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Vacation Rentals vs Hotels: Which Is The Better Choice?

SmarterTravel

Vacation rentals (like Airbnb or VRBO) have become a go-to accommodation option for many people, crowding out hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts.

Vacation rentals offer a lot of advantages, such as getting a local experience and more space when traveling in a group. However, hotels offer a more consistent experience, professional customer service and, often, free breakfast.

So which should you stay in, a vacation rental or a hotel?

Vacation Rentals: Pros

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More Local Flavor

Vacation rental properties are often unique in their layout and design. You can find treehouses in Alabama, seaside villas in Italy, and warehouse apartments in Brooklyn. Chain hotels can often be bland and lack local flavor.

More Space

Renting an entire house can be cheaper than individual hotel rooms for a large group, and you can have communal space for easy hangouts during your birthday trip, bachelorette party or family reunion. Hotels, conversely, will split you up into separate rooms, and you may not even be on the same floor.

Vacation rentals also generally offer kitchen access, so you can save money by cooking meals at home rather than eating out three times a day. Likewise, if you’re working remotely on your trip, vacation rentals may have dedicated office space available. 

A Closer Relationship with Hosts

When you book a vacation rental, you can see the profile and picture of the host. You have a direct message line to them in the lead-up to and during your trip, which can be helpful to get advice on what to do in the local area.

With some hosts, you can choose to rent just one of their rooms rather than the whole property, meaning you’ll be staying with the host themselves and/or other travelers. This can give you the opportunity for more interaction with someone from the area and fellow travelers from around the world. 

However, as vacation rentals have become more commercialized, hosts often manage multiple properties, meaning you may not even meet them. This has been further exacerbated by COVID, with contactless check-in becoming much more common.

Reliable Reviews

Reviews on most vacation rental sites like Airbnb and VRBO can only be posted by travelers who have actually completed a stay at the property. Plus, they do a good job of not publishing reviews until both the traveler and the host have completed them, meaning retaliation for a negative review is not really possible.

Ability to Earn Frequent Flyer Points On Airbnb Stays

You can earn Delta SkyMiles, British Airways Avios or Qantas Points on Airbnb stays. All you need to do is click through the relevant portal to get to the Airbnb site, and make your booking as usual. You’ll earn the frequent flyer points for free.

Hotels: Pros

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Consistent Expectations

Especially when booking chain hotels, you usually know what you’ll get from the experience, from check-in to using the facilities and housekeeping. Quality standards are usually consistent across hotels in different locations of the same brand.

More Professional Customer Service

Hotels generally offer 24/7 customer service, either in-person or by phone. Vacation rental hosts, conversely, are usually not available at all hours of the day if there is a problem (such as locking yourself out). 

Receive Elite Status Perks

Elite status members in loyalty programs like Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors and World of Hyatt can receive free room upgrades, free breakfast and late checkout.

Access to a gym

Chain hotels often have on-site gyms, where you can take advantage of exercise equipment whilst traveling. Some even have swimming pools, saunas and jacuzzis.

Free Breakfast

Hotels, motels and B&Bs will often throw a buffet or made-to-order breakfast in as a perk. This can be a great way to kick off your day, and save time and money.

More Convenient Locations

Hotels tend to be closer to city centers, meaning you have better access to walking and public transit. Vacation rentals tend to be in local neighborhoods, which can also have advantages.

Less Hidden Fees

Hotels, motels and B&Bs will usually quote the total price upfront, including all relevant taxes. It does pay to read the fine print, though, as sometimes taxes and resort fees can be excluded from the initial price shown.

One big gripe that people have with vacation rental companies is that there are so many fees added onto the price. Cleaning and service fees can add up significantly, and reduce the value proposition of these properties.

Better for Local Economies

Hotels, motels and B&Bs tend to have to be officially registered and therefore pay all relevant taxes in the jurisdiction they are in. Vacation rental hosts, conversely, often fly under the radar and do not pay occupancy taxes.

Properties bought to use exclusively as vacation rentals can also price out local residents, leading to gentrification.

Ability to Earn Loyalty Points

All major hotel chains like Accor, IHG and Wyndham have loyalty programs, giving you the opportunity to earn loyalty points. They are free to join and can help you save money by redeeming your points for future hotel stays.

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