You finally decided on a destination, tickets are booked, time off has been requested, and now all you need is the perfect place to stay. (Well, you probably also need new luggage, an upgraded travel wardrobe, and a few more dollars in your budget, but those are just details, right?) More than ever, we have numerous options on how and where to spend our vacation time. Some of us want to wake up in the heart of the city living like a local, while others want to live it up in a five-star suite.
Regardless of your lodging style, we’re here to help. Read on for our vacation stay guide: We compare hostels, rentals, and hotels to determine which kind of stay is right for you.
Hostels get a pretty bad rap. It’s true, there are many hostels that aren’t the most luxurious or or comfortable. So let’s be real—the word ‘hostel’ may creep us out. Will there be groups of hippies making hemp necklaces waiting for you when you arrive? Wasn’t there some horror movie about a hostel that came out a few years ago? Let it go! It’s high time to clear these hostel stereotypes from your mind. Throughout the entire world, there are an astounding number of chic, safe, and comfortable hostels that rival the nicest hotels and rentals. New and renovated hostels have popped up just about everywhere in the past few years, providing travelers with affordable and comfortable accommodations.
The Freehand Hostel in Miami and Chicago
If you have a strict budget or if you’d rather spend your money on meals and the sights while traveling, hostels are a great option for you. They’re almost always cheaper than hotels and vacation rentals, and can provide many of the same amenities and more. Hostels almost always have kitchens—a great money saver if you don’t mind cooking a meal or two during your trip. It’s also a safe bet that you’ll nearly always be around other travelers eager to help or make suggestions on sights to visit. Hostels are a great option for solo-travelers because it allows the chance to meet others, and have a community even while traveling alone. That being said, a hostel doesn’t mean you have to share a room with a group of strangers (unless you want to!) or that you constantly be around other travelers. There are plenty options that offer private suites and private bathrooms making it just as comfortable as a stay in a hotel (but at a fraction of the cost!).
Even if you have a private suite, hostels don’t offer the same privacy as hotels or rentals. Because they are typically the least expensive option in a city, they often draw in young and sometimes noisy travelers which can be irritating when you just want to get some sleep. Also, there can be “unknown” hostel rules (e.g.—you can only get into the building after 9:00 PM) which makes things a bit more complicated than staying at a hotel or rental.
A hostel may be right for you if:
- You’re on a tight budget
- You’d rather spend your money on sight-seeing, shopping, and meals
- You don’t plan on being in your room much
- You don’t mind losing some privacy to save money
Services like Airbnb, VRBO, and Home Away have transformed the way we travel. Now we have the option to live like a local and rent apartments, rooms, and homes while traveling. This is a great option regardless if you’re traveling with a big group, on a romantic getaway, or flying solo (literally). You can find the most quaint and stylish little apartments alongside luxury, high-end rentals making it perfect for most types of travelers.
Paris rental apartment via AirBNB
Most rentals offer perks like free wifi and access to a kitchen as well as amenities (fresh towels, hair dryers, etc.) just as you’d find in a hotel. Because you’re renting a home from an actual person versus a larger hotel chain, you’ll often get sweet little treats like a bottle of wine or maps and guidebooks. Vacation rental sites share details about the amenities of each listing as well as reviews other travelers have left. Reviews and a host verification process are built in to help protect travelers; make sure to do your own part by communicating with your host, making sure they are prompt to respond and reviewing photos of the space beforehand. (Tip: Read the reviews in detail to make sure you minimize negative surprises!)
Unlike a hotel or a hostel, you can’t simply be transferred to another room if things go awry with your rental. Of course, rental services do provide support in emergency situations but things likely won’t be fixed quickly like they can be in hotels. There are also options to rent single rooms in homes, but (please!) exercise extreme caution before doing this as a female solo traveler. As long as you are smart about the risks, it can be an inexpensive and fun option to try.
A vacation rental may be right for you if:
- You don’t mind a little adventure
- Regular hotel amenities like room service and daily maid service aren’t important to you
- You prefer living like a local and immersing yourself in local culture when you travel
- You want more privacy than a hostel offers
Hotels, while they are the most expensive option, can also be the most stylish, comfortable, and convenient pick. With a hotel, you usually know exactly what you’re getting. You have more flexibility, can change rooms more easily, get upgraded, and have numerous amenities.
Hotel standards are usually higher, and all in all, a hotel stay is a safe bet. Hotel loyalty programs, modern luxuries and amenities… the list goes on. While hostels and rentals can expose you to more risks and scams, hotels provide straight, up-front service. It’s simple to book a hotel (less research is involved) and you don’t have to worry about coming home to dirty towels or an unmade bed. Bottom line: If a luxurious weekend filled with room service, plush robes, and bad reality TV is what you’re after (nothing wrong with that!), a hotel is the obvious choice.
All that being said, if you are on a tight budget, a hotel might not be the best option for you. Rates are high for centrally located hotels, food can be expensive, and there are often additional fees associated with your stay. If you are set on a hotel stay, make sure to keep an eye out for sales and opportunities to join loyalty programs for further savings. In addition, a hotel doesn’t really allow you to immerse yourself in the culture of a new place the same way a rental or even a hostel does.
A hotel may be right for you if:
- You have a flexible budget
- You enjoy spending time in a room with modern amenities when traveling
- Privacy is very important to you
- You don’t have as much time to research a rental or hostel
Our advice? Mix it up! Split your time between a rental and a hotel or hostel. On a week long trip, try to choose two locations in different parts of a city and split your time between both places. It’s not always possible on shorter trips, but it’s worth it on trips that are a week or longer. Truly the best of both worlds!
top image via Ace Hotel Los Angeles