10 Vacation Rental Alternatives to Airbnb
Airbnb has quickly grown to be a giant in the world of short-term rentals since its inception in 2008. While it may be the most well known of Internet vacation rental options, it is far from being the only website you can use to rent on the road. The sharing economy has offered us nothing if not diversity in choice. If you're not finding the right rental option on Airbnb, there are alternative websites to consider.
One thing for credit card rewards chasers to keep in mind, however, is that Airbnb is the most rewards-friendly platform because its merchant category code (MCC) is hotel. If you have a general travel rewards card that lets you redeem points as statement credits to pay for hotels, Airbnb should count. There are even opportunities to earn bonus points for Airbnb stays with cards that offer rewards on travel purchases. In contrast, most other vacation rental services are coded as real estate.
Home Away is considered by many to be Airbnb's main competitor, with approximately 1.2 million listings in 190 countries. HomeAway is owned by Expedia and specializes in renting whole properties. It also has a reputation for slightly more upscale listings, so if that's what you prefer, it's a good place to start. Since its payment system is not streamlined, though, (it's up to the owner how they want to accept payments), be wary of owners requesting money to be deposited in advance into their accounts. If you pay for your rental through the HomeAway site, your payment is protected.
VRBO has existed for 20 years and it is owned by HomeAway. While the website interface is not particularly pretty, it is functional. Like HomeAway, VRBO lists many full-size vacation properties, which means that the prices tend to be higher than Airbnb. VRBO is marketed more toward families, but otherwise, the differences between HomeAway and VRBO are negligible.
FlipKey is owned by TripAdvisor, another giant in the travel industry, and it includes rentals in 11,000 locations globally. All of the hosts are verified by FlipKey staff, unlike Airbnb, where a host's reputation is just based on user reviews. With 300,000 listings, FlipKey has fewer properties than Airbnb and other major sites. While that's not negligible, it's not the biggest selection of places you can find. Additionally, not all of the listings are available to book online. Sometimes you will have to call or email with the property manager or owner directly.
Roomorama, another smaller site, emphasizes security. Roomorama has about 80,000 owner and professionally managed properties to rent, and like FlipKey, it verifies all its hosts to enhance safety for renters. Roomorama's payment system also helps deter scammers. You pay Roomorama when you book and then get a six-digit code, which you'll give the property owner once you've successfully checked in. Only then does the host get paid.
Tripping provides aggregate information about rentals that it gathers from many other sites, so it can be a convenient place to one-stop-shop for accommodations. If a property is listed on multiple websites, Tripping will automatically provide price comparisons, so you can get the best deal. The key word here is choice, as Tripping claims more than eight million properties in 150,000 destinations. In fact, Tripping is the largest search engine for rentals. As such, you can find places ranging from $10 to $10,000 a night. Tripping may be great for finding a place online, but you will then be redirected for the booking process to whichever other website has listed the rental property. For instance, after a quick search of properties in Berlin, the majority were in fact listed on the HomeAway website, so any booking would have to made through HomeAway.
Like Tripping, MeshTrip is also an aggregator, but it claims to only list properties that are instantly bookable. That means you shouldn't have to wait for word from the property owner on whether the space is available on the dates you want to book (although our test of the site led us to an apartment with a message reading, "Sorry, we've just checked with our partner and this place isn't available on those dates after all"). The site is only a couple of years old, but still boasts 1.3 million properties in 190 countries.
9flats is a European property rental company with approximately 200,000 listings to choose from. Its website design is appealing and easy to use and it has a section for "all star hosts" who come with high recommendations from renters. The website does not charge booking fees. Compare that to other sites that add 3%–15% fees, and the savings can really add up. 9flats is relatively small so the listings and locations it offers are more limited.
PerfectPlaces is similar to 9flats in that it's also relatively small. Unlike 9flats, its listings are more concentrated in the U.S. Some bookings can be made directly through its website while others require you to contact the property owner. As with 9flats, you will not be charged a booking fee, which can help you save.
9. Haven In
If you really want to splurge on a European trip, check out Haven In. It offers home rentals in Paris, Provence, London, and Tuscany, and it's a good luxury alternative to the options available on Airbnb. The apartment and villa listings are carefully curated for a boutique rental experience that is often more memorable than a hotel. You'll be met by a bilingual greeter when you arrive, and round-the-clock service is available if you need anything during your stay. You can expect personalized attention from a professional, as opposed to the hit-or-miss experience you may have with Airbnb. It's more pricey than other peer-to-peer services, and even many five-star hotels, with listings in Paris starting at around $250 a night during low season.
10. Apartments Actually
Apartments Actually is a similar service offering boutique rental accommodations in Paris and Provence. Its properties are centrally located and beautifully curated, so you don't have to hunt through hundreds of listings to find one that you like.
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