Hotels vs. Short-Term Rentals: How to Choose
If you’re getting ready to send your team on a business trip, you may find yourself wondering whether a business hotel or a short-term rental is going to be the best use of company funds (and the best fit for your team’s needs).
Short-term business rentals are basically furnished, ready-to-go living spaces. They’re available to business travelers for short periods of time.
In this post, you’re going to learn how short-term rentals differ from traditional hotels.
We’ll also help you figure out which option is best for your business.
Table of Contents
1. Defining The Difference
2. The Advantages to Staying in a Business Hotel
3. The Advantages to Staying in a Short-Term Rental
4. How to Decide
Hotels vs. Short-Term Rentals: Defining The Difference
Let’s start by going over exactly what we mean when we say “hotel” and “short-term rental.”
A hotel is defined as “an establishment providing accommodations, meals, and other services for travelers and tourists.”
Hotels offer a place to stay while traveling. At the very least, they’ll include one or two rooms, one or two beds for sleeping, and a bathroom (although most hotels include much more than that).
You check in when you arrive, and you get a place to stay before hitting the road and continuing your journey.
Short-Term Rental Definition
A short-term rental is defined as “a furnished living space available for short periods of time, from a few days to weeks on end.”
This category includes options like:
- Corporate housing
- Accessory dwelling units
- Temporary housing
- Vacation rentals
Sometimes, short-term rentals feel more like apartments than traditional hotels. They often have kitchens, multiple bedrooms, and other apartment-like features (although some luxury hotels have these features, too).
Related: Our Hotel Term Glossary for Travel Planners
The Advantages to Staying in a Business Hotel
Here are some reasons why you might choose a hotel over a short-term housing rental:
1. Business Hotels Come With Various Amenities
Hotels are set up to give you easy access to all of your basic needs (and quite a few luxuries).
Amenities may include things like a pool, a gym, food service, Wi-Fi, etc.
2. You Get Room/Maid Service
You won’t need to “keep house” if you stay at a hotel.
You’ll have housekeepers to change the linens, make the bed, and bring you fresh towels and washcloths every day.
3. They’re More Convenient for Shorter-Term Stays
There’s very little paperwork to be done when staying in a hotel. It’s easy and convenient to make a reservation, stay for a few days, and then depart.
4. Consistent in Different Locations and Across Properties
As a general rule, hotel chains (think Extended Stay America, Comfort Suites, Cambria Hotels & Suites, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, etc.) can offer a consistent experience across all of their locations.
This is helpful if you find a particular hotel chain you like, as that chain may have hotels near your destination. You’ll be able to book a room with them and trust that they can meet your needs.
In other words, for the most part, a Wyndham hotel room in New York will be fairly consistent with how Wyndham hotel rooms are set up in San Francisco.
For travelers who understand what they like, this consistency can help to save a lot of time, hassle, and frustration.
5. Inventory (More Options in Certain Areas)
Another great thing about hotels is that you’ll tend to have several (or maybe even many) options to choose from at any given destination.
All of these options give you the power to choose lodging accommodations that meet your needs as a traveler.
6. On-Site Customer Service
Hotels are outfitted with round-the-clock customer service. If you need something or have a question, you can always call the front desk. And if you need to move rooms for any reason, they can usually accommodate on-site.
Hotels take the safety of their guests very seriously. It’s not uncommon to see security patrolling the grounds and parking lots, not just to protect hotel assets but also to make sure that customers and their property are safe and secure.
The Advantages to Staying in a Short-Term Rental
Here are some reasons why you might choose a short-term rental over a hotel:
1. More Like A “Home” Environment
Short-term rentals feel more “homey” because they’re set up to be lived in for longer periods of time.
It’ll feel much more akin to having your own apartment than a hotel room.
You’re more likely to have a full kitchen, a dining room, a living room space, etc.
You won’t just have a space for sleeping — it’ll actually be a space for living in.
Hence, if you’re staying in an area for a prolonged period of time, you might opt for a short-term rental.
2. The Experience of “Living” Somewhere Else
A hotel can remind you that you’re traveling, while a short-term rental tends to feel more like a home away from home.
This may appeal to you if you want to get the experience of “living” in your destination rather than staying there temporarily.
This would be akin to the difference between staying in a hotel along the Florida beachfront and renting your own vacation home to stay for the summer.
One feels more like visiting, while the other gives you something closer to the experience of actually being a local citizen of that area.
3. Access to a Kitchen of Your Own
Access to a fully equipped kitchen is one of the best things about a short-term rental.
And once again, this really ties back into that “home away from home” idea.
If you plan to stay for a longer time, you may want to cook your own meals. Whereas, if you’re not planning to stay as long (only a night or two), you’re not as likely to need a kitchen.
4. Multiple Bedrooms (If Needed)
For the most part, a hotel room will contain one or two beds, but it won’t necessarily have separate bedrooms (unless you’re renting a full suite or something similar).
Short-term rentals, however, are usually set up to be more like a house or an apartment than a hotel room.
Therefore, if you need more than one bedroom — or just need more space in general — a short-term rental may be the best option.
Short-term rental properties are also better for travelers attending special events (conferences, etc.), as you can actually invite people over and entertain company in them.
5. More Flexibility
Hotel rooms operate along clearly defined hours.
They have check-in times, check-out times, specific times when meals are served or when room service comes by, etc.
This means that if you want to stay at a hotel, you’ll generally need to keep track of these times and make sure that you adhere to them.
Short-term rentals provide you with a bit more freedom.
When you stay in a short-term rental, it’s a lot like having your own house or apartment — except that you also don’t have the responsibilities of being a homeowner.
Short-term rentals are also flexible in other ways.
They allow travelers to rent for anywhere from a few days to a few months.
They also give you flexibility in the sense that you won’t need a long-term lease to stay somewhere that feels like home.
There will likely be some kind of rental agreement. But if you go through a site like Travelers Haven, this is all decided quickly and easily when you set up the rental through the website.
And of course, short-term rentals also give you the flexibility associated with being “move-in ready.”
You won’t need to worry about things like lawn care, furniture, decorations, etc. — that’s up to the property owner and their management team.
This can be a welcome upside if you plan to stay for an extended period of time. It’s also a big reason why a short-term rental may even be better than a long-term rental for longer work trips.
How to Decide: Hotels vs. Short-Term Rentals
Deciding between a hotel and a short-term rental isn’t always easy.
We’ve put together a checklist for each to help make the process as simple as possible.
When to Book a Business Hotel Over a Short-Term Rental
If you (or your team) fit any of the following criteria, you might prefer a hotel over a short-term rental:
1. You Want a Full Range of Amenities
You may want to make sure that your team gets access to amenities they need (and even some that would make their stay better).
In such cases, hotels are an excellent choice.
Would you like to book your team a hotel that comes with access to a swimming pool? How about continental breakfast, or free Wi-Fi? How about the ability to go to the on-site gym whenever they want?
If so, a business hotel is probably your best bet.
2. You Prefer Accommodations With a Front Desk and Service Staff
Do you like giving your team the ability to make a phone call to fix almost any problem? Well, the business hotel option is probably going to be more your speed.
3. You Value On-Site Customer Service
When staying in a business hotel, you pretty much have everything taken care of for you by on-site customer service.
If you want support to help you maximize your team’s time, then a business hotel is probably a better choice.
4. You Value Room Service, Housekeeping Services, etc.
Do you have a feeling that your team wouldn’t be too keen on making their own bed or washing the linens? Will they struggle to have time for such things with such a busy workload?
If so, then a business hotel may be a better option. With housekeeping and room service available every day, they’ll have plenty of help keeping things tidied up without needing to spend their valuable time doing it themselves.
When to Book a Short-Term Rental Instead of a Hotel
If the points below apply, a short-term rental might be a better option:
1. You Want a More Authentic “Home” Experience
If hotel life doesn’t really suit the needs of your team, and if they prefer to come back to their “own space” every night, then a short-term rental is probably going to be a better option.
2. You Want to Experience Something Different or Exotic
One of the great things about short-term rentals is that you often have a lot of different options to choose from in terms of how you want to live while you’re away on this business trip.
Do you want to rent a cabin by the water? A loft downtown?
With a short-term rental, your team could experience the stay pretty much however they want (or even more importantly, however you deem best for the project).
3. You Want Greater Flexibility
Your team may value the freedom that comes from being able to utilize their space as they see fit. This may also aid them in their work.
If this sounds like something they’d appreciate (or that would be beneficial), then a short-term rental is probably going to give them more of what they need and are looking for.
4. You Want More Space
Short-term rentals are just generally larger than hotel rooms.
If extra space is important to your team, or if they need multiple bedrooms, then this is definitely a good reason to consider a larger rental for your extended work trip.
Now that you understand the differences between hotels and short-term rentals, you’ll be able to make the best decision for you!
If you’re thinking about renting a room for your next business trip, don’t forget to check out Hotel Engine (over 700,000 partner hotels and short-term housing properties, saving you money on business lodging).
Learn more about Hotel Engine at these links:
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Audrey Fairbrother is the Content and SEO Manager at Hotel Engine. She spends her days writing about all things business travel, researching topics that are important to Hotel Engine’s audience and cultivating the company’s brand voice. When she’s not working, Audrey enjoys spending time with her family, and hiking in the nearby Rockies with her dog, Albie.