As an independent travel consumer advocate, I am not loyal to any one supplier or way of doing things. As a travel consumer, I seek value — certainly I have preferences, and I even think Airbnb has its advantages. But with all the Airbnb backlash going around, many travelers are sticking to hotels. With that in mind, here are several benefits to booking a hotel instead of a vacation rental. Which would you choose?
Customers know what to expect when they stay at a Four Seasons – whether it’s in Santa Fe or Missoula. (Photo: Four Seasons Santa Fe)
With hotels, you can anticipate fairly consistent quality across brands. Repeat travelers know what to expect when staying at any Residence Inn, Super 8, or Four Seasons—whether in Santa Fe, Missoula, or Helsinki. Novice travelers can easily use sorting filters on booking websites and read reviews to view hotels meeting a certain price, rating (quality), or other (distance, size, brand, etc.) range. Airbnb rentals range from ground space (really) or an air mattress in a common room to entire estates (also really).
Reliable Reservation Process
Most hotel reservations are immediate and binding, especially when booking directly with the supplier (like a hotel chain). Some Airbnb bookings are automatic but most (in my estimate) still require sending a request to the owner, receiving approval, and then booking the property. I have read a very small percentage of Airbnb reviews where the reservation was made far in advance but canceled by the owner within a month of the check-in date. I certainly would not risk booking (or advise someone else to book) such a place.
Easier Last-Minute Stays
When on my beloved road trips, I rarely have a predetermined destination for the end of the day. I set off in the morning, spend hours exploring, and find a place to sleep when my adventure meter is empty. In other words, I often book last-minute lodging. For these situations, the hotel (or usually for me, a roadside motel or inn) process works better than Airbnb. I have tried using the Airbnb app on the road but last-minute bookings are not conducive to their model.
Faster Research Time
If you don’t want to spend hours researching rental options and reaching out to owners, a hotel is the way to go. (Photo: iStock)
After more than 25 years of trip planning (for myself and others), I have refined processes for hotel and Airbnb searches. While it usually takes some time to research and decide on a hotel property, it is a fraction of the effort and time of Airbnb searches. Because of the unique nature of vacation rental properties, it simply takes more time and effort to research possibilities, narrow down the choices, contact the owners, and make a decision.
I knew when I asked Ed Pizzarello for a quote about why hotel loyalty trumps Airbnb rentals, it was like asking if a rock star wanted some recreational substance (yes, loyalty points ARE like crack. I said it!). He recently wrote A Cautionary Tale on Airbnb and frequently travels with his family so I was interested in his viewpoint. Ed shared this with me:
“While Airbnb fits a definite need for travel, don’t overlook the value of hotel loyalty programs. If leveraged correctly, it can yield a whole lot more comfort without having to spend money. Points can be redeemed for suites, villas, or larger rooms in many destinations, making travel with a family cheaper and more comfortable. Redeeming hotel points isn’t just four people crammed into a room with two small beds and one bathroom.”
Related: Airbnb Reviews We Wish Existed
Travel agents can book hotels, often at lower rates than consumers can find online. Travel agents, however, cannot book Airbnb properties. Well, I mean travel agents do not receive commissions for Airbnb bookings. Anyway, if you lean toward the non-DIY side of travel planning, using a travel agent to book hotels is likely one of your go-to strategies.
Safety and Security
The hotel staff thinks about things like safety and emergency exit plans, so you don’t have to. (Photo: Ian Muttoo/Flickr)
“Traveling solo, I’m always concerned about security and safety. A hotel provides me a better sense of security than the Airbnb hosts/properties did — hotels have evacuation plans and security on site. I want to relax and sleep well knowing assistance is a phone call away.”
A recent Airbnb episode in Spain is definitely disturbing. Personally, I have had no safety incidents with Airbnb properties or any vacation rentals. In hotels, on the other hand, I have had a housekeeper enter my room (Austin, Texas), guests enter my room (Hawaii), a local try to enter my room (Texarkana, Texas), and returned from dinner to a murder scene (Anaheim, California). On a recent road trip, local news was about a murder in a hotel. So I do not agree that vacation rentals are more dangerous than hotels. Do your research! I definitely recognize that even perceived safety will make most travelers more comfortable.
Provide an escape from everyday life.
Because a vacation is easier when you don’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning and you can have breakfast brought to you in bed. (Photo: Getty Images)
Many people want to get away from it all while on vacation and be pampered and catered to. Suzanne also shared:
“I want to escape the daily drama of life (work, cooking, cleaning, gym) so I expect a hotel to offer everything I can’t get at home (luxury bedding, room service, a concierge) and make me feel special. Airbnb makes me feel like I’m home—working, cleaning, cooking, etc.”
What other hotel advantages have you experienced?