Since its inception in 2008, AirBNB has steadily risen to over 3 million listings in 191 countries. With so many options, AirBNB has become a serious rival to hotels when it comes to our choices of travel accommodations.
This article is not meant to be an end-all, be-all to tell you what you should do as a traveler. It's simply meant to compare and contrast hotels and AirBNBs from our experiences so that you can make informed decisions to best suit your travel wishes.
This year, we have stayed at five AirBNBs - two in Belize, two in Florida, and one in Cuba. We have also stayed at five hotels this year - one in Pittsburgh, two in Belize, one in Houston, and one in San Antonio. But, although we have stayed at the same number of hotels as AirBNBs, the AirBNBs account for thirteen nights of travel, whereas the hotels account for only five nights of travel. Here are some of the similarities and differences we've noted.
It goes without saying that one of the biggest differences between hotels and AirBNBs is that most hotels are run by corporations with employees, whereas most AirBNBs are operated by individuals or families. What we've found is that, in general, we feel much more at home, sometimes even like part of the family, when we stay at AirBNBs.
Tip #1: Don't be afraid to ask questions. Because AirBNB provides an easy way to directly message your hosts, ask questions before you go so that you know what to expect when you arrive.
Hotels are generally set up with the same packages and designs - toiletries, coffee station, options for type and number of beds. Some are equipped with a mini fridge and microwave; extended stays generally have full kitchens; and, in some hotels, luxury travelers can splurge on a full suite. But, on the whole, hotels have standard hotel furniture and decor, and the same general "feel."
AirBNBs, however, are as varied as their hosts. This year, we have stayed at two homes with no TVs. Some provided toiletries like shampoo and conditioner; others did not. Some were in the city; others were in the middle of nowhere. Most of our hosts we met in person, but at one location, we never met our hosts. Some offer extra services like airport pick-up; some do not. Some locations offer a whole place to yourself; some offer private bedroom and bathroom; and still others have only a private bedroom with a shared bathroom. And the decor at each AirBNB is based on the hosts' own unique personal tastes.
What does that mean for the frequent traveler? With a hotel, you generally know what to expect. With AirBNBs, you'll want to decide which features are most important and make sure they are listed in the options within the listing. I have also found that, although we do always read hotel reviews, it is much more important to read reviews with AirBNB listings, as they help us get a feel for the place and know what to bring with us.
Tip #2: If you are the type of traveler who loves variety and adventure, AirBNB is the way to go! But if you want to play it safe and know what you're getting, hotels may be the better option.
Although in many places, hotels and AirBNB hosts rival one another for the traveler's attention, in some places, AirBNBs exist with no hotel competition.
When planning our trip to Belize, we knew we wanted to stay in Bermudian Landing to photograph howler monkeys in their native environment. We found a couple AirBNB options, but no options for hotels, which made it an easy decision.
Tip #3: Remember that if there are no hotels around, you may be in an area with limited access to grocery stores and restaurants. Make sure you find out what to take with you before heading to your BNB.
In our experience, AirBNBs tend to be less expensive than hotels. This is not always the case, particularly in large cities, where hotels are constantly competing amongst themselves, which can drive down their prices. But in many areas, staying with an AirBNB host has saved us hundreds of dollars over the course of our stay. This is particularly true if we are staying multiple days, as some hosts offer weekly and monthly rates.
Tip #4: Do keep in mind that the cost of the room itself is not the only cost to consider. If you are comparing a hotel and an AirBNB host with comparable prices, check to see if either offers complimentary breakfast, free airport pick-up and drop-off, a full kitchen, an on-site gym, or other services and amenities.
Before you book your trip, know your options, compare amenities and costs, and decide what features you desire in your accommodations. Should you choose an AirBNB, be sure to read reviews for tips and ask your host any questions you have prior to your arrival.
Have you stayed in AirBNBs around the world? What experiences have you had? Do you prefer hotels or BNBs?
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