Long gone are the days when going on holidays meant booking a hotel. Now we have plenty of options, and by options, we mean vacation rentals. Although holiday homes aren’t an innovation, they have become more popular and affordable in the last decade.

Hotels haven’t lost their appeal, but private accommodations keep rising as another option for travellers of all ages. Travellers are no longer just seeking accommodation to snuggle inside a room and enjoy a breakfast buffet. Millennials in particular now look for something more unique, special locations, communal places and sometimes just more privacy. Vacation rentals are a brilliant option for travellers with a different set of requirements and travel style. How so? Let’s check it out!


Imagine this scenario:

I’m travelling with the family, me, husband and my parents. My mother dreams of going to Greece, and we book a 10-day trip this Summer to the Land of the Fetta cheese to please her.

We want to visit Athens and Santorini. Summer is a high season, so the popular hotels get booked out fast. The hotels look amazing, with sea view and infinity pools though. After a brief search, we realise that a mid-range hotel room for a couple, with good reviews and in a good location, in Santorini, averages$500/night, in Athens $200/night. The prices are steep especially because we will have to book 2 rooms. For a 10 days stay, the cost of accommodation can quickly go up to $4000 to $5000. Of course, hotels offer comforts that vacation rentals may lack — the concierges are a great help on any trip. But this time, the cost of staying in hotels is too high for our budgets.

What to do? Are there any other options? Maybe we could stay all together in one apartment. We look for options and realise that renting 2-bedroom apartments in Athens will cost average $110/night and in Santorini $300/night. That could cut our accommodation cost in half to $2000 to $2500. Not a bad choice!

This is only one example in a million. Does it ring true for other situations, different destinations and travel periods? We researched it all to show you when and how to book a vacation rental.

  • Are vacation rentals be the best option for your holiday?
  • Where can you book vacation rentals? Top websites to use.
  • How to choose and book the best vacation rental? Here are the best tips.

Are vacation rentals the best option for your holiday?

If you need to choose between a hotel or a vacation rental, consider all the variables. It all depends on the type of trip, duration and number of people on the trip. Vacation rentals can bring some advantages:

  • You have space for everyone – If you are travelling with a group or family and wish to have a place that fits everyone, vacation rentals are a good option. You can bring the fam, the in-laws, your friends for some bonding time… you will have space and privacy.
  • Pick any type of place – the beauty of vacation rentals is that you can find any kind of lodging: villas, lofts, cabins, beach houses, boat houses, tree houses! Anything and everything. The choice is yours.
  • The shared space saves you cost – If you count the cost of a night per each person, a vacation rental turns out to be cheaper than booking individual rooms for every person or couple.
  • Amenities galore – Private accommodations usually come with their own set of facilities that aren’t behind the variety and quality of a hotel. Hosts put a lot of effort in the places they rent out for holidays stays so it is not unusual to find places to stay with a private pool, jacuzzi, flat screen TVs, bathtubs, or even, bikes and surfboards.
  • Use all facilities like you are at home – If you book an entire place for yourself, you will have a kitchen where you can cook some of the meals and save some cost on that. Also, you can pick a place with a washing machine and do your laundry. How convenient!
  • Less stress, less fixed schedules – By booking a vacation rental you are not submitted to fixed timings to have your meals. No more breakfast only from 7 am to 10 am. Feel like sleeping in and have breakfast at 12 pm? It is your vacation rental, you decide when you cook and eat your brekkie.

Where can you book vacation rentals? Top websites to use.

We did all the research, so you don’t have to. Find here the top vacation rental listing sites you can book from:

Airbnb

Airbnb vacation rental platform
Image credit: Airbnb

Airbnb, founded in 2008 in San Francisco with a few only listings, is now the big brand we know today, offering millions of listings and experiences across the world. Airbnb rentals are listed by homeowners, and you can choose between different options: entire place, private room and a shared room. You can find listings all over the world, just double check the restrictions in cities like Tokyo or Mallorca, before booking. Check more about it here.

‘I use Booking.com if I’m in a hurry and need to get a hotel ASAP. In Kuala Lumpur last month my reserved hotel failed me, I was only a few hours to start my return trip, it was a late night, so I looked for a hotel near the airport in booking and reserved it. However, in Seam Reap I rented a room using Airbnb well in advance and stayed in that Airbnb rental.’ – Ernesto

Booking.com

Booking.com vacation rentals listing website
Image credit: Booking.com

Did you know that Booking.com is the first hotel booking site to advertise vacation rentals? That’s right, Booking.com doesn’t offer only hotels. They have 5 million listing across the world and all of them are instantly bookable. Their search features, reviews from guests and extensive database make it a very useful website to use.

HomeAway

HomeAway website
Image credit: HomeAway.com.sg

Launched in 2005, HomeAway is an established brand owned by Expedia and well known among a more mature audience. The company grew steadily and ended up acquiring VRBO (see below). The majority of rentals on the HomeAway site are vacation homes with no permanent occupants and they have around 2.8M places available across the world.

VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner

VRBO website for vacation rentals listings
Image credit: VRBO

VRBO was founded in 1995 and its initial lists were in Colorado. The website is now part of the HomeAway family and has a strong foot in the US. You can find all kinds of travel lodging on their site: houses, apartments, condos and villas.

‘I book Airbnb’s almost exclusively when I travel to urban areas. I use VRBO when I’m looking for a larger place for a larger party in a resort destination. However, I’ll start with Airbnb and move to VRBO if I can’t find anything that fits.’ – Debi

Wimdu

Wimdu vacation rentals europe
Image credit: Wimdu

Wimdu is Europe’s biggest platform for holiday stays. They offer around 350,000 properties in popular destinations including apartments, affordable beach houses and even luxury villas. This is a good option to find a place to stay during your Euro trip.

Bonus option: Couchsurfing , a place to stay for free

Couchsurfing platform
Image credit: Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing is an online community which offers accommodations where travellers can stay for free. In a true sharing spirit, the hosts will allow you to stay on their sofa or an extra mattress for free. Couchsurfing is great for guests and backpackers who want to travel and make friends. The platform allows you to create a profile, connect with host and fellow travellers and find free accommodation.


How to choose and book the best vacation rental? Here are the best tips.

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Choosing which holiday rental website is the best for you, especially with so much offer, is no easy task. We give you the best tips on how to choose and book the perfect vacation rental for your holiday.

  • Compare different options and prices in the various websites listed above. Make good use of the search filters on those websites to find the exact vacation rental you need – consider the size, number of rooms and bathrooms and the other amenities you would like you private accommodation to have

Pro tip: Our recommended websites are quite reputable for vacation rentals and are a good start, but don’t forget to research about location-specific sites that might have other high-quality listings.

  • Check the photos to confirm if the place matches your expectations and book early, especially if you are travelling during peak periods.
  • Check reviews and proof of quality: Superhosts in Airbnb and Premier badge in VRBO, for example. Hosts and places with this ‘seal of approval’ are sure to give you the best service and experience.
  • Like in everything else, read the fine print – read the terms and conditions or contract before submitting payment. Make sure you are informed about cancellation policies, restrictions, and extra fees.
  • Talk with the host – After booking, try to establish communication with the owner. Host are generally quite open to communicate and willing to give you extra info about your accommodation and destination.
  • Payment – Check what the payment options for each listings website are. Airbnb uses its own payment system (usually via credit card or via Paypal). HomeAway allows for credit cards and in some cases, direct payment to the owner. Avoid direct payments n cash to the host. The best option is to use a credit card since most credit card companies offer anti-fraud protection.
  • Be flexible – Remember that a vacation rental is not a hotel room. An apartment or home might present some unexpected situations that you wouldn’t have in a hotel. Even if things are not perfect, and your room light bulb bursts, for example, take it lightly. Things happen.
  • Be safe – It is always good to remember: Book from a reputable website, check reviews and check your host to avoid fraud. The vast majority of vacation rentals listings are legit, and the websites have good anti-fraud systems, but the occasional ‘black sheep’ exists. Contact the listing website if you find anything suspicious.
  • Look for discounts – it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye out for promotions and cashback opportunities. Some of the listings might offer discounted prices for more extended stays so inquire your host about it.

Are you feeling confident to book the ideal vacation rental now? Share with us your experience with vacation rentals below. We would love to hear about your travel stories.

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