Airbnb (or VRBO) vs Hotels: How to Find the Cheapest Place to Stay

Save Money on Travel Accommodations

Depending on where you are traveling to and who you are traveling with, staying at an Airbnb or VRBO can be a much more affordable option than spending the night at a hotel. But do you know how to find the cheapest place to stay?

Here are our top tips to save money on where you stay for your next vacation.

How to Find the Cheapest Place to Stay

Finding the cheapest place to stay requires that you ask yourself several questions. Be sure to consider the following before booking a hotel or Airbnb/VRBO so that you can save money on travel accommodations.

1. How big is your party size?

If you are a family of four or more, usually renting a place will be cheaper than renting multiple hotel rooms. 

Airbnb/VRBO wins for larger parties.

2. How long are you staying?

The challenge with Airbnb/VRBO is that there are fees charged regardless of how long you stay.  These include cleaning fees and administrative fees.  So if you are only staying for a night or two in a location, hotels are cheaper. 

For shorter stays, hotels win.

3. Are you bringing pets? (Especially large dogs)

I have traveled numerous times with my large (60 lbs+) dogs and have found the experience in hotels to be quite lacking. Let’s face it; dogs hate the elevator. Fortunately, Airbnb and VRBO have great search options to find a rental option that allows pets.  

Don’t forget to find out how much the fee is for taking your pets. Some VRBOs charge a nightly fee which can be very expensive for long stays. 

Remember, if you stay a long time, you can always negotiate and ask that the nightly dog fee be converted into a weekly fee. Lastly, if you can get a backyard, that is a huge help.

Airbnb wins for those traveling with pets.

4. Are you bringing children?

Kids add  a lot of considerations to a VRBO vs. hotel stay. Some hotels and resorts offer childcare, which is a huge win. They also are a bit more contained and safer. 

But, if you can find a family-friendly VRBO, things like a crib, toys, and high chair are already included, making your trip much easier. Another plus of a VRBO is that there may be multiple rooms. You won’t have to hide in the bathroom if your kids go to bed early just to read a book or watch a show.

Airbnb/VRBO wins when traveling with kids.

5. How convenient is the location?

Depending on what you are planning to do at your location, where your accommodations are located may matter a lot or not much at all.

If you are looking for something in the woods and away from everyone, like a cabin, you will get that more at a VRBO than a resort. But if you are looking to be super centrally located in a touristy area, you will likely find a hotel a better fit. 

In regards to location, it’s a toss-up.

6. What amenities do you need?

Are you someone who likes to cook or order room service? Do you want access to a pool and spa? Do you start your day with a strength workout in the gym? Generally, hotels will offer many more amenities than an Airbnb or VRBO.

Hotels win when it comes to amenities.

7. Do you like to have your space cleaned daily?  

One of the benefits of staying at a hotel is returning to a clean room, freshly made bed, and emptied trash cans. When you are at an Airbnb, you’re typically on your own. (Though I have found that Airbnbs/VRBO in Central and South America include a daily cleaning service.)

Hotels win when it comes to daily cleaning.

8. Do you need free WiFi?

Many hotels still charge a fee (upwards of $15/day) for using the internet. Airbnb and VRBO allow you to select homes that only offer free WiFi. This is offered at roughly 95% of Airbnb’s I’ve looked at.

Airbnb/VRBO wins when it comes to WiFi. 

9. What are all of the extra costs?

Ultimately, to find a cheap place to stay, you need to consider all of the extra costs. Here is a checklist of all of the costs associated with hotels and Airbnbs/VRBOs to consider:

  • Cost savings of cooking in vs. dining out
  • Fees for pets
  • Pool fees (pool heating fees for Airbnb)
  • Resort fees for activities at a hotel/resort
  • Gym fees
  • Crib rental fee
  • Parking fees (either at a hotel or if you are renting in a big city and need to park at a nearby parking garage)
  • Extra cleaning fees
  • Extra guest/per person fees
  • Tips – Don’t skimp on these! For workers (who tend to be women), these are incredibly important to their income.
  • WiFi Fee
  • Early check-in or late check-out fee

The Bottom Line

When it comes to how to find the cheapest place to stay, consider all of these factors when choosing between an Airbnb/VRBO and a hotel stay. When you take your preferences and the various fees into account, this will help you save money on travel accommodations.

If you haven’t already saved enough for your vacation, check out the Best Way to Save for a Vacation to start your planning now!