Should I Stay in a Hotel or Airbnb? The Female Traveler's Guide

Choosing where you will stay while traveling is never an easy task when presented with dozens or even hundreds of options, but the first choice to tackle is what type of accommodation is better for your trip. Whether you are choosing a place to relax, enjoy, work, or simply store your belongings and lay your head at night, the below considerations discussed in this article will help you decide.

Regardless of if you choose a hotel or Airbnb, safety should always be a top concern. My recommendation is to only stay in hotels or Airbnbs with plenty of good reviews, especially if you are traveling alone. Avoid places with no reviews and especially those with bad reviews. Hotels and Airbnbs each have their own advantages, but overall your trip length, familiarity with the destination, and personal preferences among other factors will determine if an Airbnb or hotel is a better choice for your trip.

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Comparing Cost: Airbnb vs. Hotel

Airbnb can be more cost effective if you are traveling alone, and if you are traveling in a group. For groups, an apartment or home with multiple bedrooms can be much less expensive than the amount of hotel rooms you would need to accommodate the same amount of people. If you are traveling as a couple the costs of an Airbnb could be comparable to a similar hotel and depends on personal preference.  

Depending on the city, state, or country where you are booking your stay, your reservation may be subject to an occupancy tax that is automatically calculated in the platform. For some ultra-busy tourist destinations like Santa Monica in California or Manhattan in New York City, the additional occupancy tax can bring your total up drastically, so be sure to review and compare the final prices before you book when deciding between an Airbnb or a hotel.

Other considerations that can influence the total overall cost of your stay include the ability to save money by cooking your own meals in an Airbnb with a kitchen, as well as avoiding tempting hotel conveniences like room service, gift shop items, or irresistible mini-bar snacks that come with a premium price-tag.


Trip Length: Airbnb vs. Hotel

The length of your trip can also determine if it is more cost effective to rent a place on Airbnb instead of a hotel. It is generally less expensive to stay in an Airbnb than a hotel and additionally, hosts on Airbnb can decide to offer a discount for stays longer than a week or a month. You can also message the host directly prior to booking and inquire about any further discounts for special circumstances or even longer stays.

Check-In Convenience: Airbnb vs. Hotel

Most hotels have a reception desk with 24-hour check-in and check-out which can be much more convenient if you are arriving late at night or departing early in the morning. Though this is generally the case, be sure to check the fine print when booking smaller boutique hotels or hotels in small, quiet towns as they could only accept check-ins between certain hours.

Checking-in and out at odd or unspecified hours can be harder to coordinate with an Airbnb host, but one useful tool on the platform is the ability to filter your options for places that offer self-check-in. In this case, you can check-in and out at your own convenience without having to coordinate or meet your host in person.


Comparing Security: Airbnb vs. Hotel

While a hotel may have more security, you will have less anonymity. If you are staying in a hotel, an Uber or taxi driver can assume that you are a tourist just based off of your drop-off location, whereas if you are getting dropped off at a residential home or apartment the driver wouldn’t be able to automatically make the same assumptions. If you prefer to blend in with the locals while traveling, staying in an Airbnb can help you keep a more discreet profile. For more safety tips for female travelers, click here.


Comparing Standards: Airbnb vs. Hotel

Most hotels are subject to the same standards of classes and star ratings, so you have a generally good idea of what to expect upon arriving to your stay. Airbnbs on the other hand offer a much wider range in terms of amenities, accessibility, and even sleeping arrangements. Though homes and apartments are most common on Airbnb, you can book anything from a camping site to a luxury villa and everything in between, including more unique accommodations including windmills, treehouses, and even igloos!

When booking an Airbnb, be sure to have an open mind because there are less standards between accommodations. The listings on Airbnb can also differ between staying in properties that are purely used as rentals, or staying in a property that is the host’s actual home and residence. You can read reviews about past travelers’ experiences to get a better idea of what to expect, and rate your own experiences to help future travelers make decisions for their stays.

Local Experience: Airbnb vs. Hotel

A hotel’s job is to make you feel at home anywhere in the world, regardless of where in the world you come from. As discussed above, the standards of hotel rooms are set to keep the experience familiar across the world, and some luxury hotels even make additional efforts to add elements of the local culture into the guest’s experience. By booking an Airbnb, you have a deeper insight into the ways that local people live on a daily basis, regardless of if you book a room within someone’s residence or book an entire place to yourself.

            When staying with a host at their property, you get to witness what a normal day is like for a local, and can maybe even learn tips about off-the-beaten-path experiences or restaurant recommendations that other tourists wouldn’t know about. If you book an entire place to yourself, doing things as simple and as normal as going to a supermarket to buy toilet paper or toothpaste is a local experience that you wouldn’t necessarily get if you stayed in a hotel and simply had it ordered to your room.


Independence: Airbnb vs. Hotel

As mentioned in the example above, if you choose to stay in a hotel all the essentials you could need are just a phone call away. Depending on the size of the hotel you can generally expect service at any time of day or night, and the front desk staff can help you call taxis, point you in the direction of the nearest ATM or café, and even make dinner reservations for you. When staying in an Airbnb, you are generally much more independent and with independence comes responsibility for things like cleaning up after yourself as if you were in your own home.

You are also left to your own devices (literally) when it comes to navigating to things like the nearest ATM or café, and depending on the type of traveler you are, finding things on your own can give you a great sense of accomplishment.

Familiarity with the Destination: Airbnb vs. Hotel

Is it your first, second, or tenth time visiting a destination? Depending on how familiar you are with a destination can help you decide if it’s better to stay in a hotel or an Airbnb while traveling. If you are visiting a brand-new destination and would like the added conveniences while you are still getting your bearings, staying in a hotel could be a good option. If you are already quite familiar with a destination (for me, I can feel right at home even if it’s just my second time visiting the same place) and have a favorite neighborhood in mind and prefer the independence, staying in an Airbnb can be a great choice.

Overall, there are many factors to take into consideration when deciding if a hotel or Airbnb is better for your trip. Regardless of what type of traveler you consider yourself to be, there are plenty of options within each category that you are sure to enjoy during your travels. If you are curious about trying Airbnb for the first time, click here for $30 USD off your first stay! Of course, there are other options for accommodations including hostels, campsites, camper vans, and others that I personally don’t have enough experience with to be able to give an opinion on, but I would love to hear about your experiences! What type of accommodation do you prefer to stay in while traveling? Let me know below in the comments!

Related: 18 Safety Tips for Female Travelers
Related: My Favorite Airbnb: Punto e Al Capo in Palermo, Sicily

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