Is a hotel or Airbnb cheaper right now? Researchers found the answer

When Airbnb and Vrbo first hit the scene, they were terrific. It was so much cheaper than staying at a hotel. Now? Hotels are coming back. But why?

For one, there are all the Airbnb horror stories — from hidden cameras to a host secretly living in a rental’s attic. And did you hear about the group of women who rented an old Victorian house to celebrate their 50th high school reunion? Instead of a fun time, they got … bats. A lot of them. Some of the women were even bitten. Horrifying!

I love to travel but hate to waste money, and I know you do, too. That’s why this report about hotels really got my attention.

The suite research

Which?, a consumer-based research group out of the U.K., compared the average price of thousands of hotels with 300,000 Airbnb and Vrbo listings. They looked at 50 different locations over a year. That’s a lot of data to sort through, right?

Their findings? On average, hotels were less expensive 75% of the time. Wow!

Now, a hotel might not be the best choice every time — like when you need a big kitchen or want the whole gang in one place. But at the very least, it’s worth checking. Yep, I’ve added hotels back to my radar.

Oh, the places you’ll go

So, why the rise in Airbnb and Vrbo prices? Major cities in the U.S. are placing more restrictions on Airbnb rentals. It’s more difficult for property owners to turn a profit. Jacking up rates helps them stay afloat.

And it’s not just in the U.S. The most significant price difference is in Greece. On the island of Santorini, a one-bedroom rental through a site like Airbnb is roughly $104 more expensive than a hotel room. Dang!

The same goes for lots of capital cities around the world. 

  • Amsterdam – $83 
  • Singapore and London – $75 
  • Dubai – $70 
  • San Francisco – $44 

In France, it’s less expensive to book a vacation rental over a hotel in Antibes, Avignon, Biarritz, La Rochelle and Nice. But booking a hotel is still cheaper in Paris and Bordeaux. Oui, oui.

Calling all cheapskates

Yes, that’s me too. Paying full price makes me sad, so I’m always looking for ways to save when I travel. Here are money-saving tips you should use:

  • Go last-minute: If you can, wait until the day you need the hotel room to book it. After 4 p.m., hotels know the odds of selling a room are slim. On average, the same-day rate is at least 10% cheaper. 
  • When you check in: I always ask if there is a free room upgrade or breakfast. If we’re staying for more than a few days, I slip the check-in person $20 to get a better room, too. I heard Russian billionaires in Moscow do the same thing to always get a room on the first floor.
  • Direct is best: Scan a few travel sites to find the cheapest rate, then call the hotel and ask if they can give you the same price. I do this all the time. And I also ask, “What’s the room that gets requested the most by returning guests?” No noisy rooms or a view of a wall for me.

The more you know

When booking a hotel, here are more tricks to getting the most for as little as possible.

  • Join a hotel chain’s loyalty program to take advantage of perks and savings and see if they give discounts for other memberships like AAA.
  • Use a hotel-affiliated credit card to earn points you can exchange for stays. If you’re using a debit card for things like gas and groceries, you’re missing out!

Don’t forget about the complimentary breakfasts and happy hours. Hey, ask for an upgrade, too. The worst they can say is no.

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