6 ways staying at a hotel is better than an Airbnb

Aug 16, 2020

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At home, most families spread out at night throughout the house or apartment to their respective rooms. But, on “vacation,” all of the sudden, the plan is often to cram everyone into one or maybe two rooms. Given that people-to-square-foot ratio, it makes sense why vacation rental platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway are increasingly popular choices for families looking for vacation lodging since you generally get more space for your buck.

Even though Airbnb started modestly as a way to book an air mattress or couch in someone’s living room, it’s grown to a platform with millions of worldwide listing and the ability to search by properties that are listed as family-friendly. In fact, even Marriott has taken note about the competition from Airbnb — and launched a way to book vacation rentals with points.

When my family and I went to Europe this summer, we literally could not find any hotels that would work for us, which is why we ended up booking with Airbnb.

So, is this the beginning of the end for hotels and the using hotel points for family travel? Not so fast, my friend. Here are six reasons why staying in a hotel still beats staying in an Airbnb.

Related: The Best Hotel Chains for Families

1. Staying at a Hotel Can Be “Free” (With Points)

In the miles-and-points world, it’s easy to rack up hotel points and annual free night awards with hotel-cobranded credit cards. And those points lead to “free” stays. This year alone, we’ve seen a number of cobranded hotel credit cards with welcome bonuses of 75,000, 100,000 and even 150,000 bonus points.

For example, Hilton currently has several limited-time welcome bonus offers as well as an ongoing offer for 150,000 Hilton Honors points.

  • Hilton Honors Card from American Express (75,000-point bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months, $0 annual fee) (See rates and fees) (limited-time offer ending Aug. 28)
  • Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card (130,000-point and one-free-weekend-night bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first four months, $95 annual fee) (See rates and fees) (limited-time offer ending Aug. 28)
  • The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card (130,000-point and one-free-weekend-night bonus after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first four months, $95 annual fee) (See rates and fees) (limited-time offer ending Aug. 28)
  • Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express (150,000-point bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months, $450 annual fee) (See rates and fees) (current offer)

You can see how quickly any of these bonuses could lead to a vacation on points for your family, especially if you and your partner both act on an offer or two. Add to that a steady stream of points if someone in your family has paid stays during the week, such as a parent who travels for business, and your next stay could be booked entirely on points.

If you’re interested in making the most of those points, don’t miss TPG‘s Stretch Your Points series where we outline which hotels provide a bang for your points-buck.

The lobby at the Hyatt Regency Deerfield.
The lobby at the Hyatt Regency Deerfield. (Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

Conversely, it’s a lot harder to earn Airbnb credit. Yes, you can earn Delta points on your Airbnb stays and you can also use your fixed value points as “cash” to book an Airbnb, but it’s nowhere near the same as the points you can get from hotel loyalty programs.

2. Free Breakfast — and Sometimes Dinner

I hesitate to classify this as “free” breakfast, since it would be more accurate to call it “breakfast included with your purchase of a night’s stay,” but it is true that many hotels provide complimentary breakfast for guests.

Here are brands that offer a complimentary breakfast.

Best Western*: Best Western, Best Western Plus. Best Western Premier
*breakfast is available at most locations

Choice Hotels: Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, EconoLodge (continental breakfast), MainStay Suites (continental breakfast with oatmeal station), Quality Inn, Sleep Inn

Hilton: Canopy, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, Home2 Suites, Tru

Hyatt: Hyatt Place (you must be a World of Hyatt member and book your reservation directly through Hyatt), Hyatt House, Hyatt Zilara/Hyatt Ziva (all-inclusive resort brands)

IHG: Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites

Marriott: Element, Fairfield Inn and Suites, Residence Inn, Springhill Suites, Towne Place Suites

Radisson: Country Inns & Suites by Carlson

Wyndham: Baymont Inn & Suites, Days Inn (continental breakfast), Howard Johnson (continental breakfast), Hawthorn Suites, La Quinta, Microtel Inn & Suites (continental breakfast), Super 8, Travelodge (continental breakfast), Wingate

Breakfast spread at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Columbia-I-26 @ Harbison Blvd. Photo by JT Genter/TPG.
Breakfast spread at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Columbia-I-26 @ Harbison Blvd. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

There are also several hotels that offer what can pass as free dinner a few nights a week.

Yes, there are some Airbnbs that are like bed-and-breakfasts with your breakfast included and provided, but in my experience those are the vast minority.

Say what you want about the quality of hotel breakfasts, but I know we enjoy staying in a place where we don’t have to cook breakfast and clean up after the whole process while we’re on vacation. One of my favorite Onion articles is Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties in Closer Proximity to Ocean, which is funny (and sad) because it’s sometimes true. Staying in hotels is a way to get around much of that.

3. Hotels Are Less Likely to Come After You for Damages

Our family had a “he said, she said” issue at a recent Airbnb stay where the host said we left trash everywhere and broke his couch. We didn’t do either of those things, but he requested $250. Going through the Airbnb resolution process was stressful and unfamiliar. In our case, Airbnb resolved the case and didn’t make us pay, but it could easily have gone the other way.

Conversely, I’ve found that unless you’re causing blatant and massive destruction, most hotels don’t seek to make you pay for accidentally breaking a toilet seat or coffee mug.

Additionally, if there is a problem, hotels have better and more easily available customer service. With Airbnb, it is really down to just you and your host, though sometimes Airbnb does get involved. In contrast, if you have a problem with an individual hotel, you can always reach out to the hotel’s corporate offices.

4. Hotels Usually Have Better Amenities

Many hotels will have a fitness center and a swimming pool. And although the swimming pool may not be a themed play area like the one pictured below, I’ve found that for my kids, the hotel swimming pool is pretty high up on their list of awesome things about vacation — even if it’s a dinky three-foot-deep pool at a 2.5-star hotel in the middle of nowhere.

Wyndham Bonnet Creek
Wyndham Bonnet Creek (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

I have also found hotel beds, pillows and furniture are generally in better condition and are sturdier than what you’ll find in the average Airbnb. Hotels buy their beds and furniture to last since they know they’re going to have many guests staying with them. The Airbnb furniture we’ve experienced often feels like whatever was on discount at IKEA.

5. Check-In Drama

When you arrive to a hotel (potentially exhausted) with kids in tow, you just head to the front desk and check-in. There might be a bit of a line at times, but there’s usually a staffed lobby to assist you in getting the keys to your room at all hours of the day.

Checking in at a vacation rental? Well, that isn’t always as straightforward. There might be a check-in lobby when renting a condo unit or similar. There may be a code provided that you type in a keypad, which is great, unless something goes wrong. Alternatively, you may need to meet your host to get in, which can also get more complicated if your arrival time gets a little out of the ordinary. Of course, this process often goes well, but often doesn’t mean always.

6. Consistency Is Key

It really boils down to consistency and knowing what you’re going to get. You know when you’re at a DoubleTree that you’re going to get a cookie at check-in. At Holiday Inn Express you’ll have cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Conversely at an Airbnb, things can vary wildly, and even though you can weed out some potential problems by looking at the pictures in the listing and reading reviews, many other times the problems don’t become apparent until later in the process or when you show up, and often that is too late.

Bottom Line

Sure, there are some advantages to Airbnb — maybe you’ll stay in a Game of Thrones Airbnb or Tony Stark’s cabin from Avengers: Endgame. But for our family, consistency and knowing what you’re going to get are hugely important.

Want to know more about booking vacation rentals and timeshares? Read these articles:

Featured image by Summer Hull / The Points Guy

For rates and fees of the Hilton Amex card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Business card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire card, click here.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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