So, you’ve packed your bags and are going to take the family on vacation. You’ve nailed down the dates, destination, and activities, now you just need to book somewhere to stay.
Hotels are no longer the only source for lodging when out-of-town. Airbnbs have become a very popular alternative for many reasons, but are they better than a hotel? Below we put hotels and Airbnbs to the test to help decide which is best for your family.
Hotels come packed with many standard amenities; they usually have a pool, gym, free breakfast or a cafe, and daily housekeeping, with some luxury hotels offering even more! After a long day with the kids, walking into a cleaned room with a stocked mini bar is often a welcome sight!
While most hotels have a laundry room, you will have to pay to use the washer and dryer or even find a laundromat in a nearby neighborhood. This expense can add up, and having enough quarters or small bills to run the machines is a pain (although most tend to have change machines onsite, but always plan ahead). Plus, you’ll probably want to stay in the laundry room to prevent possible theft.
Moreover, kids can get antsy in a small hotel room where tv is the only entertainment option, and the only place to really take them on-site is the pool.
At an Airbnb you will have the flexibility of saving money by cooking your own meals, prepping lunches, and being able to store more food in the fridge or freezer for the family to use the next day without worrying about any mini-bar charges (new hotels are installing sensors in their fridges so moving items charges you automatically)..
Also, many Airbnbs have laundry in the unit and will make that clear in the listing, so you can do multiple loads without having to stay and watch your laundry and can instead start it and go to bed, saving you time and worry.
Higher rated Airbnbs tend to have video and board games, movies, and other items to keep their guests entertained. Take a look at the amenities listed and read reviews to get an idea of what’s available and check for the condition of the board games.
With Airbnb there is always the chance that some quirky thing not mentioned in the listing spoils your stay. When that happens, moving to another Airbnb immediately if there is an issue, such as air conditioning or WiFi not working, is a lot more time consuming than simply walking to the front desk and changing hotel rooms.
The best Airbnbs that are kid-friendly book up quickly; plan ahead if you want maximum value.
- Served breakfast
- Have to sit with laundry
- No housekeeping
- Meals are home-made
- Laundry in unit
|SCORE: 4/5||SCORE: 4.5/5|
WINNER: Airbnb. More flexibility with cooking, laundry, and in-house entertainment.
2. LOCATION AND SPACE
Hotels are more likely to be at central locations near the attractions and restaurants that your family plans to visit. If you want to be close to your planned activities, hotels will have more open occupancies due to the large number of rooms.
If you want to let your kids run around to get some fresh air, you’ll need to search for a hotel that has a courtyard or some sort of grassed area. Most hotels focus on pools over green areas and tend to be near the hearts of downtowns, which may mean it’s difficult to find any sort of green space.
Anyone who has traveled with their kids in tow knows all too well how small a standard hotel room can feel. With so many people crammed into such a small space, tensions can run high.. The vast majority of hotel rooms only sleep four, which means any more and you may need to pay for a second room. You may get lucky and get rooms with connecting doors to keep everyone nearby, otherwise you’ll need to sleep separately from your partner and take some kids into one room and leave the rest with the other.
Airbnbs are often found in residential neighborhoods, which is going to mean more driving to get to and from your lodgings.
You’ll have more control, and possibly harmony, over your lodging by separating the family into multiple rooms like you do at home, giving everyone a little more space to breathe and retain some personal space.
Most Airbnbs are a single stand-alone unit and often come with a yard, front or back, which is great for kids and pets. An Airbnb will feel more like home to you and your child, which also means any sort of activity will take a commute to get to and from.
- Centrally located near attractions
- Often in residential areas
- Many rooms for the whole family
- Yard for kids and animals to play
|SCORE: 3.5/5||SCORE: 4.5/5|
WINNER: Airbnb. The amount of indoor and outdoor space and usability for families greater than 4 people makes this a clear choice.
3. COST AND REWARDS
Hotels are usually expensive for just one room, especially if you book within a week of your trip.
On the plus side, there is rarely a minimum stay required at hotels. You can check in and check out within 24 hours with no extra fees.
Many hotel programs offer flexibility and prioritize earning points for free nights, while others emphasize special members-only privileges, such as free Wi-Fi access or minibar credits. Families with a lot of travel plans can earn elite status with a variety of hotel chains.
Airbnb is typically cheaper than a hotel, and you can get discounted rates with extended stays.
Airbnb’s cleaning and other fees can make staying only one night much more expensive.
Airbnb lacks a loyalty program, which can be a huge loss if you’re a frequent traveler.
- More expensive per night
- No minimum stay
- Loyalty rewards
- Typically cheaper per night
- One-time fees for one night stay
- No loyalty programs
|SCORE: 4/5||SCORE: 4/5|
WINNER: Tie. While hotels offer greater flexibility and loyalty programs, getting discounted rates with longer stays and generally cheaper prices leaves it up to personal preference which is better.
Hotels present many obstacles when staying with kids. Keeping your kid's quiet can be a constant battle. Non-stop screaming, from you or your kids, can have other guests calling the front desk to complain.
On the flip side, many of the hotel’s sounds may keep you or your children from getting the rest you need. The sound of flushing toilets, people talking in hallways, and slamming doors can really put a damper on shuteye.
One of the best perks of Airbnb is the privacy. Kids are loud, and if a meltdown happens you rest easy knowing you’re the only one hearing it.
Airbnbs are relatively quiet compared to hotels, with the only sounds being those that come from your family. In our experience everyone tends to get better sleep in an Airbnb.
- Kids need to be kept quiet
- Loud noises may interrupt sleep
- Kids can be loud
- Will be as quiet as your own home
|SCORE: 3.5/5||SCORE: 5/5|
WINNER: Airbnb. Your kids are free to be as loud as they (or you) want and restful sleep is yours for the taking.
OVERALL WINNER: AIRBNB
|SCORE: 14.5/20||SCORE: 18/20|
Overall, Airbnb is the best choice for a young family. Amenities, such as being able to cook your family's meals and do laundry, mean a lot if you are trying to save money. In-house entertainment means you can relax instead of finding something for the kids to do. Plus, with more space kids and adults each have their own area and many Airbnb’s have a yard, which is great for kids and pets to get in some exercise.
Although Airbnb does not offer a loyalty program, the savings, especially for extended stays, outweighs this benefit if your family does not travel often.
With an Airbnb, kids can be kids, which often means being loud. And when it’s finally time to relax after the kids are in bed you can stretch out and make yourself at home.