After my first Airbnb experience two years ago, I concluded that I would probably stick to hotels in the future. Some people have asked me why anyone would opt to rent through Airbnb in the first place, with so many hotels available on points. In my case, I wanted to get away from the touristy areas of Bali and experience something different from the typical chain hotels. Villa Bulung Daya was fully staffed and provided an experience on par with what you would get at a resort. But it wasn’t the same. It felt like staying in a stranger’s house.
In fact, when I spoke to a fellow blogger at the Chicago Seminars last month, he really got to the heart of the issue: When you’re staying at a hotel, it feels like a real vacation. But this brings up my main point: There are times when booking an Airbnb makes more sense than redeeming points for a hotel. There are at least 5 instances I can think of:
1. Hotels are sold out or not available on points
If you’re traveling to a major metropolitan city or anywhere else during high season, you’ll often find hotel rates to be unreasonably high or sold out altogether. There are also destinations that are inherently expensive (Santorini comes to mind). At such destinations, top-tier chain hotels will have very high redemption rates. So rather than part with 60,00 Starpoints for a night at Mystique, it makes more sense to redeem ~13,000 Arrival miles for this gorgeous cave house in Oia through Airbnb.
2. You want to get away from touristy areas
Places like Bali get a reputation for being overrun by loud, badly behaving tourists who cause trouble and stomp out any vestige of local culture left. In place like these, opting out of hotels in favor of an AirBnB away from the ruckus can make your trip more enjoyable.
3. You’re traveling with a big group
When you’re traveling with a group, all expenses are multiplied. That 25,000 points per night you were going to shell out for a hotel in Hawaii is now doubled to 50,000 per night because you need two rooms. Add in a third room and that’s 75,000 points per night for a hotel like the Andaz Maui! Over three nights that’s a huge stash of points to part with – regardless of whether you’ve got people sharing the cost with you.
On the other hand, booking through Airbnb can cost you as $150 per night for a 2-bedroom beachfront condo. If you’re traveling with a large group and the hotel has a maximum 2 person occupancy, booking an Airbnb is also much cheaper.
4. You want to be immersed in the local culture
I hate sounding like one of those annoying travel bloggers who go on and on about “exploring” and “hanging out with the locals” insofar as it benefits them, but booking a place through Airbnb can help you get in touch with the local culture. If that’s what you’re after. You can visit local grocery stores, ask the cashier for local recipes (or just Google that stuff and stop using people to enhance your experience while doing nothing for them in return) and prepare your own meals. It’s economical and puts you in touch with the common folks. Or you can just do all of those things while staying at a SpringHill Suites property. 😉
5. You want to support the local economy
This ties into immersing yourself into the local culture. By booking accommodations through Airbnb, you’re often supporting locals who are able to generate income by renting their homes out to tourists. However, depending on where you’re traveling to, you may just end up supporting a wealthy expat who’s using cheap local labor to live out a vacation home fantasy and help finance life back home. Other times, you end up supporting locals who may not otherwise benefit from the local tourist trade.
There are lots of times when booking an Airbnb makes more sense than a hotel. It can be more convenient than a hotel. It can help the local economy and, more importantly, it can work out way cheaper than a hotel. Even on points. I don’t think I’ll make a habit of staying at Airbnbs any time soon. However, I will definitely consider it, depending on the occasion. That being said, I don’t think anything gets you into vacation mode like a resort.
Do you prefer hotels over Airbnbs? In what scenario would you stay at an Airbnb property over a hotel?