Hostel, Hotel, or Airbnb?


Best for: Solo travelers, groups of two, the mobility-challenged, new travelers

Most of us are familiar with hotels and know what to expect when we book one. This makes it the best option for those who aren’t entirely comfortable with traveling yet or need a little extra assistance. With virtually all hotels, you’re guaranteed a staffed front desk – which is invaluable when it comes to booking tours, getting taxis, or finding out where the nearest pharmacy is located.

Big name-brand hotels usually work best for those that need accommodation for wheelchairs or are visually/hearing impaired. Others that might find name-brand hotels a better option include those who require more luxurious digs, on-site bars/restaurants, or the very best location for sightseeing. You can assume that the closer you are to a major tourist trap, the more luxurious (and expensive) the hotel will be.

Of course, you don’t have to stay in a big name-brand hotel. There are plenty of smaller, locally-owned hotels to choose from in any major tourist city. These hotels can be even better in some ways, offering a more local experience and interesting decor that the sterile, big name hotels tend to lack.

How to Find: I like to start my hotel search on Google. Searching for the city name + hotel will return results that you can view on a map. The map also includes landmarks, parks, etc so you can get an idea of where you might want to stay.

I’m a big fan of booking hotels on their own website, and from Google Maps you can click directly to each hotel’s website. Look at a few different options, take note of your favorites, then search for those hotels in TripAdvisor and read the reviews before you book. Big brand hotels usually give preference to those who book directly on their site – which is why I generally avoid booking on third-party sites. It’s also much easier to cancel a room or get lucky and receive an upgraded room if you book directly.


Best for: Families with children, friend and family groups, independent-minded travelers

Airbnb lists three types of rentals: shared room, private room, and entire home. Going with a shared or a private room can be incredibly cheap depending on the location. For those concerned about privacy, some private room listings offer separate entrances and bathrooms. However, I’ve never utilized those options. I’ve always rented the entire house, so that’s my focus here.

I personally love renting a home when I travel internationally. It’s so convenient to have access to a kitchen, especially when you have children. Even if you don’t plan to cook your meals while on vacation, being able to grab a soda or some cheese and grapes from the fridge whenever you want really comes in handy… and it saves money.

The other benefit to apartment rentals is that everyone can have their own bedroom at a fraction of what you would pay for individual hotel rooms. This works well for couples who travel together, or groups of friends who want to share a living space but still have their own bedroom. And of course, this setup is perfect for families with children. You can put your kids to sleep in their own room while you stay up late. Unlike in a hotel room, you don’t need to turn off the lights and tip toe around while you’re trying to get your little ones off to sleep.

How to Find: There are a multitude of options for booking apartments, including Airbnb, HomeAway and it’s partner VRBO

On Airbnb, I generally book only with Superhosts. These are hosts that have consistently gotten perfect reviews, indicated by a small badge on their profile. Airbnb also offers premium lodging in some cities.

A lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of staying in someone else’s home. Rest assured that a large percentage of whole-house apartment rentals online are just that – rentals. Nobody actually lives in them; they are purely a source of income for the owner. If you are unsure, ask.


Best for: Extroverted solo travelers, groups of friends, adventure travelers, very tight budgets

People generally assume that staying at a hostel means sharing a room with a bunch of strangers. While most hostels offer these shared rooms, there are some hostels with private rooms. Sometimes the private rooms include an en-suite bathroom, other times the bathrooms are down the hall. Most hostels also have a common space for guests to socialize, watch television, and access wifi.

Hostels are a budget option, so don’t expect luxurious digs. Some hostels even require you to bring your own bedding. They are usually frequented by travelers with an adventurous spirit and a limited budget, the sort of traveler who simply needs a place to sleep before moving on. This includes travelers of all ages so don’t be surprised to find a grey-haired couple staying at the hostel, making a quick stop there before they start their hike up to Machu Picchu.
How to Find: Hostel Bookers , Hosteling International , and many hotel search sites.

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