On average, I travel to about five countries a year (some I’ve visited previously, and others are new). In most of these cases, I will be in one city for multiple nights. With so many options and categories of places to stay, how do I make a decision? What goes into my thought process? While everyone is a bit different, I’ll walk you through how I come to a decision (and would love to hear about what goes into yours). Of course, if I’m sincere, the first thing I look at in a city is to see if there are any review opportunities available. I freelance for a company (providing coverage of hotels), so this is usually my first move, because free is always better than paid. 🙂
However, in the event there is not a free place to stay (or friends to crash with), this is what goes through my mind:
Stay in Airbnb
- More than three nights. To me, this is a no brainer. If I’m going to be in a place for a longer period, I’m going to need to unpack and have some of the creature comforts of home (including a kitchen and a larger closet). While a hotel suite can be nice, an apartment is even better (even if it doesn’t come with all the fun toiletries, minibar, and breakfast options). Additionally, as was the case during our eight nights in Iceland, we definitely needed access to a washer/dryer facilities, which are a much easier find in an Airbnb property. I personally feel more relaxed in an apartment, where I have plenty of room to spread out.
- Public transportation. For me, this opportunity defines stays in Europe (and why I stay almost exclusively in Airbnb properties on the Continent). If a property is easily accessible (via train, subway, or otherwise), I’ll be more likely to say, ‘Let’s go for it.’ I don’t need the extra features of a hotel when I can walk out my door and hop on a bus, or simply walk.
- When language isn’t a barrier. I did, for example, look into an Airbnb when Hubs and I traveled to Tokyo. Unfortunately, because of the language barrier, I didn’t have a lot of confidence and ultimately chose a hotel instead (spoiler alert, the Roppongi Hills Grand Hyatt is fantastic). However, if I can easily have my questions addressed, etc., then I’ll be more likely to book an apartment.
- Being neighborly. If you don’t have breakfast provided, room service, or a minibar, it forces you to get out and about where you’re staying (grocery store, package shop, restaurant, etc.). Amsterdam is a perfect example for this, and we have a few favorite places that we continue to patron over the years. I enjoy interacting with these local businesses, and its part of the appeal of an Airbnb stay.
- Save on accommodation budget = more money to spend on food. Sometimes it comes down to simple math. Of course, maybe you don’t want to spend your extra money on fine dining as I do, but for our recent trip to Amsterdam, I canceled a hotel reservation for an Airbnb and ended up saving us about 400EUR. The cost of the one bedroom apartment we’re staying in would retail for considerably more if we were in a hotel. I find this to be the case most of the time. Unless you have tons of points saved up, my vacation budget goes much further with Airbnb.
- Traveling with friends or family. One of the most memorable trips we had was a visit to Copenhagen, booked last minute a few years ago. With hotels being a bit pricey, we found a two bedroom apartment that completely fit our needs. Guess what? We got to spend a lot more time together and saved money by dining in the flat more often than not. While it can depend on your level of closeness, this was also how we maximized a trip to Ojai with my parents a few years ago. As an expat with sometimes only precious days to spend with family, booking an apartment (or house) can be the best use of time (just ask the 12 of us who crashed at a house in Orlando for a friend’s wedding a few years ago).
Stay in a Hotel
- 1-2 nights. If we’re in a place for only one or two nights, it’s not worth the effort of connecting with a host to check in and out, etc. of an Airbnb property. In these instances, I prefer the easy in, easy out of a hotel.
- Three words: treat yo self. Although it depends on the trip, for vacations around our respective birthdays (or anniversaries), we tend to stay in hotels. Although Hubs is usually embarrassed, mentioning our celebrations have yielded anything from room upgrades to bottles of bubbles. While I love Airbnb hosts, these little extras just usually don’t happen.
- If the hotel is the destination. I love hotels. (Don’t believe me? I wrote a novel about one!) There are numerous hotels around the world that I just kind of look at and sigh and dream of a night spent in sophistication. In essence, the trip would be based on maximizing the features of the hotel (be it for design, location, or general luxury).
- If the destination is a beach. While a beach house might be fun to split with friends and family, for recent destinations (Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bali), I’ve thoroughly leaned into a hotel with a pool and beach access. While I’ve had friends stay at self-catering options in these locations, for me, I enjoy a good sun lounger, fresh towels, and strong wifi signal.
- Two words: club room. Although technically a sub category of ‘treat yo self,’ I will pretty much do whatever it takes to stay in this category of room. The benefits are usually well above what’s advertised.
- If I’m traveling by myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve stayed in a few Airbnbs on my own (most recently in Rome), however, in certain cities, I would definitely prefer the relative safety of a hotel.
- Weird flight timing. There will always be trips where the flight times don’t quite lend themselves towards an apartment. Sometimes it’s better to be in a hotel that can store luggage or grant a late checkout. Similarly, if flying in early, negotiating an early check for that first hot shower and a comfy bed is often rewarding.
So, where are you staying next? How did you come to that decision?
And just in case you haven’t already, feel free to use my code when signing up for Airbnb: www.airbnb.com/c/cbrandt3