With sites like Airbnb dominating headlines in recent years, the very nature of travel is in the early stages of reform. Gone are the days of hotels and hostels serving as our only options for accommodation.
With the advent of home rental booking sites, renting a room or a property straight from another person can save you a sizeable amount of cash, and you might even be helping the host to pay their bills in the process.
Often you'll get a relaxed homely feel with a complete set of amenities, and if you're traveling abroad and renting a room from a local family, you might get a slice of cultural immersion, with a chance to stay in an authentic neighborhood.
That all being said, by using some of these Airbnb alternatives, not only can you find rooms and apartments, but you can actually stay at timeshares and resorts at a fraction of the price.
There are many competitors for sites like Airbnb, which makes it hard to know which ones to use and when. Every apartment and spare room has the potential to serve as a boutique hotel, and there are some top-notch alternatives to booking home and vacation rentals that you might not know about.
Best for Small Group Bookings
Flipkey offers an abundance of vacation home rentals around the world, and since their parent company is TripAdvisor, it seamlessly integrates with their encyclopedia of real user reviews. With such a comprehensive set of data on every property in their database, you can filter your results by the type of amenity you're looking for. Jacuzzi anyone?
Though there are plenty of options available on the site for single travelers, Flipkey excels at group bookings in popular tourist destinations. The large majority of their properties are vacation rentals and holiday homes which fit four, five, six or more people. You may not get that homely feel, and you may not get insight from a local host, but if you're traveling in a larger group, that's not always very important anyway.
They Now Have Apartment Rentals!
Booking.com has long been the standard for booking hotels online, and now you can book apartments and vacation rentals with their same easy-to-use (and easy-to-book) interface. That also means you won't have much interaction with the host, though, so what you'll get is an apartment with the booking and check-in process of a hotel.
When searching for places to stay on their site, their filtering system proves to be one of the best on the market, which means your search results can be refined to show exactly the type of place that you need. Plus, because they have such a high inventory of properties, the competition is fierce, which means you get better properties at better prices.
Perfect for a Holiday with Complete Freedom
The main selling point for TurnKey that makes it quite a potentially strong Airbnb competitor is that it has done away with dreaded key exchanges. For Turnkey’s own rental properties you get given a door code instead of a key, meaning you can rock up and leave whenever you want. This offers a bit more freedom to the busy traveler and eliminates the problem of losing your key.
In order to obtain the door code for your rental property, you will need to download an app. This app is a treasure trove of information, offering you restaurant suggestions and letting you know what local entertainment is going on.
Currently TurnKey is only listing properties in the US but it has plans to branch out in the near future so watch this space.
Perfect for Holiday Homes
HomeAway is the more refined, older brother of Airbnb. You'll find more polished listings for holiday homes on HomeAway, which are targeted to a slightly older crowd. The hosts tend to be professionals who list for a living, so if you're looking for a higher standard of rental and you're willing to pay for it, HomeAway is an obvious choice.
Unlike other websites like Airbnb, HomeAway has properties that are perfect for older couples, families, and larger groups who are looking to enjoy the comforts of an entire home. If I were on a ski trip in Aspen with a group of buddies, I know exactly where I'd look first. HomeAway also owns a few other Airbnb competitors, like VRBO (see below), which is essentially the same but offers a slightly different inventory of properties.
If you're traveling in Asia, use their geo-targeted site, TravelMob, for similar bookings.
Best for a Kid-Friendly Vacation
Part of the HomeAway family, VRBO (an acronym of Vacation Rentals by Owner) is yet another solid Airbnb alternative. It is very similar to its sister site HomeAway, with the main difference being the properties it has on offer.
VRBO has around 2 million house rentals around the world and the thing that differentiates it from HomeAway is the size of these properties. Generally speaking, the properties on VRBO are bigger and have backyards. This means that if you are a big group or a family with children, VRBO is a better booking option.
If you are already familiar with HomeAway then using VRBO will be a breeze as the layout is virtually identical.
As with most of these booking sites, VRBO has its own built-in review system. Owners cannot delete unflattering reviews so you can be sure that if there is a problem with a property, the reviews will let you know.
Best for Cheap City Accommodation
Wimdu pitches itself as being one of the best places online to find deals on city apartments. This means you could find yourself spending the night in Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona or New York for far less than you originally anticipated. In fact, prices for Rio start at around $25 per night.
The website works in the same way as Airbnb with individuals listing their properties for rent. It also has a built-in review system so you can see what previous guests thought of their stay. While it originally focused predominantly on city accommodation, it has now branched out to include a number of holiday homes. While this detracts a bit from its niche it does offer you a lot more options.
Ideal for Living Like a Local, with a Local
The main difference between Homestay and most other websites like Airbnb is that you are always living with a host. Naturally, this has its pros and cons depending on what kind of traveler you are. You might find it awkward living with someone you don’t know in their home. On the other hand, it could be the most unique and enriching experience you have on your travels.
The point of Homestay is to give travelers a taste of authentic local life. By living with someone who calls your destination home, you will get a completely different experience to what you would normally have had.
Your host will also be able to give you some background history of their city, tell you about the regional dish you simply must try and help you avoid the tourist traps!
Ideal for Affordable Resort Stays
The term “timeshare” can often come with a bad rap, but it doesn't have to. If you're looking for a last minute rental at a luxury resort, the best way to get a good deal is to rent a unit from someone who owns a timeshare.
SellMyTimeshareNow provides a marketplace for timeshare owners to rent their units out, often saving renters like us up to 70% on a stay. What would normally cost $500/night on the retail market might only cost about $100/night (or less) when rented straight from an individual owner.
If renting isn't your game, and if you tend to travel on a more regulated schedule (i.e. one or four weeks of travel per year), owning a timeshare is actually a great choice. It's like having a second home in the tropics, without the price tag of owning a second home in the tropics.
And if you're not ready to drop $10k on a brand new one direct from the resort (I'm definitely not), you can buy a timeshare on the resale market, literally saving yourself thousands of dollars. Their online database offers spacious suites, villas, and chalets at some of the world’s most popular brands such as Marriott, Hyatt, Starwood, Hilton, and so many more.
onefinestay is the opposite of the other Airbnb competitors on this list. Offering upscale accommodation options in London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, and Rome, onefinestay thoroughly vets their hosts by staying in every property, and they only list the creme of the crop on their site.
onefinestay calls their curated collection of homes “unhotels,” a fitting name that accurately represents their properties. Location is a determining factor for each one, and the owners aren't allowed to be home during your stay. You'll never have to share and you'll always have the place to yourself!
If you’re like me, you owe it to yourself to experience alternative forms of accommodation! Life is too short, and it's important to broaden your horizons when it comes to travel and choosing where you’re going to stay.
There are more than a few websites like Airbnb, and they all prove to be useful in their own special way, depending on what you're looking for. Knowing which one to use and when is one of the most important things to remember before you start your search for accommodation.