Hotel vs. Hostel vs. Airbnb
I'm taking a minor break from any major trips as the holidays come up, so I thought I'd switch things up and tell you guys a little bit about my experiences with the three most common choices for accommodations when traveling - the pros, the cons, and what I usually recommend. Because who doesn't love another opinion on accommodations, right?
First up: Hotels
Let's be real, if you want true """accommodations""" - in the sense that you want people to actually really accommodate you on your vacay - then hotels are the way to go. Fresh towels, fresh sheets, someone picking up after you, room service, it's all straight up lovely. It's nice to be catered to a bit, especially if the goal of your trip is to relax.
You're also gonna have a pretty wide selection, from quaint, local, boutique hotels to your Sheratons and Hiltons and Ritz Carltons. 9 times out of 10, I'd recommend shooting for the boutique hotels - not only do you usually get a better deal, but the service tends to be a much more on point than the bigger corporate hotels that have their guest policies nailed down pretty tight. Plus they're super cute and you should want to brag about it.
On the flip side, hotels are gonna be your more expensive option. Since they do offer more accommodations, they're bound to run steeper. Plus, nearly all hotels are going to give you the illusion that the place you're visiting is something other than what it really is. In Bangalore, I stayed with my aunt in a hotel that was above a luxury shopping mall and basically took up an entire block - the version of Bangalore I got there was very different from the rest of Bangalore beyond that block. Boutique hotels may be an exception to this, but generally hotels = tourism and tourism = not really authentic.
But hey, when I'm on a trip, I love when somebody makes the bed for me.
Hostels were always super interesting to me because I think they have a weird rep - I'm gonna go ahead and blame that movie "Hostel" for that. However, my experience with them has usually been positive. Yes, you're almost always going to share a room with strangers, but that ends up being part of the fun.
Most of my hostel stays happened when I was studying abroad in Europe. I got to try a range of hostel situations, from sleeping on an open air rooftop in Marrakech to sharing a super cute room with three other people in Paris to having a communal kitchen and bar crawl options in Barcelona. I never felt unsafe or as if my possessions were unsafe (definitely take that with a grain of salt, I am a white male so tbh I feel safe most places) and I simply chose hostels that had a place to put my things, a clean bed, and good reviews from other travelers. That last part is key - read up on your reviews before booking. A lot of the hostels I stayed out were newly remodeled, super trendy, and had super nice staff - and I knew all that beforehand because I did my homework.
Quick note on the sharing spaces bit - I think that's the biggest turnoff for people, understandably so, but it's also one of the coolest parts of staying at a hostel. I met the most amazing people at nearly all my hostels and they all only made my trip that much better. Plus if you're travelin' hardcore, you'll be so tired when you get back that you won't even notice the 3 other people snoring in your room.
Okay so hostels - affordable, fun, super community orientated. Also hostels - not a lot of privacy, probably none of your standard hotel accommodations, and depending on where you're going, limited choices. Hostels are bigger some places than others, but in many more remote areas, you'll be pressed to find a hostel that you'd really want to stay at. Also, you're usually booking by the bed - which means if you're a couple that likes snugglin', you might be shit outta luck.
And finally: Airbnb.
Full disclosure: I am no Airbnb expert. I've only stayed at a few but I've looked for some in a bunch of other places because really, they can be amazing. If you wanna truly dive into the place that you're visiting, Airbnb is just the way to go because you're literally living in a local's house (or second house or summer home, whatever). You get the same sort of amenities you would at home but tucked away in some corner of a brand new city.
When staying in Iceland, we opted for an entire apartment rental right near the big ol' church in Reykjavik (if you missed that post, check it out here), and it was incredible. The apartment was huge (bedroom + living room + kitchen + bathroom + hallway), was within walking distance of everything we wanted to see, had a towel heater (what?!), and featured a super comfy bed. I didn't even mind making that bed. Having a kitchen and full sized fridge proved useful and the location was near all the waaaay more expensive hotels anyway. I could see doing this again in another similarly sized city - it was a win-win.
But in London, our Airbnb was a different story. Located down a back alleyway where I'm sure there were no other residences, it was a tiny studio apartment situated above a bar that had the bass thumpin' until 4am. We knew there'd be noise, but there was no way that any Londoner was really ever living in that apartment. The "livin' like a local" dream shattered pretty quickly and there was no vacation feel to it at all.
I still think if you're looking to try out a new city and not be surrounded by the insanity of the tourism industry, Airbnb is the way to go. It's becoming increasingly popular so you're bound to find some good choices - plus if you have the budget for it, you can just Beyoncé it and rent a mansion wherever you're going.
So I'm gonna assume with all three of these that you do a little research beforehand and pick out a halfway decent hotel or hostel or Airbnb within your price range. There's really crappy options for all three of these, so just be sure to study a bit before choosing between all not-bottom-of-the-barrel options.
I do this a few ways. For hotels, I usually stick with Expedia - not saying it's the best out there by any means, but I recommend you pick a search engine like Expedia that has a rewards program and stick with it to get those points OR flip through all of them until you find the best deal. For hostels, I used HostelWorld a lot - however, I haven't used it in awhile. I don't do a lot of hostels lately since I normally want to share the bed :) and for Airbnb... if you're using anything except Airbnb.com, I can't help you.
And there you have it. Have some opinions about hotels or hostels or Airbnbs too? Comment below, I'd love to know your thoughts!