Hotels VS Timeshares VS Airbnb: Vacationing Guide


Living in the absolute paradise known as Northwest Florida as I do, I meet a lot of vacationing folks. People just decisively in shock at the sheer and immaculate beauty the Emerald Coast has to offer. One of my “sayings” that I’m fond of is live where you vacation; this has been an expression born of talking with visitors who have almost no desire to return home. White sands, emerald waters, blue skies and fresh seafood are hard luxuries to leave, especially when they are found in such fun and community driven cities and towns.

Despite my constantly saying it, “living where you vacation” isn’t necessarily an easy feat. The ties that bind us to our homes, such as jobs, friends, family and other responsibilities can be overwhelming, and for some, impossible to escape from. There are those, who despite how much they fall in love with the beaches here in NWFL, are equally, if not moreso moved, by the unique beauty offered wherever home may be. There are some, and I’m one of them, who just can’t see themselves leaving the area they’ve lived in their entire lives (luckily for me, that area is Florida’s Emerald Coast).

Yes, there are those who must accept that home is home, and if they want something new or different to stimulate the senses, they’re going to have to vacation it up. The decision to visit someplace new can be daunting; setting aside the finances and planning your means of travel (as well as your destination!) can be headaches in their own right. Deciding where you stay once you’re there is a whole other ballgame, and one that hopefully that blog post will be able to help you with.

When you get down to it, if you’re not staying with family or friends, and you’re not driving an RV, you really have three options for housing yourself and your travel companions. Hotel/motel, Airbnb, and buying a timeshare. While I am a realtor, this blog post isn’t an advertisement for timeshares, so don’t worry, I’m not going to pitch you something. I enjoy selling homes, places which spawn happy days and good memories, and am not involved in the timeshare business. This isn’t to dissuade you from one either, I’m reporting just the facts, as they say.

Hotels/Motels: For those curious on the difference between a motel and a hotel, resorts don’t have attached motels. Generally one or two stories, at motels, guests just park in the parking lot and walk right into their rooms. A hotel will have often have a parking garage or off-site parking, attached restaurants, bars, gyms and even spas. The rule, and not its exception, is that hotels be several stories tall and have their rooms placed throughout long corridors. This won’t apply to every building; there are sprawling one story hotels and four story motels, but in my opinion, seeing different and new places is one of the main reasons to travel!

While obviously a hotel is generally more expensive than a motel, I don’t think one is to be favored over the other. I have stayed in filthy hotels and sparkling clean motels, and vice versa. Your decision should be made by what sort of vibe you’re craving and the reputation of the individual establishment. You may also want to factor both the percentage of the time you’ll be in the room and if there are any specific room features you’re craving. A large, walk in shower or a jacuzzi tub generally are going to be hotel exclusive, but if you’re not in a pampering mood and plan to have most of your time spent outside of your room, a motel will serve you more than adequate. I’ve slept on many a motel mattress which was just as comfortable as what you’d find in a luxury resort, but then again, the finest in the hotel business will feature beds possibly more comfortable than possibly anything else on the planet.

Seriously though, the tales I could tell, both good and bad, about the various hotels and motels I’ve stayed in throughout my life could fill tomes. Maybe that’s an idea? Still, my preference by the two is dictated by the nature of my trip. Along the Emerald Coast, we feature a great mix of both comfortable motels and hotels as luxurious as our beach is picturesque, so rest assured, regardless your choice, you should be in good hands. That’s not to say every place in town is a grand representation of the local hospitality industry, so please, do your research online before choosing a hotel. I forget its name and I don’t want to advertise it, but there’s that website which offers you deals on hotels but you don’t get to know what they are before buying; don’t use that, even in an area like the Emerald Coast, where most of our hotels/motels are terrific. I’ve heard too many horror stories to not give the warning!

Timeshares: The reality of a timeshare is a bit of a mystery to many, partly due to the television trope associating them as only sold by con-artists. Telemarketers offering free timeshare stays don’t do much to improve their already sullied reputation. In the year 2019, I’d like to imagine that if timeshares were a scam, they’d have been eliminated by now. You can’t even advertise animal free imitation meat products as meat in Missouri, that’s how much our country obliterates con artistry. I’ll leave it to you if I’m being sarcastic or not, as really, it could go either way.

Far more often than not, timeshare condos or homes are housed together inside of a resort. Those who have purchased the timeshares on the resort essentially own their individual condo/home, but essentially, the entirety of the resort’s grounds. This has its pros and its cons. With a homeowners association running the grounds themselves, nobody wants to stay in a place that is less than perfect. However, as part owner, you are partly responsible for any financial burden that perfection costs. Maintenance and upkeep can be expensive, and tacking property tax on top of that doesn’t decrease the price in the slightest. Owners are responsible for electing officers and managing funds, as well as selecting a resort management company to run the property. Splendor is hardly free in this world, so depending on how you tightly you keep your purse strings, this is either good or bad news.

When you buy into a timeshare, we’ve covered what you’ll own, but you might be wondering what you get in return. Legally, you’ll be entitled to one specific unit, for a specified amount of time in a specified part of the year. The rest of the year, the other folks who have bought into that unit get their turn to relax and play away from home. You’ll own this “time” either for the rest of your life, although some timeshare purchases are only for a specified number of years. As this time is yours, you can sell, rent, bequeath or rent it at your leisure, although check with the homeowners association of the resort you’re looking at for any specific rules.

Similar to timeshares, vacation interval plans are less responsibility. The resort has a owner, and that owner isn’t you. Typically, one purchases “points” which are then cashed in to spend time at the resort when you want. Since you aren’t an owner, the unit you stay at may change visit to visit. There may be maintenance fees to pay for as well, but you won’t amass as many yearly charges as one with a timeshare would.

Airbnb: Airbnb is a newer invention, and a rather nifty one at that. People from all over the globe are turning spare homes and rental properties into basically rentable houses. When I think bed & breakfast, I think of a nice cottage in the country where a nice couple, or perhaps an old spinstress, cooks me breakfast. With an Airbnb, you and your travel companions will be the only ones on site. It’s a great concept, where elaborate kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms and more await.

Personally speaking, I prefer hotels to Airbnb, but in my mind, when you’re on vacation, you’re on vacation! Vacation doesn’t mean cooking and cleaning, vacation means relaxing and eating! Still, if we were all the same, the planet would be incredibly boring; I love hearing Airbnb stories, or seeing pictures and videos on Instagram or from my friends. Which way to vacation is your favorite? Where do you like to get away? Let me know on social media, and no matter how you do it, the next time you get away, have some fun!