This is one of those good positions to be in debate. After all, not everyone in the world can stay in hotels or rent private homes on vacation rental sites like Airbnb. Should you opt for a private vacation home or hotel. I've stayed plenty in both. Each have pros and cons. The short answer is it depends. This is my analysis.
I’ve stayed in my share of Airbnb houses and of course hotels.
Actually I prefer booking vacation homes via Homeaway, but same difference.
I’ve had many great stays in rented vacation homes, but my go-to is always a hotel for many reasons.
Before I get into why in most situations I prefer a hotel, let me discuss the benefits of renting a vacation home on a site like Airbnb or Homeaway.
Benefits of Vacation Homes (Airbnb/Homeaway)
Renting a vacation home is a way better deal per square foot.
For example, I can rent a 2 bedroom ski-in ski-out condo on the slopes of Whistler, BC for $259 CAD per night. While a one-bedroom suite in a ski-in ski-out hotel will cost north of $800 CAD per night, and that’s just one bedroom.
Another example is I could rent a spacious one-bedroom condo in downtown Vancouver for $200 CAD while a one-bedroom suite at a downtown Marriott would cost $650 CAD.
Generally speaking, it’s less than half the price of renting a vacation home when comparing square feet.
While many hotel rooms have kitchens, they aren’t outfitted with staples. Cooking is more trouble than it’s worth. On the flip side, vacation homes usually have condiments and many basics such as pots, pans, small appliances, etc. to get meals underway.
This is the main reason I’ve rented vacation homes over the years. Having multiple families or friends in different hotel rooms on different floors isn’t the same as sharing a large house. After all, any reunion situation is more fun if you actually get to spend time together. In hotels, this means during outings and meals (which you have to pay for).
I’ve enjoyed family reunions and college reunions in rented vacation homes. While I love hotels, admittedly, reunions and gatherings are much better in a large home.
That said, if it’s a huge reunion or gathering, a hotel may be the only choice unless you find some 12 bedroom castle or chalet.
If I had to go somewhere for work for a longer stay, I’d probably ultimately prefer a private home rental or condo just because there’s more space and it’s less expensive.
I love hotels but I don’t wish to live in one.
Sometimes you want to visit places where there may not be any hotel or any decent hotel while there are homes you can rent.
Think remote lake somewhere with cottages.
Hotels tend to be situated where many people go. If you want to go where there aren’t many people and you don’t want to sleep in a tent, renting a remote cottage or cabin may your only option.
You Know What You Get
Some resorts have privately owned units that you can rent on Airbnb or Homeaway. In some cases, renting from a private owner is better because you know exactly what unit you’re getting. For example, if you want to be on the top floor, you can seek out a top-floor unit on Airbnb or Homeaway.
I’ve yet to book a hotel where they guarantee me a particular floor or room. At best you get ocean view, but that could be any number of floors.
For example, we stayed at Honua Kai in Maui. We could have booked via the resort, but instead saved a few bucks and secured a top floor unit by booking with a private owner.
I still don’t understand why a hotel can’t guarantee a floor for guests. I always ask but always get the same answer which is “the room will be assigned when you check in.”
Toys n’ Stuff
Many private homeowners include toys n’ stuff for guests to use. For example, many waterfront homes offer kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, toys for kids, etc. Hotels may offer this stuff, but you have to buy or rent it.
Stay in a beautiful/unique house
Grass is always greener.
You may love your home, but there are always nicer homes or places that are unique that no hotel can match. If you have the budget, you can rent spectacular houses on Airbnb and Homeway such as mansions, beach houses, penthouses, villas, castles, yurts, etc.
For example, our house is fine. I have no complaints. It’s a great home. But there are many houses on vacation rental sites that are mindblowing that would be fun to stay in for a few nights.
While many hotels offer beautiful grounds and interiors, they’re pretty much the same.
I suspect privacy is a big reason many people prefer private vacation rentals to hotels.
At a hotel you share the pool, gym, restaurants, etc. There are people everywhere. That’s what I like about hotels – the energy, but I totally understand how that could be negative.
When you rent a private home, it’s private.
For example, there are no shortage of private vacation homes with pools. This way you enjoy your own pool instead of with dozens or hundreds of other guests.
Benefits of a Hotel (compared to private vacation home)
So far it seems that it’s a no-brainer and that renting a private vacation home is the way to go. While it’s true in some circumstances, on the balance, I prefer staying in a hotel, even if costs more money.
This feature alone tips the balance. I love all that hotels have to offer. Swimming pool, hottub, gym, valet parking, room service, restaurants, concierge, bike/ski storage, shuttles, spa, golf, etc.
Staying at a hotel is further removed from regular life. Don’t get me wrong, regular life is great, but for me a vacation is a chance to step away from it and enjoy service and amenities which good hotels offer in spades.
I don’t blame homeowners having a list of rules. After all, it’s their home, but it does detract from the vacation. My biggest pet peeve is any cleaning requirements.
The check-out day is busy enough. Tacking on a list of cleaning tasks irks me to no end. I’d rather pay an additional cleaning fee to avoid it.
Hotels don’t require guests to clean a thing. I love that.
For short stays, this doesn’t matter, but if you’re vacationing for a week or longer, I sure love having the place cleaned up. Some private homeowners will arrange a cleaning crew, but it’s an additional cost and it needs to be arranged.
At a hotel, by default, you get your room or suite cleaned up. I often skip a day because I’m not that much of a neat freak, but new towels and tidying up every other day is great.
You can count on most decent hotels to offer the same level of service and cleanliness around the globe. I love that.
When you book a private vacation home, you don’t know what you’ll end up with. Fortunately, I’ve never had problems, but some folks have.
I’m not saying hotels don’t make mistakes but generally, the service and cleanliness are excellent.
Hotels typically have a much better cancellation policy than private vacation homes. A typical cancellation policy on Homeaway is 60 days before the arrival date. Most of the time that’s fine but sometimes something comes up.
In some cases, private homeowners don’t permit cancellations of any kind. This is something to look out for. I do not book these places.
Hotels, on the other hand, usually have very generous cancellation policies up to 2 to 7 days before arrival. You really can’t beat that.
Points and Rewards
As far as I know you can’t collect points and redeem them for free stays and other goodies on Airbnb and Homeaway.
Hotels, on the other hand, have terrific membership programs where it doesn’t take long to gain a free stay and/or upgrade. I’ve enjoyed my fair share of free nights in hotels. I appreciate every one of them.
Easier to choose
When the situation requires a private home, I end up spending far more time deciding on a private home than when I book a hotel.
In some cases, there are dozens of private homes to choose from. While choice can be a benefit, it can also be a curse. I usually create long list, then slowly chip away at it to create a shortlist and then pick.
When it comes to hotels, I have a few brands I prefer which are my go-to. However, sometimes I choose based on location.
Once I’ve pinned down the hotel, choosing a room isn’t hard.
All-in-all, booking a hotel is less decision-making agony than booking a private home.
If you like the energy that a place with lots of people offer, hotels are for you. This is one aspect I love about hotels – the bars, poolside, restaurants, lobby… I love the entire atmosphere. I can retreat to quiet in my room but if I want an energetic vibe, I just head down to the grounds, lobby, bar or restaurant.
And then there are resorts
I love resorts.
I wouldn’t want to live at one but I enjoy a week or two at them.
If you’re a resort person, you’re not going to get the resort experience renting a private home.
On the flip side, some folks loathe resorts and much prefer the solitude of a private home.
Different strokes for different folks.
For me, resorts are the ideal hotel. While costly, I savor the immaculate grounds, endless pools, beach setting, gardens, restaurants, spa and whatever else they offer.