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Thoughts on accommodations

Hi all,

I wanted some thoughts on hotels v. Air-bnbs when staying abroad? My wife and I prefer them while traveling in the states, however I just thought I should get some reactions here.

Going to italy in mid-fall (2-3 nights in Venice, Florence, and Sorrento). Honestly for us, it’s about value for money..we like the authentic of staying in a locals home but would likely be willing to pay more if we didn’t have to share a bathroom for instance. Or if we got an entire apartment v. Just a hotel room.

I’ve been reading through ricksteves book and his recommendations are pretty solid. Any and all thoughts are welcome. Thanks so much!

Posted by
18022 posts

I thought B&B meant "Bed and Breakfast", i.e., a room with breakfast included. In Germany, unless you stay in some overpriced intercontinental hotel, most accommodations include breakfast, ergo they are a B&B. That is, unless it's an AirBnB, in which case they are probably an apartment with an absentee landlord, where you have to make your own breakfast.

If you really want a B&B experience, look for a "Privatzimmer", not an AirBnB. In my experience, most German Privatzimmer today have their own bathrooms and a true "authenticity of staying in a local's home", and they usually cost less than an AirBnB.

Posted by
4782 posts

Advantages of a hotel -- Housekeeping, someone at the desk to help you if needed, often a free or convenient breakfast, often laundry service, check-in flexibility without arranging a time.

Advantages of an apartment -- Space, a kitchen, maybe a washer/dryer.

Apartments can be a good choice for longer stays, families or larger groups, people who want to eat in. Hotels can be better for shorter stays, solos or couples, less experienced travelers who may need front-desk service, people who don't want to eat in.

With 2-3 night stays in cities I'd choose hotels for the convenience and service. For a week or more, especially with kids, I'd choose an apartment.

Never stayed in someone's home on a paid basis, don't think I'd like it, but if you like it in the US you might want to try elsewhere, if you can find such an arrangement.

Posted by
2518 posts

I think the advantages to both are the same as in the US. When you say you like Airbnbs in the US do you normally rent a full apartment or a room in an occupied apartment?

If you like renting a room and staying with the residents, this could be a very good way to meet people and get a sense of the culture. Personally I don’t like staying with strangers, I always rent full apartments, I’m an introvert who needs lots of privacy. But if you are social and up for it, it should work the same as in the US.

As I said my preference is to rent whole apartments. I find that I get to stay in interesting neighborhoods, can store local foods like cheeses or wine and enjoy in the apartment, and have more space. I go for mid-range ones, not cheap or luxury and often have great features like a private roof deck. Downsides are that check in can be a hassle (meeting to get the keys) and that you are kind of on on your own - no hotel staff, make/go out for your own breakfast and coffee, etc (I consider this a positive, but not everyone does)

Hotels In Europe the rooms are often very small. The included breakfast (most include it, not all though) is nice. Having a front desk is very useful if you need advice or someone to make calls (taxi, reservations) in a language you don’t know. Downsides to me are the lack of space and that in some countries you aren’t supposed to eat in the room (not cooking, I mean even a snack or wine!). That makes me really upset, actually, but I’ve mainly run across it in France. Also, if you like big chain hotels these are often in nice-but-boring business/shopping districts. You can avoid that by finding small hotels in more interesting neighborhoods.

Also, maybe not relevant to you but I travel with my family (husband, 2 kids) and hotel rooms for 4 are rare and expensive. Many hotels only have single and double rooms, there’s no possibility of 4 in a room. So apartments are often the only real choice.

Posted by
3789 posts

Airbnb's allows you to choose a private room or whole apartment. I get more for my money booking full apartments, but they aren't the cheapest option. Some European countries have good reliable family run two star hotels for less than an apartment and more than a private room....but without the shared bath. I use these for one or two night stays. UK has Premier Inns that when booked ahead (and willing to do a no change no cancel booking) are very comfortable and affordable.
So you can mix and match I what they have to offer and your needs.

Posted by
4884 posts

I always take an entire apartment, but usually via VRBO or Trip Advisor Rentals, as Airbnb offer a poor exchange rate. Other than on business, I have only stayed in a hotel once in 5 years vs about 10 apartments. I have had some great hosts who are based locally and have never had any issues with picking up keys. I like having my own space that I can pop back to at any time of day, not be hampered by hotel cleaners needing access.

Most hosts provide lots of guidebooks, maps and details on restaurant options that you don’t get in a hotel. I never use the front desk when I do stay in hotels.

Many hotel breakfasts are poor and expensive, with food being kept warm on top of a burner. It’s easy enough to grab breakfast near most rental places.

2-3 nights in Venice is only 1-2 days there, which isn’t really long enough to see much there, particularly as you are going to lose half a day each time you change location door to door.

Posted by
1017 posts

Some people prefer hotels where you have maid service, some people prefer apartments. I like aparthotels myself where you can have a kitchenette and full bathroom yet have a front desk for problems.

I personally have gone off AirBnB after reading about locals having to move out because landlords rent to holiday makers. You can share flats with locals, I've known 20somethings who do this all the time. Just make sure if you do rent an apartment it's registered by the city.

Posted by
46 posts

Really appreciate all of the terrific advice from everyone! Given me a great deal to consider...and to chat with my wife about.

More questions to sure..

Posted by
510 posts

I have never used Airbnb, but we use VRBO/HomeAway all the time for our vacations, both in US and Europe. We love having an entire apartment to spread out in, even if it is just two of us. Being able to go to the grocery store and purchase local foods, then enjoy them at home, often times on a nice patio with a view, makes it so enjoyable.

We usually only stay in hotels when we are there for one night only.

Posted by
18022 posts

Most of my recent travel in Europe has been by myself, so an apartment was not really economical, but my last two trips were with someone, so I tried apartments. The first apartment, other than a small kitchen area, was not really any larger than a hotel room. The second apartment was quite a bit larger, with a separate bedroom and bathroom, plus an eat-in kitchen and a living room.

My first observation is that, after provisioning the apartment just for breakfasts - coffee, milk, rolls, cold cuts, cheese, butter, jam, etc, I probably spent as much as I would have for a small hotel room, and more than I would have for a Privatzimmer. Example, I bought a half kilo of coffee and used half. I had to leave the rest behind. I also left half the butter behind.

The apartment was not provided with staples such as sugar or salt - not even a sugar bowel, so I had to buy those and left them behind.

I really like exploring the local eateries, so I didn't eat many evening meals in. I fixed scrambled eggs and bacon one night. Had to buy 10 eggs; left half behind. Another night I fixed schnitzel. Used one egg. Had to buy flour and breading. Left most of those.

So overall, I don't think I saved any money with an apartment. For Germans, who drive and bring supplies from home and take them back, being able to cook in an apartment might be economical, but not for me.

Posted by
12400 posts

Traveling in Europe with the Mrs, I used the apt option once. That was in Warsaw in 2001, prior to the existence of Airb&b. The apt was fine, pleasant, no problems, otherwise it's small hotels.

When I travel solo in Europe, going without the Mrs, Airb&b and apts are not options, not my preferences, not my choices.

I stay in small hotels in France, small hotels and Pensionen in Germany, sometimes hostels. In London I stay in B&Bs.

Posted by
20 posts

Some AirB&Bs the owner is there, mostly not, though. We found an AirB&B in Amsterdam with a resident owner who did breakfast. So, we prefer B&Bs where we're in direct contact with the family/owners. A B&B we stayed at in Siena we had to go through the family's TV/living room to get to the roof garden, but they were so friendly and fun to know that we felt right at home. And OMG, the peeling of the evening (5 PM) church bells from the rooftop...brought tears. Bought a bottle of wine, but no opener. When I asked our landlord if he had one, he opened a drawer and there were about 20 in there...we laughed so hard!

Posted by
44 posts

We have stayed in AirBnB apartments in Rome, Naples, Paris, and Aix-en-Provence, and the experiences have been excellent in each case. (The length of the stays have varied from five to eight nights). In addition to saving money on the costs of lodging and meals, we have been able to chose apartments in the parts of town that most appealed to us. Moreover, we have met the “hosts” on most occasions and have found that interaction to be a very positive part of our travel experience. In one case in Paris, the hosts invited us for dinner in their apartment near the one we rented from them, and we had a lovely evening, discussing her ceramic art and their experiences living in other countries, including the United States, where he served as a diplomat.

The apartments have always had some basic cooking staples on hand, such as salt, sugar, tea, coffee, oil and vinegar, and so on. We would purchase some of what we needed and leave the surplus behind for the next traveler.

Posted by
46 posts

Thanks so much for all of the great replys! Very helpful in confirming some decisions. As a final question, I am curious as to some thoughts on:
**If you could pick one area of the city, in Venice, Florence, Sorrento and Rome, as preference to find accommodations in...What would it be? For example: Near Rialto Bridge in Venice, or Town center in Sorrento, Near the Vatican bridge in rome...etc...??

Posted by
3 posts

I have used Airbnb twice in Europe. The 1st time was a wonderful studio apt in Paris where we stayed 9 nights. The other we will stay at in July in Helsinki.
I find it hard to navigate the website and I still have trouble finding our Paris apt to share with friends who want to know where we stayed. I also find it awkward communicating with owners. I just got a text from Helsinki and it was cut off after 2 lines of text. I finally discovered that an email followed with the complete message.
I would never Airbnb for short-term stays because the cost of cleaning and the service fees usually mean it's no longer the price that it indicates on the initial search.
Just sayin....

Posted by
932 posts

I’ve used Air BnB several times with mixed results. Twice I had a message two weeks before travel that the apartment was now unavailable. On one of those two occasions I was offered another apartment by the same host, but in a less desirable location. I took it because at that late date I didn’t have a lot of other options. I’d definitely make certain your host lives locally and isn’t an absentee landlord. I had a lot of difficulty finding one apartment above Lake Como because the directions were bad and the street unnamed. Had to phone a London and talk for 25 minutes to find that place.