6 alternatives to Airbnb for when you want other options
Maybe you’ve had your own horror story in an Airbnb rental. Maybe you’re tired of high cleaning fees and poor cancellation policies. Maybe you’re comparing purchases for an upcoming trip.
Whatever the reason, it’s worth considering other vacation rental platforms beyond the largest in the industry.
Airbnb is truly a juggernaut. Data from Second Measure, a company that tracks transaction trends, estimates that Airbnb accounted for 19% of the entire lodging market in 2018, including hotels and vacation rental competitors. And the pandemic has likely widened Airbnb’s slice of the pie: Longer-term stays among untethered workers boosted the platform’s revenue in 2021, according to a 2021 shareholder letter.
In other words, Airbnb has a monopoly hold on the vacation rental industry, which makes it difficult for travelers to find good competitors. Unlike the hospitality industry, which enjoys healthy competition, the vacation rental world is populated by Airbnb — and everyone else.
Yet some of these competitors offer meaningful Airbnb alternatives for travelers with specific needs. Those looking for glamping options might consider Hipcamp, while those looking for high-quality city rentals should consider a site like Booking. Each has its own limitations and disadvantages. Here is an overview of the best alternatives to Airbnb.
The best sites like Airbnb
Good: Powerful search tools. Many listings are not available on Airbnb.
Evil: Confusing cancellation policies. Only individual houses (no shared spaces).
Use it when: You want to make comparisons.
Vrbo, in many ways, is Airbnb’s Uber’s Lyft. It doesn’t share the same ubiquitous name recognition, but it’s indistinguishable from its competitor in many ways.
Vrbo plays second fiddle for a reason. It offers far fewer choices in most markets and has more confusing and unfriendly customer support and cancellation policies.
But it’s always a good idea to check Vrbo and the comparison store when looking for a rental home. Some listings are available on both platforms and are sometimes cheaper on Vrbo. Additionally, Vrbo’s search feature includes a “full price” option that lets you compare the actual cost of a rental, including cleaning and other fees.
Be sure to filter by total price when evaluating costs on Vrbo.
In most cases, it makes sense to check out Vrbo as an Airbnb alternative, especially during peak times when Airbnb listings can be scarce.
Good: More professionally managed properties. Lots of international properties.
Evil: Limited portfolio. Little charm or personality.
Use it when: Looking for hassle-free accommodation when traveling abroad.
Booking.com is known internationally as a major flight and hotel search tool. It also offers vacation rentals.
Booking.com properties tend to be managed by management companies.
Many properties, especially in major international cities, are apartments in professionally managed buildings. This means that accommodations often lack the charm and character of some of Airbnb’s more colorful listings. It also means that booking and checking in to these apartments is less hassle.
Although Booking isn’t as well-known in the US as other rental platforms, it’s a good option to keep in mind, especially when traveling overseas.
3. Hip Camp
Good: Cheap, original.
Evil: Rustic. Quality control can be an issue.
Use it when: Looking for a cheap and interesting crash pad on the road.
Hipcamp is, as its name suggests, a camping reservation platform. It also includes “glamping” options like Airstream trailers and yurt rentals that make it a solid, cheaper alternative to Airbnb for travelers looking for a rustic experience.
For the crunchiest among us, Hipcamp may be the right choice.
It can be a great option for budget travelers looking for a simple place to rest their head or adventurous travelers looking for something particularly offbeat. And, of course, it’s good for camping.
4. Marriott Homes and Villas
Good: Earn and redeem Marriott Bonvoy points, high quality standards.
Evil: Very limited portfolio, low points value for redemptions.
Use it when: You want to use points.
Hotel mega-brand Marriott launched a home rental business in 2019 that has quietly grown in popularity with frequent travelers. The biggest draw is the ability to earn and redeem Marriott Bonvoy points for vacation rentals, which opens up a world of possibilities for travel rewards enthusiasts.
Marriott Homes and Villas is a solid choice if you have some points to burn.
Airbnb and most of its competitors lack rewards programs, making it difficult (if not impossible) to book a vacation rental “for free” using points. Marriott Bonvoy points, on the other hand, are relatively easy to earn through credit cards and transfer partnerships.
That said, the cash value for using Bonvoy Points to book through the Homes and Villas program isn’t always the best. Compare the cash and point costs of booking a rental to make sure it’s a good value.
Good: Simple and easy.
Evil: Mobile only.
Use it for: Find accommodation on the go.
Known as a user-friendly travel booking platform, the Hopper mobile app launched a vacation rental program in 2022. Remarkably, it already has 2 million bookable accommodations across the world.
Hopper offers a solid app experience for mobile booking.
Hopper’s main selling point is its simplicity and user-friendliness. The app is fast, easy to use, and less cluttered than most vacation rental platforms.
But simplicity goes both ways. Its mobile-only limitation makes it difficult to compare prices by switching between browser tabs or sharing information with fellow travelers who don’t have the app.
Hopper’s product is new and might need a few tweaks to become a serious competitor to Airbnb. But it’s worth checking out.
6. Local Vacation Rental Management Companies
Good: Supports local businesses and hosts.
Evil: It’s a roll of the dice.
Use it when: Local laws regulate vacation rentals.
Have you ever checked into an Airbnb and been asked by a host to avoid talking to neighbors? This is likely because vacation rental is prohibited by local law or the property owners association.
Popular vacation towns often sport their own local rental management companies. For example, the town of Seabrook, Washington is comprised primarily of vacation rentals that are leased and operated by the town itself.
Local rental companies tend to be on the rise with the community, unlike Airbnb.
If you’re having trouble finding vacation rentals through the platforms listed above, it’s worth doing a quick internet search to see if there are any local operations.
The bottom line
Airbnb maintains a firm grip on vacation rental space. Indeed, “getting an Airbnb” is often a shortcut to booking a vacation rental.
If you’re unhappy with the cost, functionality, or security of the juggernaut, there are good alternatives to Airbnb. None can match the big fish in terms of sheer size, but each satisfies a particular travel niche.
Always consider the final cost, including taxes and fees, when comparing sites like Airbnb (e.g. Booking vs. Vrbo) as additional costs can add up quickly.
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Sam Kemmis writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @samsambutdif.
The article 6 Alternatives to Airbnb for When You Want Other Options originally appeared on NerdWallet.