The Best Sites to Find Your Home Away from Home
Any time you’re traveling, you’ll eventually have to make a choice between staying in a hotel, B&B, or doing a bit more research and renting a private apartment or home.
There are a lot of benefits to renting a room or apartment versus paying for a single or block of hotel rooms. Many people use vacation home rentals to save money — the first way is through the initial cost of the unit. It’s easy to find vacation rentals in places where locals actually live, which tend to be cheaper than hotel rooms located in the downtown core or closer to attractions. If you don’t mind using public transportation or a car, this option can save you a lot of money. The other reason that people have tended to gravitate towards vacation rentals over hotels is because of the many amenities found in homes. In fact, many vacation rentals come with laundry, and having a full kitchen means you can purchase your own food and cook your meals, which will help stretch your food budget.
In the last several years, home rental websites have gained a huge amount of attention, especially after the rise of Airbnb, who has — for better or worse — irrevocably changed the landscape of the rental market. Although these vacation rental sites have existed for decades, the success of Airbnb has emboldened lots of new owners and managers to put their properties up on these sites, which has led to a major spike in availability.
Here are some of the best sites for you to use to find your home away from home.
Airbnb, which was founded in 2008, has an unbelievable four million listings in 191+ countries around the world, which is more than the top five hotel chains combined. It has become the largest vacation rental property listing in the entire world in the 10 years since it opened. It offers potential renters the ability to search for both short and long-term rentals in either a shared room, private room, or private home, which gives people lots of options, even at a lower price point.
Airbnb also offers travelers the ability to book experiences and make reservations at restaurants all around the world. Plus, Airbnb makes listing your home on their site extremely easy. They insure properties for up to $1 million in the event of accidental damage and liability claims, and help you verify all your guests.
Couchsurfing advertises itself as a way for travelers to meet and get to know locals. The way it works is a potential “surfer” first sets up a profile, then fills it with interesting facts and personal information. Then, when they’re traveling and need a place to sleep or are interested in making friends in their new locale, they can use the site to reach out to people based on their location and interests.
Couchsurfing users can also host events in their city and use the site as a way to connect with a wider group of friends. The company estimates that over 100,000 Couchsurfing events are hosted every year.
This is a great site for you if you’re interested in a more communal lifestyle, and don’t mind sharing your personal space.
HomeAway is a massive vacation rental site with a sleek, easy to use platform, which has been active since 2005. Like Airbnb, they specialize in vacation rentals, but don’t have as many options for single or shared rooms. They focus primarily on homes, as well as cabins, castles, and other quirky vacation spots. They boast that their U.S. site has over 14 million visitors every month, and their other domains (.co.uk, .ca, and .es to name a few) add a further three to six million hits per month to that list. In the 13 years of their existence, they’ve acquired several other smaller companies like VacationRentals, and Dwellable.
Owners must pay an annual subscription fee of around $442 to list their property on the HomeAway site, and in 2016, the company instituted a controversial service fee for travelers that ranges between six and 12 percent of the total booking cost.
Another rental website that was acquired by HomeAway but has managed to hold on to its own identity is VRBO, which stands for Vacation Rentals by Owner. They receive more than 18 million visitors every month, primarily from North America. Although they do have city listings, they specialize in vacation rentals.
Right now, they’re featuring popular American beach destinations like Clearwater Beach, the Outer Banks, and Orlando. They have a feature which allows you to pin places and destinations to a Pinterest-like page which helps you keep track of your favorites. They also make it easy to list your own property and take a small commission in exchange for listing your rental in over 190 countries.
In addition to helping with travel plans and attractions, TripAdvisor has stepped into the vacation rental game with their site TripAdvisor Rentals. TripAdvisor Rentals has a leg up on the competition because their site has all the vibrant energy of a small startup, but with the backing of a much larger company and community behind it.
Their front page looks much like all the other rental websites, but their results pages look more like their old hotel and flight listing pages, which makes it easy for people who are already familiar with their layout. In many cities, it lists a mixture of rooms, B&Bs, and even small hotels, which may be confusing for people who are only looking for private homes. It allows travelers the ability to narrow the search by number of bedrooms, but not by type of listing, which could be frustrating.
If you’re looking for a vacation rental in Europe, the first site you should check is Wimdu, which was founded in 2011. Although Wimdu doesn’t offer rentals in as many countries as many of the other sites — they boast listings in over 150 countries — they are the most popular vacation rental site in Europe, which means that it’s possible to find some listings for Europe there that may not appear on other websites. They currently list their top destinations as London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Croatia.
Their site layout looks a lot like Airbnb, with the listings populating the left-hand side of the screen, and a small map on the right. Listing your property with Wimdu is free, and although their site isn’t as flashy as some of the others, they have over 350,000 listings for travelers to choose from.