Tips · Travel

Planning your Perfect Vacation Part 4: Hotels vs. Rentals

If you haven’t started figuring out how to use your vacation days this year, then now is definitely the time! Not sure where to start? Don’t worry our Planning your Perfect Vacation Series has you covered! Today we’re talking about how to decide whether you should choose a traditional hotel/B&B/hostel or  a rental.

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So you’ve decided when & where you’re going and how you’re getting there. Now it’s time to figure out where you’re going to sleep. There are a lot of factors that go into choosing a hotel. A few of the biggest are budget, location, and amenities. If you’re traveling with more than one other person, the size of your group and how comfortable you are with each other is also a pretty big factor.  

Hotels, B&B’s, and hostels probably come to mind first when figuring out where you’re going to stay on your vacation. They are definitely the more traditional choice and 90% of the time you’ll be able to find at least a handful of options no matter what your budget is. Up until a few years ago, you might not have had many choices beyond hotels unless you were going to the beach, but thanks to websites like,, and of course, rentals have not only become just as easy to book as hotels, they also tend to be pretty cost competitive.


Budget & Location

No matter which route you go, budget and location tend to go pretty hand in hand. Of course things will be more expensive closer to the action and cheaper as you move farther out. In my experience, however, rentals in the downtown area of cities within walking distance to attractions tend to be a bit more pricey than a comparable hotel. That’s not to say you won’t find awesome rentals in major cities, you definitely will, but they may be a bit farther out from the main tourist attractions in an up and coming neighborhood. The decision you make at this point in your planning will really shape your vacation. There is definitely no right choice so be sure to take a look at your basic itinerary and remember to factor transit time and convenience before making a final decision. On the flip side, if you are going to the beach, mountains, etc. rentals may actually have a more desirable location for the price depending on the time of year and popularity of the location.  One last thing to remember with rentals, is there is often a minimum stay or cleaning fee or both. Be sure to factor that in when making your decision.


For me, amenities tends to be the deciding factor for making the decision between a rental and hotel. The biggest difference is that rentals almost always have some sort of kitchen space. If you like to make your own meals, and don’t plan on eating out a lot then a rental may really help you save on your food budget. As a general rule, a rental will also have more common area space so you can stay in and pop open a bottle of wine instead of heading out to the bar without feeling too antisocial. Depending on the area, you may also see differences in things like pools/hot tubs (better chance at a hotel in a downtown area but pretty even outside of cities), laundry facilities (hotels for business travelers may have laundry options, but with rentals it’s far more common), and outside spaces (totally location dependent).

Size of your Group

If you’re travel group fits into a single hotel room or a one bedroom rental, then budget, location, and amenities are definitely going to be key to your decision making. The second you need to add that second hotel room or look at rentals for 4+ people though, the size of your group suddenly jumps to the front of the line.

Unless you have some great friends or parents, chances are when you travel in a larger group you’ll all have your own separate budgets. This may mean that you can all afford to get your own rooms at a hotel and just stop planning there. If you take the time to look at rentals though, you may end up getting a lot more for the same amount of money. A rental comes with common spaces to hang out together and relax in between outings. Unfortunately this extra space , will most likely come at the cost of sharing a bathroom. It also makes it a lot easier for the group to mix it up and not just hang out in mini groups based on what rooms people are in. On the flip side, if you want to meet people outside your group and make new friends, hotels may offer more opportunities.


There is a good chance that this is going to be the biggest chunk of money you’ll spend on vacation. You may think that it’s just a bed, but if you have to trek across half the city and up 6 flights of stairs to get to that bed it may have more an impact on the quality of your vacation than  you realize.  So no matter which route you take, be sure to take the time to know what you’re getting yourself into.Understand the cancellation rules and any additional fees. Look at a map and see if it’s really walkable to the places you want to go. Reviews on sites like yelp and travelocity can also be helpful to find out everything from the best restaurants close by to how different the pictures on the website are from reality. Just remember to read both good and bad reviews and see if there is any correlation to the dates of the stay to get the best idea of what you’ll experience.

Now that you know where you’ll be sleeping you’re almost done with planning your perfect vacation. Be on the look out for the last post in the series which will talk about finalizing your itinerary!