Vacation rentals are all the rage these days. For family travelers looking for space or some of the amenities and conveniences of home, renting a condo or a vacation home instead of staying in a hotel while traveling often just makes sense.
Most travelers have heard of (and perhaps even used) a few of the major sites in the vacation rental space. But the market is definitely bigger than just VRBO or Airbnb. Here are the vital stats on the best vacation rentals sites as you plan your next family vacation.
Vacation Rental Sites You Probably Already Know
Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) is the site that most casual travelers have probably already heard of if they’ve heard of nothing else. VRBO offers a wide variety of property types (homes, apartments, condos, etc.) pretty much anywhere in the world. Although the name suggests that rentals are made “by owner,” some of the properties on the site have a professional management company behind them. Your experience and the time required to make a booking may vary considerably depending on what type of property you get and whether you are dealing with an owner or management company. VRBO began as a site with more conventional home and condo rentals in vacation destinations, and that market remains its strength.
HomeAway actually owns VRBO, so many travelers looking for vacation rentals only look on one or the other assuming they are the same. Although the ownership is shared, the individual properties are not! Only owners who pay to list their property on both sites will appear on both. So if you aren’t also searching HomeAway when you are looking on VRBO for a vacation rental, you’re missing out. In terms of the types of rentals available on the site, you’ll find a similar mix of homes, apartments, and condos like VRBO. Some are professionally managed and others are rented straight from owners.
Another vacation rental sites that most travelers have heard about is Airbnb. The company started out solidly in the budget travel market – many listings were extra rooms in shared apartments or even couches to crash on. Cities and urban locations were the focus as well. The company has evolved and now offers everything from high end vacation home rentals to wild and wacky accommodations like yurts, castles, and treehouses.
With the power of TripAdvisor behind it, FlipKey is probably another vacation rental site on many radars. FlipKey offers a mix of listings best characterized as a hybrid of AirBnB and VRBO. What makes it different is that it is also backed by user ratings that TripAdvisor is known for.
Vacation Rental Sites You Probably Don’t Know About… But Should!
Vacatia offers an interesting value proposition in the crowded vacation rental market: it only lists properties in full-service resorts. These “resort residences” are usually timeshares and condos. They have the benefits of a house – kitchens, extra bedrooms, and extra space – along with the services and amenities of hotels – housekeeping, pools, and sometimes spas and more.
Vacatia only list properties that their company representatives have personally visited so they are verified for quality. Vacatia recently sponsored the TravelingMom retreat I attended at Disney World and I thought the niche they serve was brilliant, especially for family travelers. Best of all – several Disney Vacation Club (DVC) properties have recently been added to the roster, which offers a great way to save at Disney on slightly larger accommodations.
VaycayHero is another that is really interesting for family travelers. VaycayHero exclusively lists properties that are professionally managed. This potentially saves the time, hassle and confusion of dealing with an individual property owner who may be slow to respond. Think of it as VRBO without the “by owner” part. VaycayHero focuses exclusively on the vacation market in destinations like Orlando, Tahoe, Hawaii, and more.
Based in Singapore, Roomorama got its start with vacation rentals in Asia and elsewhere, but now serves plenty of destinations around the world. While VRBO and Homeaway tend to me more traditional vacation rentals where owners may have a multi-night (or even full week) minimum, Roomorama is a nice alternative for even shorter term stays.
Just like TripAdvisor has Flipkey, travel mega-site Priceline has Booking.com for accommodation rentals. Booking.com lists hotels, bed and breakfasts, apartments and more. For travelers looking exclusively for vacation rentals, Booking.com has a sub-site called Villas.com that lists exclusively homes and condos for rent.
For travelers heading abroad, European-based vacation rental site Wimdu is another site not to overlook. Most listings are apartments in city locations so the site can be a great tool to score a deal in cities like Paris or London where hotel prices are traditionally off the charts.
Tripping isn’t a vacation rental marketplace of its own like every other site mentioned here, but it is one that travelers need to know about because it is one of the few aggregators in the market. Tripping is a single search engine where you can search the listings of vacation rental sites like VRBO, HomeAway, VaycayHero, Booking, and many more. You then book on the individual sites rather than on Tripping. Think of it as the vacation rental equivalent to Kayak (a powerful search site that allows you to search multiple airlines at once but that has no booking engine).
Are there other vacation rental sites you’ve used that you would recommend?
Disclosure: Vacatia sponsored a retreat I recently attended for TravelingMom writers. No compensation was received for this post. Vaycayhero has previously sponsored content on this blog but no compensation was received for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.