Is Airbnb Actually the Best Choice? The Pros and Cons of Airbnb



Airbnb is THE website to find a place to stay when you travel today. But is it actually the best way to find lodging? I’ve stayed in tons of different Airbnbs, from a tiny cabin in upstate New York to an apartment in the heart of Florence, but staying in an Airbnb isn’t always the best option for me. So I’ve come up with a list of pros and cons of Airbnb so you can see if it’s the best way to find lodging for you!

Is Airbnb Actually the Best Choice? The Pros and Cons of Airbnb

If you don’t really know what Airbnb is, it’s a website where people can rent their rooms, apartments, houses, and even campers and treehouses out to travelers (I have only rented entire apartments/houses with Airbnbs, so I cannot speak to renting a room in someone’s apartment). Digital Trends has a good article about the background of Airbnb and how it was started if you’re interested in learning more. I use Airbnb a lot when I travel but not for every trip, and I explain why it’s better for some trips than others in my pros and cons of Airbnb!

Airbnb in Venice

Airbnb in Venice

Pros of Airbnb
You (usually) get a kitchen. Which is great for staying in a place long term so you can cook! (But check the list of amenities in an apartment to see what they have because I stayed in one that didn’t have a microwave and I didn’t realize it until I was there.)

You get more space than in a hotel. I’m one of 5 kids and I remember vacations with my family crammed into two hotel rooms with suitcases overflowing and we would all squeeze onto one bed to watch TV, but with an Airbnb, you can get more bang for your buck and have more bedrooms, bathrooms, and have a living area where everyone can hang out. I’ve also shared Airbnbs with groups of friends and it’s been great to be able to spread out and have an area to cook and hang out.

It can often be cheaper. This is especially true if you’re with a large group of people so you can split the bill. When I was traveling around Italy with three friends, we didn’t pay more than 40 euros a night per person and we stayed in some of the nicest apartments- one in the center of Florence even had a fancy chandelier!

Top Airbnbs

It’s easier to stay in more remote places. If you want to stay in an Airstream in the middle of the desert or even if you just have a wedding to go to in the countryside, it can be a lot easier to find an Airbnb than a hotel.

Airbnbs can have some unique perks. The cabin in upstate New York I stayed in had a fenced in dog run so Annika could run around, and a house in North Carolina I stayed in was on a lake and had kayaks and a fire pit.

You can travel with pets. When looking at Airbnbs, you can select places that are pet friendly, which is great for when I travel with Annika!

Dog friendly Airbnb

Dog run at the Airbnb in New York

Reviews are usually pretty honest. I always read reviews before I book an Airbnb to make sure it’s a clean and safe place without any issues.

Some hosts go above and beyond! Some hosts are very accommodating and will give you tips for restaurants and places to go, and some will even leave snacks and food to cook with. I’ve had perks from having basic cooking supplies like olive oil and salt available to having orange juice and croissants available.

Airbnb in Florence

Airbnb in Florence

Cons of Airbnb
The owner isn’t always available if you need something. Thankfully, I haven’t had an emergencies or major issues that some people have had when they stay in an Airbnb, but even small things like running out of toilet paper or finding evidence of mice can make things more complicated since you can’t run down to the front desk in a hotel to get something.

It can also be hard to contact the owner. In most cases, you communicate with the owner through Airbnb so you don’t have their phone number or email (which is understandable for safety reasons), so it can be hard to connect with them sometimes. For one Airbnb in Italy, we had to meet with the owner to get the keys and she was pretty late and wasn’t responding to our messages on the Airbnb website. It was fine in the end, but we were worried for a while that something had happened, and it made us late for other activities.

You have to pay a cleaning fee. The cleaning fee varies from place to place but it usually isn’t very cheap, so it can make the place more expensive than a hotel if you’re just staying for one or two nights.

The prices change for demand or tourist season. This is the same as many hotels and vacation homes, but just be aware that the price you see now can double or triple in price.

Airbnb in Florence

Airbnb in Florence

There are some sketchy or weird places. Always read reviews and look at the pictures before you book! I’ve seen people talk about Airbnb nightmares, and one apartment even had no windows. Yes, zero windows in the entire apartment.

They can go fast. A hotel has many rooms, but Airbnbs obviously don’t. If you have one in mind that you want to stay in, book it before it’s gone! Twice I’ve had Airbnbs slip through my fingers and for a trip I’m planning now, all the affordable places were booked when I started looking (even two months before my trip!), so I have to stay in hotels.

The check in times can be strict. The check in time is up to the host, so it can really vary. I haven’t had an issue with it, but if you’re on a strict schedule or if you arrive early in the day and need a place to store your luggage, the host usually can’t accommodate that from my experience.

Top Airbnbs

The host can cancel on you. I haven’t had this happen to me (*knock on wood*), but Airbnb hosts can cancel on their guests at the last minute.

You can’t control the environment. I’ve stayed in hotels with noisy neighbors before, but you can always call the hotel staff to take care of it. If you’re staying in an apartment with thin walls and the neighbors are throwing a rager, you can’t really call your host to take care of it.

There usually aren’t features like pools and gyms. There are unique perks (like the kayaks and fire pit I mentioned earlier), but there usually aren’t pools, hot tubs, gyms, etc. like you would get in a hotel.

Airbnb in New York

Airbnb in New York

They aren’t always handicap friendly. Many Airbnbs I’ve stayed in are up several flights of stairs, have steep driveways, or have small bathrooms, so if you’re in a wheelchair or have crutches or need assistance with anything, many Airbnbs wouldn’t be accessible.

The home can have some unusual features. My friends recently visited me and stayed in an Airbnb that had a kitchen in a remodeled closet, so it was tiny and you couldn’t even open some cabinets. I stayed in an Airbnb that had a bedroom in a converted garage, so the walls were thinner and there wasn’t as much insulation. These aren’t necessarily bad, but just be aware that not every Airbnb is glamorous.

Overall opinion

So there you have it, the pros and cons of Airbnb. Airbnbs can be a gamble, but I really do love it! Some of the cons I listed aren’t necessarily “bad” things, but you do need to be aware of all the small things that make it different from hotels so you don’t end up disappointed.

I do think where you should stay depends on what you need. If you’re spending one night somewhere or if you’re on a road trip and will spend each night in a different place, it might be cheaper to get a hotel. If you want to know exactly what you’re getting without any risk, you’re probably better off with a hotel. If you’re with a big group of friends for more than a few nights, it might be cheaper to stay in an Airbnb. And if you want to stay in a unique or remote place, an Airbnb is perfect for you.

Airbnb in Florence

Airbnb in Florence

If you’re interested in booking an Airbnb for the first time, you can use my link to get $40 off your first trip! (And I’ll get a discount on my Airbnbs in return if you want to help fund my trips 🙂 )

If you don’t think that Airbnb is for you, don’t worry, there are also lots of other booking options to choose from! Like HomeAway, VRBO (connected with HomeAway), HomeExchange, Bed and Breakfast, and Homestay, just to name a few.

So what are your thoughts on Airbnb? Have you tried it yet?

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  1. Personally, I love Airbnb’s. I love experimenting and trying to find really quirky ones that give you better value for money than hotels. I’ve had some cancel on me in the past which can be a bit frustrating. But overall, they’ve been great.

  2. I’ve had great times in all my Airbnb but I would only consider Airbnb if I was travelling with my partner or a group of friends. I think I’ve only experienced one Airbnb which was cheaper than a hostel and hotel when I was doing a solo travel trip!

    I do like to splurge on a hotel experience every once in a while :p

  3. Aleeha says:

    I’ve never stayed in one before, but I do one to one day since there are so many gorgeous ones! I just feel like it can end being far too much hassle in some cases.
    Aleeha xXx

  4. Sue Davies says:

    Helpful tips and I liked your pros and cons

  5. Clazz says:

    Great post! I STILL haven’t used Airbnb, for some of the reasons you’ve stated. I never knew about cleaning fees until fairly recently and they can really add to the cost of a place! Plus it is so much harder to be flexible, have customer service available and just generally gambling on it being a nice place (but then the same can be said about hotels for double the price). And the whole hosts being able to cancel at the last minute is a bit scary! I think I’ll try it at some point, but I don’t see myself swearing by it like some people.

    • Julia says:

      Thanks! Yeah it can be riskier than a hotel! Thankfully I haven’t had any major issues with it, but it’s not always the perfect place to stay.

  6. Great post! I so agree with most of what you point out! I’m a big fan of AirBnB, but can truly relate to some of the cons you point out. Especially due to the lack of flexibility on part of the host, I tend to book one night at a hotel or hostel when I’m arriving somewhere new – especially if my flight is arriving at some weird hours. That gives me less stress if the flight is arriving late, and avoid having bad “first moment” with the host.

    Generally, I tend to exchange phone numbers with the host at the beginning of the stay to be sure that we can connect in case of emergency (you never know, right?).

    Once again, great post! 🙂

    • Julia says:

      Thanks! 🙂 Yes it can be hard to check into an Airbnb at weird hours like you can with a hotel!

  7. Julia says:

    I have never used Airbnb yet, however it does have so many perks – having a kitchen is a great one as it can save you lots of money on meals! But also it terms of location as you said, you could stay pretty much anywhere you want, whereas you could be limited with hotels (when you find a good one!) This post sums up lots of things worth thinking about regarding Airbnb, your experience seems very positive overall and I’m sure I’ll be booking accommodation through this website at some point or other in my future travels – I want to try it out!

    Julia x
    Last Post: Four Steps to a Healthy Life |

    • Julia says:

      It’s definitely worth trying out when you get the chance! Having a kitchen is a really great perk!

  8. Em says:

    Great post as always, Julia! It was so interesting to read as I’ve never stayed in an airbnb before but if I ever do there are some great tips to help me find somewhere!


  9. Great post; very informative! I have never stayed in one but the thought intrigues me; I’ll have to consider them now for our next trip away!

  10. Tonya says:

    Thank you for sharing, I will have to start remembering to check out Airbnb when I plan on traveling.

  11. Hailey says:

    This was prefect for me as I’m staying in my first Airbnb next month in Canada! As much as I travel I have always stayed in hotels, for many of the reasons you listed but I’m excited to try something new! I’m going to Toronto and the hotel prices were SO expensive, Airbnb is saving me a ton. I hope it’s worth it!

  12. Karen says:

    I love Airbnb! I really appreciate having more room and added “character”. They only downside I’ve encountered is often the cancellation policy is strict. So if I’m not 100% sure of my travel plans, I’ll choose a hotel.

    • Julia says:

      Yeah hotels usually have better cancellations policies! I’ve stayed at some that won’t charge me unless I cancel the day before my trip.

  13. Eric says:

    For the record, some of your fondest memories were when the whole family was crammed onto one bed watching TV in a hotel room. 🙂

    I generally check AirBnb and Priceline and the latter almost always wins out because of the former’s cleaning and/or service fees. In my experience, you need to stay a minimum of 3 nights in one place for the cleaning fee not to be cost prohibitive.

    • Julia says:

      Haha they were fun trips! Yes it’s definitely worth it if you can stay for a longer period of time!

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