How to Decide Between an Airbnb or a Hotel – A Guide to Choosing the right Accommodation


I fully believe that where you stay while traveling can make or break your trip. It definitely colors the impression you have of the place, and often distorts memories, for better or for worse. Given this enormous weight your accommodation has on your trip, it makes sense to spend some time trying to find the best one! Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all for accommodation; every trip, every budget, and of course, every place is completely unique and so should be treated as such.

When I travel (with my husband, family or friends) we choose a mix of hotels and Airbnbs based on various factors. The biggest factor is usually budget, but gaining a unique local experience, or suitability for groups is usually a close second. While picking your accommodation, you have to narrow down a few important factors you have for this trip – is it location, or size, or convenience? Is luxury more important or adhering to a strict budget? In this post I hope to help you choose the type of your accommodation by answering these questions.

Here are some guidelines on when you should pick an Airbnb or a Hotel.

When to Choose an Airbnb

By now, I hope everyone has at least heard of Airbnb? If you haven’t, I highly recommend this NPR podcast. In a nutshell, it’s a service that lets you rent someones home for your trip, you could choose to rent an entire home or just a room. Doing it through Airbnb gives it an added level of service and security, if anything goes wrong with the landlord, Airbnb will come to the rescue.

I. Unique Places to Stay

Airbnb is a great way to find unique places to stay. This is amazing because you get to enjoy a new destination and enjoy a fun, unique experience at the same time! For instance, this treehouse we stayed at in San Luis Obispo – conveniently situated, the sweetest host, and the coolest accommodation!

When to Choose an Airbnb over a Hotel

Staying in a little treehouse near San Luis Obispo

Here are a few unique Airbnb’s on my wish list :

  1. The World Famous Sea Shell House
  2. This little Cottage in Sweden
  3. This Dome in Joshua Tree
  4. This dreamy Treehouse in Hawaii
  5. This stone hut in Italy

II. Want a local experience

It is hard enough to completely immerse yourself in the culture of a new place from a hotel room, and impossible to pretend to be a local. Renting an apartment is my favorite way to get local experiences – for one, they are usually in the parts of town that locals frequent, and two, you could actually get tips from your Airbnb host (and even make a new friend!).

III. Have a Large Group

While traveling in a large group (bachelor / bachelorette parties, family trips etc.) it’s fun to all stay together in a large house rather than split up in a hotel. This is when Airbnb becomes very useful (Note : There are other services you could use too – HomeAway’s VRBO is good for large rentals in the US).

IV. Get in in the afternoon or later and leave mid-morning or earlier

Most Airbnb’s don’t have lobbies to store your luggage before or after check out. (Note : Some hosts try to accommodate this, make sure to find out before booking).

V. Want to save money 

Hotels in a lot of heavy trafficked (aka touristy) places are very expensive (case in point : all of the California coast, where a Super 8 might cost more than a lovely airbnb). In such cases, picking a nice Airbnb works out much better than staying in a cheap hotel – for the same cost, you get a lovelier experience helping to make better memories of the place. You also avoid the over-touristy sections, making it a solid win-win.

VI. Need a kitchen

On longer trips (or if you have dietary restrictions) it’s really useful to have a kitchen. It helps save a lot of money (even something as simple as eating breakfast at home can go a long way), and keeps you a little healthier too! Airbnb wins on this one.

VII. Three or more nights

An Airbnb can be a bit of an overkill for just one or two nights (you have to take out the trash and clean up after yourselves, the restrictions on keeping luggage etc.) so might not be worth it. Hence, I recommend it usually for three or more nights. Caveat : Of course, this rule doesn’t apply if it’s a unique place or you have a large group.

If your trip sounds like it fits well in the above criteria and you want to book an Airbnb, remember to comb through the reviews carefully. I usually try to book places with more than a handful of reviews, a Superhost is obviously preferred.

A Yurt at Treebones Resort, Big Sur

When to Choose a Hotel

I. Need place to store your luggage

A hotel is super useful when you reach a place at an odd time and just need a lobby to store your luggage (and yourself!) before or after you check in. It’s also good for the times you reach very late, are disoriented and /or jet lagged and just want a comfortable bed to crash on without the hassle of figuring out how to open a new apartment door.

II. City where Airbnb is questionably legal

The sad reality of Airbnb is that it’s still battling some legal issues – a few cities are openly against short term rentals (since they might hurt long term residents by causing a shortage of places to stay thus hiking up long term rental prices). Case in point – Barcelona fined Airbnb for allowing property listings that were not listed on the tourism registry aka illegal. Condo boards in Tokyo are not Airbnb friendly, and in such cases it’s just easier to pick a hotel than have to worry about hiding the fact that you are staying in an Airbnb.

III. You don’t plan to spend much time in the room (cheaper hotel, convenient location)

If the only thing you want from your accommodation is a clean bed to sleep on at night in a super convenient location, choose a hotel. Just make sure the bathrooms look decent!

IV. Luxurious experiences aka pampered to the max

Let’s face it, real luxury can only come from a hotel (for now). Who wouldn’t want to take a bath in a gorgeous standalone tub sipping $$$ champagne, wear the most luxurious robes and sink into a cloud posing as a bed? And the best part – you don’t need to take out the trash!

I highly recommend choosing luxury hotels to take your vacation up a notch – especially for honeymoons and romantic getaways!

If you are interested in planning one of these, check out my post about the Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai, or the Raas Hotel Jodhpur!

When to Choose a Hotel over an Airbnb

Sleeping in a glass room amidst the trees at Ramsukh Resorts, Mahabaleshwar

V. Hotel offers some kind of perks / booked using credit card points

You can use credit card points to book a lot of hotels (FYI : I usually book five star hotels with points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve, and this makes me feel a lot less guilty!). Some hotels even have their own credit cards, and these are useful for upgrades, free stays etc. Most chain hotels have some kind of rewards system, and it does come in handy, if only to get free wifi (looking at you Marriott).

It might make sense to be consistent and stay at hotels where you can get and use perks – but of course the trade off is that you might miss out on some cool unique experiences in certain places.

Airbnb, hint, hint, to start some kind of rewards system?

VI. Unique Experiences


Glamping in a Treehouse at Acre in Baja California

Ha! Fooled you! You can get unique experiences through both Airbnbs and Hotels. You just need to pick really unique (most of the time small and cute) hotels – such as Treebones in Big Sur (glamping in yurts), or Acre in Baja California (glamping in Tree Houses), or luxury safari camps etc.

On my bucket list is to stay at

  1. this luxury cave hotel in Cappadocia
  2. this amazing overwater bungalow in the Maldives
  3. this stunning hotel at the edge of a cliff in Positano
  4. experiencing a Safari while staying in a Skybed or the Mombo Camp
  5. this chalet on a glacier in Alaska

VII. Less than three days

For any trip less than three days I recommend a hotel. An airbnb is *usually* not worth the hassle, especially since you have to pay a cleaning and service fee. Of course, there could be some factors that could make the airbnb option more desirable (need a kitchen / more space, much better value for money etc).

VIII. If you are not on a budget

If you have no budget restrictions then just stay at fancy hotels. But make sure they are super luxurious because you need to compensate for missing out on local experiences 🙂

I hope you found this guide useful! Now stop procrastinating and get back to booking your dream trip!



  1. August 8, 2018 / 3:54 pm

    You make a good point that if you’re only going to use your room to store your luggage and to sleep then it’s best to go to a hotel that is clean but cheaper. My husband and I are thinking of taking a small little trip together since this year has been really crazy with our jobs and we really just need some time to relax and be somewhere different. We’ll have to look for a hotel to go to since we’ll definitely want to visit sights and shop since we tend to be inside all the time right now.

    • Tanmaya Godbole
      September 20, 2018 / 5:50 pm

      Aww hope you have a wonderful, relaxing holiday! Let me know where you end up going, and where you chose to stay! 🙂

  2. September 7, 2018 / 11:14 pm

    Unique experiences aren’t slaves of luxury. Spend a night in a treehouse hotel and you’ll second my thought!

    • Tanmaya Godbole
      September 13, 2018 / 5:52 pm

      I love unique experiences! Treehouses are one of my favorites 🙂

  3. Sam Li
    October 30, 2018 / 12:52 pm

    I like how you mentioned that every hotel is useful when you need a place to store your luggage. Hotels and other forms of accommodation offer great amenities as well. My girlfriend and I are planning a trip, so we’ll be sure to find the best places to crash at.

    • Tanmaya Godbole
      November 5, 2018 / 3:08 pm

      Glad you liked it! Hope you and your girlfriend have an awesome vacation!

  4. November 22, 2018 / 4:26 pm

    It really helped when you said that staying in a hotel is good for those who had a tiring flight or travel since the beds are comfortable. I guess I will be choosing to stay in a hotel because we will be driving for hours just to get to the hometown of my mom. She will be celebrating her 60th birthday which is why we need to go. This will assure us that we can get enough rest once we reach their area.

  5. February 5, 2019 / 8:12 am

    Thanks for pointing out that hotels are a good option for any trip less than 3 days, since it won’t be worth the hassle and service fees to get an airbnb. My husband and I want to take a trip soon since we’ve both been so busy at work lately. It’ll have to be a short trip, so I think a hotel would be the best fit for us this time.

  6. Best Airbnb Philadelphia
    March 3, 2019 / 9:54 pm

    Great article and very well explained. I believe in professionals so this is a very useful article for everyone. Many thanks for your share.

  7. Devin Scott
    October 2, 2019 / 10:49 am

    I like how you mentioned that luxury hotels can be great for honeymoons. My new wife and I are planning a long honeymoon in Hawaii and we were wondering where we should stay at. I’ll let her know that we should stay at a luxury hotel for the best vacation.

  8. Hairstyles
    January 12, 2020 / 7:01 pm

    I dont even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I do not know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

  9. March 27, 2020 / 11:20 am

    That’s a good point that a hotel could pamper you a lot more. I feel like that would be nice when you want to just relax while you are on vacation. Next time I take a vacation, I’ll make sure to choose a hotel that could help me feel as comfortable as possible.

  10. May 12, 2020 / 2:50 pm

    It’s great to learn that a hotel is a good place to stay if you get to your destination at an odd time. My wife and I are wanting to go on vacation for our anniversary and we were wondering where we could stay once we get to our destination. I’ll be sure to tell her that we should look for a hotel if we get there early in the morning.

  11. ali
    June 23, 2020 / 10:11 pm

    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.

  12. August 4, 2020 / 2:07 pm

    I loved how you mentioned that you could use credit card points to book a hotel for cheaper. My wife and I are wanting to go on vacation soon and we were wondering where we could stay that would be inexpensive. I’ll be sure to tell her that we should try using our credit card points to book a hotel.

  13. October 5, 2020 / 10:50 am

    I like how you explained that it makes sense to stay in hotels when they offer a system that allows you to get perks. In addition to that, I would say that it would be a good idea to stay in a hotel because they often give access to swimming pools and gym facilities. Being able to use a pool at the end of the day while on vacation is a great way to relax.

  14. October 27, 2020 / 11:52 am

    It’s great to learn that you should stay at a hotel if your vacation is short and lasts three days or less. My wife and I are wanting to go on a vacation with our family and we were wondering where we should stay on the trip. I’ll be sure to tell her that we should look for a hotel to stay on the vacation.

  15. Braden Bills
    November 3, 2020 / 7:17 am

    I’m going to be going on a vacation with my family, so I’m going to have a lot of luggage. It makes sense that going to a hotel would be a good choice! the fact that they have ways to handle luggage makes them ideal for us.

  16. January 4, 2021 / 6:53 am

    I’m going to be heading out for a business trip, so I need to choose a place to stay. It makes sense that getting a hotel would be a good choice for this! That seems like a good option for being comfortable during my stay.

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