Vacation rentals provide more variety and a better choice of locations than traditional hotel chains. When you’re looking for something different from the standard hotel experience, a vacation rental website can help you find it.
These five popular options let you search for rentals of all kinds in thousands of cities around the world. Whether you want a private space all to yourself or are up for the adventure of sharing a rental with some roommates, you can find everything from single rooms to luxury beach homes wherever you want to travel.
With over two million listings in 190 countries, HomeAway offers travelers a wide variety of options for vacation rentals. Search for a rental in your desired destination by price, the dates you plan to travel, and the amenities you want and narrow your results by ratings to find your dream vacation home. If you’re a pet lover, you can even find pet-friendly accommodations, so that you don’t have to travel without your furry friends. As you browse listings, keep in mind each booking is subject to a service fee of six to 12 percent.
Homeowners communicate directly with travelers via HomeAway’s messaging system, but you have to join the site in order to send and receive messages. Joining also allows you to manage your bookings and save favorite listings to come back to later. You shouldn’t have any trouble locating the kind of home in which you want to stay, because HomeAway has listings for everything from private accommodations in secluded areas to traditional vacation homes in popular tourist cities.
Short for “Vacation Rentals by Owner,” VRBO is part of HomeAway’s family of sites and provides another portal through which you can search for the types of rentals listed on HomeAway. Both sites can be accessed via a dedicated mobile app, allowing you to browse rentals from anywhere and save whatever catches your eye.
VRBO bills itself as “the most popular vacation rental site in the U.S.” and emphasizes the freedom you have booking with them versus staying in a hotel. Visit the “advantages” page to compare the benefits of renting a vacation home instead of a hotel room and determine if VRBO’s listings are right for you.
VRBO also offers a confidence guarantee for travelers to cover up to 100 percent of whatever you pay for your rental. Eligible listings are marked with a guarantee icon, so you can know you’re protected from fraud, misrepresentation, “uninhabitable property,” and wrongful withholding of your security deposit.
FlipKey is operated by TripAdvisor and lists over 300,000 vacation rentals in 11,000 cities around the world. Popular destinations include Florida, Rio de Janeiro, and Italy, but you can search by price, property type and pricing deals to find a rental wherever you’d most like to stay.
The biggest advantage setting FlipKey apart from other vacation rental sites is its collection of detailed user reviews. Travelers can submit not only text but also pictures to convey their experiences, making it easy to weed out undesirable destinations and pick a place in line with your expectations.
When you choose a property, you’ll contact the host directly to obtain a rental agreement. Fees between eight and 16 percent of the total cost of the vacation rental are charged at the time of booking, but with TripAdvisor’s payment protection plan, you can get a full refund if the homeowner denies access to the property or you find the property was “substantially” misrepresented on the site. Coverage includes refunds of up to $10,000.
Still going strong a decade after launching, Airbnb lists over a million room and property rentals around the world. Regular homes rented out by their owners are the most common listings, but you can also find apartments and condos in which to stay when you travel. It’s up to you whether you want to have a whole place to yourself, book just one room or share a room with others.
To help you find the right rental, Airbnb integrates with Facebook and shows if any of your friends have stayed at the particular properties you’re eyeing for your own vacation. You can also read guest reviews to get a sense of what to expect during your stay. If something goes wrong for any reason, Airbnb operates a 24-hour emergency help line you can call for assistance.
Airbnb also offers complete “experiences” for travelers looking for something a bit more unique than just a home rental. You can choose from concerts, food tours, water excursions, historical outings, and more.
If you’re not comfortable with the uncertainty of renting a room or home from someone you don’t know but still prefer to stay somewhere other than a hotel, try TurnKey. Unlike other vacation rental sites, TurnKey focuses specifically on providing consistent, high-quality experiences to all travelers. Every listing is fully vetted, and TurnKey ensures each rental is well-kept and ready for you when you arrive. Rental amenities include Wi-Fi, basic toiletries, and a tablet containing all the information you need about the rental and the attractions in the surrounding area.
You can book through TurnKey with only a 10 percent down payment up to 30 days before your vacation. Booking within 30 days requires full payment upfront, and all guests are asked to either purchase a damage waiver or provide a security deposit as a means of protection. If you have any problems during your stay, you can contact TurnKey’s local team for help.
The next time you’re planning a trip, take the opportunity to search these vacation rental sites for alternatives to hotels. Since listings and availability are different across sites, compare accommodations from more than one to find just the right home away from home. Familiarize yourself with privacy policies, understand your rights as a renter and be clear in your communications with homeowners to ensure you have the best possible experience.