Exploring the alternatives to AirBnB

AirBnB may be the most well known vacation rental platform, but it's far from the only one.

When hotels are too expensive and hostels too roughing it, most travelers turn to AirBnB, which has become so associated with home rentals that surely it can’t be long before it gets verbified. But AirBnB isn’t the only vacation rental option in town. If their listings, prices or policies don’t work out for you, you might want to consider some of these alternative options before biting the bullet and shelling out for a hotel.

In the section below I’ll list out some other options for vacation rentals you might not know of:

HomeAway

HomeAway and VRBO are both owned by Expedia, but the listings on each site are different so I’m going to cover them separately.

One of HomeAway and VRBO’s main marketing points is that you get a home all to yourself. It’s claimed that unlike AirBnB, all listings are completely private- that is, you won’t find a shared room, or a private room within a shared house. They even built an entire advertising campaign around it:

That said, I am seeing some listings for private rooms on HomeAway, although they’re by far the minority and could just be owners not bothering to read the T&C properly.

You might think that this means rentals will be more expensive on HomeAway/VRBO than AirBnB, but that’s not always true. It’s not going to be an apples to apples comparison, of course, but I was able to find decent looking options in Sydney on HomeAway that were cheaper than similar listings on AirBnB. If nothing else, it’s worth a gander.

Homeaway is offering new customers US$25 off their first vacation rental and existing customers 5% off any subsequent rental when payment is made with a Visa card. Simply enter VISANEW25 or VISA5OFF at checkout.

Depending on how much you’re spending, however, 5% might be a bigger discount than US$25. Even though I was a new customer, I managed to get the 5% discount to work with a dummy booking in Sydney.

VRBO

As mentioned earlier, VRBO is the sister site of HomeAway. The properties featured on VRBO are different from HomeAway, but the main difference is I don’t really see any private rooms on VRBO.

My research also tells me that VRBO listings tend to be larger than HomeAway, and more suitable for families. It certainly doesn’t hurt to compare the inventory on HomeAway and VRBO to see which one is more suited to your needs.

HomeStay

If VRBO is all about promising you a space to yourself, HomeStay is the exact opposite. All HomeStay listings are rooms within a home, meaning you’ll be sharing that space with a host. It also means that prices are generally lower, however, and I was able to find sub US$100 rates in NYC in the period before Christmas which is quite an accomplishment.

HomeStay is fairly well established, with about 50,000 listings in 160 countries and 750K nights booked to date. If you’re the sort who doesn’t mind a lot of host interaction (the idea terrifies me for some reason) then this would be a good platform to facilitate that.

Tripadvisor Vacation Rentals

Tripadvisor has been quietly moving into the vacation rental space ever since it acquired FlipKey in 2008. Since then, it’s added Holiday Lettings, Niumba, Vacation Home Rentals and HouseTrip to its portfolio and is the third largest rental platform behind AirBnB and HomeAway. The platform has about 800,000 listings as of June 2017.

One Fine Stay

OneFineStay is a more atas home rental platform, which claims that they personally visit and vet each home that’s listed. The prices match the branding, as you’ll see in the screenshot below of one of the cheaper properties I was able to find.

The selectivity involved means you won’t find the listings or locations on One Fine Stay to be as extensive, and it’s really more for expensive markets like New York City, London, Paris,  Los Angeles and Rome.

Some of the things that OneFineStay does to spruce up the experience is to make rentals more hotel-like by replacing the host’s linens and towels with more upmarket versions and providing high-end toiletries. You’re greeted by a OneFineStay staff member when you check in, who acts like a concierge and removes any need for the renter to meet the owner.

Conclusion

There are many other sites out there that I’ve not mentioned, but they tend to be smaller or niche-focused (like Innclusive, set up to tackle the issue of discrimination in home rentals). Given the sheer variety of platforms, you might be interested in a meta-search engine like Tripping which searches a wide variety of platforms, just like Kayak would do for hotels.

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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