Depending on where you are going and what type of traveler you are, you may find yourself weighing the different types of accommodations available for your trip.  I’m a huge fan of Airbnb, but there are certainly times when I’d opt for a hotel instead.  Bed and breakfasts are some of the best ways to see Europe, and I would certainly rather stay somewhere with a local host, then in some characterless building with a block of hotel rooms. 

So how would I make the tough decision, you ask?  Allow me to explain the pros and cons (as I see it) for three accommodation choices: vacation rental homes (aka Airbnb), hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Vacation rental homes (aka Airbnb)

Perfect for:  uniqueness, cooking yourself, off-the-beaten path, traveling in groups, budget accommodations, local host recommendations

Drawbacks: house chores and rules, no late-night bites at the hotel restaurant, shuttle services, have to pay 100% up-front (some have very strict cancellation rules so you may not be able to get a refund if your travel plans change)

Don’t be deceived by the name “bnb” in Airbnb, because it usually doesn’t mean it’s a bed and breakfast.  Usually what it means is that you’re staying either in a vacation home all on your own, or you’re staying in a room or partial apartment on someone’s property.  There are all kinds of homes you can find on the site, but I have booked entire homes for private use.  

You can certainly find unique places when you opt for Airbnb.  For example, we stayed on a river in Miami with access to kayaks and an urban farm.  We cooked all our meals there (saving on some $) and the cost was certainly cheaper than if we’d stayed in a hotel.  We also, however, have spent more on an Airbnb, than we would have on a hotel because we were able to stay in a cottage on a working ranch in Moab.  So we had a unique setting, that we wouldn’t have any other time.

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Certainly a unique place to stay.

If I’m traveling with another couple or family, almost always a full vacation home is the perfect option.  You have the entire home, everyone can have a room to themselves, and it’s way more cost effective than multiple hotel rooms.

However, you do have a lot more rules and chores associated with renting out someones home.  Sometimes it means an extra hour in the morning taking out the trash, doing the dishes, making the beds, etc.  You also don’t have a hotel bar or restaurant you can grab a quick bite at, or a vending machine for a snack, you are basically on your own in that arena!

Hotel

Perfect for: convenience, hotel services (housekeeping, pools/hot tubs, access to luxuries), paying later, cancellation policy, traveling solo or as a couple

Drawbacks: cookie-cutter style rooms, more expensive, traveling in groups, no cooking facilities

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Balcony view of Niagara Falls on one of the top floors of a hotel

If my travel plans are up-in-the-air, I will almost always opt to book a room on Booking.com (or a similar site that lets me cancel last minute for free).  I’d rather have the option of cancellation, and paying when I get there, as opposed to paying up front and hoping the place I want doesn’t have a strict cancellation policy. 

I like hotels when I want to not have to think about meeting up with a host and getting the key; I just want to come and go as I please, without having to clean up after myself.  Usually (there are always exceptions) hotels are good locations for restaurants and sightseeing, and make it more convenient for staying in large cities.  If I’m flying into a city and not renting a car, having a hotel shuttle service and access to public transportation is key, which make hotels typically the better option.  

Staying in a hotel, however, is usually more expensive and I won’t be able to cook my own meals, which means I’ll be spending more money eating at restaurants.  Of course, you can always brown bag it and use the tiny fridge for a thing of mustard or mayo, but cooking a steak isn’t an option in a hotel.

Bed and Breakfasts

Perfect for: international travel, costs-savings, uniqueness, meeting new people

Drawbacks: staying in close quarters with others, possibly sharing bathrooms, public transportation is difficult

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Breakfast room

If I’m traveling somewhere I don’t speak the language, it’s very important for me to stay somewhere with a local host who speaks English.  That way I can ask navigation questions, and get suggestions for English tours or other things I might need.  Sure, hotels have that, but I like to “travel like a local” and it’s challenging when you are in a small town or a place that’s rural to find people who speak English to ask questions.  So having a host that can help is key!

I’ve also had some of the best breakfasts ever at these little places.  Many of the b&bs in the UK we stayed even had a menu with all sorts of options to choose from.  One b&b in Ecuador actually had a teenage boy deliver fresh bread on his bicycle every morning, and we watched the cook go into the courtyard to pick some fruit to juice (talk about fresh!)  Kinda hard to beat the type of breakfast experience you’ll have at a small b&b.  Plus, you get to eat in a room with just a few tables of other travelers, and it’s fun to meet new people and share stories.

However, some of the small b&bs have few bathrooms, and you may be waiting an hour in the morning to take a shower if you don’t wake up early enough.  Some of these places are also in neighborhoods or places not directly in the city, so you may be walking further or having to deal with more transportation issues than if you stayed somewhere more centrally-located.  Of course there are some b&bs centrally located, but they also tend to be pricier and more “hotel-like.”

What about you, where do you like to stay?

Nina Thomas

Travel lover and writer

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3 comments

  • Abby September 5, 2016 on 9:19 PM Reply

    This article is THEE BEST. Retweeting. And sharing with everyone. Thanks so much for laying it all out neatly! Do you have any experience with hostels? Or other home rentals like “Home Away”? Trying to decide where to stay for my honeymoon next year. I may do a combo of places.

    • Nina Thomas Abby September 6, 2016 on 9:25 AM Reply

      Thanks, Abby! I have stayed in one hostel in Chile. Since I mostly travel with my husband, a hostel ends up costing the same amount as a b&b if we want a room together, so we usually opt for something more private. We did have a private room in that hostel, and it was fun to have the hustle and bustle of other travelers, a small bar and a shared kitchen. It is more of a dorm-like atmosphere, which we don’t mind. But cost-wise, if we can get a great b&b for the same price, with a private bathroom and more intimacy, we’ll opt for that! I haven’t used Home Away… I’ve looked at the options on there numerous times, and perhaps it was the destinations I was going to, but I didn’t see anything that peaked my interest quite like Airbnb’s options. I am still open to trying it! Have you tried it?

  • Abby Walters September 21, 2016 on 12:18 PM Reply

    Sorry for my delayed response… You know what I’ve been up to! I have used HomeAway for a sweet little cottage weekend in Cape Cod & then again in Nantucket. It was nice. Great experience. As of lately, I’ve been captivated by the mission of Noirbnb, which offers inclusion to people who have had negative experiences with Airbnb & others traveling companies that have shown racism towards their customers. There are some disturbing stories out there! So, I am going to support Noirbnb & book with them next. I respect when something positive can bloom out of negativity!