Kelsey Tharp | Mar 1, 2022
All travelers are unique. Some may venture out on a solo journey to Patagonia and others may cram three generations of their family into an oversized van and spend two weeks cruising the California coast. Each traveler requires a different type of accommodation, just like they each require a different type of travel insurance. With such a variety of options, it can be difficult to know what works best for you on a vacation.
If you’re confused about what to book for your next trip, you’ve come to the right place.
The list below comprises the most common places to stay during a vacation. If you’re interested in staying in a cave or a large treehouse, you won’t see options like them on this list. Try this list from Pip and the City to learn more about unique places to stay around the world.
If you’re planning to stay in a hotel, house share, motel, or hostel, check out the pros and cons below to find the best fit for you.
When you book a hotel, you know exactly what you’re getting — a specific check in and check out time, your own room, complete with a bed, and a private bathroom — everything you need to be comfortable during your vacation. This no-surprises type of accommodation is perfect for a group traveling with young children. You’ll have a good idea of what you and your family members are getting into when you rent a hotel room.
Hotels are often very close to the action, making walking or driving to wherever you need to go a breeze. They also have plenty of amenities. Want a continental breakfast? You’ve got it. Need to take a swim? No problem. Feel like hitting the gym? Go right ahead.
This convenience comes at a price. The average cost of a hotel in the U.S. has fluctuated quite a bit in the last few years, but it hovered around $200 for one night in the last half of 2021 and was even higher in high-demand locations such as Miami and Anaheim, Calif. If you’re a budget-conscious traveler, this likely isn’t the best option for you.
House sharing can be a gamble, but with so many options now, the odds are pretty good that staying in one of these will greatly enhance your travel experience. For instance, you can find an amazing host who gives you a ton of awesome restaurant recommendations. This happened when I stayed in an Airbnb in Nashville. (If you’re in the area, eat at Five Daughters Bakery. You’re welcome.)
Your host may even include breakfast. When we stayed in a Michigan Airbnb, our host baked blueberry scones every morning for my fiancé and me. I still dream of their blueberry goodness more than a year later.
Some rentals go the extra step beyond just accommodations to give you the “local experience” when you book with them. They might arrange additional activities, so factor those in when finding a place to stay on vacation.
Like hotels, rentals can also be in a central location. These are also better for large groups. If you’re traveling with an entire entourage, you can book a really cool home that fits your entire gang — and still have space to spare.
House sharing, whether a short-term rental or longer vacation rental, is much more mainstream than it used to be. It’s still cost effective, but the excellent deals of the early 2010s are increasingly rare.
House sharing can also be unpredictable. It’s extremely important to read through your hosts’ reviews before committing to a room. Without doing this, you could be in for a nasty surprise — loud neighbors, a dirty space, even finding out that your host is running an illegal rental! The last example happened to a coworker of mine. When he showed up to check in for his Airbnb, he couldn’t get into his room and had to find another place to sleep at the last minute.
You also want to be clear on whether you’re renting a single room in a house where the owner is also staying or if you’ll have access to entire property. If privacy is a concern and you book a true home share, this might not be the right choice for you.
Your vacation rental may not have all the amenities of a hotel, although if you’re renting a larger space, like an entire house, this isn’t always true. You just might have to look a little harder if you want a gym, full kitchen, and laundry.
If a hotel and a house share had a baby, you’d get a motel. Like house shares, they’re typically cheaper than hotels and, like hotels, they may offer breakfast. When you check into a motel, you know what you’re getting, so this can be a good option for a smaller family.
These are great options for road trippers. The name motel comes from motor and hotel, so this makes a lot of sense. Motels are commonly located by highways, so if you need to stop for the day and you’re looking for a decent place to stay, try a motel.
Motels can be less than luxurious. Many are out of date – beware of websites that tout them as vintage and quirky without a lot of recent photo evidence – and lacking in niceties. I checked into a motel once that had a lumpy bed and the previous occupant’s leftover KFC in the fridge. They generally don’t have amenities, so don’t expect to go to the gym.
While their location is convenient for easy access on a road trip, if you’re planning to stay in one while you’re on a vacation, it’s often not in the best spot.
Motels are only found in the U.S., so if you’re hoping to find a cheap accommodation on your European vacation, you’ll need to consider another option.
Hostels are the ultimate money-saving option. Depending on the location, you may be able to book a room for $20 per night. They are most commonly used by college-aged people and recent college grads because of this. You can find hostels in most major cities and on every continent, except Antarctica.
They’re a great place for solo and adventurous travelers because they’re full of other solo and adventurous travelers. They also have kitchens, so you’re able to cook your own meals and save money by not going out to eat every day.
If you’re planning on this option, visit a reputable site, like Hostelworld, for reviews from those who have stayed previously before booking your room. Some hostels have age limits, so make sure you’re within these if you’re planning to book.
Many people are often concerned about sharing a room with someone they don’t know at a hostel, but some hostels offer rooms that only have two beds, so you and a travel companion can enjoy your privacy.
Hostels can be sketchy. Depending on the type of room, you could be sharing a room with some questionable people. If you aren’t into sharing, this is definitely not for you. If you’re staying in a large room, you have no control over your bunkmates, which means you’re subject to their schedules. If they come back at 3 a.m., loud after a night of drinking, you’ll have to deal with it. And if the community shower stall is a bit scummy, we hope you packed flip-flops.
Even if privacy isn’t a concern, the safety of your belongings might be. Some hostels advertise lockers to secure your bags while you’re out of the room or sleeping. Just know that even if you supply your own lock, the effectiveness of the locker itself can vary between properties.
The next time you’re ready to hit the road, spend some time thinking about what type of travel experience you want, and incorporate that into your choice of accommodations. With a little research, the place you stay could add a lot to your vacation experience. Make an informed choice and keep these pros and cons in mind when you’re choosing where to stay for your next trip.
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