Hotel vs Vacation Rental – The Ultimate Comparison

Remember that adorable Christmas movie The Holiday staring Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet? Two single gals in opposite sides of the globe looking to escape everyday life – so they decide to do a house “switch”! Love that Rom-com!

And these days, trading the hotel experience for a more intimate vacation rental is common! So which is right? Which is best?

The rise in popularity with vacation rentals like those offered on Air B&B or VRBO Spain“>Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) is the assumed cost savings. Why pay for a hotel room when you can rent an entire home for the same amount, right? Actually, no. This depends largely on where you’re traveling to and the demand in that particular location, according to a recent analysis by Money Magazine.

So why choose one over the other? How does the experience differ? And ultimately, which one do WE prefer as a family with three young children? Here’s the breakdown…from our personal experience!

Hotel versus Vacation Rental – Which is Right?

Vacation Rental Pros:

1. The unique experiences are unmatched! There’s something truly authentic about spending your vacation in a castle in Ireland, a rustic stone house in the French countryside or on a vineyard in Italy. Such surroundings feel a bit LESS authentic when staying in a hotel.

2. Having your own fully equipped kitchen, living room and even outdoor space makes the vacation rental stay feel as if you’re….a resident! This also helps keep food expenses down when you’re cooking for yourselves.

3. And since we currently live in an apartment in Barcelona, the kids LOVE any rental with a backyard to play for endless hours. It’s something they miss most about our life back in the states.

Some vacation rentals that gave us a truly memorable experience…

Vacation Rental Cons:

1. Things like early check-in and late check-out are not super flexible when the property isn’t managed by a whole staff.

2. There’s a bit more work involved when renting someone’s home. You’ll cook your own meals, clean your dishes, sweep, wipe down countertops – all the usual upkeep with a home! No one there to do it for you, like in a hotel. In addition, you still PAY a fairly hefty cleaning service fee as part of the booking.

3. Last comment, no single Air B&B is the same. Some hosts welcome their guests with bottles of wine and fruit, while others don’t supply as much as a salt shaker. So a run to the local market (which may or may not be open) to fetch whatever random groceries you can find has left us feeling a bit unorganized at times. One evening, we were forced to serve pasta with a strange pink sauce everyone assumed was vodka – but ended up tasting more like mustard!? Point made.

Hotel Pros:

1. Today more than ever, hotels are competing for your business, so customer service must be second to none – and in our experience, it usually is! Someone always there to bring an extra pillow or fresh towel. Forgot your toothbrush? Just call the front desk! Once we saw a disturbingly ugly bug in our bathroom so requested a change of room – which was immediately granted!

2. Traveling as a party of five means, we’re on a budget! We always try to book hotels on for the most competitive rates and those with free breakfast buffets. The kids fill their bellies in the morning and usually aren’t hungry enough for a big lunch. So we’ll grab a fun “city authentic” snack (like gyros in Athens or gelato in Bellagio) which holds everyone over until dinnertime. Total cost savings!

We’ve stayed in some wonderful hotels too…

Hotel Cons:

1. An obvious comparison to a house rental is the very limited privacy offered in hotels. If your room is situated next to noisy neighbors, you’ll surely suffer.

2. You’ll also loose the unique feel many travelers long for. Hotels are commercial and can seem impersonal. Like a revolving door with travelers coming and going every day.

3. Unless you’re wealthy enough to afford a luxurious three bedroom suite (which most people are not!) you’ll be limited on space. Typical hotel rooms sleep four and have one bathroom, sometimes a small couch or desk to sit. As a family of five, we can still get away with the baby sleeping in a rollaway crib. But recently during our stay in Vienna, we were charged 60 euro for an “additional person fee”! Definitely not an issue in a vacation rental!

In the End…

So, which traveling experience ultimately wins us over? We’re a bit divided! If you’re looking for comfort and convenience when traveling (like tired mama over here) – going hotel is the way. It really doesn’t have to be expensive if you take the time to research competitive rates. Our trips to London, Italy, Prague and Vienna were spent in affordable hotels with little to worry about and still offered unique opportunities to make memories.

If adventure, excitement, the unique and the unknown is what you’re after, (like my beloved husband) you’ll be much happier in a vacation rental. We’ve stayed in some truly wonderful ones in Rupit, Pals, Valencia and La Pobla de Lillet, Spain pictured above. We’ve shaken hands with locals, hiked tree lined paths and skipped rocks over quiet streams.

So which is right for you? Only one way to find out…