Youth young female in Times Square


Airbnb rental or hotel room?

Published July 2nd, 2014

You’ve chosen your vacay destination and booked the flights; now, where are you going to stay? Couch surf at a friend’s or a friend-of-a-friend’s or with a random traveller you met on Contiki is the backpacker’s default and the cheapest option right up to booking a 5-star resort with all the trimmings. In between there’s hostel dorms, hotel rooms and the new-kid-on-the-block, peer-to-peer travel or P2P.

The most well-known P2P site is Airbnb where you rent a room/house/caravan/tepee direct from the owner, which usurped the original and websites. So how does the anti-hotel stack up against the established hospitality behemoth? And does Airbnb offer more bang for your buck than the Holiday Inn? (“Everybody go: Hotel, motel, Holiday Inn” – thanks Sugar Hill Gang!) Here’s our take on P2P vs hotels.



Location, location

Do you want to be in the middle of the action or off the beaten track? Is your flight getting in late? Live like a local or a celeb? Your travel style and itinerary will determine where you should stay on your vacay. While you know what you’re getting with a hotel room, with Airbnb you can stay in some amazing abodes! Sometimes a hotel room will have you in the thick of things and other times, a short-term rental may provide the ideal holiday environment. If you want to feel like a part of the community and less like a traveller, rent a room or apartment for an authentic stay. For a spot that’s close to all the sights and attractions, perhaps a hotel room is the better option. Do your research before you go. There’s nothing worse than being away from all the fun and having to spend all your holiday money on public transport to get there.


The price is right

If you’re travelling on a budget, and had enough of snoring and fornicating dorm-mates in a hostel, is your next cheapest bed for the night on Airbnb? Trawling P2P sites and hotel comparison websites can unearth a range of budget options. Check the profiles and reviews before you hand over your plastic and read the fine print to see if there are any limitations on your stay. Another plus about P2P sites is the ability to cook your own meals in the onsite kitchen facilities – another way to keep travelling costs down. For other cheap accommodation options, you can also check out our Staff Picks hotels that come with recommendations from Student Flights consultants who have stayed there, plus a heap of cool extras.



Sharing is caring

With a hotel room you are guaranteed some alone time, but with an P2P stay, you have the choice of renting an entire apartment or just a room. You can find out who you’ll be bunking with or who your temporary landlord will be from the profiles and reviews on the website. You could be renting a 4-storey walk-up studio apartment in New York’s Chinatown or a noisy flat in the East Village, staying with an eccentric Italian nonno in Rome, or waking up to homemade jam and bread in a B&B in Salzburg after a sleep in the world's comfiest bed – all real travel experiences from the team at SF headquarters! If you prefer your own space, go for a hotel or book an entire home. Don’t mind sharing and want the immersive experience? Rent a room – some hosts even show their guests around the traps!


Safety check

For security, you really can’t go past a hotel room. Quality varies according to the star rating, but most well-known hotel chains or boutique establishments worth their chocolate mint on the pillow will offer an in-room safe and keyless entry for peace of mind for you and your belongings. While you can lock up your backpack in a hostel, you’ll really appreciate the luxury of spreading your stuff around in a hotel room after a few months of lugging that backpack everywhere! Plus, there’s the hotel staff on hand 24/7 to sort any issues.  On P2P sites like Airbnb, there’s a limited guarantee for hosts against vandalism, and detailed profiles, verified identification and authentic reviews to help prospective Airbnbers decide whether a rental space is right for you. And while there’s a certain voyeuristic thrill from staying in someone else’s home, be a good guest and leave the space as you found it.



The fine print

All up, your travel style and lifestyle will determine whether a share scenario or go-it-alone deal will work for you and your travel mates. Why not mix it up with a stay in both a hotel and an anti-hotel on your next holiday? Tip: If you are going the P2P route, make sure you confirm your arrival times and key exchange meets with your host, allowing for any flight delays or transportation issues. The last thing you want is to be locked out of your holiday home. At night. With jet lag. Take it from us!


Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.