Finding accommodations for your next family vacation can be one of the most challenging elements of trip planning. Between time spent seeking the best possible lodgings and having to brace yourself for the steep price tag, finding a place might make you want to stay home.
While planning your accommodations, you’ll have to decide between various options, including Airbnb—a relatively new home-sharing service—and traditional hotels.
In this article, we’ll explore the benefits and drawbacks of both and help you decide which is best for your next family getaway.
In the Airbnb vs. hotels debate, the correct answer will vary for every family and every vacation.
Why not also take a look our our study on whether it’s cheaper to book an Airbnb or a hotel in major US cities?
- Hotels: Why We Love Them
- Airbnbs: Why They’re an Excellent Choice
- Drawbacks of Hotel Stays
- Drawbacks of Airbnbs
- Airbnb vs. Hotels: The Best Choice for Your Family Vacation
Hotels: Why We Love Them
As the more traditional of the two options, hotels have a lot to offer family vacationers. Let’s explore some of the best elements of hotel accommodations.
Why not also check out our roundup of the best hotel booking sites?
Except in rare cases, hotels almost always have more (and better) amenities than AirBnB listings. For example, here are some things that only hotels are likely to offer:
- Spa and salon services
- Large pools and on-site activities for the kids
- Fitness rooms and desktop computers
- Room service, full meal services, cocktail bars, and in-room minibars
Fresh sheets and chef-prepared meals are hard to beat for vacationers who truly want to escape the hustle, bustle, and banality of everyday life. In most home-share vacation rentals, the amenities available aren’t going to remotely compare to the hotel experience.
If you’re the type of vacationer who loves turn-down service and poolside cocktails made by someone you’re not related to, a hotel will likely provide the slate of amenities you’re looking for.
Since hotels are usually full of vacationers, they often host events or offer a variety of activities. Guests can join other families for poolside games, music performances, trivia, films, and more.
If you and your family like to socialize with other vacationers and meet families from other walks of life on your adventures, these group activities will allow you to spread your social butterfly wings.
Children can even make potentially lifelong—or at least vacation-long—friends during organized pool games or while exploring other activities offered by the hotel, like:
- Beach volleyball
- Kayaking, canoeing, or paddleboarding
While not all hotels offer a wide array of on-site activities, some have enough on the docket to occupy your family for the entire duration of your stay.
Suppose you want to leave the hotel grounds and explore the surrounding area. In that case, hotel concierge staff can help you draft an itinerary that will excite the entire family – even aloof teenagers. Professional excursion-planning staff are an additional boon to hotel stays, and they can help you add activities to your trip that you might not have otherwise known were available.
Even if you want to limit your time away from your hotel headquarters, a concierge can help you find:
- Transportation around the area via taxis, tour buses, pedicabs, and more
- Restaurants in your price range that aren’t in the local travel guides
- The best times and days to visit museums or landmarks
- Hiking, walking tour, or snorkeling guides
Instead of planning every moment of your vacation to the minute before you even board the plane, you can rely upon the expertise of your hotel’s concierge services to create an itinerary that’s sure to please.
If you’re traveling with other families, hotels make it easy to book group accommodations, and they can provide adjoining or adjacent rooms to keep your traveling group nearby.
Hotels are beneficial for large family gatherings like:
- Destination weddings
- Family reunions
- Spring or summer break vacations
- Trips during the winter holidays
Keeping the entire travel group together in one lodging location significantly reduces the need for logistics planning. You won’t have to worry about picking people up from multiple rental locations for meals or activities, you can catch an airport shuttle together, and you can more easily split costs.
If you’re planning on bringing multiple small families on your vacation, hotels make it easy to keep everyone together.
Airbnbs: Why They’re an Excellent Choice
While hotels offer a variety of benefits for travelers, some may prefer the home-sharing potential of Airbnb and its associated benefits.
Airbnbs offer the flexibility of booking that most hotels do not. Most Airbnb listings have forgiving cancellation policies, providing peace of mind to families with small children, elderly relatives, or tentative schedules.
Most Airbnbs will provide a full refund for cancellations made within 48 hours of the arrival date, while some hosts will offer partial refunds for even shorter notices. This assurance that your money will be refunded if your trip doesn’t work out can alleviate significant vacation-related stress.
AirBnBs are also available in a variety of locations, and there are often numerous listings in one city, providing flexibility of locale in addition to cancellation policies. Plus, since Aitbnbs come in all shapes and sizes, vacationers can find a listing in various price ranges.
Airbnbs can be less costly than hotel stays since they don’t include amenities like daily cleaning, laundry, or room service. Even if your family doesn’t need these services, they’re generally included in the price of a hotel stay, meaning that you’ll spend more than you need to.
While hotel prices generally correlate to the quality of the accommodations and the amenities available, vacationers can often find excellent Airbnb listings at a significantly lower cost than a swanky hotel room. While hotels sometimes offer discounted rates, you’re more likely to find an affordable gem on Airbnb.
While hotels are often bustling with other guests, staff, and event visitors, Airbnbs offer the privacy of a family home.
Instead of swimming in or lounging by a pool buzzing with other visitors, you can enjoy a backyard pool free from the wandering eyes of passersby. Instead of a busy bar with a line for drinks, you can make your own cocktails at home. And, instead of trying to explain fussy eating habits or dietary restrictions to hotel cooking staff, you can prepare meals to your liking.
Whether you’re more of an introverted family or you’re simply seeking some quality alone time away from the world, an Airbnb affords privacy, quiet, and a stranger-free environment.
Hotels can be cozy, but they’ll never quite feel like home. Typical Airbnb listings likely won’t feel like your home, but they’ll at least feel like a home since, when they’re not occupied by renters, most Airbnb listings are full-time residences.
At an Airbnb, you’re likely to find coffee mugs with cheerful designs and witty sayings, cozy blankets for movie nights, and at least one spice cabinet. Plus, listings generally have a familiar home layout with a kitchen, living space, and bedroom space. While you have to pay extra for these spaces at a hotel, they’re part and parcel of an Airbnb.
If you’re looking to spend your vacation in a home away from home, Airbnb listings provide a home base in the truest sense. Say goodbye to uncharming furniture and equally-spaced beds: AirBnBs have as much homeyness and personality as their owners do.
Drawbacks of Hotel Stays
Hotels certainly have their perks, but they also offer some potential drawbacks for vacationers seeking the perfect accommodations for their upcoming trip. Let’s explore some shortcomings of the hotel experience.
Pet-Friendliness Is Hard to Find
If your furry friends are an inseparable part of your family, it can be difficult to find hotel lodgings that can accommodate them. Most hotels aren’t pet-friendly, and pet-friendly rooms typically come at a higher cost.
While not every Airbnb listing is pet-friendly—and some require visitors to pay pet fees for additional cleaning—vacationers are much more likely to find a pet-friendly listing on the home-sharing site than they are to find a hotel room where their pets are welcome.
Sometimes leaving your pets behind while you go on vacation is a must. Still, if you want to include your family pet in the adventure this year, you’re unlikely to find a varied selection of hotel accommodations that can house even your furry relatives.
You’re Not a One-in-a-Million Guest
As explored above, hotels usually have visitors other than your traveling group on the grounds. Hotel staff has to cater to every guest on the premises, meaning that you’ll likely receive less attention or personalized customer service than you would while staying in an Airbnb, where you’d be the only guest.
If you’re looking for one-on-one service from a human invested in the property where you’re staying, AirBnB may be a better option for your upcoming vacation. Airbnb owners are usually nearby, or they have a responsive person on hand to deal with any issues with the listing when guests arrive.
Some Airbnb hosts will even personally introduce themselves, give guests a small tour of the property, explain quirks, or recommend nearby restaurants and attractions. For truly personalized service, Airbnb takes the cake.
Alone Time Is Hard to Find
At a hotel, you’re almost guaranteed to interact with other guests. It can be challenging to find alone time in a hotel, especially if you’ve booked a traditional room with two beds, a TV, and minimal furniture. Unless you want to take your alone time in the bathroom or the closet, you’re unlikely to find a private hideaway when you need some space from your fellow travelers.
But, if you search for accommodations on Airbnb, you can book a space with a sanctuary for when you want to quietly read a book, meditate, or scroll social media. Especially on long vacations, alone time is a precious resource, and the need for it comes on hard and fast.
Instead of—probably fruitlessly—trying to find a quiet hideaway in a hotel, consider booking an Airbnb listing with an extra bedroom, a balcony, or a backyard space where you can hole up when you need alone time.
Drawbacks of Airbnbs
While Airbnbs are perfect for some vacationers, they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. Even if you love the idea of home-sharing, some elements of the Airbnb experience may be simply incompatible with your upcoming vacation plans. Let’s explore some reasons why Airbnb might not be the best choice.
Separation of Multiple Families
If you’re taking a multi-family vacation, large Airbnb listings that can accommodate multiple families can be hard to come by, especially if you’re traveling to a more remote location or a major metropolis.
Vacationers with multiple families on the docket may have to reserve multiple listings, which can sometimes be difficult on AirBnB due to availability and location. If you want to have a big group dinner at home every night while you’re traveling, one or more families may have to walk, drive, or take public transport to gather at one location.
If you plan on vacationing with multiple families, adjoining or adjacent rooms in a hotel may be better suited for your stay.
Stocking the Fridge
Most Airbnb listings aren’t all-inclusive. You’ll have to supply your own meal ingredients, drinks, and snacks for the duration of your stay, meaning a sometimes-dreaded visit to a grocery store during your vacation.
If you’re looking to truly escape the real world on your trip, a grocery run and making your own meals and drinks may not be what you’re looking for. Instead, consider a hotel with room service, a cocktail bar, and regular meal services, where you won’t have to lift a finger to stay fed and hydrated.
No Daily Cleaning
Most Airbnbs aren’t cleaned daily, unlike your average hotel room. In most cases, you won’t receive turn-down service, fresh sheets and towels when you need them (though your Airbnb should include plenty of linens), or mints on your pillow.
Plus, most Airbnb hosts request that their guests tidy up before they leave, which can include:
- Placing all linens in one area, or even starting a load of laundry
- Putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher and starting it
- Taking out the trash
These requests are usually—and, sometimes annoyingly—made even if vacationers pay a cleaning fee.
If you’re looking for a cleaning-free vacation where you can truly escape reality, you might be more suited to the hotel experience.
Airbnb vs. Hotels: The Best Choice for Your Family Vacation
When it comes to the Airbnb vs. hotels debate, the best choice will depend on the makeup of your trip roster, your price range, your destination, and the type of vacation you’re seeking.
Your family is likely better suited for a hotel experience if you’re looking for:
- A completely hands-off vacation
- Daily cleaning
- Meals and cocktails made by someone else
- On-site amenities
But, an Airbnb will be a better choice if your travel group values:
- The comforts of home
- One-on-one, personalized customer service
- Potential secluded spaces and alone time
All in all, both lodging options are excellent choices for an upcoming vacation, and both provide the most crucial element of accommodations: a place to lay your head at night.