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Airbnb or hotel for your summer vacation?

April 24, 2022
10 min read
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Now that spring getaways are largely behind us, all eyes are on the upcoming summer months for what is expected to be a busy travel season. As travelers plan summer vacations, there’s one question that will undoubtedly come up: do I book a hotel or a rental property like an Airbnb?

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Of course, the answer depends on a variety of factors. Availability and pricing at your destination are usually the biggest considerations. But your preference on the type of stay that you are looking for, as well as loyalty and points-related factors and other considerations.

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It’s hard to beat staying at a resort, where you enjoy the luxury of on-site pools, restaurants, housekeeping, not to mention easy beach access and the financial benefit of either using your points for a free stay or earning points and elite night credits.

The living room of an Airbnb cabin in Loudoun County, Virginia. (Photo by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy)

I’ve also had plenty of Airbnb stays with family that have been equally memorable. Sometimes a rental property like an Airbnb gives you the chance to enjoy your temporary space more like you would a home, and in some cases, more fully immerse yourself in the day-to-day culture of the place you’re visiting.

It’s also worth noting, there are ways your points can help you with your Airbnb booking, although you’re not going to earn any free nights staying at a rental property.

Home share properties have gained a certain amount of notoriety in recent years for the fees added to the top of your nightly rate, but the fees you pay at resorts – including when redeeming points in some cases – can be equally loathsome among guests.

Related: Everything you need to know about Airbnb

What’s the best fit for you this summer? We thought we’d compare hotel and Airbnb options in several popular summer destinations.

We looked at bookings for a peak summer vacation week of July 16-23 (Saturday to Saturday) for this report.

East coast beach trip: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Hilton Head is a popular southeast beach destination each summer. On top of the ability to stay affordably at oceanfront properties, it doubles as a popular golf destination with vast shopping and dining options.

Hotel choice: Marriott Hilton Head Resort & Spa

This beachfront resort includes easy beach access, with a pool situated just off the beach. The nightly rate of $469 leads to a $3,286 bill for the seven-night stay. If you’ve got Marriott Bonvoy points to use, it goes for a total of 352,000 points for the stay.

(Photo courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy)

Since you get a fifth night free, the other six nights average out to 58,666 points per night. According to TPG’s valuations, that’s worth $469 per night – the same as the nightly cash rate.

(Screenshot courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy)

My Airbnb choice is an oceanfront condo with a perfectly nice pool, good for a dip after spending the day on the beach. With fees on top of the $250 nightly rate, the week comes to $2,140 for the one-bedroom condo.

(Screenshot courtesy of Airbnb)

European trip: Rome

We can expect a very busy summer of U.S. travelers making their way to Europe. Rome is always among the more popular destinations for tourists looking to enjoy the city’s culture and countless historic sites, from the Pantheon and Colosseum to St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.

The Pantheon in Rome. (Photo by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy)

Hotel choice: The Tribune, Rome

This Hyatt property puts you in a nice, central location in Rome – with key tourist sites easily reachable by ride share or walking if you're up to it. For a quality hotel, the $249 nightly rate is a bargain compared to many other options in the area, with the weekly bill coming to $1,862.

At 18,000 World of Hyatt points per night, the award rate is not a great redemption, but isn’t outrageous to the point where you should avoid spending points in hopes of saving cash on the lodging portion of your trip.

(Screenshot courtesy of World of Hyatt)

I’m a big fan of the Airbnb choice in Rome. The property I found is a tenth of a mile walking distance from the Pantheon, which puts you within a stone’s throw of numerous key tourist attractions in the city. The property has a modern feel to it, and while it comes in at a bit higher than the hotel cost -- $1,958 for the week once you add the fees in – the location and cost makes this the winner.

(Screenshot courtesy of Airbnb)

Caribbean vacation: Costa Rica

Costa Rica allows visitors to enjoy a combination of relaxing on the beach (or by the pool) with a bit of adventure. From the wildlife to mountains and volcanoes you can spend half the trip sitting or swimming, and the other half exploring.

When booking accommodations in Costa Rica, be sure to check the proximity of your property to the airport – and firm up how you’ll get around! Unlike some Caribbean destinations where the airport is a short drive from many resorts, you can be on the road for a good hour or two here.

Costa Rica's Arenal Volcano. (Photo by Westend61 / Getty Images)

Related: Get to Costa Rica and back for less than $200

Hotel choice: Marriott Vacation Club at Los Suenos

(Screenshot courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy)

This is a new Marriott property that has availability for booking the week we looked at in mid-July. With multiple pools and dining options on the property, you can stay for a relatively good price considering the size of the villa you get. With a nightly rate of $212, the stay comes to $1,490.

(Screenshot courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy)

You really can’t go wrong with the Airbnb we found with an infinity pool overlooking the ocean. For the week's stay you can save a few hundred dollars compared to the hotel booking -- $1,672 is the total once you add in the fees.

(Screenshot courtesy of Airbnb)

Related: The best times to visit Costa Rica

Wine country: Napa, California

My wife and I made our first visit to Napa in 2019, and found both the quality of the wine, the views and the food to be exactly what we expected. One of the factors that comes into play as you consider a hotel or an Airbnb in Napa is what type of accommodation you’re looking for.

Hotels are often within walking distance of the many restaurants, wine bars and shops. We stayed in town when we visited, and were able to walk to dinner each night. The downside of this: you probably have to get an Uber or Lyft to the vineyards, which can add up since each leg of the trip can range anywhere from 5-15 minutes or more.

The vines at Cakebread Cellars in Napa County, California. (Photo by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy)

Related: 8 mistakes to avoid when visiting Napa Valley

Meanwhile, you can also find spectacular and more secluded rental properties, including some situated on properties with wineries.

Hotel choice: Embassy Suites by Hilton Napa Valley

This was one of the better hotel choices for a stay in July, priced at $395 per night or $3,189 for the seven-night stay.

(Screenshot courtesy of Hilton)

I kept my search closer to downtown on Airbnb (although you can certainly venture farther north to get closer to wineries). I found a two-bedroom cottage near downtown for $283 per night, or $1,984 for the week.

(Screenshot courtesy of Airbnb)

New England and national park trip: Bar Harbor, Maine

While plenty of residents of New England travel south during the coldest winter months, as a resident of the south I’ve always loved visiting Maine in the summer when I need a break from the heat and humidity. Bar Harbor is a popular destination among visitors to Maine, as it gives you a combination of a beautiful, on-the-water town, and easy access to Acadia National Park.

Acadia National Park beach. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

You actually may want to consider options beyond major hotel chains and Airbnbs as you travel to this part of the country because New England is well known for its bed-and-breakfast lodging and independent hotels.

Hotel choice: Hampton Inn, Bar Harbor

The property is priced at $474 a night or $3,618 for the stay in July. Another Hampton Inn a bit farther outside of town goes for about half the price, so consider whether you need to be in the center of things and the higher cost for that privilege.

(Screenshot courtesy of Hilton)

I found a townhouse in Bar Harbor on Airbnb for a fairly inexpensive $160 per night, which came to $1,278 for the seven-night stay. It’s a small property though, and depending on the size of your party and the quality of the property you’re looking for, you may have to pay triple or even quadruple that nightly rate if you want more space or luxury.

(Screenshot courtesy of Airbnb)

Bottom line

Hotels and Airbnb properties each have their benefits and drawbacks. I enjoy both, and let the destination and my goals for the trip (along with price of course) dictate which direction I take when booking.

As you plan your summer vacation, it’s always a good idea to consider every avenue to make sure your trip turns out exactly the way you’re hoping.

Featured image by (Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases