Which is best for your next trip?

Not sure where to stay when traveling? This guide has you covered. Image source: Getty Images.

Not sure where to stay when traveling? This guide has you covered.

When you travel, one of the most important decisions you will make is where to stay. It is a delicate balance to find a comfortable accommodation adapted to your budget. If you end up not liking the place you choose, it could ruin your trip.

There are three popular types of accommodation to choose from: hotels, hostels and vacation rentals. They all offer their own unique travel experiences, so you’ll need to know how they work to choose the option that’s best for you.


For decades, hotels have been the default accommodation option for travelers. They tend to be the more expensive choice, although prices can vary greatly depending on the hotel and the room you get.

You’ll have a good idea of ​​what your room will be like when you book it, and if there’s a problem, the hotel can move you to another room. Hotels often have amenities that can either save you money or improve your travels, such as:

  • Free breakfast
  • Maid service
  • On-site dining options and room service
  • A free shuttle to and from the airport

Many hotel brands have loyalty programs that you can join in order to earn points each time you stay at one of their properties. You can redeem your points for free nights. After a sufficient number of stays, you can access a higher status in the hotel’s loyalty program, which often entitles you to additional benefits.

Fans of travel credit cards often get most of the card’s benefits by staying in hotels. Some of these cards earn points that you can use to book hotel stays, and there are also cards that give you automatic access to the hotel’s loyalty program.

Choose a hotel if you:

  • You want the most luxurious place to stay
  • Prefer the amenities and setup that a hotel offers
  • Travel frequently and plan to be loyal to a hotel brand
  • Are a credit card rewards lover


A typical hostel lets you rent a bed in a shared living space. The setup is somewhat similar to a dorm, as there will be multiple people sharing bedrooms, bathrooms, and social spaces. As you’d expect, it’s usually the cheapest accommodation option, so if you want to save money on your travels, a hostel is one way to do it.

Many hostels offer private rooms at a higher price, which can work well if you want your own space. However, in this situation, there is often not much difference in price between a hostel and a vacation rental or hotel.

Hostels are truly a “love it or hate it” experience. Some travellers, especially solo travelers, like hostels because they provide the opportunity to socialize. Others can’t stand the lack of privacy. And, of course, your experience will depend on the behavior of other guests.

Since hostels attract a younger clientele, they can be noisy at night and are not a popular choice for families. That being said, there are both “party hostels” and more laid back hostels. You will need to read reviews carefully to make sure the atmosphere of a hostel will be what you want.

Choose a hostel if you:

  • Enjoy socializing with other travelers
  • You don’t want to spend too much on your accommodation

Holiday rents

With a vacation rental, you reserve a house or part of a house. Depending on the vacation rental service you use, you may be able to book:

  • Whole houses, including houses and apartments
  • A private room in a house
  • A shared space in a house, such as a bedroom with two beds

Vacation rentals are ideal if you prefer the feeling of staying in a home as opposed to the atmosphere of a hotel or hostel. They also work well for families and large groups, as you can rent a house and have enough room for everyone.

Another advantage of this type of accommodation is that it can help you immerse yourself more in the local culture. When you live in a real house, it can make you feel more connected to a neighborhood than you would in a hotel. This is especially true if you opt for a room rental, as you’ll have a host who can give you a local’s perspective.

Having stayed in several vacation rentals, I can attest that the quality is hit or miss. There are some great places and hosts, but there are also those where you can tell the host just wanted to make extra money and didn’t care much about providing the best customer experience. Luckily, you can often tell how good a rental is from the reviews, photos, and effort put into the listing.

Choose a vacation rental if you:

  • You want to stay in a house
  • Seek both privacy and affordability
  • Need accommodation for a large group

Find accommodations you’ll love

Now that you know how all the most common hosting options work, it’s a matter of choosing the one that best suits your personality and budget. Since the three are very different, you probably already know if you’re a hotel, hostel, or vacation rental.

Once you’ve decided which of the three appeals to you the most, you can start reading reviews and comparing what’s available.

The best credit card erases interest until 2023

If you have credit card debt, transfer it to this top balance transfer card guarantees you an introductory APR of 0% in 2023! Plus, you won’t pay any annual fees. These are just a few of the reasons why our experts consider this card a top choice to help you control your debt. Read the full The Ascent review for free and apply in just 2 minutes.

Linda G. Ibarra