Vacation rentals vs hotels, which is better?


When planning your vacation, you can automatically consider taking your family (or just yourself) and making your visit to a great hotel. With so many airline + hotel + car rental packages, it's easy to get yourself into this thinking frame. In the long run, you can often get the best holiday deals to go that way. However, there are other hosting options that you would like to explore.

Vacation rentals, for example, offer many amenities that most hotels do not have. Usually owned by regular people (renting a vacation home means helping a "mom-and-pop" business instead of a large, corporate-owned hotel), vacation rentals usually offer you full kitchens and multiple bedrooms. They are available anywhere you want to stay. You can find condos or townhouses (with townhouses for maximum privacy on your vacation) anywhere in the world.

If you prefer to be surrounded by the hubbub, you can find rents in full swing (maybe a condo in the Las Vegas strip or a tick-friendly ski-cabin), but you can also find rentals that cater peace and tranquility. Many of these homes go through the busy streets and highways where hotels dominate (instead of a condominium adjacent to Vegas casinos, you might prefer a house just a few meters away with a gated garden and private pool).

What about families traveling with pets? Is a hotel or vacation rental more likely to happen? Well, I don't know about you, but I haven't seen many hotels thank even well-behaved dogs jumping through their lobbies (even in their hands). On the other hand, vacation rentals are often the way to go for pet owners, as many will accept dogs and cats (with an additional deposit). However, be sure to check the pet policy on the site beforehand as each owner sets his rules.

The last thing I want to mention is the general atmosphere of vacation rentals versus hotels. With hotels (especially big chains), you get … almost the same, no matter what part of the world you visit. This may be good for those who don't like to change, but if you want to stay in a place that embraces the culture of the area, you're more likely to find it on a vacation rental. Many homeowners house their homes a few weeks a year, so homes often feel like home. They are cozier and nicer than the coarseness of most rooms.

If you think I have an agenda for promoting hotel rentals (of course, neither do I), I must admit that there are some downsides to holiday rentals. First, finding the right place may involve more research on the Internet than simply booking through a website that offers travel package deals. Second, because vacation rentals are often privately owned affairs, they can be hit or miss with service. Not all rental owners have their own websites, and it may take some time for the owners to return to you if they do not use a management company. Third, most vacation rentals do not have a cleaning service. The room will be clean when you arrive (in fact, you will often be charged a cleaning fee), but don't expect someone to come and change the sheets for you every day. Finally, rentals are usually more expensive than hotels. You usually get more square feet for your money (multiple bedrooms, full kitchen, separate living and dining areas, etc.) but you pay for it. That's why rentals are so popular for families and friends who can share the costs.

As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to both hotels and vacation rentals. I'm a big fan of rentals (among the other reasons listed here, I really enjoy supporting mom and pop companies instead of faceless hotel chains), but each has their own benefits depending on your preferences. Be sure to look around before deciding where to spend the holidays.