When I first started traveling, I tried to avoid airport hotels for the most part. Why would I want to spend time near an airport when I could be in the middle of a bustling city or near some other worthy destination?
But then I started to try out airport hotels and I realized that they can add a significant amount of convenience to your travels and actually can be some of the most enjoyable hotel stays.
In this article I’ll take a look at the pros and cons of staying at an airport hotel, so that you will be able to easily choose if an airport hotel is a good fit for you.
Different types of airport hotels
Before getting in to the pros and cons, it will be helpful to briefly touch on the different types of airport hotels that you may encounter when traveling.
Hotels located inside terminals or attached to airports
Some hotels are located inside airport terminals making it about as easy as it could possibly be to get to and from the hotel.
Other times, they might be connected by a catwalk, tram, or tunnel which means that in regions with extreme weather, you don’t even have to go outside to get to the airport.
The convenience factor can be cranked up even higher when the hotel has its own dedicated TSA security checkpoint and when you can utilize luggage carts from the airport.
The drawback with these hotels is that if your airline does not serve that terminal the hotel is located in, you may still need to use a shuttle bus.
Hotels adjacent to the airport
Some airport hotels are located right next-door to the airport.
Sometimes at properties like the Crowne Plaza Seattle Airport you can just walk out of the airport to the hotel in just a few minutes.
Other times, due to the layout of the airport, you may still need to hop on a shuttle to get over there, especially if you have checked baggage.
Hotels in the airport’s vicinity
Finally, there are airport hotels located a few miles away from the airport but still sufficiently within the airport’s vicinity to earn the title of an airport hotel (indeed, “airport” is usually in the official name of the property).
It’s pretty common to find an entire cluster of these hotels along a single street or block, near an airport.
Walking to the airport from these properties is usually not an option but some of these hotels will still have a shuttle running.
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Pros of staying at an airport hotel
The unbeatable convenience
A lot of people choose airport hotels for the unrivaled convenience.
You cannot beat the convenience of an airport hotel whenever you are:
- Staying in a room for only a few hours (day rate)
- Staying one night because you have a long layover
- Arriving on a late flight late
- Departing very early
This is especially true for hotels that are actually located inside or attached to the airport where no shuttle bus may be needed.
Not having to worry about arranging transportation for a long drive to get settled into your hotel or to get back to the airport on the day of departure is a very underrated convenience.
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Many (but not all) airport hotels offer a free shuttle bus that sometimes runs throughout the night which means you can get to and from your hotel without having to pay for an Uber, taxi, or going for a long walk with heavy luggage.
This can also help you reduce your car rental purchase length since you can pick up your car rental a day later or drop it off a day earlier.
Some of these airport hotel shuttles even make stops to tourist hotspots.
The downside is that sometimes these shuttles are not very dependable.
During peak hours of the morning, the line can get backed up pretty quickly if the hotel is not on point with the shuttles and your short journey to the airport can become more stressful than you would think.
Some people also get confused as to where to go in the airport in order to find the shuttle busses, although if you simply stop and ask an airport worker where to go they can usually point you in the right direction.
Nicer airport hotels like the Marriott Hong Kong SkyCity Hotel go above and beyond and offer to assist you with transferring your luggage to the hotel. Can’t beat that treatment.
Some airport hotels capitalize on their close proximity to runways and feature special rooftop terraces or viewing areas for plane spotting.
One of the best examples of this was the H Hotel at LAX. If you’re an aviation fan, this can be a great way to spend hours of your time.
Other times, you might be able to plane spot from your hotel room window, as some hotels offer premium views of runways.
You may not expect airport hotels to be full service properties but many of them are.
In fact, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some airport hotels.
I have found high-quality 24-hour gyms, nice pools, spas, and executive lounges at airport hotels. Some have even had pretty amazing breakfast spreads or restaurants and bars.
And typically you can find additional amenities like laundry rooms, dry cleaning, and wash and fold services.
So don’t think that just because you are staying at an airport hotel you are going to sacrifice amenities.
You can often find airport hotels with some great prices compared to expensive hotels found in the city. In fact, sometimes the price difference can be very dramatic.
However, I have seen some airport hotels that are not on the cheap side such as when I recently booked the Marriott Seattle Airport Hotel which was going for $400 a night.
I was able to use a Marriott free night certificate +5,000 points to cover this stay which gave me great value for the free night certificate.
And that is another pro — a lot of airport hotels are not super high category properties which means that you can use free night certificates for them.
Parking is manageable
Parking at airport hotels can be free although it depends on the city. But chances are you’ll find cheaper parking at an airport hotel than a popular hotel in the heart of a city.
Tip: Sometimes airport hotels may allow you to park there instead of parking at the expensive airport parking garage during your trip.
Force you to explore more
If you are staying at an airport hotel, and your goal is to explore a city, you might be incentivized to do more exploring than you would if your hotel was in the middle of the city.
Why is that?
That’s because it’s usually going to cost you a good amount of money and time to go back-and-forth from the airport hotel to the city center.
This is going to incentivize you to make the most of your time when you are in the city and you may be less inclined to head back to the hotel to rest which could eat up several hours of your exploring time.
Now, in some cases the airport is so far removed from the city that this just becomes an inconvenience if you have plans to visit the city every day during your stay.
But sometimes the distance from the city means that you might be closer to other non-city destinations and staying at the airport hotel could make those visits more doable.
For example, staying at LHR London Heathrow could make a trip to Stonehenge, Bath, or Oxford easier.
Good for international guests
Established and highly visited airport hotels are probably stocked with multilingual workers who can help international guests get around.
They are accustomed to dealing with people who speak different languages and are not familiar with the area which can make life easier for some people.
You may also have easy access to currency exchange and the hotel may be more likely to have dining options catering to international guests. For example, at an airport hotel in Hong Kong you might be able to easily find an American breakfast.
Aviation themed decor
If you are really into aviation a lot of airport hotels design the interior with people like you in mind. You’ll find artwork and aviation inspired accessories around the premises which can enhance your stay.
All right, now let’s break down the cons of staying at an airport hotel.
The noise levels
Depending on how close the hotel is to the runway, noise could be an issue at an airport hotel.
Luckily, some airport hotels install special windows that help cancel out some of the noise.
You can always contact the hotel ahead of time to check to see if they have special acoustic windows or perhaps curtains to drown out the noise.
You can also search reviews for the hotel for the word “noise” to see what guests are saying. And you can always bring a white noise machine….
The flipside to the noise issue is that you are less likely to run into people partying at an airport hotel, since you are dealing with a lot of business travelers and people arriving really late or departing early.
So, contrary to what you might think, sometimes noise is not really a negative factor at an airport hotel.
The distance to the city
Some large international airports are located very far away from major cities. This can make exploring the city very expensive and time consuming.
As mentioned above, this can work in your favor but for a lot of people the daily commute to the city is not something they’re interested in.
Lack of nearby dining options
Whenever you are far removed from the city, you may have very limited dining options near an airport hotel.
Assuming there are air side restaurants available to you, those might close in the early evening. And nearby you may only find fast food chain restaurants making your dining options a bit boring.
A good airport hotel will have a restaurant to help you deal with this but if they don’t, you might struggle to find anything appetizing to eat.
Lack of views
Unless an airport hotel goes out of his way to give you amazing views of the runaways or perhaps some natural scenery, a lot of times there just isn’t much to look at from the window of an airport hotel.
Highways, parking lots, suburban development — that’s often what you’ll be looking at.
Lack of local character or coziness
One of the perks of staying at a traditional hotel in an urban area is that it will probably have some type of character. Some airport hotels don’t offer much in this department and offer a sterile, corporate look and feel.
For the common business traveler this is probably not an issue but for a traveler looking to immerse themselves in local culture, an airport hotel is not typically a great choice.
Airport hotels may not be safe due to sketchy areas
It’s not uncommon to find airports located in somewhat sketchy areas in some cities, as airports lower property values due to noise and other issues.
For this reason, you may not want to go on an evening or night stroll around your hotel because it could put yourself in danger.
Sometimes there may be the added risk of a criminal trying to break into your vehicle if the parking lot is not secure or properly guarded.
While hotels in the city can certainly be in suspect areas at least when you are booking a hotel in the city you can choose safer areas to stay at which is not always the case when staying at an airport hotel.
As you can tell, staying at an airport hotel offers a lot of advantages that mostly center around convenience.
I typically only use them when arriving late or departing early but if they are close enough to a city they can be a good “home base” option.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.