The Non-hotel Option is Often the Best One

vacation rental

Sure beats a cheap motel

The first time I went to Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer market convention, I was in a crappy Econolodge motel with stained carpets, intermittent Wi-Fi, barely working heat, lukewarm hot water, and a lumpy bed.

This time I stayed in a pristine room with a heavenly mattress, in a craftsman bungalow house in a quiet location. The Wi-Fi and hot water worked flawlessly and I had a table I could work at.

The interesting thing is, the latter was cheaper.

There are plenty of times a hotel is the best bet for where you’re going and the good ones can be excellent spots to roll into to get some work done or be right in the center of the action. If rates are at their peak though and there are not many empty rooms, you can really pay a premium. That’s how I ended up in someone’s spare bedroom in Salt Lake City two weeks ago: when a big convention comes to that city like the one I was attending, even the crappiest places like Motel 6 and Super 8 will raise their rates to $150, $200 or more per night.

I used AirBnB for that crash pad (with some lovely hosts) and got a beach rental place through them the month before in Puerto Escondido. We paid less than we would have for a very basic hotel, but had two bedrooms and a pool to ourselves.

They’re not the only game around though and when you’re looking outside of the United States, there’s often another dominant player or two you should pull up as well. In some Mexican towns, for instance, you’ll find more listings on the traditional sites like When we still owned our beach house in the Yucatan state, you could rent it for $250 per week through there.

If you’re headed to Europe, HouseTrip has more than 300,000 places to choose from and is active almost anywhere you would want to go. They can save you some big bucks when you’re in an expensive European capital, or just give you some more space and a kitchen if you want to keep your expenses low and have more room to spread out. Unlike some of those rotten chain hotels, the owners aren’t going to charge you to use the internet signal.

Athens rental

Kitchen of a 47 euros per night European apartment for 4

I pulled up their Athens listings because the Travel Bloggers Exchange Europe–where I’m going to be a speaker—is happening there in October. I checked out what’s available for four people and there are some terrific values. Plenty of apartments are under 100 euros a night and there are quite a few that are half that. If you get a larger place for more people the cost per person would be getting a real apartment for less than a hostel dorm bed.

I like hotels a lot and my job has me reviewing a lot of them. When I’m with my family though, it gets old when all of us are sleeping in the same room, sharing the same bathroom. Renting two connected rooms can be inexpensive in some countries, but often not. When we went from a cramped Bangkok hotel room to an apartment we rented on one trip, the price was about the same but we had three times as much space.

How about you? Where have you found terrific vacation rental deals?

  1. GH

    Never really liked hotels at home or abroad. Especially during a trip, the vacation rental offers so much more for the money if you stay a long period.

    In addition, the ability to cook using local produce, which I love to do, is a huge plus. Go out and have a meal outside, then try to replicate with local market produce at your rental. A great way to eat and travel slow and learn more about local cooking — knowledge you can bring back home.

    In addition, there is more a sense of being “at home” in a good rental (and there are so many) than in a hotel. You can go out and chill without ever feeling under any pressure. Read a book while drinking a local wine or beer, enjoying some local market or street food, often on a deck overlooking a great view with few neighbors (if any). What could get better?

    Finally, ideal for family travel.

  2. gary

    I second the above comment. I’ll also add the aspect of staying in a neighborhood vs. a commercial hotel district that allows for mingling with the locals. Then there’s that whole price/value thing …

  3. Selma

    Social sharing sites are changing the game, and I couldn’t happier. If anybody deserves to be disrupted, it’s greedy corporate motel owners that provide a subpar experience per dollar spent.

  4. William

    In the past few years I have become a fan of renting a house or apartment when I travel, usually from AirBnB. A friend and I are going to Oaxaca this winter, and have booked a 2 bedroom house. From the pictures and reviews, it seems to be a great place. After splitting the cost, we will be paying about $50 US per night. You can’t beat that!

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