Hotels vs. Airbnb- How That’s Changed For Me Over the Years

I remember when I was in college and drove to a friend’s wedding out of state. My husband at the time and I made reservations at a Ramada Inn, and it was not a very nice Ramada Inn. The carpet was musty, the beds were uncomfortable, the bedspreads and decorations in the room looked like they hadn’t been changed in 20 years, and the rooms had paper-thin walls.

Since then, I’ve stayed at other cheap hotels a handful of times but at one point in my life I thought to myself, you’re too old to be staying in cheap hotels. You have a good job and you can afford to stay in better accommodations. When my daughter was born, I started to consider the safety of the hotels as well since most cheap hotels are in “bad” or unsafe neighborhoods. Not that I jumped from staying in 2 star hotels to only 5 star hotels, but there was a noticeable improvement in where I was willing to stay.

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A Bed and Breakfast in San Diego that actually came up on an Airbnb search (so it’s not just the traditional places like homes and apartments).

As my daughter got older, my husband at the time and I began to see the benefits of staying in houses through Airbnb or other short-term rental properties. Instead of the three of us piling into a room with only two beds, a bathroom, and a mini-fridge and microwave if we were lucky, we could spread out and have multiple bedrooms, a full kitchen with everything we needed to whip up breakfast or any meal for that matter, a dining room, a family room or living room, usually a backyard, often more than one bathroom, free parking right in front of the house, and best of all it was quiet. So there were no slamming doors in the hallway, no ice machine noises, no kids running down the hallway at midnight, no adults coming in drunk and talking loudly on their way to their room, and on and on.

At first it was hard to break the hotel habit. Many houses rented out for short-term rental don’t have swimming pools and my daughter always loved to swim on vacation. We also missed not being able to walk down to the breakfast area of the hotel and pile on a plate full of breakfast foods, even if they were sometimes sub-par. My husband at the time also missed not having a workout room like many hotels have. But swimming pools, breakfast buffets, and workout rooms weren’t enough to keep us coming back to hotels, so we found ourselves staying at houses through Airbnb more and more.

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Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, which I did not stay in, but enjoyed the beautiful beach all around it.

I’ve found houses on Airbnb are often in the range of hotel prices. Over the years the selection of houses offered on Airbnb has also skyrocketed. Just a few years ago there weren’t nearly as many properties on Airbnb as there are today. That being said, some cities have made it illegal to rent a property through Airbnb in recent years and others have begun to crack down on foreign investors, making provisions only if the rental property is a primary residence in the city  plus other limitations. I’m not going to get into the impact Airbnb has had on neighborhoods and home values but that’s been a controversial topic for many areas around the world.

Still, I don’t automatically book a stay through Airbnb without comparing hotels in the area. For my recent vacation to the mountains in Tennessee (Hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park- Redux), my daughter and I stayed at a brand new hotel. There were a couple of factors involved here:  because of the pandemic and the drop in hotel stays on top of the fact that the hotel had literally just opened, the price per night was a bargain that I jumped on. There’s no way I could have stayed at an Airbnb house for the same price. I’m sure this time next year the hotel’s prices will be much more than what I paid because by then they will be an established hotel with reviews and (hopefully) by then if the pandemic still isn’t over, we (hopefully) will have moved on to our new “normal.”

My go-to site for checking out hotel prices is https://www.hotels.com/. When you stay 10 nights at a hotel, and it doesn’t have to be 10 consecutive nights at the same hotel, you get a free night worth the average of your last 10 hotel stays. There are also tiers depending on how many hotel stays you have in a year. When you reach silver status after 10 nights or more in a year, you’re eligible for special prices not available to the general public and special benefits like vouchers to use toward breakfast. If you book and stay 30 nights or more (which I’ve never done), you reach gold status, which looks like it comes with even more extras like room upgrades.

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Alyeska Resort and Hotel in Alaska was one of the more expensive hotels I’ve stayed in, but it included a ride to the top of the mountain in a tram and was a nice one night splurge.

I’ve had silver status with hotels.com for the past several years and I’ve always felt like it’s been a good choice for me. For example, in 2017, I redeemed four free nights, which of course saved me hundreds of dollars. If I redeem just one free night per year, I feel like it’s worth booking through the site. There’s no fee and the prices are almost always identical to or less than other hotel booking sites. In the rare occurrence where hotels.com has been more than another site, it’s only been a minimal amount like a couple of dollars.

My bottom line is to always compare my options. I don’t go crazy and check ten different places for hotel prices and property prices. Besides Airbnb for short-term rentals, there’s VRBO, HomeAway, HometoGo, and Booking, just to mention a few. This is on top of sites like Expedia and Tripadvisor. You could easily spend hours if you checked all of these sites and got sucked down that rabbit hole. There’s often overlap between many of these websites anyway, although there are sometimes listings on one website you won’t find anywhere else. Almost always, I’ll check on Airbnb, hotels.com, and sometimes booking.com and leave it at that unless I’m having trouble finding what I want for the price in my budget, then I’ll look around more.

What about you? Do you stay more at hotels or homes/apartments through Airbnb? Has your choice of travel accommodations changed over the years or stayed the same?

Happy travels!

Donna