In the last few years, I’ve stayed in probably near 100 hotels in several countries and most states, and done short stints and long stays at VRBOs and AirBNBs all over the US. There was plenty of host housing, van camping and actual camping in there as well. But as the Aspire Racing team has shifted to that #AirBNBlife and away from hotels for race weekends, it got me thinking about the pros and cons of AirBNB versus hotels. At a glance/as a rule, I’d say AirBNB is far superior… but there are definitely caveats. Rarely are hotels the cool / trendy / experience-drive options, but sometimes, convenience outweighs the scene cred.
So, here are a few things to think about when booking your next trip.
Single Night? Hotel It.
Obviously, if you can find a host house or van camp, that’s probably the ideal option in these cases. But if you don’t have a lot of great choices, I would honestly give the edge to a hotel over an AirBNB for a single night stay. There are a couple reasons for this, but the biggest one is that for every 10 AirBNBs I’ve stayed at, I’ve had trouble parking or getting into at least 2 or 3 of them. Those odds aren’t great if you don’t know if you’ll get somewhere for 5PM or 1AM. So, in that case, a hotel with parking and a 24-hour concierge/receptionist is going to be smooth all the time. The other reason is that AirBNBs are often missing some kind of amenity that you’re going to need, i.e shampoo or salt and pepper in the kitchen, or lacking blankets or towels. (Especially toiletries. I’d say about 30% have toiletries, the rest are BYO.) That’s fine for multiple nights, and I usually have stuff in my bag at this point, but it’s sometimes nice to walk into a hotel room and basically be ready for shower/bed, no rummaging required.
By Plane… Consider Your Exit Strategy
The nice thing about hotels is that you can almost always find one with an airport shuttle service, or book one for a lot cheaper than an AirBNB will cost for an Uber. If you’re only in town for a couple days, and especially if you have a group all departing at different times, sometimes an airport hotel is just the simplest option.
Traveling by Car? AirBNB.
When you’re going to be somewhere for more than a day, that’s where AirBNB is ideal. And it’s even better when you’re arriving by car and can pack everything you might need, like soap and shampoo, plus the kitchen staples like salt, pepper, olive oil and some spices. I’m a huge fan of AirBNBs because often, they’re located in cooler parts of town that are more run-friendly, you can stay in downtown typically for less than the cost of a hotel, and the hosts often are quick to offer great suggestions for cool spots. And while most AirBNBs are pretty simple and not super fancy, occasionally you get really cool homes with neat features (like this spiral staircase in the above photo!).
Big Group? AirBNB
When we’re with the whole team—8 of us—AirBNBs are ideal because it avoids one hotel room (usually mine) becoming the common area, and the living room/kitchen can become the hangout space. It’s hard to spend time with people in a hotel, and it gets time-consuming knocking on doors and waiting for people to come out. So I’m a fan of AirBNBs for this… with the caveat that if you’re planning a reunion or something and prefer to have more your own space, get a bigger place than you think you need / book a hotel instead. (Or look for a big house that actually has an over-the-garage separated apartment or something like that where you can have your own space.)
Not Planning to Cook? Run the Numbers.
The biggest bonus to an AirBNB is having a kitchen, so if you’re planning on eating most meals out / just using the place to sleep, honestly… A hotel might suit your needs. I know we’ve had a couple of AirBNBs that were great, if we had time to stay in them, but we probably would have been better off at a hotel that had the amenities we needed, and a free breakfast buffet. Sometimes, AirBNBs are just a lot cheaper, so that might tip the scales, but we’ve found that in most places, it’s rare to get a great deal on a decent AirBNB—especially if it’s just two of you and you’re looking for a one bedroom. If you get into multiple bedrooms, though, that’s where the savings in an AirBNB comes from.
If You DO Want to Cook… AirBNB
No question here. The best part of these place is that the kitchen is always open! (The caveat here: consider emailing the host to get a sense of what’s already in the kitchen. I’ve stayed at a TON of spots that had pretty stocked kitchens as far as oils and spices went, which can be a huge time/$$-saver, but I’ve also stayed in a few where the kitchen was almost completely bare. If you know you’ll be cooking a lot, informing your host of that so they can make sure you have cooking equipment and a reasonably stocked pantry is key.)
Long Stay…. AirBNB
Ultimately, AirBNB is the most home-y feeling when it comes to picking a spot, so if we’re somewhere for more than 1 night, I’ll always look for an AirBNB or VRBO to stay in as opposed to a hotel. (Pro tip: if you’re staying more than a week, consider emailing the person to see if there’s a weekly rate or discount they can give you. I prefer using the actual site to book through, versus sending them a check offline, but it’s possible for hosts to give you a discount through the site.)