Any more you have plenty of options available when booking a vacation rental. Millions of travelers each year opt to book a vacation home or rent out someone’s apartment when making a trip for business or pleasure. The problem is that you now have dozens of different choices when deciding where to book your trip. That’s why we’ve done the work and written a guide that compares all of the top vacation rental websites such as Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, and FlipKey.
Each of these websites is slightly different with some pros and cons. Depending on where you’re booking and your needs you may want to choose to book your place through different sites. Browse through the quick comparison guide below to understand more about what each brand offers.
Airbnb is one of the newer vacation rental websites that started more as a place to book apartments and home instead of booking a hotel. Now that the company has matured some you can find thousands of traditional vacation rentals in the mix which actually gives them a more diverse selection than some smaller competitors. You can browse through thousands of different rentals in all of the top locations around the world as well as unique places that aren’t found on traditional travel booking websites.
Where Airbnb excels is that you can find places within cities that can’t be found on some of the larger websites. This could mean renting out a room in a luxury penthouse in Manhattan to a small home on a beach in the Caribbean. You can choose between renting out the entire place or renting locations that just allow you to book one room within an apartment or home. This more open approach to who can host a place to stay could have some downsides, but Airbnb has an extensive review system and guest refund policy to give you some peace of mind.
One downside of using a vacation rental website is the fees. You may see a rental for $150 per night but once you tack on service charges, Even with these fees it’s still hard to find the type of inventory that Airbnb has where you can book entire apartments in prime locations within the center of some of the coolest destinations on earth.
VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) is a vacation rental website that started way back in 1995. This marketplace for vacation rentals is powered by HomeAway which is the owner of both websites along with a few smaller rental websites. VRBO has a large database of vacation rentals throughout the world with a better selection of homes and destinations within the United States. Unlike Airbnb, they focus more on the classic rentals of entire homes that are built for vacationing instead of a business trip.
Booking your rental is just like any other vacation rental website or travel booking website for that matter. You choose from one of over a few hundred thousand listings and then choose dates and confirm pricing. The price you see will then receive some additions which can include a cleaning fee, processing fee, damage waiver fee, and tax. These extra charges can push your total up a few hundred easily on a week’s stay.
One interesting aspect is that you can purchase extra insurance when making your booking. This provides you with the protection of funds if you would need to cancel, protects you from some accidental damage to the rental, and also guarantees the rental meets your expectations. Other vacation rental websites offer a guarantee on many of these categories automatically and don’t make you purchase extra insurance to get this guarantee. Either way, VRBO is another trustworthy source to book your rental with a solid selection but the same exact inventory and pricing as HomeAway.
HomeAway is one of the most well-known brands in the vacation rental space along with Airbnb. They’ve been around for over a decade now and have a strong inventory of nearly a million properties. As we just noted, VRBO is owned by HomeAway so they have the same exact inventory as well as the same exact prices as far as we could see when comparing a couple dozen properties. This means that you can essentially choose either website and you will pull up most of the same properties.
HomeAway seems to have a better design and faster website than VRBO along with an app for booking on all major devices. So when booking your rental and choosing between the two I would always go with HomeAway. Other than that you can essentially take what we said above and apply it to this brand.
FlipKey is a vacation rental website that is owned by the popular travel review website TripAdvisor. They have a decent selection of rentals available in most of the hottest destinations. When you venture into less popular vacation spots their inventory choices look weak when compared to places like HomeAway or Airbnb. Their website says they have around 300,000 listings which are around a quarter of what the other major players in the space have.
Aside from the lack of inventory, everything else is pretty much par for the course. You can choose your location, price range, dates and more when booking. FlipKey charges extra fees on top of the nightly rate like all of the other websites compared here. These fees are for taxes, cleaning services, service charges and more. The amount of the fees depends on various factors. One major upside is that since the website is owned by TripAdvisor you have access to a top review system for the property you’re booking along with highly-reviewed places near your booked rental.
Where Should You Book Your Vacation Rental
Where to book your vacation rental comes down to a few different factors. If you’re looking for a traditional vacation rental of a large beach house or ski house then you may want to venture towards some of the traditional brands like HomeAway, VRBO, and FlipKey. If you’re more on the adventurous side or simply need to rent out an apartment for a vacation or business trip then Airbnb is your best bet. This doesn’t mean that you can’t find both on the websites listed, but they seem to each have their own specialty with Airbnb slowly moving into more traditional vacation rentals. As of right now, Airbnb doesn’t seem to be charging taxes on the fee which means big savings on some longer-term rentals. Either way, we’ve discovered that in it all comes down to comparing the properties you want and figuring out how much they will cost. Most of these established vacation rental brands offer reviews of the owners and properties as well as some guarantees to make your trip is protected.
Quick Review: All of the vacation rental websites we’ve reviewed on this page are legit. HomeAway and VRBO are essentially identical websites with the same inventory and pricing. Airbnb has more exclusive inventory and is better for those who are wanting to book an apartment instead of a hotel room. FlipKey is also a solid choice, but the inventory is much lower than the other three. Either way, you can’t really go wrong booking at any of the places mentioned.