Visit our travel agent friends at MEI Travel

Better pre-cruise stay option: Airbnb vs hotel? (Honest Pros & Cons)

In:
19 Nov 2022
By: 
Matt Hochberg

Should your family consider staying in an Airbnb instead of a hotel for one night before your next cruise?

One of my top tips for anyone going on a cruise is to fly in at least one day before their cruise to protect themselves against a travel delay impacting their ability to make their cruise ship.

Once you decide to travel to your embarkation port a day early, you'll need somewhere to stay. Like most people, I immediately started looking at hotels to book.

When travelling with just my wife, hotel rooms work extremely well for their value and space provided.  But when we travel with kids, finding the right hotel room can be a challenge if you want enough space for everyone.

Odyssey of the Seas arriving in Port Canaveral

For my Odyssey of the Seas cruise out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this week, I was not finding a ton of great options at a good price for my family of four.

Certainly there were plenty of hotels that offered a traditional hotel room experience with 2 beds and a single bathroom, but with my kids getting older, sharing a hotel room (and bathroom) is becoming more problematic than in the past.

I also did not find a great variety of suite options in hotels, and the ones I did find were not cheap. South Florida hotels range greatly in prices, but I was seeing a suite hotel room coming in easily over $300 per night, especially when including resort fees and taxes.

Airbnb alternative

Airbnb

I love booking vacation rentals through Airbnb or VRBO for longer stay vacations because of the amenities and space you can get.  But I had never considered it just for one night.

At first, I was not even certain there would be any one-night options as I assumed the people listing their houses would all want longer stays from their guests.

So when I started browsing Airbnb, I was surprised how many good choices there were at reasonable prices in the greater Fort Lauderdale area.

Airbnb map

In looking through the listings, I found lots of choices.  What attracted me to the Airbnb option was we could get a place to stay that offered plenty of space for us and the kids, as well as extra amenities. We could get a pool to enjoy with just our family, laundry machines to be able to not start the cruise off with dirty clothes, and the perfect sleeping arrangements.

Of course, there are some downsides to an Airbnb, such as the fees added onto the cost, and there's no long-term parking option.

Miami hotel

I also freely admit I enjoy a nicer hotel stay, so the extra amenities of an Airbnb really appeal to me. I'm sure there are lots of other people that would be fine with a hotel room for just one night, especially if you fly in late.

Airbnb pros:

  • Wide variety of different types of stays
  • Feels more like home
  • More space and bedrooms than a hotel room
  • Extra amenities such as a pool, living room, game room, and more
  • Convenient laundry option

Airbnb cons:

  • Extra fees
  • No long-term parking options
  • No shuttle to/from airport or cruise port

Given that I didn't want to sleep in the same room as my kids, would love an extra bathroom to not compete with the kids, and love the idea of having a private pool to enjoy, I found Airbnb a compelling option.

Our Airbnb choice

After considering all options, we decided to book a 2 bedroom, 2 bath unit in Fort Lauderdale that had a private heated pool and right on a waterway.

It also had outdoor seating, gas grill, and a foosball table.

It's located north of Port Everglades, and without traffic is 24 minutes (15 miles) away. 

The Airbnb was listed for $351 per night, but with fees and taxes, it jumped up to a total of $533.89. I knew the fees Airbnb assesses would not be cheap, but it was a bit eye opening how much it ended up being, which is probably why a longer stay makes more sense with Airbnbs so that you can maximize the value of your stay.

The house is exactly what we needed for one night, with lots of living space and two bedrooms and two full baths. 

I loved having the living room with plenty of seating so we could lounge far more than we could in a hotel room.

The pool was great, but a cold front had pushed through the state the night before so it was a bit chilly for a swim. Nonetheless, it was so pleasant outside that we spent some time on the water enjoying the view.

Is an Airbnb worth it?

Fort Lauderdale hotel aerial

Does it make sense to book an Airbnb for just one night the next time we take the family on a cruise?

There are lots of choices with hotels or a home rental, so it's difficult to pick one or other exclusively.

I love the extra space a home provides, along with bonus amenities that can enhance the stay beyond anything a hotel can offer (private pool, living room, backyard, etc).

Hotel parking lot

However, the extra fees Airbnb has makes finding a deal very difficult. It's hard to imagine a scenario where an Airbnb would be cheaper unless we drastically reduced our requirements for a place. To me, part of the appeal of an Airbnb is to look for a fun place to stay, not just a bed and bathroom.

In places like South Florida where there are so many hotel choices, the variety of rooms and prices will likely keep it the primary place we look for a room. When you add kids or multigen to the equation, then Airbnbs start to look more appealing.

I'm happy with our Airbnb choice for a pre-cruise stay. It may not have been the cheapest deal, but the extra living space and pluses you can only get with a home rental made it a nice change of pace for our family.