There are so many choices to make when planning a trip. You have to decide if you prefer comfortable flights or budget-friendly flights. Whether you want to see tourist attractions or venture off the beaten path. Which airline you should fly. When you should buy your flight tickets. What day you should fly. The list goes on and on…
Furthering the confusion is the decision of where to stay. Should you go for a nice hotel? Will it look like the photos you see online? Will choosing a budget-friendly hotel mean you’ll be sleeping with bed bugs? Should you even stay at a hotel at all?
Fortunately, travelers have more options than ever before. And the more you know, the better you can plan your optimal travel experience!
Where to Stay: Hotel, Hostel, or AirBnB?
One of the most important choices a traveler can make when planning their trip is deciding where to stay. This decision is one that can make or break your trip, so consider it carefully.
The beauty is that you don’t need to have the same answer every time. For a work trip you might prefer a hotel; for a personal trip you might prefer a hostel or AirBnB. Or you might change your mind based on the destination. Rather than declaring loyalty to one for the rest of time, ask yourself these questions before you plan every trip:
- How important are amenities such as a fitness room, free breakfast, and having your bed made and towels cleaned every day?
- Do you want to feel like a traveler or like a local? Do you want to meet other travelers?
- What level of risk are you comfortable with taking in regards to your belongings and your safety?
- Is saving money or optimizing comfort your top priority?
- Is this trip for work or play?
- Is this trip solo or with a group?
- What parts of town are each of these options located in — and does that line up with where you want to explore?
Once you know what your priorities are for your particular trip, you’ll be ready to decide where to stay. But first, let’s talk about what you can expect from staying at a hotel versus a hostel versus an AirBnB.
What to Expect from Staying at a Hotel
For the sake of simplicity, I’m grouping hotels with inns and bed and breakfasts. While they differ from each other, they share a common denominator of being more traditional places that allow you to be catered to by staff.
Here’s what you can expect from most hotels:
- A staff working to serve you
- Some form of restaurant, bar, coffee shop, or store onsite
- Someone to make your bed and launder your towels daily
- Room service and maybe even a mini fridge stocked with items you can buy
- Sometimes there’s free breakfast, a desk in the room, and a coffee maker
- Sometimes there’s a fitness room, a conference room, and a room you can work in and print or fax things, etc.
- A safe and secure premises, reliable room locks
If you stay at a bed and breakfast or an inn, you likely won’t get many of the amenities above. But amenities you can expect include:
- One or two staff members on the premises to assist you
- Homemade breakfast with coffee and tea
- Sometimes there’s an early evening mingling event with wine and cheese
- Often the room will be more cozy than modern and there will be common areas in which you can mingle with the other guests
In a nutshell, people often choose the hotel/inn/bed and breakfast option when they’re looking for something more predictable and reliable with a high level of comfort and amenities.
What to Expect from Staying at a Hostel
Hostels are the go-to option for travelers and backpackers who plan to spend very little of their time in their room and most of their time exploring. They’re also a great way to meet other travelers. Unlike a hotel, hostels are more communal in nature and that includes sharing a room with strangers (though sometimes you can get a private room if you want to pay more).
Here’s what you can expect from staying at a hostel:
- There will usually be one or two staff members to help, but they often act more as a coordinator than a concierge
- You’ll share a bedroom with multiple other people, unless you opt for a private room (not all hostels offer this)
- Lockers are available for storage of personal items
- Often there is a common area (sometimes even a bar) in which you can mingle with the other travelers
- Sometimes there’s a computer room with internet you can use
- The price will be drastically lower than a hotel
- Since you’re sharing a room, your safety isn’t as predictable as a private hotel room
What to Expect from Staying at an AirBnB
The question of what to expect when staying at an AirBnB is a little more complex. An AirBnB is when someone rents out their apartment or home and lists it on the AirBnB website. Travelers can then search by specifications of price, size, location, and more. When you get to your room, the owner/renter will stay somewhere else so you have the place to yourself.
Here’s what to expect when you stay at an AirBnB:
- A private home or apartment, giving you a more authentic experience of the place you’re visiting
- A price (most likely) somewhere in between that of a hotel and a hostel
- The owner or renter will often meet you when you arrive to give you a tour. If they don’t, they might leave their keys under the mat or at a local business and leave a note about what you need to know.
- There will be no amenities unless they come with the building you’re staying in. That means you’ll have to wash the sheets and towels yourself if you so choose.
- You will be staying in a place for which someone else (the owner or renter) has a key, so there could be a safety concern.
Making the Choice
There are many pros and cons to each of these and your decision will likely vary based on your budget, where you’re going, and why you’re going. To help you summarize how to make this decision, consider this:
Hotels (or inns and bed and breakfasts) are a good choice if your budget is flexible and/or you’re optimizing for comfort and being catered to by staff.
Hostels are a good choice if you’re really focused on saving money and/or you’d like to meet and engage with other travelers.
AirBnBs are a good choice if you want to save money but still want a private place to stay and/or if you want to experience the place you’re visiting the same way a local does.
So what about you? Have you tried any of the above — or even all three? Let us know how your experience was in the comments below!