We first tried AirBnB when we came to Europe in 2015, and we LOVED it in both London and Paris. We’ve since used them in Northern Ireland, three different places in Germany, a couple more in Paris, Athens, and Rome.
In other places we’ve done hotels instead (Scotland, London, Dover) – so how do we decide?
We’re a family of 8 so anytime we travel we need at least 2 hotel rooms (and in England you have to specify “family” room/suite, as some hotel rooms only sleep two people.) While AirBnB has a bazillion options for sleeping just two, they also have a surprisingly large number of places that sleep at least 8 people – and often for the same price, or less, than getting two hotel rooms. Once you get an AirBnB that size you’re always looking at either a detached home or a flat to yourself. (If you are looking for 2 people you’ll generally find it’s a room inside a home/flat, not so often you get the place to yourself.) And with six kids, I LOVE having our own space while traveling. It’s not just two rooms/suites in a hotel that’s often cramped, but a whole apartment – kitchen/dining area, living room, 2 to 4 bedrooms, and sometimes a lovely garden. Most have included a washer/dryer, which makes my travel easier as we can pack lighter. When you have little ones going to bed earlier and big ones up later, having a bedroom you can shut the door and still stay up in another room is wonderful.
A big reason for me – the kitchen. I really, really like being able to cook while we travel. I know for other people that sounds awful and they only want to eat out while on holiday, but I don’t. I think grocery stores abroad are awesome and I happily wandering the aisles trying out new foods. When we had little ones with food allergies this was even more important, and for any family with food restrictions the option to cook at home is a huge relief. All of the places we’ve stayed had fully stocked kitchens with all the dishes, pots & pans we could need plus kettle, microwave, etc. With rare exception (when we stayed in a tiny village in Germany, and on a sheep farm in Northern Ireland) we’ve always had grocery stores within walking distance of the place we stayed.
If we’re only going to be in a location for one night then a hotel is often the way we go. AirBnBs may have a minimum night requirement (usually 3 nights in Paris, for example) and with the administration fees it’s not always worth using them for just one night. Plus the kitchen and laundry facilities are less crucial for quick visits. If it’s more than 2 nights, it’s almost always proven less expensive to do the apartment instead of a hotel.
There have been a couple times that the AirBnB was not as nice as we had hoped – whether the location, really noisy neighbors, or little quirks like odd showers or there not being an oven in the kitchen. But they have always been clean (I check if there is a cleaning fee included in the rental price) and I’ve never felt unsafe in any area. The majority of the time they’ve been really lovely, with convenient location and charming buildings like converted barns or little cottages.
(I’ll post photos of some of our places soon.)