B&Bs vs Airbnbs: The differences, pros and cons

By Marti Mayne

vacation rental bedroomMore than just the word AIR differentiates B&Bs from Airbnbs. They are two distinctly different lodging options. The Distinctive Inns of New England (DINE) are here to explain how they differ and to explain some of the reasons to choose one over another.  A lot of that decision depends upon who you’re traveling with, your preferences for hosted vs unhosted hospitality, your space needs, and the goal of your getaway.  Seeking a romantic getaway?  You may want to choose any of the nine DINE inns.  Traveling with family? An Airbnb or VRBO vacation rental might be a better option.  Let’s take a look at some of what differentiates vacation rentals from B&B stays.  While I’m an avid inngoer, I did have reason to stay at a few Airbnbs over the past year. I found the comparison quite striking.

Onsite innkeepers vs offsite hosts

Angela Comstock at Grafton InnStay at any of the DINE inns or other inns and B&Bs and you’ll find an onsite innkeeper who’s there to greet you upon arrival, give you a tour of the inn, help create or guide itineraries and/or make reservations for entertainment or restaurants.  There’s always someone there to answer your questions.

Stay at a vacation rental, and generally you’ll receive the address and directions for self-check-in the day or two before your stay.  With luck, you’ll find written or online directions on where to find things and the rules of stay upon arrival.  If you need something or have questions on how to operate appliances, plumbing, etc., hopefully your host will answer your call or text within a few hours.

Both times I’ve recently stayed at vacation rentals this year, communication with the host was spotty.  Getting an answer would take from hours to days. While cryptic directions were found at these Airbnbs, they were unsatisfactory in their explanations.

At an inn or B&B, innkeepers are quick to handle weather related issues.  Driveways are plowed, walkways are shoveled quickly and often staff will clean off cars.  Guest comfort is of utmost importance and because the hosts are onsite, they can quickly observe and resolve weather related problems.

Recently, while staying at a vacation rental in Vermont, nearly two feet of snow fell overnight.  Our car was snowed in as the driveway wasn’t cleared for hours.  We were unable to join friends who we were there to visit.  We trotted through 2 feet of snow, to reach the driveway. Throughout our stay no one ever shoveled the steep path to the driveway from our rental.  It grew icier and icier throughout our stay, and by the end was a treacherous walk to get from the driveway to the rental’s doorway.

For those seeking one-on-one hospitality and customer service, choose any of the Distinctive Inns of New England for careful attention to guest comfort.  If you’re a traveler who’d rather take care of the details themselves, a vacation rental might be a better choice.

Price & inclusions

girl with maks ready to travelThe general impression of travelers is that inns and B&Bs will be more expensive than an Airbnb or VRBO rental. For larger groups traveling together, this may be true.  Families or groups requiring more than three bedrooms might find a vacation rental more affordable.  However, once the housekeeping fees and service fees are added, the vacation rental can become more expensive for couples or solo travelers than an inn or B&B. The housekeeping fees are set by the owner of the vacation rental and can range from reasonable to quite expensive.  The service fees are then added in addition and are set by the vacation rental company.

The last Airbnb I stayed in required guests to pay a high housekeeping fee, then also told guests they must clean and wash all dishes, strip beds and place all sheets in the bath, vacuum, put away trash to avoid animals and more.  They insisted that lights were not allowed to be left on for long periods of time too. This seemed excessive on top of the housekeeping fees.

Your housekeeping is included in the stay at an inn or B&B.  In  addition, breakfast for all those in the traveling party and afternoon refreshments – ranging from full tea service to wine receptions – are also complimentary.  While you may find basic staples at your vacation rental, you’ll rarely find a served breakfast, afternoon treats or an evening wine reception.

Inns and B&Bs charge by the room.  Vacation rentals charge by the unit.  For larger groups, a vacation rental may be more cost effective, but don’t plan on any of the little extras you’ll find included at an inn or B&B, especially a DINE inn.

Space & cleanliness

Lydia Harding Suite at Captain's House InnSpace is probably the most distinct difference between a VRBO or Airbnb rental and an inn or B&B.  VRBO units are generally whole-house or whole-apartment/condo rentals.  Airbnbs and other vacation rentals may be whole house/unit rentals or can be a shared room in someone’s home.  Stay at an inn, and you’ll have that guestroom privacy, along with a lovely common area(s), gardens and grounds to enjoy.  Once again, for larger groups, a whole-house rental makes sense (although many inns can be fully reserved for larger groups, family reunions and weddings).  For those seeking romantic getaways, couples traveling together and smaller travel groups, many inns offer suites and/or double-room units that work well for those who’d rather not have to fix meals or prefer a little more pampering.

messy bathroomI’ve stayed in some spotless Airbnb’s, but I’ve also stayed in a couple that made me feel like I was crashing at a friend’s college apartment that hadn’t been cleaned since the start of the semester. Recently, the kitchen at the Airbnb we rented was filthy.  The refrigerator was filled with the hosts’ food, leaving little room for our own food.  The shower was filled with shampoos, lotions and soaps owned by the host, which we were told not to touch. This won’t happen at an inn or B&B.  The haute lotions, soaps, and shampoos are yours to use and take home. Forget a toothbrush or toothpaste?  Simply ask your innkeeper who tends to keep a supply of necessities and will gladly offer them to their guests.

Regulated vs largely unregulated

Inns and B&Bs are found in both large and small communities that generally require strict adherence to lodging regulations and high standards to remain in business. They are required to follow strict, consumer-protecting rules related to fire safety, insurance, cleanliness, lack of discrimination, and more.

However, because they’re relatively new to the lodging scene, Airbnbs and vacation rentals are largely unregulated and unsupervised. How do you know if the vacation rental you’re visiting meets basic safety standards? Are they using security cameras appropriately? Is the unit clean? Is it even a legal operation? Recall the treacherously icy walkway to the Airbnb I recently rented. There is also no protection against vacation rental hosts canceling your reservation at the last minute for no reason, which could really leave you in the lurch. That happened to my sister.

Vacation rentals have had a considerable impact on the lodging industry in general.  In addition, and perhaps worse, many communities have seen large and small investors turn what was formerly lodging available to workers into vacation rentals, squeezing out the housing market to the point that local residents can no longer find affordable housing. Even if the housing market is doing fine, some vacation rentals have created hassles for neighbors who have to deal with a constant flow of new strangers into nearby homes. From noise complaints to damaged property, living next to or near an Airbnb can be a hassle and create a lot of neighborhood tension.

Thus, if you want to be sure you’re staying in a safe place, that fire and health regulations are strictly followed, and customer service is the key ingredient, choose a DINE inn or other B&Bs and inns. If the rules and regs are not as important as space and the hands-off approach is preferred, an Airbnb or VRBO rentals may be just fine for your next trip.

Next time you choose to stay at an inn, remember to choose one in DINE country.  Book directly with the inn for the best price and availability.

In Maine:  Inn at English Meadows in Kennebunkport

In Vermont:  Rabbit Hill Inn in Lower Waterford & Grafton Inn in Grafton

In New Hampshire: Manor on Golden Pond  in Holderness & Chesterfield Inn in West Chesterfield

In Connecticut: Inn at Harbor Hill Marina in Niantic

In Massachusetts:  Harbor Light Inn in Marblehead, Deerfield Inn in Historic Deerfield and Captain’s House Inn in Chatham on Cape Cod

Photos provided by Grafton Inn, Captain’s House Inn, Pexels.com.