Vacation rental vs hotel stay: which is best for you?

Which is better?

That depends.

Vacation rentals

With amenities like kitchens and laundry facilities, vacation rentals tick the boxes for longer-stays, families with small children, and folks on a budget who don’t want to eat out for every meal. Holiday rentals work for big groups by providing living or dining rooms, outdoor patios, and other spaces where the whole gang can get together, including pets.

For travellers looking to experience daily life in a neighbourhood off the tourist track, a vacation rental is a great option.

Tip: Before booking, find your perfect neighbourhood with Hoodmaps, an irreverent guide that breaks areas down thusly: Offices, Rich, Hip, Tourists, Uni, Normies.

Hotels

Business travellers and party animals may keep very different hours, but the 24/7 access hotels offer suits both suits and bleary-eyed revellers. A staffed hotel lobby is more secure than a lonely dimly lit stairwell.

Frequent business travellers looking for the same pillow menu in Shanghai and Sheboygan or a reliably decent cheeseburger every time often opt for chains. Party people may seek a more youthful vibe in a hotel more permissive of late-night antics. Whether spending days crunching numbers or nights in the clubs, these types of travellers spend most of their waking hours away from the room.

Hotels also offer goodies rarely found in a vacation rental: room service, a gym, a pool, daily housekeeping services.

Tip: Window-shop on a booking app to narrow your choices, then compare the prices of your top picks with the hotels’ websites.

Variations on a theme

Looking for a themed experience? Vacation rentals cater to every whim, no matter how whackadoodle. Or bask in the sleek beauty of a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The theme trend isn’t limited to vacation stays. Prepare for sugar shock at Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur’s Barbie Staycation, where fairy floss pink dominates. Allow robot dinosaurs to cater to your every whim at the Henn-na Hotel.

Environmental impact

Which option is more sustainable? There are arguments for and against both types of properties.

Vacation rentals vary widely in energy-saving practises. A beach rental for a family with lots of little kids could mean nearly round-the-clock laundry. Due to larger spaces, multi-room vacation rentals use more energy to heat or cool. Older properties may lack appropriate insulation or double glazing for windows. Those godawful capsule coffee machines.

Some properties are wildly better than a hotel: low-flow toilets, solar panels, pitchers fitted with filters to reduce bottled water plastic. Clearly labelled bins for recycling ease.

Hotels often use double- or triple-glazing on windows to reduce energy costs. Centralised climate control systems are more efficient than standalone units. LED lights. The sheer density of people in one spot: fewer roads stretched out to house all these people, and the petrol it takes to transport them to and fro. Needing a key card to turn on the lights.

But some aspects of a hotel are absolutely terrible for the environment. The lobby has to be refreshingly cool in summer and comfortingly warm in winter, despite the constant movement of people. Planet be damned, some guests still expect fresh sheets and towels daily or leave the air con on when not in the room. Swimming pools and saunas. Those godawful coffee capsule machines.

Which type of stay is best for you? Consider the needs of your travel companions, your destination, what activities you will (and won’t) be doing.

5 ways eco-hotels make vacations cleaner and greener

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battleface editor Sasha Gayer
battleface magazine editor Sasha is a writer and amateur palaeontologist from New Orleans. When not writing or digging dinosaurs, she teaches English.