I will say straight away that though I have been to many, many hotels over the course of my life, I have only had three stays at an Airbnb. You might wonder if, or how, I can make any sort of comparison based on that imbalance. I would argue that each of our Airbnb experiences were for reasonably long stretches, 6-7 days, and you are in a space long enough in that time to get a good sense of what works and what doesn't. More than you would in a single night in a hotel. Still, I wrote this post in consult with Adam because I wanted a second opinion and subjectivity can play a part in accommodation choices - I know some people who would always go for the hotel over an Airbnb, for example, because hotels are part of a holiday experience and they want to be looked after.
Many of you have surely heard of Airbnb already, but there are still quite a few who have stayed in ho(s)tels only and are not aware of what Airbnb is and how they could use it. Let’s shed some light on what Airbnb is and what it's good for.
So here goes, I'll break down the two kinds of accommodations, giving the pros and cons of each, before coming to an overall decision.
- You know what you're getting with a hotel, especially if they are part of a chain. There are tried-and-tested standards and rules in place for the customer's best experience.
- You have help. It's nice to be able to call down to the reception desk with a question.
- Hotels often have amenities that are good to make families lives easier, such as restaurants, pools and maybe even a playground area.
- Room service.
- Your room will - or can - get cleaned once a day.
- You can assume that it will be quiet.
- Hotels generally cost more money and you might have to pay for extras, such as car parking.
- Hotels might have reception desks, but they might not be attend 24/7.
- Hotel rooms can feel a bit claustrophobic at times, especially if the windows are secured shut and you can't open them. The tick over of the air conditioning/heating can get on your nerves.
- I've been in hotels when they are, most assuredly, not quiet at all thanks to weddings or other events.
- Reasonably priced, with usually a fair range of options, even if budgets are tight (in the cities, at least).
- We would stay in an entire apartment and it is so nice to have more space. There were a couple of times when we did need to get away from each other, so I would take a bath, one child would lie on the bed, another on the couch, and Adam would read at the kitchen table. That would be impossible in a hotel (with the exception of Atlantis the Palm, our extravagance).
- Our London apartment was a owned by a family that you could tell actually lived in it. This is a big distinction. Many places are purely Airbnb temporary accommodation, run by people setting themselves up as agents, managing many similar properties around a city. Others are vacated by people for the duration of the guests visit. We stayed in both kinds and although it was weird at first to be in a place with pictures on the walls and well-read books on the shelves and clothes in the cupboard, it was also nice. Because you know there's trust involved. It also meant that the place was well-stocked in everyday essentials like garbage bags and washing up liquid.
- A communicative and helpful host is a joy to talk to. Our Paris host was always responsive with my questions and offered lots of great advice (he was the one who told us to get the bus up to Gard du Nord, not the train) and so I was very excited even before leaving Australia about what laid in store.
- On the flip side to my last point, your hosts may not be very accessible or communicative. This can be a problem if you have a problem with your place. In Rome, our hot water system didn't work properly and the toilet began to leak and by the end it was a real pain to try and track him down to do something about it.
- Again, after Rome, my trust in Airbnb amenity descriptions is shaken. Although the listing said there was a kitchen, and a washer and a dryer, there turned out to be no oven (!) and the place had no washer or dryer! Our host paid to get our laundry done once down the road, but for a family of four to get by in a city for 7 more days and then another 7 after that without washing really threw out my plans. Our host brought us wine and sweets as an apology, but I felt like saying, "I just want a hot shower."
- Some cities will have an additional tax or fee you'll need to pay. Like Rome's tourist tax, which our host waived because of all the dramas we had. So be aware of those.
- Key pick up can be a bit of a pain. It is easier to stroll into a hotel and sign in.
- Meal preparation is cheaper to do at your place than eating out - but that still means someone has to cook! And it was usually me!
So, who's the ultimate winner? Honestly, I like Airbnb. BUT - and there's a big 'but' - I will do greater research about a place's host ahead of making my next booking. It might be in the perfect district, have everything you want, but if your host has a number of negative reviews, either left in the listing itself or under their own personal profile, then I would stay well away. Okay, one or two are forgivable - people are fallible and things go wrong, after all. But after I got home, I looked over the Rome place again (thinking "did I miss something really obvious??") and I found other people leaving similar complaints. How I missed that in the first place, I don't know.
Tell me your hotel vs Airbnb experiences. What option do you prefer?
The Best Products for Airbnb Hosts! (in-depth review)
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