Travel Hacking - Book with Airbnb or a hotel?
More and more often, when looking for accommodation in a city, I compare the different choices offered:
- By paying for a hotel room through a website like Booking, Expedia, or Hotels.com
- Using my points at a hotel group like Best Western or Marriott
- Or by looking for an accommodation with a private individual on Airbnb
After several experiences booking with Airbnb, here are the pros and cons of Airbnb compared to a hotel. And a few tricks along the way.
Travel Hacking - The advantages of Airbnb over a hotel
Airbnb has several significant advantages:
The amount of housing available
You can look in any city: there will be a considerable number of accommodations available, on every street, in every neighborhood on Airbnb. Hotels are often grouped in certain areas.
The different types of accommodation available
Are you on your own and satisfied with an available room in a private home? Or are you a group of friends looking for a multi-bedroom apartment?
Airbnb will surely have something for you with the many types of available accommodations that you can find through the options provided by the site.
The price for certain housing
Airbnb works with a system of reviews left by Internet users like you, and often makes it possible to obtain very attractive prices on many accommodations.
In fact, it’s up to the owner to decide whether or not to advertise his or her apartment at a discount. This means they’re just starting out on the platform and want to collect reviews, which they hope will be positive.
Once these scores have been obtained, the owner can gradually increase the price of his home to find the right rate to meet the demand.
Take the case of this apartment for 4 people that looks quite cute in West Village in New-York for only 175 CA$ per night.
However, if you decide to go for a bargain, don’t be afraid of getting a lemon! Personally, I prefer to make sure I book an apartment that has at least 5 positive reviews.
Meeting a local
This is undoubtedly a strength of Airbnb… when the owners are present. Generally, these locals will be able to help you in your discovery of the city. Thus, they will show you the best bars, restaurants and places to experience the city like a local.
However, with the marketing of some apartments, you may never meet the owner. For example, they will have provided you with an access code. This is what happened to me in Seoul, for example, while leaving many travel guides available in the apartment.
Airbnb is recognized as a travel provider by many credit cards
Find out on this page why the American Express Cobalt Card is the travel hacker’s preferred credit card!
Airbnb gift cards
Since November 2021, Airbnb sells gift cards. They are on sale mainly at Metro and Super C grocery stores, as well as at Walmart.
Travel Hacking - The disadvantages of Airbnb compared to a hotel
However, booking with Airbnb can be more complicated than with a hotel.
Complicated cancellation rules
If you are forced to cancel your stay, the reservation fee is non-refundable. Sometimes, strict cancellation conditions are imposed by the owner, and you can lose up to the full price of your stay.
You will rarely find this kind of conditions if you book with a hotel (except for non refundable rates). Generally speaking, you often have more room to maneuver with a hotel… especially a hotel chain like Marriott Bonvoy.
For example, when you use Marriott Bonvoy points, you benefit from the same fare rules as the most flexible fare. You can cancel your room up to 48 hours before arrival.
To learn more about Airbnb‘s cancellation policy, check the Airbnb Help Center page.
Arrival according to the owner's wishes
Is your plane late? Would you like to arrive later or in the night at your apartment? Or would you like to take possession of the premises earlier? Good luck! Unless you have access to the apartment at all hours thanks to an access code or a very helpful host, you’ll find it hard to have arrival times as flexible as a hotel.
In fact, you can usually arrive at any time of the day or night in a hotel with a 24-hour reception. What’s more, you may even be able to take advantage of an early arrival or late departure (especially if you have a membership status like the American Express Platinum Card, for example).
The payment is immediate
When you book on Airbnb, you pay for your rental immediately. Whereas for a hotel, this payment is deferred to a few days before your arrival, or even when you leave your room.
It can be inconvenient to have to advance money for a trip that’s still several months away.
No cleaning service
Unlike your hotel room, which will be tidy and clean every evening when you return, your Airbnb apartment will be in the state you left it in the morning when you left. It’s hard to feel like you’re on vacation when you have to clean your home, even though you do it every day. Well, that’s just my opinion 🙂 !
Airbnb has no real loyalty program
As a points and miles enthusiast, this is a big disadvantage in my eyes. All the hotels I go to, like Marriott Bonvoy or Best Western Rewards, reward me for my “loyalty” by giving me points that I can use for future stays.
In Canada, there is only one loyalty program offering credit cards: Marriott Bonvoy with the Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card or its SME version the Marriott Bonvoy® Business American Express®* Card.
In fact, you can use your Marriott Bonvoy points to book apartments, houses or villas from their Airbnb-equivalent platform, Homes & Villas.
As you can see, not everything about Airbnb is perfect. Compare it with a hotel room, depending on your needs. However, it’s an excellent way to save money in certain cities… although it does have certain drawbacks that will be restrictive for some travelers.
If you’re not registered with Airbnb, here’s a link through which you’ll get $45 off your first reservation.