Hotels vs. Vacation Rentals: What’s Better for Travel?
Hotels and vacation rentals are two common options for those living away from home for an extended period of time. But when comparing hotels vs vacation rentals, which accommodation is better?
Assessing the better accommodation is entirely subjective; what’s good for you may not be good for someone else. You’ll have to ask yourself a range of questions to determine which accommodation best fits your needs and wants. How long will I be staying? Will there be enough space for all of us? Can I bring my dog?
In the sorted pros and cons lists featured below, these questions and more will be explored in-depth for your convenience:
Hotels feature an array of advantages to those looking for flexibility and familiarity. The traditional hotel stay has everything a traveler could need: fully equipped kitchens and bathrooms, beds to sleep on, and the ability to come and go as pleased. Moreover, staying at a hotel usually comes with a certain level of safety and security. Many hotels offer 24/7 concierge, surveillance cameras, mobile room keys, and staff training on emergency protocol. The same goes for hostels, a low-cost version of a hotel with dormitory-style rooms.
What sets hotels apart from many vacation rentals is the tiers of management associated with this kind of establishment. Hotels are typically large businesses with chains of accommodations spread throughout the country, or the world. Rules and regulations associated with the hotel are generally conceived at the highest level of management and employed by the lowest level. This is largely what grants hotels the ability to offer their guests a certain amount of familiarity with each stay — something many look forward too.
Below are a few of the pros associated with hotels:
- Flexibility in length of stay – If you’re unsure how long you’ll need a place to stay, a hotel room may be the better option. Unlike vacation rentals, extended-stay hotels are designed for people who come and go more frequently. Breaking a lease with a rental home is likely to cost a lot more money than canceling a hotel room.
- No utility payments – Hotels almost never charge utilities, as there is no incentive to do so. Big properties like these would have to install monitoring systems that track electricity use and water consumption per room. The cost of installing such systems and maintaining them could potentially outweigh the revenue from charging utilities.
- Additional services – Staying in a hotel means having additional services, such as housekeeping, room service, and continental breakfast. Many additional services are provided for free, while others are at a cost.
- Kitchen – Hotel suites come equipped with a kitchen and all the basic kitchen supplies you may need. Vacation rentals, on the other hand, may come with a kitchen but not your typical pots, pans, and other necessary supplies.
Below are a few of the cons associated with hotels:
- Lack of space – Hotels rooms, more often than not, lack the space found in vacation rentals. Those going on a trip with a big family or lots of friends may need to book multiple hotel rooms to accommodate everyone in terms of sleeping and personal space. As such, large groups may be better off with a vacation rental.
- Lack of privacy – When comparing hotels vs vacation rentals, there is no contest in terms of privacy. The lack of available space in hotel rooms translates to a lack of privacy. Larger groups may struggle with the limited number of rooms in a given hotel unit.
- Less personalization – Since hotels are found in chains, there can be a lack of personalization. Rather, hotels are more known for familiarity.
- Cabin fever – Staying in a hotel room for a long period of time could lead to cabin fever. This location’s lack of space, privacy, and personalization can make even the calmest people irritable. If you’re staying with family or friends, you may grow even more irritable given the close quarters.
The many advantages of rental agreements have to do with the autonomy attributed to property owners — and their respective property management services, if applicable. Property owners can often expand accommodations more easily than hotels because they are under less supervision. Besides following property tax regulations and other state-mandated laws, property owners don’t usually have tiers of management to go through, as do hotels.
Autonomy also grants property owners the ability to personalize their vacation rentals. Your stay could be in a condo, an apartment, a huge house, or a bungalow. A vacation near the ocean could be accompanied by a beach-themed house, while a trip to the woods may feature a secluded log cabin. There’s no lack of diversity when it comes to vacation rentals. Some vacation rentals even feature partnerships with nearby tourist and adventure sites, making it easy to explore your travel destination.
Below are a few of the pros associated with vacation rentals:
- Flexibility in cost – Another key consideration when comparing hotels vs vacation rentals is cost. With vacation rentals often comes more flexibility in terms of cost. While hotels tend to offer fixed per-night costs, vacation rental costs are more likely to be up to the owner’s discretion.
- Discounts – Vacation rental owners often use weekly or monthly discounts as an incentive to get you to rent out their property for a longer period of time. Staying in a vacation rental long-term could average out the nightly cost, making it equivalent to and less than a hotel night’s stay.
- Space – Unlike a hotel room which usually comes equipped with two rooms max, vacation rentals are often full-sized homes. Bigger families or friend groups may need the extra space to avoid cabin fever.
- Pets – Since vacation rentals are up to the owner’s discretion, pets are more likely to be allowed. Even if you’re looking at a vacation rental that says no pets, you’ll at least have the ability to negotiate an agreement, granted your pet is potty trained and well-behaved.
Below are a few of the cons associated with vacation rentals:
- Less Staffed – Vacation rentals are most likely to be less staffed than your traditional hotel. Less staffed results though in more privacy. While it is impractical to have a staffed concierge desk at each vacation rental, a quick call or an email will connect you to a concierge agent that will assist you with all your questions and special requests.
- Fewer Amenities – Vacation rentals tend to have fewer amenities than hotels. Luxury vacation rentals tend to offer shampoo, conditioner, toiletries and coffee, but with the lesser expensive vacation properties it is best you verify what is included with the rental.
- Transportation – If you’re renting away from town, such as a beach, mountain or resort area, you’ll probably need to rent a car to get around town, go to the grocery store etc. Renting a car will give you the best flexibility to explore the area better if you feel like it.
Other Extended-Stay Accommodations
If you are comparing hotels vs vacation rentals for an long-term stay, a few less common but inexpensive and unique extended-stay accommodations include:
- Academic housing – If you’re traveling somewhere with a university, they may rent out dorm rooms to travelers in the summer or during term breaks. You can find these accommodations online or through locals.
- Religious housing – Many religious buildings and organizations offer accommodation at a fraction of the cost of a hotel or rental home. Some may even be free. You can find religious housing through a Google search or through a referral from your local place of worship.
- Work abroad – Companies such as WWOOF give you rent and food in exchange for labor. If you’re looking to get some hands-on experience or explore a new part of the world with a limited budget, you may enjoy working on a farm, cruise ship, or other such accommodation.
- Couchsurfing – If you’re traveling alone and on a budget, you may want to consider couchsurfing. Just know that hosts generally expect you to interact with them. These accommodations can also be found on travel websites.