My wife and I are going to be traveling to London and Paris for our first time in late Sept. thru mid Oct. Wondering what people’s thoughts are on hotels vs Airbnb? We’ve traveled the US quite a bit but this is our first Europe trip.
It can be a challenge to find a legal rental in Paris……..
We stayed in an apartment in Paris on Île St. Louis on our first trip to Europe. It was lovely. This was in 2010, before AirBnB existed (I think), but we had been doing vacation rentals for some time by then, through Flip Key and VRBO.
Mind you, we speak a little French, so it was easy for us to manage without any assistance. If you think you might need some assistance with directions, transportation, or whatnot, then a hotel might be a better option for you.
We also went to London that trip and stayed in a hotel/inn that had an included breakfast. We found London to be more expensive than Paris--at least at that time--and this turned out to be the best option for us.
We were a family of 5, so normally apartments were a less-expensive option that gave us more space. For two of you, the difference may be less dramatic.
Now that it's just my husband and myself travelling, we do a combination. Sometimes we rent apartments, and sometimes we stay in hotels. It depends on length of stay, cost and availability of apartment rentals, convenience, comfort level with the area, and other considerations.
When we do book hotels, we usually try to find one that either includes breakfast or has a bit of a kitchenette (even a mini-fridge and microwave) or we find an apart-hotel, which gives the best of both worlds.
Our trick in Paris is to look just outside the city limits. We found a cheap ($80/night) one-bedroom AirBnB two blocks from a metro station in Levallois-Perret last October. It was wonderful to live like a local.
We’ve booked a few apartments in Europe through Booking.com, but mostly we enjoy staying in the small boutique hotels (I also search on Booking.com for those).
Our number one priority after safety is location. We don’t want to spend precious vacation time in a city taking a taxi, etc. to be where the sites are located. So, for Paris, we (or I if traveling solo) stay in the single digit numbered arrondissements. Paris neighborhoods are numbered like a snail shell, starting with the innermost location.
We move locations more often than it sounds like you’re planning. About halfway through our trip, we rent an apartment for a few days, so we can stretch out a bit more and also use the washer/dryer.
The hotel operators are available to answer some questions and seem to always give good recommendations for restaurants. We typically have breakfast at the hotel.
Throughout the British Isles, we’ve usually stayed at actual Bed and Breakfasts (B&B’s), not Airbnb, or hotels or VRBO. We rented an apartment in London a few years ago, and the kitchen was disappointing, and the check-in experience was more difficult than necessary. Since then, it’s been B&B, all the way.
On our last trip, and for the one coming up in May, it was/will be 122 Great Titchfield Street http://bb-london.co.uk/ . They offer 2 smallish rooms with breakfast, but also have an apartment suite with complete kitchen, king size bed, great shower, clothes washer, and an outstanding Fitzrovia neighborhood location in London, all for an affordable price by London standards.
For Paris: Hotel Familia, on the Left Bank https://www.familiahotel.com/en/ .
I say hotels.
In London look at Premier Inns. Stay inside zone 1.
In Paris look at Hotel Muget.
For 2 people, I would stay in a hotel. Look closely at the extra fees with apartments. They’ve increased considerably. We are a family of 4, who stay at least 3 nights at each stop and value the space, kitchen and washing machine at an apartment. But it comes with a lot of fees. For 2 people, I would stay in a hotel and drop off laundry to be washed, if needed.
For your first trip, I would definitely recommend staying at a hotel. There can be complications that you don't need when renting an apartment or Airbnb. Add the difficulty of the language barrier if you don't speak French, and you could end up with a frustrating, time wasting problem. As another poster said, you can recoup some costs if your hotel room has a mini fridge and microwave, or offers included breakfast.
Our criteria is to get a hotel for three or fewer nights, an apartment for four or more. It is it not worth it, to me, to bother with constrained check-in and check-out plus getting groceries for an apartment for less than four nights. Unless I can get an apartment unit in a hotel with a 24 hour desk. That is a great combo. We might break the four night rule and get apartments when breakfast is not included in the hotel rate or at a reasonable price. We don’t eat enough at breakfast to justify £20 per person at breakfast.
AirBnB used to be a great option in Paris, but that party ended about 6 years ago with the city government crackdown that made the vast majority of units illegal. Others may have more info, but there were similar restrictions placed in London 4 or 5 years ago. I haven't stayed in an AirBnB in Paris since 2016, or London since 2018.
Even if the legality of units was not in question, you run the basic risk of the booking being cancelled close to the reservation date, and there is little you can do about it. Plus there can be misrepresentations about the condition of the unit, even falsified photos. Finally, if there is a problem with the unit - problems with plumbing, heating/cooling, etc - tracking down the "manager" to get something fixed can be hassle if not a nightmare. This can happen with AirbBnB rentals in your hometown, not just in Europe, but beware. Having to find last minute hotel rooms in London and Paris can be quite difficult and expensive, and is that really how you want to spend your vacation time, looking for a hotel after your AirBnB deal fell apart?
So I say hotels for London and Paris, take the stress out of the trip that AirBnB can cause.
We do a mixture of both. My basic rule is 3 nights or less we stay in a Hotel and over 3 nights we lean towards and AirBNB. If we do an AiBNB I time it so that we will use the washing machine and eat some meals in. I love the Hotel for the quirkiness of it and will always book with breakfast included (limited hours), they usually serve foods we don't usually eat for breakfast and the dining rooms can be really cute with some even outdoors, some of our favorite memories are our breakfast chats with the staff and other travelers. Just remember some hotels do not allow you to eat in the room. An AirBNB can give you a more "live like a local" feel, because you will need to go to the grocery store, which is a must do for me when I travel regardless of where i stay, as they may not have TP, hand soap, salt and pepper etc., but it is nice to be able to have a snack, wine, make breakfast on your own timeline and do laundry! (We travel carry on only).
A Hotel can call you a cab, recommend restaurants, hold your luggage etc. An AirBNB host is kinda like having a friend in a foreign country, with you able to call them for emergencies or sticky situations (I am sure hotel staff will also be sympathetic). I had a host offer to take us to the airport at 6AM if the Taxi, which they arraigned for us, did not show up (Which sounds like it could have been a thing that happens).
An AirBNB host is kinda like having a friend in a foreign country, with you able to call them for emergencies or sticky situations
With AirBnB rentals the "host/owner" with the smiling face on the website listing is increasingly not the person you actually deal with. That slightly deceptive representation is a marketing tool designed to give prospective renters the warm fuzzies, leading you to believe that the person with the vested interest in you having a problem free stay, the owner, is your contact, when in reality you are dealing with a faceless property management company called the "co-host", not the actual owner of the property who may not be physically present in the building or even in the city....so when there is a problem, the hotel with a 24/7 front desk beats your so-called "friend" every time, in my experience.
We’ve often been checked in by, and given the contact information for, the individual person who handles the short-term rental property for the actual owners. If it’s not the owner (although often, it is the owner), that representative shows us the place, and often offers lots of suggestions for places to see, things to do, and their favorite restaurant recommendations. We’ve got their number if issues with the WiFi, the washer, or other questions arise. So we haven’t had faceless corporate interactions, although there have been a couple of actual owners who were pretty indifferent and non-responsive. I can say the same thing for some disinterested hotel front desk clerks over the years, so there are variables with either option.
I definitely suggest a hotel for your first trip. More can go wrong with a private rental, and you have less recourse. Admittedly, most people have had good stays in a private rental, and saved money as well. But here are two experiences with private rentals in the last few years, that made us say, "we are hotel people for life." 1. a week prior to our arrival in Venice, the owner decided to cancel our booking. The agency scrambled and found us two separate places to stay, and they were lovely, but we had to move houses midway through our visit. 2. Our first night in a VRBO, sewage came up in the tub. After a frustrating day waiting for it to be fixed, we ended up moving to a hotel, and spent the next month trying to get a refund. The host simply ignored us, and VRBO was no help whatsoever. We ended up filing a claim with our credit card company. In either situation, a hotel would likely have had another room for us. You have enough to think about for your first Europe trip - stick with a hotel.
We’ve often been checked in by, and given the contact information for, the individual person who handles the short-term rental property for the actual owners.
In my most recent AirBnB stays, I have not met, physically, anyone associated with the property. This is in large part a function of the use of door key codes - no more physical keys, no need to meet someone at the property to check them in. I am not complaining about this, just pointing out that getting "checked in" is not as much of a physical interaction in this day and age, especially the minimizing of physical contact during the pandemic.
When I have had the need to contact someone for any reason, it has been through the messaging function on the AirBnB app, too, not a telephone number. Really, you should document all contact with the host through the app anyway, in case you need a paper trail should the need arise to file a complaint with AirBnB if things are not resolved. Hence my term "faceless" co-hosts vs the photo of the "host" on the listing, a person who as far as you know may not even exist.
One of the most important criteria is how close your lodging is to a Tube/Paris Metro stop.
Another plus for a hotel is that after landing from your international flight, you can drop your luggage off even if it too early for check in. It is rare when an AirBnB allows that.
Our last AirBnB was in Rome, upscale and expensive m. Neither TV worked, the refrigerator was broken so all our groceries had to be thrown out. We were told TV problem was with the building although others living there did not have problems. They also said the tenant before us must have broken the TVs and refrigerator. So much for checking that all was OK between tenants.
Hotel all the way. I have found AirBnbs are expensive and full of unwanted "surprises," including broken appliances and one BnB that posted the wrong address because her lease didn't allow her to rent out her place (she didn't want the landlord to find out). I find European hotels to be smaller, but also far more reasonably priced than American hotels. I'll take smaller any day!
If traveling with kids, definitely AirBnB because we can have 2 or more rooms. One time we stayed in a former bookstore that was converted to an AirBnB near Notre Dame. It was lovely.
If I stay for 4 days or more, even for two people I also prefer AirBnBs. I look for one that has washing machines and air conditioning. But of course, location is really important as well, and note that many AirBnB apartments are in high floors without elevators.
Hotels are convenient but hotel rooms and beds in Paris can sometimes be claustrophobically tiny. So, either way you go, do your research: look for hotel reviews and AirBnB reviews and search for any red flag before booking.
I have no desire to stay at an Airbnb, ever. When I am on vacation, I want to spend as much time possible sight-seeing or relaxing on a beach, and I don't want to do chores I do everyday when I am home. I want to come back to a clean room at the end of the day, to a bed that has been made, a clean bathroom, & fresh towels. I don't want to see a kitchen, let alone clean it or any dishes.
I think the benefit of a "mom and pop" hotel is that if you need help or advise when in a foreign country, there is typically someone there to help you out, whether it is a recommendation, help with an unexpected health issue, calling for reliable service to the airport, helping locate delayed baggage, etc. I have no desire to be completely without a local source in a foreign country (or this country, for that matter).
Also, my understanding is that an Airbnb requires payment upfront. I always choose hotels where I pay upon arrival, with a generous cancellation policy, just in case.
In London, I used a company called A Place Like Home for an 8 night rental - this was in 2012, before airBnB, and it was great. A friend had used them multiple times before. We had a small studio in South Kensington and it was perfectly located. This time, I'm traveling with my brother's family as well and they either don't offer large enough residences or their large ones were all booked for when we're going. The building we stayed at in 2012 also had a conceirge and they were helpful with anything we needed.
I'm usually pretty leery of airBnBs too though on this trip for a large group (7) we're staying at airBnBs in London and Paris. Hopefully it will all go smoothly!