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Hostel, Hotel or Airbnb? How to Choose Your Travel Home

I’m a sucker for luxury accommodations but once I hit the age where splitting expensive rooms with eight friends was no longer cute, I searched for cheaper options. While there are many scenarios where a hotel is still your best bet, I’ve found that Airbnb homes and hostels have some awesome alternatives that are easier on your wallet.

On my latest journey through four countries, I had the privilege of staying in all three types of residences. Here are a few tips on how to select the right place for your next getaway!


Staying in a hostel is definitely a walk on the wild side but if you’d rather spend your money exploring your destination than sleeping, consider a hostel on your next trip abroad.

My first hostel experience was at Jollyboys Backpacker near Victoria Falls in Zambia. I was traveling solo so I opted for a private hut that had a full sized bed, a fan, a shelf, and a safe for my personal belongings. The shared bathroom was right outside my room and the common area was pretty lively all day with people sunbathing, chilling at the bar and cooling off in the pool.

Like most hostels, they also have dorm rooms which can run you as little as $5/night in some cities, but allow me to refresh your memory on sharing a tiny room with 50-11 people. You remember that guy who snores like he’s dying a slow death in his sleep? He’s in the bunk bed above you. And that girl who screams like a banshee every time her guy hits her happy place? She’s across the room giving you the play by play. So unless you’re a deep sleeper or have some really good earplugs, spring a few more dollars for a private room during your stay. You’ll still spend a fraction of most hotel costs and will be able to rest without waking up to any late night surprises!


If you truly want to immerse yourself in the culture you’re visiting, consider booking a room via Airbnb. You’ll stay in the home of a local resident and can book an entire home for half the price of a hotel room. I’ve stayed in Airbnb homes in Miami, Paris, Johannesburg and Cape Town. I love how the spaces make you feel at home instead of like a tourist in some chain hotel.

The company has grown exponentially since launching in 2008 with listings in over 35,000 cities across the world. For those of you looking to jet-set off to Cuba Jayoncé-style, you’re in luck! After the recent policy changes under the Obama administration, there are now over 1,000 Airbnb listings to choose from.

“For over 50 years, Cuba has been out of reach for most Americans. We couldn’t be more excited, starting [April 2], licensed U.S. travelers will now be able to experience the unique culture and warm hospitality that makes the island so special….” said Airbnb co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk.

Be patient during the booking process because their internet issues may take you back to the AOL dial-up days. But if you can work through that, Airbnb has some great options for your first trip to this previously forbidden country. And you might want to research exactly who you’re renting from, apparently five people own about half of the listing in Cuba.

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If you’re traveling solo for the first time, I actually suggest skipping all the adventurous options and staying in a hotel or resort. They have 24-hour security which should ease some of your worries about safety and the front desk can help you with research you’d otherwise have to do on your own.

After two days of hostel living in Zambia, I stayed at the Protea Fire & Ice! hotel in Johannesburg. With its chic décor and contemporary black and white photography, I had died and gone to bougie Black girl heaven! A delicious breakfast with South African dishes was included with our room and the concierge was able to recommend places to eat, party and shop in our neighborhood of Sandton.

Staying in a hotel takes the work out of travel and escaping work is half of the reason we leave in the first place. For romantic getaways or me time retreats, opt for a hotel. From dinner reservations and in-room spa services complimentary airport shuttles and bicycles for sightseeing, hotels are the best choice for people who want to spend less time planning their trip and more time enjoying it.

Do you prefer to save on your living space or live it up when you’re away? Have you tried an Airbnb home or hostel? Let us know in the comments below!

– Tracey Coleman, a witty storyteller from Brooklyn with an unhealthy obsession with food and an even bigger appetite for travel.  Follow her adventures at @bktraveladdict on Instagram and Twitter, and on Facebook.

Images via Airbnb, Jollyboys Backpacker and Protea Fire & Ice hotel.

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