The Best Ways To Tell If An Airbnb Or A Hotel Is The Better Choice For You

Finding a place to stay is one of the most important steps in planning for a trip. Some people love the experience of tapping their keycard and walking into a clean hotel room to find a freshly made bed waiting for them, while others thrive sorting through Airbnb listings for lakeside cabins and choosing the perfect cozy spot for their trip. Which one is cheapest and which is the most fun depends on what elements of the trip are most important to you, where you're going, how long you're staying, and how many people you are traveling with.


There are major advantages and disadvantages of both ways of traveling, but one important factor to consider is that with a hotel room, you know what to expect: one clean room with a bed or two inside, and hopefully access to a free breakfast, gym, or pool, but may not all have the amenities hotel guests are used to.

Do you want to be taken care of?

If you like the idea of having somebody else do the cooking and cleaning while you're relaxing on your vacation, a hotel may be a better bet. While some Airbnb hosts enjoy going above and beyond to make your stay with them special, it is just that: above and beyond. Often, you only meet your host to pick up the keys. At most hotels, someone is always at the desk. If you run into any issues, like you can't figure out how to get the heater to turn on or your window is jammed shut, somebody should be available to help you out at any time (or just get you into a brand new room).


Airbnbs have cleaning fees, some of which are reasonable while some can be exorbitant — and you're usually still expected to do a little cleaning up before you go. Unless you're staying for a long time, however, Airbnbs are typically cleaned in between guests, not while you're staying there. At a hotel, you typically get your bed made for you, the room tidied up, and new towels brought in every day, as long as you don't put on the do not disturb sign, which housekeepers hate anyway. While you definitely can find Airbnbs that offer the services you want and negotiate with your host for more towels, these things come standard at a hotel.

Do you prefer convenience or unique experiences?

Not all trips are the same and some travel plans are better suited to Airbnbs while some are better for hotels. If you want a luxurious place to sleep in Manhattan after a Broadway show, an affordable place to crash near the Vegas Strip, or somewhere offering discounts to convention goers so you can put on your cosplay wig in peace, you're looking for a hotel. If you're planning to spend all day out on the town exploring a new city and only come back to wherever you're staying to sleep for a few hours before heading out again, a hotel probably has everything you need.


If you want to stay in a remote location, like a little cabin in the mountains, you're looking for an Airbnb. Not counting resorts, if the place you're staying is going to be the highlight of your trip and where you spend most of your time, Airbnb may also have the edge. As long as you're renting an entire place (not a single room in somebody else's house) you'll have more space and privacy, and you can choose a truly unique location, from treehouses to bunkers. Depending on where you pick, the price could theoretically be higher, but you may be able to offset that by following some simple tips to avoid high Airbnb fees.

Are you traveling alone or with a big group?

"A family of 4 can stay at an Airbnb with a kitchen, washer/dryer, and private pool and hot tub for $250/night, " Redditor u/real_heathenly posted on r/AirBnB. "Try beating that price and those amenities with a hotel.


Whether hotels or Airbnbs are cheaper is a hotly debated issue. Leaving aside major outliers like renting a sketchy one-room basement in a rural area on Airbnb or a huge luxury hotel suite in the middle of Los Angeles, if you are traveling alone or with a partner, it's usually cheaper to book a hotel room than a small Airbnb with a double bed. It is possible to reserve hotel room blocks for big events like weddings, but it's not necessarily cost-effective. If you're hosting a family reunion, planning a friends getaway, or have four kids, you're almost always going to get more bang for your buck with an Airbnb.

Not only is it significantly cheaper for six people to split the cost of one Airbnb than to get separate hotel rooms, but that also means there is a lot more room and shared space to enjoy as a group. While it's totally possible to hang out at the hotel bar or stay up late in your friend's hotel room, an Airbnb lets you cook a meal together or lounge around in pajamas for a movie marathon in the living room.


Do you want to be able to cook and do laundry?

You absolutely can hand wash your clothes in the hotel sink or get creative with recipes you can cook with your room's microwave, kettle, or clothes iron if you want to get weird with it. But if you find access to a real washer and dryer and a stocked kitchen important, you should probably be looking at Airbnbs. While not every Airbnb will have these amenities, you can easily narrow down your search by only considering the ones that do.


Of course, it's fun to splurge on dinner at a local restaurant while you're away, but cooking your own meals most of the time can potentially save you hundreds of dollars. If you or someone you're traveling with has dietary restrictions, this can make your trip a lot more enjoyable (though if you're sensitive to cross-contamination, you may prefer to bring your own pots, pans, and cutting boards).

Is this a quick getaway or a long vacation?

If you're only going to be in town for one night, you are probably better off just booking a hotel room. Short stays are rarely worth it at Airbnbs, in part because of the high cleaning fees many hosts ask for. Spread out over days, these fees may be worth it, but if you're only staying a short while, paying $75 to have the place cleaned when you leave is significant.


However, the longer you're planning to stay, the better a deal an Airbnb becomes. Hosts want to make sure their place isn't vacant for long, so many offer serious discounts for travelers who agree to stay for a while. As shown in research from Nerdwallet, Airbnb guests who stay for a week or longer pay an average of over 30% less per night. If you stay for a month, you're paying close to 50% less per night.