Between personal travel and work travel, I travel at least six times per year. I typically select hotels for my accommodations because I get all the amenities I love ( like room service, an on-site restaurant & bar, a kitchenette- when needed- and free WIFI) in a fabulous part of town. During my family’s recent trip to Seattle for the Labor Day holiday, we stayed in a cute, two-bedroom vacation rental, and it was quite lovely. The location and amenities met our needs and gave us the flexibility to drive downtown or take public transportation. Our delightful experience has convinced me to reconsider when a vacation rental might be more appropriate for my family’s needs versus a hotel. Thus, here are my top criteria for choosing a hotel versus a vacation rental.
Location is everything. Staying in the right location equates to convenience. As a city person, I love the convenience of staying in a city center because it means I can walk or take a cab anywhere I need to go. It also means I can get to drugstores or restaurant quickly for last minute necessities. When I travel with my family, we select areas that give us the flexibility of walking or driving. What aspect of location is important for your trip? Another aspect of location is the size of your travel destination. Are you traveling to a large city like New York or a suburban town? Depending on where you are going, your accommodation options could be abundant or sparse, so why not consider both hotels and vacation rentals? We were pleasantly surprised by the number of vacation rentals that were available for this past trip versus hotels.
When traveling alone or with family, determine what amenities you can’t live without. WIFI? A restaurant? An on-site gym or pool? Parking? When we travel with our daughter, we prefer extended stay hotels or hotels with a “complimentary breakfast” or in-room kitchen. For vacation rentals, having a private, non-shared rental with a kitchen, fridge, and stove were essential, so we could purchase groceries and make light meals. You can easily search for these amenities through hotel travel sites, vacation rental sites (Kid&Coe specializes in family-friendly accommodations), and travel stores like Expedia or Travelocity.
A third consideration is price. Depending on the location and amenities, your ultimate selection may be determined by price and how much you are willing to pay for those qualities. During my family’s trip to Seattle, a hotel was more costly than a vacation rental, even when we factored in the cost of groceries and parking. The temperate weather and access to outdoor activities make Seattle a hot destination for three-day weekends. Be diligent when price shopping. Tip: If your travel dates are flexible, consider researching different dates. It’s amazing how different accommodation prices can be when you travel on less busy dates.
Terms and Conditions
The fourth and last consideration is the reservation’s terms and conditions. It’s all the fine print that you agree to before you click “Reserve.” Do yourself a favor and read all the terms and conditions. Know what you are liable for if you shorten your stay or (heaven forbid) cancel the whole stay. If you need to, call the hotel’s or vacation rental’s customer service line and ask for clarification on anything you don’t understand.
Now that I have experienced both hotels and vacation rentals, I appreciate the aspects of both. I would do a vacation rental again, particularly for trips that exceed four days. It’s more comfortable for my family to have home-cooked meals a few nights a week versus eating at restaurants every night. At the same time, I appreciate the hassle-free comfort that a hotel affords. Consider both options the next time you travel.