The coronavirus has upended travel plans worldwide. We’re deciding between canceling vacations, postponing plans into 2021 or adapting trips to reflect the new reality. It’s a calculus that seems to change daily, as cases fluctuate and restrictions ebb and flow. 

We’re ready to get away but also aware that traveling far is somewhat less fraught than staying close. And once we do decide on where to go, where will we stay? Are vacation rentals better because they are naturally socially distanced? Or do hotels have more experience cleaning at scale and are thus safer? 

We knew that we weren’t the only ones having this “Airbnb versus hotels” conversation…after all, 52 percent of Americans plan to stay in hotels this summer! So we chose this topic for our monthly poll. Of course, we believe in the power of getting away — even if just for a daycation! Mental health is essential and escapes are the pressure valves that promote well being. 

Here’s what our panel of travelers has to say about vacation rentals versus hotels in our new reality. 

Vacations are still happening, just closer to home

As jobs and classrooms shifted online, many of us are spending more time at home than ever before. This has created a clear desire to get away and enjoy experiences outside of the home. As more regions eased lockdown restrictions, this pent-up demand brought people out to restaurants and shops — as well as vacation rentals and hotels, with occupancy increasing at both over the past two months.

For the HotelsByDay traveler panel, vacation is still very much top of mind. Nearly 60 percent of people plan to take a vacation in 2020 as a break from the pandemic, with only 10 percent planning to skip vacations this year. There’s still a large measure of uncertainty as well, with 28 percent still on the fence about vacation plans due to how often things are changing. 

The biggest shift across everything is that distances have been shortened. Fewer travelers (13 percent) are considering long-haul trips to far-flung destinations. Instead, the vast majority of travelers are staying within their home country (40 percent) or home state (29 percent). 

Which feels safest, AirBnB or hotels?

Once travelers leave home, where do they feel safest? We asked this question to our panel of travelers, who could select more than one option where they felt safest. 

Branded hotels came out slightly ahead of vacation rentals, with over 55 percent preferring a name-brand hotel chain and 51 percent feeling safe at a short-term rental. There was also a strong feeling of safety at resort hotels (36 percent) and independent boutiques (over 27 percent).

As travelers evaluate different accommodation options in today’s reality, cleaning procedures and safety policies are top of mind. Most travelers — 81 percent — rated cleaning procedures and safety policies as “very important” when choosing a place to stay.

Airbnb vs hotels:  CleaningWith safety and cleanliness at the top of travelers’ lists, hotels have a slight advantage when it comes to the trustworthiness of their cleaning procedures. Hotels have a lot of experience cleaning at scale and that type of track record means a lot during a pandemic, in which even one stay at a poorly cleaned vacation rental can have major implications for guests. Although there’s clearly room for improvement for both categories, as 35 percent did not know which one would be cleaner than the other!

Which is more fun and easy to book, Airbnb or hotels?

Today, travelers have to be much more thoughtful and strategic when it comes to vacations; there’s less margin for error, as fewer vacations put pressure on each one to deliver the desired pressure release and sense of escape.

So we also wanted to learn a bit more about how our travelers feel about the comfort, fun factor and ease of booking short-term rentals when compared to hotels. Especially as more travelers stay closer to home, a fun place to stay that’s also comfortable and easy to book makes for an ideal daycation or weekend getaway.  

For our travelers, hotels are generally more comfortable, easier to book and more fun than vacation rentals:

Staying safe wherever you go in 2020

Getting away from home can be an essential component to staying sane during periods of high stress. Today’s calculus has become very much about personal risk tolerance, as infectious disease expert Dr. Thomas Russo says:

If it’s a trip that is important and necessary, I feel relatively safe using the proper protective measures like wearing a mask, distancing, disinfecting, and hand hygiene.

Whether you’re staying at a vacation rental or hotel, some things never change. Staying safe today is kind of like it was before all this mess: be aware of your surroundings and respect your personal comfort level by staying someplace that makes you feel safe. Those traveler street smarts will never do you wrong! 


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Andy Holsteen

Andy Holsteen writes all sorts of things—both for work and pleasure. He loves traveling to new places, and hopes to see Berlin and Santiago in the not-so-distant future.

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