If you’ve been reading for any length of time you know that Bruce and I are always on the hunt for the best way to use our budget. In some destinations that means splurging on a once-in-a-lifetime experience and in others, that means eating our way through the city (I’m looking at you Paris!). Our splurges almost never come in the form of fancy hotel rooms so we usually try to find the best bang for our buck wherever we go. Thus enters the ongoing argument of AirBnB vs hotels. Which should you chose for your next trip? Well this topic is ever changing but as of 2023, this is the strategy I would use:
I always like to take stock of hotel prices and AirBnBs while planning a trip. One, I love planning of all types and two, it gets me excited about our next destination. I usually have already done a quick check so I know the general cost of accommodations before I book any transportation. However, on a deeper dive I sometimes discover that the area I want to stay out is either lacking in traditional hotels or they are out of budget, that’s where AirBnB can come in handy.
Pro Tip: If you’ve never used AirBnB before, use my link to get $40 off your first stay. After you stay, you can let me know if you liked it!
If all the hotels are out of budget or in locations I’m not fond of (google maps is your friend here!), I’ll typically stick to AirBnB. In our experience, AirBnB can give you some really amazing places to stay, you just have to know what to look for. I will only rely on AirBnBs if an area has no affordable hotels or the AirBnBs are an experience in themselves. Another great reason to use AirBnB is with group travel. We do a friend’s ski trip every year and book a big AirBnB (or VRBO) and it works great. Just make sure to check all the policies before booking (more on that later!).
If hotels are a workable option in the area I’m visiting, I’ll use them instead of an AirBnB. This is a serious 180 from my 2018 travel self, but I’ve found that over the years AirBnBs have become more trouble than they are worth. I’ll get more into that a little later but in general, I’m choosing a hotel if it is city center (or close to public transportation), is generally affordable and especially if I have some hotel points I can use to get a deal (or even free room!).
Destinations I would choose AirBnB:
- The Florida Keys
- New Orleans
- Scotland (off the beaten path!)
Destinations I would choose a Hotel:
- Disney World
- Roadtrip Stopovers
- Big Cities like Paris and Munich
Why We Stay Away From AirBnBs
This is where my major shift has come from in the last few years with AirBnBs. Oftentimes I’ve found that they limit affordable housing choices for the residents of the cities I’m visiting, they are owned by larger corporations and they have intense fees and policies that make it more of a chore than a nice place to stay. The last few times I’ve searched for AirBnBs for my trips, the fees have almost doubled the price of the stay, which can be extremely frustrating while planning a trip. AirBnB has started to add a functionality that will cut down on this, but I still feel like the fees have become astronomical. Another thing to consider is there is almost never a true “free cancellation” policy because AirBnB won’t refund the service fee more than one time a year. That fact alone will usually deter me from AirBnBs in general.
All that being said, there are still a few places that I would choose to stay in. Usually they are off the beaten path or in group settings, but those times do come up! I would just caution you to do some research and try to choose properties where the owner only has one or two, not giant corporations with dozens of properties.
What to Watch When Booking Hotels
The number one way I’ve been burned by hotels stays is in hidden fees. Fees are extremely common in the hotel industry and vary by location. For example, it is near impossible to find a hotel without a resort fee near Disney World in Orlando. However, it is not nearly as common in Memphis, TN. Same goes with parking fees. In major cities (especially ones with limited parking) you can pretty much guarantee there is a parking fee, but in other cities with ample parking, it might not be nearly as common.
The big takeaway here is whether booking an AirBnB or a hotel, always read the fine print.
Things to look for:
Cancellation Fees and Policies
Cleaning Fees for AirBnB
Parking and Resort Fees for Hotels
So now that you’ve found a dream AirBnB or dirt-cheap hotel, how do you know if it’s too good to be true? The real answer is, you don’t REALLY know. But, you can do some digging to lower your chances of having a bad experience. In general, always check multiple reviews (and at least two different review sites if using traditional hotels) and use google maps to make sure the location is somewhere you want to be. This might take a little longer than booking the first thing you see, take an hour off social media and look through the reviews. They’ll give you a great idea of what the accommodation provides and whether it’s worth your money.
Whew, so that is what I do to get those awesome accommodations around the world. Do you have any tips or tricks? Leave them below!