Hotels vs. Airbnb: Which Is Easier on Your Wallet?

by Maurie Backman | Updated Jan. 31, 2022 - First published on July 29, 2021

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Booking a trip? Here's how to decide whether to go with a hotel or a private rental.

After spending the summer of 2020 close to home, a lot of us are eager to get out and travel this summer. But the last thing you want to do is rack up debt to travel, even if you find a vacation loan with a relatively low interest rate. And a good way to avoid debt is to find the most economical way to put a roof over your head while you're away.

What's the right call? Book a hotel room? Or rent a private home from a site like Airbnb?

It's all about total savings

Whether a hotel room is cheaper than a private home depends on a lot of factors:

  • Your destination
  • Your travel dates
  • The timing of your stay (whether you're traveling at peak times)
  • The number of people in your party
  • The type of home or hotel you want

Say you're looking to escape to Cape Cod for a week in the middle of August. An Expedia.com search shows that you can book a hotel room for anywhere from $122 to $528 per night.

For that same week and destination, Airbnb has private homes for $226 to $833 a night. It's clear there's a big range. It's also clear you could spend more on a hotel or on an Airbnb, depending on the room or property.

There's no consistent answer as to which is less expensive, but here are a couple of reasons you might save money staying in a private home.

You can fit in more people

Say you're a family of four traveling with another family of four. You'd need two hotel rooms. But you might instead find a house you can share, and split the cost. If the nightly rate is the same as that of a single hotel room, you save money.

You can cook your own meals

Hotel rooms don't often come with a kitchen, and even if yours has a microwave and mini fridge, you can't cook meals. If you rent a home on Airbnb, you generally get access to a full kitchen. You can avoid eating mostly restaurant meals, and enjoy some nice savings.

Another thing to consider: for the cost of a single hotel room, you might instead find a three- or four-bedroom house on Airbnb, letting your family spread out and be more comfortable.

What's the right call?

Whether you save more on a hotel versus an Airbnb depends on the specifics of your trip, and the type of hotel or property. If you choose a hotel, book your stay using a hotel credit card that gives you extra perks or rewards to enjoy even more savings.

Likewise, choose the right credit card for your Airbnb booking. Some cards offer rewards for an Airbnb reservation, so it pays to explore your options.

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