Homesharing is a global trend that’s growing. Travelers looking for an alternative to traditional hotels connect with a booking website in order to reserve short-term rentals from a host. Guests find a property and pay for the stay like a hotel. The difference is that the property is not a licensed hotel or bed and breakfast, and is often a privately-owned apartment, condo or house.
Most of these booking websites work the same way: Enter your choice city, the dates you want to stay, and how many guests you have. You’re shown available listings. Click on a listing to learn more about it, such as pictures of the rental, details about its location, etc. Then just book the stay. Real easy. And, in many cases, you could save money over a hotel booking.
The leader in the homesharing field is Airbnb. It’s a behemoth—with over 6 million rental listings worldwide. Known for its flexibility, you can book nightly, weekly or even monthly stays with over 7 million listings and over 190 counties.
Some of Airbnb’s shortcomings have been exposed. Because of its popularity, you may need to book quickly before your choice is gone. And Airbnb’s guest fees were recently boosted.
To get exactly what you’re looking for, you may want to try one of these peer-to-peer rental sites instead.
VRBO (originally known as Vacation Rental by Owner) is the oldest home-sharing service still around. Rentals on this site are larger and more specialized to appeal to big groups or families. Here you can find entire homes and apartments in over 190 countries. Unlike Airbnb, you cannot book single rooms within a home. Similar to Airbnb, the focus is on un-hosted rentals. (This means you’ll often get the whole place to yourself.)
The site’s in-depth filters are a real time-saver: search by types of homes, location types (such as beach, downtown, suburban), safety and accessibility features (such as handicapped accessible, low-allergy environs), etc.
Homestay offers sharing with a unique viewpoint: authentic local life. With Homestay—instead of simply offering rooms—you choose to stay with a local in their own home. There are usually fewer homes to choose from than some of the other homesharing services. In most cases, you rent a spare room and enjoy a quality home with your host family.
Because of this, you may find the prices on Homestay to be more competitive. Just keep in mind that it’s not for those who value their privacy. Homestay lists more than 55,000 rooms in over 160 countries.
FlipKey is a vacation rental marketplace with more than 300,000 rentals around the world. Because its parent company is TripAdvisor, you’re provided with a large forum of candid user reviews. FlipKey also allows property owners to list their property to travelers for a profit on the TripAdvisor site.
FlipKey is similar to Airbnb offering original accommodations with beach, apartment, home, boathouse, and villa listings available. However, it does not have shared room listings; only private rooms, and entire property rentals.
Not for the budget-conscious, signing up for FlipKey is free; however, guests pay the cost advertised on the listing plus a booking fee that ranges between 5-15% of the total rental cost.
This site specializes in condos, beach homes and cabins. HomeAway is a villa listing site not an agent. You deal direct with the owners. It’s targeted to a slightly-older, more experienced audience, than many of the other homesharing services. It has listings for more than 2 million homes in more than 190 countries around the world.
HomeAway also owns a few other Airbnb competitors, like VRBO (see above), which is essentially the same, but offers a slightly different inventory of properties.
HomeAway is more comfortable for large groups than a hotel, as many of the rentals come with common spaces that a larger party can use. For example, different rooms in the same house, rather than trying to squeeze everyone into one room.
Wimdu is known as a top search engine for city rentals listings. It doesn’t charge any service fees to its host users, and is not directly involved with any rental or payment. Wimdu guests pay a flat 12% booking fee based on the price of the listing. With 350,000 properties competitively priced in over 150 countries, Wimdu is an ideal starting point to rent a city apartment in Europe, but does offer some homes and chalets.
6. Homes & Villas by Marriott International
Hotel giant Marriott International launched Homes & Villas, featuring over 2,000 highly-curated vacation rental homes in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America. If you’re a member of Marriott’s Bonvoy loyalty program, you can earn and redeem points—which you can redeem for free nights or a variety of other redemptions.
Because the homes are run via a partnership with management companies rather than homeowners, Marriott claims a more elevated experience. Its premium standards are very similar to what the company expects of its hotels: 24/7 support, high-speed Wi-Fi, premium linens and amenities, and family-friendly amenities when requested. There are no economy or lower-tier private accommodations.
Laws governing homestays vary widely depending on jurisdiction and length of stay. Generally, this means that local tenancy laws could protect you in a dispute. In such a situation, be sure to contact a landlord-tenant attorney familiar with local laws and regulations.
Renting property is only one option to take a vacation. To explore your adventurous side, you may want to consider the joys of RVing.
Resources: Conde Nast, TravelFreak, MakeUseOf, NNY360, CNET, The Points Guy, LLC