AFAR Staffers Weigh In on Hotels vs. Airbnbs

Where you choose to stay can make or break your vacation.

AFAR Staffers Weigh In on Hotels vs. Airbnbs

Romanian hotel views

Photo by Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

Since Airbnb, the peer-to-peer residential rental site, launched in 2008, the way many of us travel has never been the same. The decision to stay in someone’s home or in a hotel can have a big impact on your trip. Which amenities are essential to you: an infinity pool or a fully functioning kitchen? Do you prefer room service or dining out? Having someone to clean your room and make your bed every day or someone who wants to show you around town with their friends? The staff at AFAR likes the idea of being able to tailor our lodging decisions to the type of trip we’re planning, who we’re traveling with, and what type of experience we’re looking to have. Below we’ve weighed the pros and cons of staying in hotels and Airbnbs to help guide you through the decision-making process on your next vacation.

“When I have a little extra money to spend (and more than a few days in one place), I’ll rent an Airbnb so I can pretend that I live wherever I’m staying. I find that when I’m staying in a lived-in space, a place that makes me feel at home, I get to know where I’m visiting from a totally different perspective. Airbnb is great because it allows you to stay in more residential areas that give you a different feel for where you are than you might get otherwise. You can get into a routine, find a local coffee shop to visit every morning, and see how people really live in the city or place that you’re in.”—Sarah Buder, editorial intern

“I love a great hotel (especially those with pools and cocktails on the room service menu), but Airbnb often opens up a new city to me in a way that a hotel can’t. I think my very first Airbnb experience, in Salt Lake City of all places, made me a fan for life: My host connected me to his squad, who invited me out for drinks, dinner, and dancing—every night I was there!”—Aislyn Greene, associate editor

“I definitely prefer to stay in a hotel when I can. Great hotels are often classics that reflect the best of the destination in either history or design. The location of a good hotel can be hard to beat. To me, an apartment or home that is rented out usually feels a bit hollow and worn. Hotel rooms are intended for guests, and a hotel has a staff of people whose mission is to make you happy.”—Greg Sullivan, CEO/cofounder

“Recently, I’ve been shifting away from the hotels and leaning more towards Airbnb. They’re typically easy to book, you usually have a wide selection of places to choose from, and they’re usually more affordable than hotels. I’ve only used Airbnb while in Europe, however, and my experience ranged from bad to really good. The worst was a dirty flat in Berlin that smelled of mold and had no hot water. The best was in Munich: The host and his dog were super nice and he took the time to show me around the city and even cooked for me. My stays in Amsterdam and Zurich were the most fun because the flats I stayed in were party houses and the hosts liked to get crazy. The weirdest experience was in Salzburg. The host invited me to have wine and cheese with him and his girlfriend in their dining room. He decided to put on some “mood” music (which, for him, was Swedish metal) at a concert-level volume. I thought the only way I’d be able to escape his house with my life was if I had to survive some torturelike obstacle course throughout the house, like in the Saw movies.”—Andrew Raymond, photo intern

Reception desk at the Hudson Hotel in New York

Reception desk at the Hudson Hotel in New York

Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr

“I recently went to Cape Town, what I think is probably the best value destination right now for American travelers. You can order almost everything on the menu at a nice restaurant and still only spend $30 with tip. Those favorable exchange rates are reflected more obviously in Airbnb prices than hotel accommodations, which often cater to business travelers. My friends and I looked at the hotels: The nice places were hitting people with $700/night prices. Meanwhile, a central Airbnb—all four stories of it with two bedrooms filled with local art, Barcelona chairs, a functional fireplace, Bose speakers, and concrete floors—was charging $175/night. (Yes, we used the fireplace.)”—Andrew Richdale, senior editor

“I like both hotels and Airbnbs depending on where I’m going and who I’m traveling with. I had the best of both worlds during my stipend trip last year in Lisbon. I spent a few nights at a hotel and enjoyed tapping into the friendly concierge to get to know the city and hear recommendations on not-to-be-missed restaurants, shops, museums, etc. Then I moved to an Airbnb in Alfama to explore the historic local neighborhood. The change of perspective was a great way to explore more deeply.”—Grace Montgomery, associate marketing manager

“I’ll take the hotel stay over a stranger’s apartment and especially when traveling through bigger cities. Places like Paris, New York, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, and Tokyo have so many good hotels to choose from and I don’t have to worry about the inconsistencies of an Airbnb stay. Recently, a group of friends and I went to the Berkshires for a long weekend. We decided it would be more fun to rent a house, which gave us more space, the ability to cook, and all at a great rate. That was the right call, but in general I stay in hotels when I can and Airbnbs when I have to.”—Joe Diaz, cofounder

“Between Airbnb and a hotel, I always prefer Airbnb. I think that we can all stand to trust each other a little more, and I love the idea of people sharing their homes with one another. With Airbnb, I can book accommodations with a local flavor, and I’m often able to access places and communities that wouldn’t otherwise be available to me. Among these adventures, I’ve used the site to rent a house on the historic register just outside of Zion National Park, a grassy backyard in suburban Portland, and a small yacht in a Los Angeles harbor.”—Thomas Alexander, guides intern

“I was so skeptical of Airbnb at first, but now I’m all about it. Recently I drove around New Zealand for a month and spent most nights camping. After a particularly grueling two-day stretch of long drives, I caved and booked an Airbnb in a rural part of the South Island. The cute little private garden cottage was exactly the haven I needed. After a couple of weeks alone I was craving conversation and my hostess was so sweet and welcoming. She made me incredible breakfasts of coddled eggs and constantly urged me to help myself to the fruit from the trees in the garden. I’m still wondering if she was secretly my fairy godmother. If I hadn’t been a fan of the Airbnb experience before that, I certainly was when I finally drove away (a few days later than planned—I never wanted to leave!).”—Maggie Fuller, editorial assistant

“I usually look at both Airbnb and hotel options when starting to plan a trip. The deciding factor is usually the interior design or the view. On my last trip to Lisbon, I opted for an Airbnb in the Alfama neighborhood because it has a dreamy balcony lined with azulejos and full view of the bay. In Singapore, I stayed at InterContinental where Peranakan shophouses have been converted into modern rooms with vintage architectural details.”—Anne Nguyen, senior digital experience designer

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