
Airbnb and Vrbo rent out rooms that sleep 10 people, which is a group size that would require at least four separate hotel reservations. In addition, you get shared spaces like living rooms and backyards rather than cramming together in a hotel room or lobby.
Length of Stay
The longer you stay in one place, the more likely it is that a vacation rental will save you money. With hotel rooms, you’re typically charged per night regardless of how long you stay. But with vacation rentals, weekly and monthly rates are usually cheaper than the nightly rate.
Airbnb has the advantage once again for trips longer than a few days. You must pay rental costs regardless of how long your trip lasts (more on that later), so a $150 cleaning fee appears more reasonable for a two-week stay than for a two-night stay.
Some Airbnb hosts will give discounts to guests who book long-term stays; in fact, the company encourages this on their “How to Host” website. The discount is entirely up to the host. Most limits it to 10 to 15 percent, but you may receive substantial reductions if you look hard enough.
Another important consideration is rate flexibility. With hotel rooms, you’re almost always locked into the rate you booked—no matter what happens in the world. If a natural disaster strikes your destination or emergency forces you to cancel your trip, too bad. You’re probably out of luck (and money).
On Airbnb, there’s much more room for negotiation—especially if you book far in advance. If something comes up and you need to cancel your trip, it’s easy enough to reach out to your host and see if they’ll refund some or all of your rental fee. They may be willing to work with you, especially if they know it means getting a good review.
Privacy and Space
When you book an Airbnb, you’re renting out someone’s entire home—and that usually comes with more privacy than a hotel room. You’ll also have more space for yourself since you won’t be sharing with as many people. If you’re traveling with a group or family, then this can be a big advantage since you’ll have plenty of room to spread out.
On the other hand, hotels offer their guests 24/hour access to staff members who can help with anything they need—including tourist advice, restaurant recommendations, and laundry service. So if you’re looking for someone to take care of all the details of your trip, then a hotel is probably the better option.
If you want to host an event during your trip—like a birthday party or business conference—then a hotel is usually the better (and often only) option. That’s because most vacation rentals don’t have the same kind of event-friendly facilities that hotels offer, like banquet halls and meeting rooms.
But, if you want to get some friends together and have a BBQ or pool party at your rental, then a vacation rental with a backyard or pool would be a better option.
However, if you want to have a BBQ or pool party during your trip and get some pals together, a vacation rental with a backyard or patio is the way to go.
Another advantage of hotels is that they offer daily housekeeping services—something that’s generally not included with vacation rentals. That means you won’t have to worry about making your bed or doing the dishes while you’re on vacation (unless, of course, you’re staying in a hotel with self-service accommodations).
Vacation rentals can feel a bit more like home—especially if you’re cooking your own meals—but that’s not necessarily a good thing. After all, part of the reason you go on vacation is to get away from the daily grind. With a hotel, you can just hand over your key and forget about everything else for a while.
Amenities and Services
When it comes to amenities and services, hotels typically have more to offer their guests. For example, most hotel rooms come with a private bathroom, cable TV, daily housekeeping, and room service. Many also have on-site restaurants, fitness centers, business centers, pools, and spas.
Of course, you can find Airbnbs that offer similar amenities—but they’ll usually cost more than a hotel room. And since vacation rentals are spread out across different neighborhoods, you’ll likely have to go farther to find them.
A hotel or Airbnb might be a better alternative depending on your dining preferences. If you’re the type of traveler who enjoys trying local restaurants, then an Airbnb vacation rental is probably your best bet. But if you prefer having all your meals under one roof—or you simply don’t want to deal with the hassle of cooking on vacation—then a hotel is probably a better choice.
For those who enjoy a home meal every now and then, an Airbnb can easily become a more cost-effective option if there’s a kitchen in the rental. Just make sure to factor in the cost of groceries when budgeting for your trip.
Another thing to consider is local taxes. In some cities (like San Francisco), short-term rental laws require Airbnb hosts to collect hotel taxes from their guests. So even if you’re renting an apartment on Airbnb, you might end up paying the same amount of taxes as you would at a hotel.
Hotel Loyalty Programs
If you travel frequently, hotel loyalty programs can save you a lot of money. These programs offer perks like free breakfast, late checkout, and upgrades—which can add up to big savings over time.
Airbnb doesn’t have anything comparable, although some hosts will offer discounts for repeat guests.
The Bottom Line
So which is better for you: hotel or vacation rental? The answer depends on your personal preferences and priorities. If you want more space and privacy, a rental is probably the way to go. If you’re looking for hotel amenities and loyalty program perks, a hotel is probably your best bet. And if you’re just trying to save some money, it’s worth comparing rates carefully before making your final decision.
Whichever option you choose, make sure to do your research so you can get the best deal possible!