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In the past several years, Airbnb (and really all types of vacation rentals) has gotten popular to the point of being eponymous. When you are looking to plan a vacation or trip, there are two different schools of thought. Some people prefer staying in Airbnb or other vacation rentals — others prefer the hotel experience.

(SEE ALSO: The best Airbnb in Athens Greece)

My personal experience has been that there are benefits to both, and they both can be useful in different situations. In this post, I thought that I’d share a few of my thoughts and experiences as to when I prefer Airbnbs vs hotels. I’ll examine some of the pros and cons in my thinking, and then also talk about how the current COVID-19 pandemic has changed some of our thinking.

a pool with chairs and umbrellas in front of a building

Reasons to prefer hotels over Airbnb / vacation rentals

Here are a few of the reasons where I prefer hotels over staying in an Airbnb:

  • Hotel points! This is a miles and points blog, after all, and getting “free” stays is a big reason I prefer hotels. With Airbnb, there aren’t really very many good ways to use points to pay for Airbnb stays. You can get $35 off if you create a new Airbnb account, or use purchase-erasing points like Capital One Venture miles, but that’s about it
  • Consistency of experience: With an Airbnb, every home and every host is a completely different experience. While offering unique experiences is part of the charm of the vacation rental experience, most times I like knowing what I’m going to get. With Airbnb, I feel like I have to be constantly scouring the reviews to see if this is going to work out. While there are some hotel chains I read the reviews on (Rodeway Inn and Choice Hotels, I’m looking at you), for the most part, I feel like I can show up at a Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn and know exactly what I’m going to get
  • I don’t have to worry about breaking things: Another thing I like about the hotel experience is not having to worry about breaking things. With an Airbnb, I feel like I need to be super careful about that. Having been burned in the past, I also feel like I have to photo or video document anything that was broken when I got there or risk being charged for it. If you want to argue towards individual responsibility on this, I understand the point, but I prefer that being amortized across every stay at the hotel and raising rates minimally to account for that.
  • “Free” breakfast and/or dinner: With a family of 8, staying in a hotel that offers “free” breakfast or dinner can also be good value

Reasons why Airbnb is better than hotels

On the other hand, here are a few reasons when I think that Airbnb is better than hotels

  • Location, location, location: Sometimes there just aren’t hotels where you want to go. I stayed in an Airbnb in Billund, Denmark to go to Legoland with my son. There weren’t any hotels (or at least any points hotels) in the whole city.
  • Having a (larger) place to yourself: We are a family of 8, so being able to spread out and not have to worry about disturbing the neighbors is a nice feature.
  • A full kitchen: Being able to cook our own meals can drastically cut down on our total food budget.

How COVID-19 changes the equation

As with most things in life, the current COVID-19 pandemic changes the equation on hotels vs. Airbnb a bit. I do feel like it is possible to travel responsibly, depending on where you live, where you’re going and how you travel. I am not quite comfortable with our family staying in a hotel just yet, though if it were to be just myself, or just my wife and I, then I might be okay with it.

And of course, hotel breakfasts have been eliminated or vastly changed at most hotels, and most of the hotels that offered an “Evening Reception” AKA free dinner are no longer offering those types of things. That is totally understandable, and I don’t think I’d currently be comfortable with a hotel breakfast or dinner buffet, but it does also remove one of the selling points of staying in a hotel vs. an Airbnb.

My family’s recent experiences

Our family of 8 recently got back from a trip to Upper Michigan, where we stayed in an Airbnb. As I mentioned, neither my wife nor I were yet comfortable with our family staying in a hotel, so an Airbnb was perfect for this situation. One thing that made me a little hesitant was just not knowing the cleaning protocols that our host would be doing. In my head, hotels would have a more strict cleaning regimen, though we’ve certainly seen individual hotels not following the cleaning regimens that their corporate bosses mandate in any case. We also took along some of our own cleaning supplies as well.

For us, the separation from other guests was a big selling point on this trip and I definitely see us staying in more Airbnbs if we take any other family trips in the near future.

What do you think? Do you prefer hotels or Airbnbs / vacation rentals? Leave your thoughts in the comments

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