Vacation Rentals vs Hotels For Family Vacations

We live in a time where there are so many options of accommodations for traveling. The most popular places to stay these days are rentals and hotels. Each have their perks and should be considered when planning a family vacation. Here are a few pros and cons of vacation rentals vs hotels for when you are planning that next family vacation.

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Vacation Rentals vs Hotels pin 1

Why Vacation Rentals are Better Than Hotels

There are many vacation rental companies out there to choose from. You’ve probably heard of Airbnb, VRBO, and Expedia among others. Here are a few of the benefits of using vacation rentals on a family vacation:

Vacation rentals vs hotels kitchen

Rental Properties have Kitchens – big rentals vs hotels factor

When we travel on a tighter budget, this is probably my top reason for getting a rental property vs hotel.

We often bring simple meals or recipes that need to be heated up or cooked from scratch.

Having a kitchen is so convenient and can save so much money when traveling! They are often well stocked with the basics so you can cook up whatever you need.

>>> Check out ideas for bringing meals on your trip. <<<

More Privacy

There are obviously lots of people everywhere with a hotel. Free breakfast? Great! Wait your turn for a table.

We actually stayed at a hotel once and our specific room did not have a window to the outside! (That has to be against code, right?) It was very dark in the room and felt enclosed, until we saw there was in fact one window.

That went to the hallway.

Not sure what good that did, as we obviously never opened the curtains on that!

In a rental home, you can walk around without worry that the people in the parking lot (or hallway, in our case!) are 2 feet from your face. You won’t hear the people next door with their TV on or coming in at 2 in the morning.

More Space

This is one of my favorite things about a rental property. We can all stretch out a bit.

Kids can be in the living area with a show on, while I am in the kitchen getting breakfast made.

Someone else can be in the shower and walk to their bedroom, instead of having to stay in the steamy-hot bathroom to dry off.

Cost Efficient

If we are comparing apples-to-apples (not the Ritz to an old dirty condo), rental properties can often be more affordable than hotels.

This is especially true if you are traveling to popular, downtown cities.

Multiple Bedrooms in rentals vs hotels

Oh the convenience of having multiple bedrooms without having to walk down the public hallway in your slippers!

My kids love getting a separate bedroom area from mom and dad. They can read in their room, while other siblings watch a show. Plus, the luggage contents stay separated so I don’t have to figure out whose is whose when we transfer to the next place!

Often has laundry machines in the home

We had stayed exclusively in hotels up until a couple years ago. I didn’t know how much I would love having a washer/dryer.

Now, we do a lot of hiking or National Park vacations.

It is life changing to be able to throw dirty, sandy, wet clothes in the laundry and have clean clothes all over again.

This is especially convenient when you book a longer vacation. Now you only have to pack half as much!

Helpful host / management for recommendations

Booking a rental vs hotel has a lot of obvious perks. But this is a little less obvious.

Often when we book a rental, the host reaches out to ask what questions we have or what recommendations they can make.

I love this personal touch. It’s almost like having a concierge, but (again,) more personal.

Some hosts have kids themselves and are able to recommend what their family loves doing around town. This is such a great way to find hidden gems and discoveries.

Feels more like a Home Than a Business

There is just something about a rental that feels a little more relaxing. Maybe it’s because we have more space to lay our luggage everywhere so we’re not climbing over it. Maybe it’s that there’s an actual couch, not a mass produced hard sofa, to fall onto.

Maybe it’s because it is an actual home of sorts to make you feel more immersed in the place you’re visiting.

vacation rentals vs hotels location

This rental was way more cozy than a hotel would have been!

Rentals Can Offer Better Locations

We went to Olympic National Park last year and while I was looking for a hotel to stay in, the vast majority of hotels were about a 20-30 minute drive from the northern part of the park.

OR, we could head to the way other side of the park and stay in a hotel there, also far from a lot of the hikes we wanted to do.

We ended up getting a rental from VRBO and WOW was that the right choice. Our little rental home was much closer to the park (practically in it), and it was on a lake. Surrounded by the changing colors. With Kayaks. And a cute A-frame.

This rental was way better than any hotel we would have stayed in and was in such an amazing location. You can’t find a hotel in a little lake-front neighborhood like that!

>>> Heading to Olympic National Park? See my full post on this perfect lakefront rental at Olympic National Park. <<<

Unique design/decor

Have you ever stayed in a hotel more than once and you get different rooms each time, but they all are the same?

I love the personal touches that rental property owners give their properties.

Our lake house (noted above) was full of lake decor, making it feel like a true getaway. We’ve had mountain rentals that were full of elk and bear decor. It really helps you feel like you’ve gotten away to a new place.

Great for Long Term Stays

For long term stays (more than a week or two), I definitely recommend getting a rental property.

VRBO property owners will often offer discounts for longer lengths of stays.

Plus, who really wants to be cramped in a hotel room with a big family for more than a week.

Cons of Vacation Rentals

Can be offsite Check in/out

Having to drive somewhere else in town can be a pain. Especially if you are rolling in late at night and you just want to get there.

Many properties have property management companies that have you pick up a key offsite when you arrive.

That said, we’ve also had properties that just have a lock box on them and they give you the code before you arrive.

vacation rentals vs hotels housekeeping

I had to scrub this place down pretty good when we got there

Harder to get help if you need something

Since there is no front desk and housekeeping on-call at a rental property, it can be difficult to get assistance for things.

We stayed at a place in Breckenridge where the townhome was a bit gross. Luckily, during those Covid times I carried Clorox Wipes with me everywhere and was able to scrub stuff down pretty well. But that took a while and used up time we could have been playing to scrub down the place.

It wasn’t a huge deal since I was able to get it to a point where we were more comfortable, but it would have been nice to have housekeeping come or be moved to a cleaner room.

No Food on Site

Hopefully you brought your own snacks and meals. Either that, or you have to be willing to head to the nearest restaurant no matter how tired you are, because chances are good there is no food on the property!

Often have to do simple clean up before leaving

Each property always has its own checklist of things to be done before checking out.

They can be really simple tasks like taking out the garbage, or they can be a little more involved like making sure to start all the linens in the washing machine.

This isn’t a huge deal since we all know how to do this, but it does make day-of-check-out a little more stressful and time consuming.

Can be big booking fees on rentals vs hotels

Make sure to check the total price of your rental before heading to check out.

Some can seem like a really good deal, but between the cleaning fee, management fee, and booking site fee, it can add up quickly and sometimes even double.

Check for properties with lower fees or make sure its within your budget!

No On-Site Amenities

Often when we book a condo, there will be a seasonal pool on site at the complex.

However, many rental properties don’t come with the fun amenities that a hotel has. No pool, no fitness center, no convenience shop in the lobby, no room service.

Why Hotels Are Better than Vacation Rentals

Housekeeping

I love the feeling of coming back after a long day and the bed looks professionally made, it’s been vacuumed, and there are fresh toiletries ready for use.

Not only that, but when you’re ready to check out, you just pack up and leave. You don’t have to empty trash or wash anything!

On Site food or room service

Sometimes at the end of an adventurous day, you’re just tired. Especially if you have kids on the trip with you.

There have been plenty of times when we don’t feel like cooking or going out to a restaurant, so it was nice to just go down the elevator and get some food.

Of course there aren’t restaurants on site at every hotel, but many chains have them or anything above “motel” status.

vacation rentals vs hotels pool

Amenities

Pools are a huge draw for my kids to stay at a hotel. The cooler the pool, the better. But any pool is better than nothing to them.

I love having a fitness center. If the vacation is more of the relaxing-type, then I like to be able to move a little in the mornings.

A lot of hotels even have shuttles, whether it’s from the airport or around town. We stay at a hotel in Steamboat Springs, CO where they have a shuttle that will take you from the hotel and into town. It’s really convenient if you don’t have a car, OR if you do have a car but don’t feel like figuring out parking downtown!

Check-in at Any Hour

Hotels have 24 hour front desk service (the majority do, anyway.) So if you have a late flight and a long drive to your hotel, you can still check in during the wee hours of the night.

Linens are Always Fresh and can be Freshened

Soft, clean, fresh linens. They always seem to be soft and fluffy. And if you need new ones, you can request to change them out.

Easy in/out during the day

No need to lock up. The doors lock automatically behind you. Just make sure you’ve got your room key to get back in.

You might feel safer

Of course this all depends on location. But in a hotel, there are so many people around nearby that it might provide some comfort compared to going into a single home at nighttime.

May be able to earn points for free nights

We always use a hotel booking site to earn rewards for future stays. Check out the hotel booking site we use and why we love it (you can book just about anywhere!)

OR perhaps you have a loyalty rewards account with a certain chain, or a credit card with a certain hotel.

Either way, there are lots of ways to earn free nights at hotels, which you can’t do with rental homes.

Cons of Hotels in Rentals vs Hotels

Parking fees

Parking fees are especially prevalent in larger cities. I hate when we have to pay EVERY DAY just to use the parking lot for the business I’m patronizing.

Less Space

The average size for an average hotel room is 300-400 square feet! That’s a small space for an entire family to share. Especially for big families. And as kids get older, the space feels smaller and those pull out couches are no longer comfortable.

More Expensive

I wouldn’t say hotels are significantly more expensive in general; however, if you have a big family, you probably need to book two rooms. And just like that, your price has doubled.

Not staying in same room

Big families often have to split between two rooms. With our kids being so young, that usually means my husband and I divide and conquer in separate rooms. There’s a lot of back and forth between rooms for us to communicate or help each other out.

Vacation Rentals vs Hotels

Both vacation rentals and hotels are great options for getaways. A lot of the time, it really just depends on the type of trip we are taking to decide which type of property we will stay at.

If the trip location has no bearing on where we stay, then it usually comes down to price for me. I’ll always look at reviews as well. While I don’t need a 5-star property, I do want it to be clean and safe!

>>> What do you prefer to stay at while away on a family vacation? I’d love to hear your thoughts on vacation rentals vs hotels. <<<

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2 thoughts on “Vacation Rentals vs Hotels For Family Vacations”

  1. I think you made excellent points on both! I often debate which is better when we travel. More space is often what gets us to get a vacation rental (when we need it).

    Reply
  2. I totally agree with you! Overall, I prefer hotels, but I use rentals for long-term stays. Also, a hotel room for 2 people is great, but when I travel with my mom and we need 2 bedrooms, the hotel gets pricy and Airbnb makes more sense! Great overview 🙂

    Reply

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