Do I book a hotel, or AirBnB? Great question, but unfortunately there isn’t any easy answer. There are definite advantages to both, plus a dozen minor ones. In 5 years of using AirBnB I’ve yet to have a bad experience. I’m sure it’s because I’m extremely careful as well as meticulous in my process. Don’t think hotels are free of risk, there are bad ones and every now and then you’ll find one. What I hope to do is to outline my process which will help you to decide what works best for you. If you are anything like me, you will be open to both and probably split your stays fairly equally based on your destination.
When I book hotels I rely on the Star Rating system, it’s an effort by the lodging industry to level the playing field. It gives you an opportunity to compare hotels, who’s names you probably wouldn’t recognize within a particular market. I tend to look at 4 Star and up, but don’t assume a 4 star in Rome Italy is the same as a 4 star in Rome Georgia.
Use the rating to compare within a market, not between markets. The few times I’ve been disappointed with my hotel choice it’s been because I was forced to choose between 3 star hotels, which in most cases are just average. In any case it’s important to read the reviews, paying close attention to the bad ones. Chain hotels tend to be pretty consistent as they are held to the hotel chain standards. The beds are the same in all Hampton Inns, and you’ll find that a Marriott hotel in Boston is of similar quality as a Marriott in Chicago.
AirBnB evaluations tend to be a bit more complex, but not impossible. The first step is to know your market. What are the hotel rates in that city? Where is the best location?
If you plan on using public transit where are the access points? What type of lodging are you looking for? Bed & Breakfast? Apartment or Flat rental? What amenities do you need? Use the AirBnB search engine filters to sort through the list making sure you have everything that’s important to you. My filters include: WiFi, TV, washer, dryer, blow dryer, air conditioning, coffee maker, and kitchen or kitchenette. Choose your budget, if hotels are going for $200 per night start looking at $100 to about $250 price range. Don’t go cheap if you look for $50 per night that’s exactly what you’ll get! Position the map to show the area that you want and zoom in so you only see that area. There are usually many more rentals than what they show so it pays to zoom in. Now the fun part… start looking at the pictures and find something that catches your eye. Avoid the ones that look “lived in” the last thing you want to do is stay at Bob’s place, chasing him out of his house so he can earn a few bucks to pay his electric bill! Book the AirBnB investment properties, properties that were purchased for the sole purpose of short term rental income. You’ll find the owner has a system for booking, check-in and most importantly cleaning the property. The AirBnB rating system will keep you out of trouble if you look for perfect scores, and just like hotels READ the REVIEWS!
I typically have a 50/50 split between booking AirBnB and staying in hotels. The markets usually determine where I stay. I like AirBnB when I want to be a “local”, having the amenities I don’t have in hotels. I like hotels when I want consistency especially when traveling to places that are unfamiliar or maybe a bit exotic. It’s a bit of a balancing act, but will be fun whatever you choose.
The Beer-Centric Traveler writes for Play Harder Tours… Please email Bill@playhardertours.com and start your travel planning today! For a complete list of recommendations please email with “AirBnB” on the subject line. I’d love to hear your suggestions too.