26 Reasons Why Staying at a Hotel Beats a Vacation Rental

Breakfast served on a hotel bed


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Breakfast served on a hotel bed

Staying Power

Whether you’re Camp Hotel or Camp Airbnb/Vrbo, there are pros and cons when booking either option for your vacation or business trip. For some, hotels have been priced out of their budget, hence the preference for value-for-money, short-term vacation rentals. But as more hotel chains expand their portfolio to include more affordable options and diversify guest services with cool, local experiences and super luxe amenities, it’s making more sense to stay at a hotel over a vacation rental that can come with hefty cleaning fees, service charges, and a long rule book of dos and don’ts. Here are some reasons why booking a hotel for your next trip may be the way to go.  


Related: 33 Things You're Doing Wrong When Planning a Vacation

Hotel bed after use. Dirty bed pillow blanket room.
Igor Vershinsky/istockphoto

You Don't Pay Luxury Rates AND Have To Clean Up

The beauty of a hotel stay is you don’t have to pick your towel off the floor if you like. For short-term rentals, there’s the onerous cleaning fee to consider, on top of the comparative base rate. According to Nerdwallet, the average Airbnb cleaning fee is $75, which is pretty hefty if you’re only staying for a long weekend. On average, expect to pay 20% of the base price as a cleaning fee, so, after a $150-a-night stay, with cleaning fees and 14.2% service charges and local taxes, you’re paying hotel rates (likely more), without any of the services. 

“A $250/night hotel is likely a luxury property, with attentive customer service, 24-hour reception, various amenities, and daily housekeeping. Despite paying a steep cleaning fee, typically you're not receiving daily housekeeping, and I've recently begun to notice hosts citing additional cleaning fees to be charged upon arrival, and additional fees for not taking out the garbage before leaving, leaving dirty dishes in the sink, getting makeup or blood on towels, etc.” shared travel blogger Eva Phan of Eva Darling

Related: 19 Things You Need to Know Before Booking an Airbnb

Telluride, Colorado small town Mountain Village in summer 2019 with view of San Juan Mountains and modern resort lodge apartment condo architecture

A Hotel Stay Might Be Cheaper

For many travelers when Airbnb and Vrbo first launched it was an affordable way to see the world but not stay in youth hostels. Times have changed, and in a 2021 study from Bounce, prices of both hotels and Airbnb listings were analyzed, and in many destinations hotels were 60 percent cheaper on average than a vacation rental. In Waikiki Beach, for example, the average nightly price for Airbnbs is $271, while the price for hotels was just $74. Visiting Wyoming? Booking a hotel would save you 73% versus a vacation rental and still be close to the national park. 


Related: Cool and Strange Hotel Rooms You Can Book in the U.S. and Beyond

vacations resort with pool and palm trees

The Amenities Are Almost Always Better

Hotels know it’s no longer enough to provide a plush mattress and designer toiletries. Infinity pools, a roving calendar of on-site events, over-the-top buffet breakfasts, and a complimentary mini-bar are some of the ways they’ve stepped up their game to entice travelers to vacation with them. According to an American Express 2022 survey, 81% of respondents expressed wanting to travel to destinations where they can immerse themselves into the local culture. Many hospitality brands have responded in kind with many introducing local artists, cultural classes and a calendar of events that spotlight local businesses, food and drink. 

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You Don’t Have To Worry About A One-Star Rating

Host/guest reviews are a double-edged sword, especially when there is little recourse or avenue to contest them, even if a stay has been less than perfect. “Airbnb allows guests to be rated by hosts post-stay. This is great for hosts, but for guests, this can discourage raising issues with hosts during the stay out of fear of a lowered rating. When staying in a villa in the jungle outside of Tulum, a host's assistant was exceptionally rude about myself and my guest not having cell service when arriving at the property. He continued to disparage us upon arrival and while we had housekeeping every three days of our stay (a first, for me on Airbnb), the housekeeping staff stole from us, and the host refused to believe us. Did I leave a negative review or continue pressing the issues? No, because doing so would've allowed the host to rate me,” shared Phan. 

Luxurious and elegant bedroom interiors

Everyone Gets the Same Room

Group trips can be tricky, especially when it comes to deciding where to stay. Even if you’ve booked a rental with adequate rooms, how do you divvy them up without causing resentment? No two rooms will be the same.  There’ll be rooms with an ocean view, others that have an ensuite, and then there’s always the dreaded room with twin beds. At a hotel, this issue is eliminated automatically — whoever wants a better room can pay for an upgrade — and there’s a lot more leeway to retire to your room for some downtime and not feel compelled to hang out in the living room past your bedtime. 

Related: Hotels With Spectacular Views Across America

Breakfast tray
Image Source/istockphoto

The Larger the Group, the More Freebies You Can Leverage

Vacation rentals typically add on charges as the group size increases. So if you’re traveling as a big group, this can end up costing everyone more. Hotels offer an opposite scenario, if you’re booking 10 rooms or more, there’s the option of a hotel block to get discounted rates and/or freebies and fees waived. 

“Group travelers want memorable experiences and they can find these by staying together at hotels rather than vacation rentals. Staying at hotels means they can get services that they won't get at vacation rentals such as complimentary turn-down, on-call housekeeping, or room service. Booking as a group at a hotel also helps with the group's budget! Group rates are lower than any published rates. Hotels may throw in other discounts from their fees that will lower overall out-of-pocket expenses for guests,” shared Mina Singson-Brightman from 40hammocks, a hotel block-booking service.

Hotel service bell Concept hotel, travel, room,Modern luxury hotel reception counter desk on background.

The Safety Factor

For solo travelers, especially women, a hotel with security protocols and a network of security cameras might be a safer choice than staying at a villa in a remote location. “Usually with hotels, there will be someone at the front desk or at least working and there may be cameras so if anyone follows me or I have any issues then I know that my chances of finding someone that can help me are quite high,” shared Emily Smith of The Female Abroad.

360 angle security camera on white ceiling

You Worry Less About Hidden Cameras

Cameras are everywhere, but in hotels, security cameras are allowed in public areas but specifically not in rooms. It’s a bit of a gray area for short-term rentals, and this TikTok video by Malwaretech has not eased our paranoia about being “watched” without consent. According to Airbnb, security cameras or recording devices must be indicated in a listing and while they’re prohibited in private spaces like bedrooms, bathrooms, or sleeping areas, they could be allowed in the living room if there is no sofa bed present. Vrbo's policy differs slightly, disallowing surveillance devices (camera or audio recorder) inside a property, but allowing them outside the property, for instance by the pool or hot tub, and stipulating there must be a disclosure specifying that “the pool/hot tub is within the coverage area of the device.” 

Woman makes hotel reservations via the internet

There’s Less Bait and Switch Happening

Unless you’ve been to a destination before, chances are you’re booking accommodations based on photographs and videos. This can get tricky when it comes to an Airbnb or Vrbo. Hotels, in general, have some duty of responsibility to upkeep the property, and, if nothing else, inspections are done to ensure a level of safety is maintained. A vacation rental is a whole different story, and you can rock up to your booking, only to find the property dated and riddled with issues. At a hotel, you can request a new room, to be moved to a sister property, or for a leak to be fixed ASAP. This might not happen if a vacation homeowner is not willing to resolve the issue, leaving you to deal with it, cancel and be without accommodation, and potentially spend a lot of time chasing for a refund. 

Yellow sign of wet floor plate is near the swimming pool.

The Issue of Liability

There’s a reason you often see yellow wet-floor signs placed around a hotel’s grounds, it’s part of their “affirmative duty to make the premises reasonably safe for their guests” But what happens if an incident occurs at a short-term vacation rental? 

“If you trip on the rug in your Airbnb and crack open your head, who is at fault? Is it the property owner who should have taped down the carpet? The vacation rental site you booked through?” asks Emily Smith from The Female Abroad.  “What if you lock up everything, check out, and then someone breaks in and steals things before the property owner is able to check? Are you liable because you were the last person to see the items? Too many unknowns, and if it is a country that you are unsure about, then it might not be worth the risk.” 

Related: How to Avoid Being a Crime Victim When You’re on Vacation

CPR training using and an AED and bag mask valve on an adult training manikin.

Hotels Have Emergency and Medical Protocols

Things happen when away from home, and if someone falls ill or gets injured, it can be challenging to find adequate and timely help when staying at a vacation rental, especially if you’re in a foreign country and don’t speak the language. “In the event of a medical or other emergencies, a hotel is much better equipped to accommodate guests without ruining your trip as most hotels have in-house medical personnel,” says frequent traveler Karen Arrington. “In the event of a building emergency or damage to hotel property, a hotel can quickly arrange to accommodate you at a comparable hotel.” 

travel company bus
Oleksandr Filon/istockphoto

Location, Location, Location

Depending on the type of trip you’re planning, a hotel might be more favorable than a short-term rental especially if you’re planning on staying somewhere central or visiting theme parks where hotels often offer shuttle services. “If you want to stay at a vacation rental, then you may need to add a car rental onto your trip, which will be an added cost that in the end balances out the “money” you may be saving if you booked a hotel,” says Smith. 

Reception desk

Not Having To Deal With Deposit Delays

Deposit issues crop up at hotels and short-term rentals, but a hotel stay is more clear-cut. The credit card is put on hold for incidentals, potential damage and minibar items. If none of the above applies, the holding charge disappears in a few days. For short-term rentals, this can take time to resolve. 

“Plan to not get back any deposits you put down that were required for your stay,” says Haley Sauls of Fernweh Foreigner about her experience in Colombia. “Some hosts will require certain security deposits with your stay. It’s best to plan on not getting this money back, and just be happy if it is returned to you.” 

A similar situation happened with Marcia Sherrill of Cool City Guides who spent six months chasing down a 1,000 euro deposit from a Paris vacation rental agency. “We had the owner come over when we left and it was spotless. She saw and thanked us and then we spent 6 months trying to get back the deposit but they kept 600 euros for electricity even though we did not use the air-conditioning or the washer more than once. It was highway robbery.”

Google Maps on iPhone 5

The Hotel Address Is Known

A big bugbear with vacation rentals is not knowing where you’re precisely located until after the booking is paid and confirmed. Safety aside, this presents an issue as it could be in a sketchy neighborhood, or a 2-mile walk from the closest supermarket, which then means adding Uber, taxi, or rental car costs. 

“You won't even know the exact address of an Airbnb till you've made your booking and spoken to the host. For travelers who are jet lagged and tired after long layovers, this can be a time-consuming and exhausting ordeal. Hotels are a lot easier for last-minute check-ins and don't demand much from travelers making it the more convenient option,” says Guy Sharp of Andorra Guides.

Related: 25 Cities With Great Public Transportation

Miracle inducing hands

Hotels Give Parents Time Off

Don’t underestimate the power of a hotel’s on-site kids club or dedicated kid facilities. It can mean the difference between having uninterrupted adult-only time — lounging by the poolside, playing a round of golf, having a sunset massage — or being on call 24/7 for the kids. 

“Many parents choose to stay at vacation rentals over hotels for space, and access to kitchens to cook for their kids. But when you're at a vacation rental, you still have to do all the tasks for your kids you'd like a break from (cooking, dishes, tidying up). At the right hotel — one with kitchens or suites — you can have the best of both worlds, with space and flexibility for kids, and the perks and amenities of a hotel too,” says Lee Friedman of Mango Tree Travel, adding that concierges also lend invaluable help with advice on local tips and activities to do with kids. 

Nice buffet line in a hotel

Breakfast Is a Non-Issue

A hotel with a really good buffet breakfast can be a big factor in starting every vacation day right. While more hotels are doing away with complimentary breakfast options, having the choice to start the day with a hot cup of coffee and a plate of eggs benedict and fresh croissants is never a bad option to have. At a vacation rental, unless you fork out extra for private chef service, you’ll be doing all the cooking and washing up after every meal and another clean-up before checking out, despite the hefty cleaning fee

booking hotel travel traveler search business reservation

Hotels Offer Last-Minute Bookings

Travel plans change all the time. It could be due to a flight delay, an impromptu decision to head to a particular destination, or you could stumble on a cool little town that you’d like to visit. For such scenarios, hotels trump vacation rentals, despite many properties having Instant Booking capabilities. Having flexibility in both dates and cancellations suits on-the-go travelers better. 

“For short-term visits, especially if it's on short notice, hotel stays are the way to go. You can easily book right up to the event, even last minute. There typically is a 24h reception in case there are delays along your journey. This is often tricky with vacation rentals which often require collecting the keys personally and talking to the landlord. They tend to have a short window of reception and are not always flexible when it comes to delays or late arrivals. If so, there's a surcharge,” says Annemarie Strehl of Travel on the Brain.

Smiling mature couple giving hotel reception their cardkey
Goodboy Picture Company/istockphoto

You Won’t Get Locked Out

Hotel keys and swipe cards get damaged, but a trip to the hotel reception usually sorts out the matter in under 10 minutes. If the same happens while staying at an Airbnb or Vrbo, you could be locked out for hours, and most likely at the most inconvenient time. Additionally, assigned key codes don’t always work, and if you’ve arrived with all your luggage in tow, you’ll have no choice but to wait until someone responds to show up to sort out the matter. 

View through a window of the Barcelona Cathedral in the historic center of Barcelona, Spain.
Kirk Fisher/istockphoto

You Won’t Accidentally Book an Illegal Stay

Hotels are easily verifiable as legitimate businesses, which isn’t the case with rogue Airbnb and Vrbo listings that could be illegal or come with a long list of caveats. In tourist hotspots like Honolulu, if your rental isn’t within a few specific zones and advertisements do not carry a registration or NUC number (a certificate allowing short-term renting outside the "resort mixed use" or "resort" zone) as well as tax map keys (tax information to identify a property for tax purposes), it’s likely it’s an illegal business. This isn’t just exclusive to Hawaii, cities like New York, Barcelona, Paris, and Tokyo all have stringent short-term leasing laws, making it challenging to navigate what’s legal, and what’s not. In this case, booking a hotel is more straightforward if you don’t want to deal with any surprise hassles. 

Brunette receptionist young woman in desk

Cancellation or Moving Dates Won’t Be An Issue

Hotels are normally happy to move your booking dates. For a vacation rental, it can be near impossible to cancel or change the booking without incurring some hefty fees. For Airbnb, depending on the listing’s status, you may be entitled to cancel only within 48 hours of booking and in very rare instances, 24 hours before check-in. Vrbo also has various cancellation policies allowing full refunds 14, 30, and 60 days before check-in, so be sure to read the fine print. 

Marriott hotel exterior view
Sundry Photography/istockphoto

Hotels Are More Reliable

You’re not asking for too much when you go on holiday and expect to sleep in a comfortable bed with decent hot water pressure and adequate sound and light proofing. While most short-term vacation rentals do their best to tick all the above boxes, there is a certain unpredictability factor involved (barking dogs, construction work, appliances breaking down). At a hotel, if you’re unhappy with the assigned room, you can ask for a switch, at a vacation rental you will have to work around whatever is not working. 

“Unpredictability of quality is something you get more with vacation rentals vs. hotels. Sure, there are some crappy hotels around, but at least you can stick to franchise hotels and know with some degree of certainty that you’re going to have a clean space. Rentals on the other hand have a much larger range of potential for how bad it could be. Sure, there are some gorgeous rentals, but how do you know how clean it’s going to be? How can you be certain that the owner will leave you alone? You can’t. I just think that there’s too much variety to say that I could ever prefer rentals to actual hotels,” says Jason Dempsey of Home City Living.

DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Nashville
Joel Carillet/istockphoto

Hotels Offer a Level of Flexibility

What if your flight lands at 11 p.m. and your Airbnb or Vrbo host only allows check-in before 5 p.m.? You’ll have to book a hotel for the evening unless you get a hold of the host and convince them to let you in. It’s not unusual for check-in/check-out times to be restricted or available for an additional fee, and if you want to leave your luggage behind to be picked up later, it’s likely the host will not be able to accommodate your request. 

“[At hotels], you walk in the door and get your key at any hour, housekeeping is a given with no extra fees, you can change rooms if it's not clean or there's a problem, and there's no risk of being locked out of the place. You also know that a taxi driver can find it and you can put it into Google Maps yourself with just the name of the property. Plus you know you can leave your luggage stored and come back for it later,” says Tim Leffel of The World's Cheapest Destinations.

No smoking sign on wooden table

Beware the Rule Book

What is it about traveling that brings out the worst in people? Hotels generally expect guests not to trash rooms, not to smoke, and to register overnight guests. For short-term vacation owners, as it is their home, it’s also their rules. While Airbnb has already put a ban on parties and events, capping occupancy at 16 people, some owners have a lengthy list of regulations: everything from barring pool/hot tub usage, putting trash out in a particular way, not allowing any cooking, and prohibiting outside guests even if they don’t stay overnight. The list can go on and on, and it’s enough to put a damper on anyone’s vacation. 

Picture of family checking in hotel

Hotels Can Feel Very Personal

There’s a certain charm that comes with housekeeping staff making towels into swans or other animals throughout your stay and even though you may never meet the individual, that personal touch is not lost. 

“I hate how impersonal staying at a vacation rental is. You are staying in someone's home, and yet you never meet them. I much prefer to get to know the concierge and hotel staff, especially if I will be staying for a few days or longer. There is nothing more welcoming in a strange city than someone greeting you by name when you enter your hotel,” says travel writer Kathryn Anderson of Coffee and Mascara.

Stressed business woman working from home on laptop looking worried, tired and overwhelmed while sitting in the kitchen at home.

Your Room Won’t Be Canceled

Last-minute cancellations from vacation rental hosts happen more often than you realize. Airbnb’s policy in place fines hosts anywhere from $50-$1,000, but it is still entirely possible for a host to cancel 48 hours or less before check-in and only be charged 50% of the reservation amount. Besides having to chase up on a refund, you’re suddenly left to find other accommodations. 

“Without a written rental agreement, the owner will have no trouble backing out of the rental. Even yet, if there had been one, it would probably have included clauses allowing him to cancel for several different reasons. However, in most situations, if the owner cancels by a certain date or the property becomes unavailable due to circumstances beyond his control, his only obligation is to reimburse the money paid. Of course, hotels have such provisions in their terms and conditions, but if you make a reservation with a reputable company, they usually can find another room, even if it is at a different hotel,” says Jenny Ly from Go Wanderly.

seaview bedroom

Who Doesn’t Love A Room Upgrade?

No matter how many Airbnb’s you book, no loyalty program will net you some nice guest perks. For travelers who are mile-savvy and know how to play their hotel loyalty cards, they’ll be able to get an upgrade to an ocean-facing suite just because of their status, or they’ll use their membership to offset a few vacation splurges. Plus every night you stay with a hotel with a loyalty program means you’re earning extra points to put towards your next stay.