While the immediate future of travel remains uncertain and the ever-changing state of the pandemic ebbs and flows, there is also a clear and present need to get away from our homes and decompress. If the home is where the heart is, then vacation is where the fun, stress relief, and credit card points are!
But before you can sink your toes into that hot white sand or take a dip in the ocean’s azure waves, you have to make a travel plan. What will you do, where will you eat, and — perhaps most importantly — where will you stay?
It used to be that you would simply choose a centrally-located hotel that offered decent amenities and great rates. Hotels were a budget option for travelers that allowed them to maximize points they earned and obtain elevated status with their favorite brand — all with a mai tai in hand.
But in recent years, a new challenger has arrived. Airbnb shook the travelsphere with affordable rates, privacy, and a more intimate setting that allowed visitors to get a real taste of the local lifestyle.
You might be wondering which room and board option is really the biggest bang for your buck. We’re glad you asked. To answer that burning question, we collected and analyzed cost data on the cost of a hotel room, a “private room” Airbnb, and an “entire place” Airbnb in the most populous cities across the U.S. To even the playing field, our fictional stay always included 1 night for 2 adults in fall 2021.
Read on to find out where travelers save the most money when selecting each option!
Table of contents
Table of Contents
Hotel vs. “Private Room” Airbnb
When staying in an Airbnb, you have the option to rent the “entire place,” meaning the property owner is not present during your stay and you have the run of the whole place. Or you can rent a “private room,” allowing you a closed-off section of the house to sleep, relax, and brush your teeth unaccosted by the owner who remains on-site throughout your stay.
When it comes to staying in a “private room” Airbnb, some travel buffs love the charm offered by getting to know locals and being served home-cooked breakfast every morning. Others demand unfettered control of the TV remote and the privacy to put their feet up on the coffee table without fear of a scolding.
If you belong to the former category, you’re in luck. When we compared the prices of a “private room” Airbnb to hotels, Airbnb was cheaper in every city. Among the cities with the highest cost difference were Las Vegas ($269 cheaper), Boston ($206.30 cheaper), and Milwaukee ($180.20 cheaper) for a 1-night stay for 2 adult guests. On the other end of the cost-difference spectrum, Airbnb was just $7.30 cheaper in Orlando, $20.80 cheaper in San Jose, CA, and $44.30 cheaper in Memphis, TN.
Hotel vs. “Entire Place” Airbnb
But before you write off hotels as expensive and impersonal, let’s see what happens when we rent an “entire place” Airbnb and compare that to hotel offerings in the same cities. One could argue that this is the most important comparison anyway, considering the majority of Airbnb renters aren’t the best at sharing. In 2017, 81% of Airbnb’s revenue came from whole-unit rentals.
Interestingly, hotels are cheaper in 46 out of the 50 cities we analyzed when compared to whole-unit Airbnb rentals! From the highest cost difference of $328.10 in Los Angeles to the lowest cost difference of $2.30 in Atlanta, hotels almost always represent the biggest bang for your buck in our comparison.
Hot Tip: Not sure where to start on your hotel research? Check out our guide to the best websites for booking hotels at the cheapest prices.
The Hotel Renaissance
If Airbnb is the affordable and cultural way to experience a new place, why did hotels come out on top when compared to whole-unit Airbnb rentals? The answer lies in Airbnb’s rising taxes and fees. While the unit may appear cheap to begin with, you’ll be hit with an average of 40.33% of your total cost in extra taxes and fees! What’s more, that number climbs up to 53.31% if you’re visiting Orlando.
If you belong to the minority of travelers who prefer “private room” Airbnbs, you can expect to pay an average of 35.91% of your total cost on taxes and fees. It’s a bit better, but still outrageous in certain cities like New Orleans (46.77%), Birmingham, AL (45.87%), and Seattle (45.43%).
Compare that to hotels, where the worst you can do is spend an average 22.62% of your total cost in taxes and fees — in Las Vegas — and an average of 15.06% country-wide. So while renting an Airbnb is cheaper in some instances, you have to ask yourself, “What am I really paying for?”
To view and interact with our full dataset, check out the interactive table below. It features the average cost of a 1-night stay at a hotel, “private room” Airbnb, and “entire place” Airbnb for 2 people. We have separated the base nightly rate from extra taxes and fees for more clarity on what you really pay for.
Travel is a highly personalized experience and no 2 people go about it the same way. For that reason, competition is healthy for the room and board industry. However, at Upgraded Points, we can’t resist some of the benefits offered by hotels at our favorite vacation destinations — close walking distance to sights and attractions, low taxes and fees, and of course, credit card points and rapport with our favorite brands.