KIM KOMANDO

What’s cheaper, Airbnb or a hotel? Here’s the shocking answer

Nov 13, 2023, 4:15 AM

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A grand jury returned a 50-count indictment against the Arizona Mexican Mafia, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes announced on Friday. (Photo by Matias Delacroix/Getty Images)

(Photo by Matias Delacroix/Getty Images)

When Airbnb and Vrbo first hit the scene, they were terrific. It was so much cheaper than staying at a hotel. Now? Hotels are coming back. But why?

For one, there are all the Airbnb horror stories — from hidden cameras to a host secretly living in a rental’s attic. Seriously, it happened. And did you hear about the group of women who rented an old Victorian to celebrate their 50th high school reunion? Instead of a fun time, they got bats. Some of the women were even bitten.

If you love to travel but want to save money, this report is worth paying attention to.

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Rentals vs. hotels: What’s cheaper?

Which?, a U.K.-based consumer research group, compared the average price of thousands of hotels with 300,000 Airbnb and Vrbo listings. They also looked at 50 locations over a year to monitor price trends.

Their findings? On average, hotels were less expensive 75% of the time.

Now, a hotel might not be the best choice every time — like when you need a big kitchen or want the whole gang in one place. But at the very least, it’s worth checking. It’s time to add hotels back to your radar.

Oh, the places you’ll go!

So, why the rise in Airbnb and Vrbo prices? Several major U.S. cities are placing more restrictions on Airbnb rentals, making it more difficult for property owners to turn a profit. Jacking up rates helps these owners stay afloat.

It’s not just in the U.S. The most significant price difference is in Greece. On the island of Santorini, a one-bedroom rental through a site like Airbnb is roughly $104 more expensive than a hotel room.

The same is true for rentals in other major cities around the globe compared to hotel rooms:

  • Amsterdam – $83 higher
  • Singapore and London – $75 higher
  • Dubai – $70 higher
  • San Francisco – $44 higher

In France, it’s less expensive to book a vacation rental than a hotel in Nice, La Rochelle, Antibes, Avignon and Biarritz. But booking a hotel is still cheaper in Paris and Bordeaux.

Calling all cheapskates

Paying full price makes me sad, so I’m always looking for ways to save when I travel. Follow these tips to get a hotel room at the best price possible.

  • Go last-minute: If you can, wait until the day you need the hotel room to book it. After 4 p.m., hotels know the odds of selling a room are slim. On average, the same-day rate is at least 10% cheaper.
  • Just ask: Always ask if there’s a free room upgrade or breakfast. If you’re staying for more than a few days, slip the check-in person a nice tip for a better room.
  • Direct is best: Scan a few travel sites to find the cheapest rate, then call the hotel and ask if they can give you the same price. You can also ask, “What’s the room that gets requested the most by returning guests?” No noisy rooms or wall views, please.
  • Don’t forget the perks: Join a hotel chain’s loyalty program to take advantage of perks and savings and see if they give discounts for other memberships like AAA.
  • Free stays and upgrades: Use a hotel-affiliated credit card to earn points you can exchange for stays. If you’re using a debit card for things like gas and groceries, you’re missing out!

PSA: Always check for cameras

It’s not paranoia — it’s smart. This happens all too often. You check in to a rental or even a hotel room, lay on the bed and see a strange little light blinking. Is it a camera? A CO2 monitor? A recording device? Don’t wonder. Find out!

Larger cameras are easy to spot, but anyone can easily hide smaller cameras behind furniture, vents or decorations. A simple way to spot most types of cameras is to look for the lens reflection.

  • Turn off the lights and slowly scan the room with a flashlight or laser pointer, looking for bright reflections.
  • Scan the room from multiple spots so you don’t miss a camera pointed only at certain places.
  • Inspect the vents and any holes or gaps in the walls or ceilings.

You can also get an RF detector. This gadget can pick up wireless cameras you might not see. Unfortunately, RF detectors aren’t great for wired or record-only cameras. For those, you’ll need to stick with the lens reflection method.

In a rental, a free program like Wireless Network Watcher shows what gadgets are connected to the wireless network. You might be able to spot connected cameras that way. Do this in every rental you stay in, just to double-check what’s connected to the network.

Keep your tech-know going

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What’s cheaper, Airbnb or a hotel? Here’s the shocking answer