Due to an increasing cultural desire to experience destinations as a local would, the popularity of Airbnb and companies like it has spiked in recent years. With more accessible price points and less fussing over the little details that make hotels what they are—such as room service, and, say, chocolates placed delicately on pillows—there are a number of reasons why Airbnb would appeal to the globe-trotting masses. For some members of the Here editorial staff, however, it’s the luxury of hotel hospitality that makes travel the special experience that it is. Others see things differently. In this edition of Flight or Fight, we battle it out over what makes for the perfect lodging: hotel or Airbnb?
Emma Glassman-Hughes: So I hear tell that you’re a hotel gal through and through.
Ally Betker: I’d say I’m equal-opportunity—in fact I stayed at an Airbnb upstate this weekend.
EG-H: Oh wow, very big of you.
AB: I’ve gone through many Airbnbs in my day, but I think I’m starting to swing back to the hotel side.
EG-H: What’s the biggest difference in your eyes? I really like them both for different reasons.
AB: There’s just no guarantee with Airbnbs—it’s such a mixed bag. And especially when you’re traveling, there’s something nice about knowing what you’re going to get.
EG-H: I’ve stayed in my fair share of sketchy hotels.
AB: This is a good point…do you have any horror stories?
EG-H: My dad and I were recently in Rapid City, South Dakota and the hotel pickins are pretty slim around those parts. So we chose what looked like the nicest one, but it was so dark and the hallways were DEFINITELY haunted. It felt very murder mystery, the conference rooms were full of furniture just straight out of a 19th-century ghost story. So we spent most of our time enjoying the town and really only came back to the hotel for sleepage.
AB: You can definitely go really wrong with hotels. But HOW NICE is a nice hotel. It’s, like, the nicest. A nice hotel is so luxe.
EG-H: That’s fair. But does a nice hotel beat a nice Airbnb?????
AB: In my opinion, yes. Because as nice as a nice Airbnb is, it doesn’t come with things like room service, or a hotel bar, or a front desk that will give you a new toothbrush.
EG-H: You do have to resort to stealing used toothbrushes in Airbnbs, not ideal. I’ve also stayed in some questionable Airbnbs, mostly in New York actually. All my Airbnbs in Europe have been positive experiences.
AB: I think questionable Airbnbs are grosser than questionable hotels.
EG-H: This is a tricky one, because as much as I want to agree, I’ve also seen things like this on the front of my hotels:
AB: Were these…fish and birds that lived in the motel?
EG-H: Absolutely not. These fish and birds were very dead.
AB: What. Explain.
EG-H: Well I suppose people do a good amount of hunting and fishing in Valentine, Nebraska, and then they bring their catch back to the Super 8, and the rest is history.
AB: Okay, so hotels can get weird. But generally speaking, I’d say they’re more convenient than Airbnbs.
EG-H: The convenience factor of a hotel is huge.
AB: For example, I did a roadtrip through Austria, Italy, and France last summer and stayed at Airbnbs the whole time, and the key pick up was pretty challenging—they don’t seem to utilize lock boxes or key pickup services in Europe. So, we were usually meeting someone standing outside the apartment, and if we were running late it meant using phone data to try to communicate with a non-English-speaking person.
EG-H: It can get a little dicey on the hunt for the keys to an Airbnb.
AB: Also, the check in/check out time for Airbnbs really kills me. Because it’s not a hotel, so it feels like I shouldn’t have to leave at 11 a.m.
EG-H: I feel like you’re expected to be on better behavior in a hotel though, as opposed to just being in your own home. But, I agree with your last point.
AB: I love hospitality so much and there’s this #treatyoself aspect of hotels.
EG-H: The luxury of a nice hotel is in a category of its own, that’s for sure. Nothing beats a nice, crisp, clean sheet and bedspread.
AB: Truth. When it comes to price though, Airbnb is way ahead of the competition.
EG-H: Yes, but I feel like only if you’re willing to compromise, depending on where you’re staying. I found a super cheap one bedroom Airbnb in Bushwick last fall but quickly realized it was so cheap because the guy renting it out just slept on the couch in the living room (and there was no bedroom door, he was very Bohemian and had some tassels hanging down but that’s it). THAT is one thing you never need to worry about in a hotel.
AB: Maybe he meant to list his place on the couch-surfing site? I’ll also add that I think boutique hotels are doing such a nice job these days, you don’t really need to stay in an Airbnb to get a “local” experience
EG-H: There’s also just something soooo appealing about a “boutique hotel.” How much more charming does it get? Except an old fashioned actual BnB. That shit is charming.