Differences between hotels and serviced apartments

A serviced apartment and hotel are in many regards very similar. You might say that a serviced apartment is one type of hotel.  Consider that in both cases:

  • You book at a nightly rate.
  • You check-in to collect your keys at a reception.
  • You stay in a building segregated into many individual rooms or apartments.
  • You don’t pay separately for utilities or maintenance.
  • Staff are on hand to assist during your stay when needed.
  • You can even use OTAs like Hotels.com to book either type of accommodation!

But there are some key differences, and it’s worth knowing what they are so that you can better chose the accommodation style that works best for you.


Hotel alternatives

It used to be that when looking for somewhere to stay away from home, a hotel was the default choice, and for many is still is. If you couldn’t afford a holiday cottage, you booked a hotel or packed the tent.

Intense budgeting.

But travelers have been discovering the alternatives. The growth of services like AirBnB and Coachsurfing.com is evidence of that. More than ever before, we can all find the accommodation type that fits our circumstances, our tastes, and our disposition, and in doing so avoid many of the little annoyances we have grown to associate with staying away from home.

It’s great! Science says that travel is part of the secret of happiness, so let’s get it right.

One of the major alternatives to hotels are serviced apartments. They are what we, William’s Serviced Apartments, provide — because, well, we kind of love them. You should find out why below.

You won’t find unsubstantiated gushing here, though, and we’re not trying to convince you to book with us — there are other times and places for that! This article is all about giving a balanced look, so you can better chose the accommodation style that will works for you. We will look at what’s in the rooms, what the price difference is, and when to choose one over the other.


What is a serviced apartment?


The idea of a serviced apartment is a full apartment that you can rent, without contractual obligations.

That basically means an apartment that you rent similarly to how you would rent a hotel room, but that comes with multiple rooms, a kitchen, and certain cleaning facilities.

There is certainly some crossover here, and the variety of terms can be confusing. For instance, what we at William’s call a serviced apartments, in line with the guidelines of the Association of Serviced Apartment Providers (ASAP), might be called self-contained apartments, self-service apartments, aparthotels, extended-stay hotels, or something else entirely. Some providers that we would consider serviced apartments simply call them hotels!

Therefore it’s a little tricky to pin down hard definitions. But we will paint you a picture as clearly as possible:

Pictures of serviced apartments in Sheffield.
Examples of serviced apartments.

You should be able to live in a serviced apartment in broadly the same way your do in your own home. At least, you can do in the good ones. You’ll have the facilities needed to cook your own meals, and perhaps to wash your own clothes. Additionally, you will usually have more than one room, not including the bathroom — so you might have a living room and a bedroom, or a bedroom and a kitchen.

The main difference from a hotel, then, is self-catering and space available.

In comparison, a hotel typically offers just a room. What they lack in in-room facilities, though, they make up elsewhere in the building: a typical hotel has a restaurant, a bar, and staff that provide room service, which serviced apartments typically do not.

Examples of hotels

That said, when you consider hotel suites or hotel rooms with kitchen and kitchenettes, or serviced apartment complexes with additional faculties, you see that the lines are a little blurry.


The benefits of each

One way of thinking about it is this: in a hotel you are the “valued guest”, and in a serviced apartment you are part guest and part host. We all like to enjoy the former, but the latter can be quite empowering way to

The difference is that between ordering a nice looking meal from a the restaurant and having it served to you, compared to cooking up a recipe you found yourself with your own food that you keep in your own kitchen. Both have their merits.

We do think serviced apartments effectively eliminate many of the small inconveniences of a typical hotel room. For instance, having your own kitchen means better access to drinking water. Have you ever been a little irritated while sitting in your hotel room to not have a free source of drinking water nearby that didn’t come from the bathroom sink?

The extra space has a few key advantages:

  • better storage that makes living a tidy, organized life away from home that much easier.
  • you can host guests, for business or otherwise, much more comfortably.
  • if travelling with other people, perhaps friends or family, you can have an area to share but also have enough space that you won’t be treading on each other’s feet.

What you might miss, if you are used to a hotel, are the breakfast bars, the 24 hour room service, and the extravagant lounges. Serviced apartments have the everyday conveniences, but hotels have the luxuries.

It might also be worth pointing out that hotels seems to be better at flamboyant decor. In a serviced apartment you will probably be seeing a lot of white walls and laminate flooring.


Which one costs more?

There are two variables here: the room rates, and the “additional living costs”, which here mainly means the cost of eating.

We jumped on Booking.com and averaged a small selection of room rates for both serviced apartments and hotels. We simply took entries from the top of the booking.com listings of those accommodation types (though we ignored our own apartments). All rates looked were for an average week in August, and we made an effort to control for the standard/star rating of the buildings.These were our findings:

Average Cost for 7 NightsAverage Room Size £/ft²
Hotels£574221 ft²£2.60
Serviced Apartments£620410 ft²£1.51

This was just a casual study with a small sample size, but it reflects the trends. Serviced apartments tend to have a slightly higher cost per night, but a much lower cost per square meter.

Cost of eating

For any one meal, you are likely to find yourself paying several times more in a hotel restaurant than if you cooked roughly the same food for yourself at home. That makes sense — in a restaurant you’re paying for someone else to do the work for you, as well as to enjoy the space, the decor and the environment. But when you don’t have the option to cook for yourself, the costs can really add up.

Now, some hotels do provide breakfast in the room rate. For me, the breakfast is one of the key pleasures of a hotel, because when in an unfamiliar part of the world, and having just sleep in a unfamiliar bed, I certainly appreciate the comfort of having a large hot breakfast and coffee prepared for me and served to me by some great in-house staff.

Of course, if you do stay in buildings without their own restaurant, as is this case with most serviced apartments, you always have the option of eating breakfast, lunch or dinner out when you choose to. You can weigh up the costs. That flexibility, giving you power over your own budget, is part of what makes a serviced apartment great value for money.


A quick comparison in pictures

To give you a better, “ground level” idea of the experience of staying in each apartment type, we’ve compared some pictures of our own buildings to that of a Premier Inn just around the corner from us. Walk with us as you enter your room…


Example floorplans

hotel rooms, hotels in aspen, aspen hotels
A typical standard hotel room floorplan.


Image result for serviced apartment floor plan
A small serviced apartment floorplan.

Of course, exact facilities and layouts will vary with provider and room type chosen, so it’s always a good idea to check.


Other Services and appliances

In both a hotel and a serviced apartment, you might find on-site fitness facilities, such as a gym. It comes down to the individual building.

It’s the same situation with parking. Some buildings provide it, some do not.

Almost all hotels and serviced apartments provide Wi-Fi, though whether the charge for it or not comes down to that

Both hotels and serviced apartments typically provide hairdryers, hangers, an iron and an ironing board.

Some serviced apartments have dishwashers, some do not. A standard hotel room will not.

Complimentary shampoo, shower gel, tea, coffee and sachets of milk are pretty typical across the industry, though not always.

You can follow this link to find a full list of the appliances in a William’s Serviced Apartment.


How to choose

You get the most out of a serviced apartment if your stay is for a few days or longer. You get the chance to wash and iron your favourite clothes so your can wear them more than once, and pack less changes of clothes as a result.

Plus, though most of us don’t mind eating out breakfast lunch and dinner is it’s for a day or two, it does add up. Especially if you’re prone to irregular meal and grazing. Having the option to keep your own store of food is a great convenience. Having more control over your diet means it can be healthier, too.

If you need a simple, cheap place to lay your head, a budget hotel is an ideal option. If you want to treat yourself, a more upmarket hotel offers luxuries that serviced apartments do not.

If you’re staying staying for longer than a whirlwind visit, want more control over your home organization or eating habits, or what to stay close to the people you are travelling with, a serviced apartment is a great alternative.

Whatever you decide, enjoy travelling, and have a great stay!

Staying in Sheffield soon? You can make a fuss-free booking at Williams Serviced Apartments right here.

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