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How to Decide Airbnb vs Serviced Apartments

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When looking at mid- to long-term temporary accommodation in London and around the UK, two options show themselves to be flexible and affordable; serviced apartments and Airbnb. But what is the difference between these two types of accommodation, and which is best?

In truth, neither serviced apartments nor the vacation rental of Airbnb are better than the other – each offers a different service that caters to slightly different audiences – but which is right for you?

What is Serviced Accommodation? How is it Different from Airbnb?

Serviced accommodation, or serviced apartments, are a home away from home. These private, furnished apartments are designed with the travelling guest in mind, providing comfort, security, and peace of mind for a range of group sizes and lengths of stay. 

From the solo traveller, looking for a place to stay while working away from home for a month, to families on a week-long holiday to London, a serviced apartment will offer a full, hotel-like service that takes away all the worries and hassle of being away.

Airbnb, on the other hand, offers a huge range of budget-conscious options. A portal for property owners to temporarily rent out their homes while they’re otherwise not in use, Airbnb has a far greater spread of accommodation options, from a single room shared in someone’s home, to full-equipped family houses.

Determining which is right for you depends on a number of factors:

Serviced Apartment vs. Airbnb – Things to Consider

1. Location

Location is often the first consideration when planning a trip and here, the spread of Airbnb offerings means the options are vast. No matter where on Earth you might like to visit, chances are there’s an Airbnb in the area.

On the other hand, serviced apartments (like ours) tend to be located in more sought-after locations. If you’re planning a trip to central London, for example, then there are plenty of fantastic serviced apartment options to look for, whereas they’re much harder to find out in the Welsh countryside, for instance.

2. Budget

When choosing a serviced apartment, you’re deciding to opt for more than merely a bed for the night. With housekeeping and concierge services, selected furnishings and equipment in the apartment itself, and a guarantee of quality, a serviced apartment will typically cost more than an Airbnb in the same area.

With its lower fee, Airbnb comes with fewer assurances. As each Airbnb location is independently managed by the property owner, one experience doesn’t reflect on the whole. In some ways, Airbnb can feel a little like a lottery, and judicious checking of reviews is essential to make sure that the lower cost doesn’t come with a host of problems.

Over longer stays, where simple considerations such as laundry and meals have to be accounted for, the initially higher cost of a serviced apartment is often mitigated. It’s worth considering all factors, therefore, when calculating a true budget for your trip.

3. Duration of Stay

Serviced apartments are a business dedicated to providing quality temporary accommodation. As such, extended stays can be booked easily.

Many Airbnb locations are similarly set up, and cater for guests all year round, however, some are only available for shorter lets and it’s important to check this before selecting your final choice.

When the stay is very short – such as one or two days – serviced apartments can be unaccommodating, requiring longer bookings. In these cases, Airbnb, or even a hotel, may be preferable.

4. Amenities

When it comes to the range of amenities on offer, a serviced apartment is going to be superior in almost every respect. Chosen for their desirable and convenient locations, often with dedicated parking, and with a range of services on hand to make the stay as comfortable as possible, serviced apartments excel in their amenities.

With a focus typically geared towards the convenience of the accommodation and little else, most Airbnb locations offer little in terms of additional service. Like with other factors, the variety of options available does mean that there are some incredible Airbnb locations that rival some of the nicest serviced apartments, but there are no guarantees.

5. Privacy and Safety

Dedicated serviced apartments are designed with the guest’s safety and privacy as a top concern. At the higher end, serviced accommodation will often include security doorman and concierge staff on duty throughout the night, as well as CCTV in public areas.

Again, the nature of Airbnb accommodation means that privacy and security can be a concern. Whilst, in the vast majority of instances, Airbnb lets are perfectly safe, there are horror stories regarding unscrupulous hosts and other issues. The easy availability of smart home monitoring systems means that guests are advised to check the property fully upon arrival if they have any concerns.

6. Flexibility

Both Airbnb and serviced accommodation require prior booking; unlike a hotel or B&B, neither are designed to facilitate walk-in guests.

Cancellation policies for serviced accommodation are always clearly laid out and understood, though in many cases a full refund on a booking isn’t available. Early cancellations allow the service company time to re-let the apartment and a refund is more likely, while late cancellations often mean a full loss of the fee. Adjusting the dates of the stay is often more flexible, and advanced notice of changes are accommodated.

Once a serviced apartment is booked, the stay is guaranteed.

Like many other aspects of its business, Airbnb refund policy is determined by the host for each property. Hosts have a range of terms to select from to suit their needs, so it’s important to check all the details before booking. Again, due to the unique nature of each property, some lettings are more reliable than others and last minute cancellations by the property owner do occasionally happen.

Airbnb or Serviced Apartments? – Pros and Cons

Airbnb

Pros:

Cons:

Serviced Apartments

Pros:

Cons:

Why Choose Serviced Apartments Over Airbnb?

There’s a luxury to a serviced apartment that’s difficult to beat. Arriving at your accommodation with the relaxed confidence that everything has been taken care of is a great boon for travellers, especially those for whom time is a premium. Simple things that are often taken for granted, such as parking, or having crisp clean sheets, may be overlooked in an Airbnb location, tainting the stay and causing anxiety.

However, when budget is a primary concern, or when the location means a serviced apartment is simply not an option, then a well-researched Airbnb can still prove a fantastic choice. While some Airbnb experiences may be negative, many hosts consider their position with a similar level of seriousness as service professionals and strive to attain comparable standards of excellence. The key to a positive Airbnb stay is for guests to check reviews of the specific space and keep in good communication with the host.

Serviced apartments tend to be best for:
  • Those travelling for extended periods on business: With time a significant factor for those travelling for work, and budget often less of a concern, a serviced apartment designed to cater for the relocating business traveller, provides a range of services that allows them to rest easily and concentrate on the work at hand.
  • Central London comfort: If looking for a luxury location in the city, serviced apartments are hard to beat.
  • Travellers for whom safety is paramount: Vulnerable travellers or those who simply value their privacy and security should consider the premium quality and safety of a serviced apartment.
Airbnb is excellent for:
  • Travellers on a budget: Whether travelling alone, or a family looking for an inexpensive vacation rental, the range of Airbnb options means there is something that will fit.
  • Breaks to less-travelled locations: Airbnb apartments in London are unlikely to offer superior accommodation, however, when looking to travel to the far flung corners of the UK (or the world), Airbnb often has the answer.
  • Travellers looking for unusual accommodation: The variety of Airbnb spaces means that unique and different accommodation can be found, from tiny wooden huts to rooms in converted churches. For visitors seeking unusual experiences, Airbnb can deliver.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right accommodation can make the difference between a relaxed time that becomes a cherished memory, and a difficult experience that is better forgotten. Whether serviced apartment or Airbnb, take the time to research and select the stay that is right for you – and enjoy the trip!

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