While traditional hotels have long been the preferred accommodation choice for countless leisure and business travelers, the added privacy, affordability and extra perks (think: kitchens, private pools and even yard space) often available with vacation rentals have made this lodging option an increasingly popular choice for vacationers. Plus, a wide array of properties – ranging from sleek city apartments to remote yurts to spacious beachfront homes – are regularly added to booking platforms, giving renters numerous options to choose from based on their preferences. But with roughly 115,000 vacation rental companies available around the world, according to a 2018 study from the Vacation Rental Management Association, finding the ideal platform to rent from may seem daunting.
To help you find the right vacation rental site to use for your next trip, U.S. News evaluated a variety of highly regarded options that appeal to one or more types of travelers. Whether you’re a fan of the outdoors, have kids in tow or are looking for hotel-style amenities, these top vacation rental sites offer something for everyone.
The Best Vacation Rental Sites are:
- Kid & Coe
- Villas of Distinction
- Plum Guide
- Glamping Hub
Best for all types of travelers: Airbnb
Pro: Renters can supplement their stays with curated experiences bookable through the Airbnb website
Con: Most properties are not professionally managed, so quality may vary depending on the accommodation chosen
Easily the most recognized name in the vacation rental landscape, Airbnb offers its renters a mix of properties in various sizes, styles and locations, making it an excellent choice for travelers with varying needs and interests. Culture hounds will find eclectic homes, apartments, houseboats and more that pay homage to the cities they reside in, including New Orleans, Paris and Amsterdam, while adventurous travelers can choose from all kinds of rustic accommodations in outdoorsy spots like Yellowstone National Park and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Airbnb also appeals to beach bums by offering a number of waterfront options in popular warm-weather destinations like Mexico, Hawaii and Florida.
In addition to featuring a diverse selection of property types in most major locales across the globe, Airbnb gives users the ability to narrow their choices based on their preferences. Renters can filter for privacy, price, available amenities, cancellation flexibility and house rules (like whether or not smoking is allowed or pets are permitted), among other options. What’s more, Airbnb offers various location-specific experiences, such as cooking classes, dance lessons and hiking tours, which renters can book through the platform before their vacation. Keep in mind, though, that most Airbnb properties are not professionally managed, so travelers should adjust their expectations accordingly. Those who desire an experience closer to what they’d receive at a hotel might want to consider booking one of the company’s Airbnb Plus properties, which are owned by highly rated hosts and go through in-person quality inspections. No matter what kind of property travelers are interested in, they should pay careful attention to reviews and consider booking rentals that display the Superhost badge, an award only given to experienced hosts who provide top-notch hospitality to their guests.
Best for groups: Vrbo
Pro: Large inventory of properties in destinations that often draw groups
Con: Room-only rentals are not available
If you’re traveling with multiple people and need ample room to stretch out, then booking a vacation rental listed by Vrbo may be the way to go. Unlike its competitors, Vrbo only offers unoccupied vacation rentals on its site, so if you’re looking to meet people during your stay, you may want to choose a different platform. Because all of Vrbo’s accommodation options – which range from standard houses and condominiums to unconventional properties like yachts and barns – do not have live-in hosts or spaces shared by multiple rental parties, you’ll enjoy plenty of privacy. Plus, the spacious layouts mean it’s common to find amenities ideal for groups, such as multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, full kitchens and private pools.
Groups will also appreciate where Vrbo’s properties are located. While you’ll have access to vacation rentals in bucket list-worthy spots all over the world, many of Vrbo’s most popular listings can be found in affordable domestic destinations, making them especially appealing to groups. For example, multigenerational travelers will find a variety of suitable options in family-friendly locations like Ocean City, Maryland, and Orlando, Florida. Meanwhile, adults-only groups can choose from vacation rentals in cities known for nightlife, including Las Vegas and San Diego.
Best for solo travelers: Homestay
Pro: Nightly rates are usually low and may cover conveniences like Wi-Fi access and breakfast
Con: Privacy is limited since all properties have live-in hosts
As its name suggests, Homestay offers vacation rentals where visitors interact with hosts. Upon arrival at any Homestay property, which is typically a spare bedroom in someone’s home, guests are greeted by the host, who is available throughout their stay to provide tips and recommendations to ensure they experience their chosen location like a local. This insider insight makes the company’s accommodations particularly well suited for solo travelers, who may be looking to get to know others while exploring popular solo vacation destinations like New York City and Toronto.
Since Homestay listings are rentable rooms in homes and apartments, access to communal spaces like kitchens and laundry rooms may not be permitted, depending on the house rules each host establishes. Additionally, curfews and minimum night stays may apply at select properties. However, Homestay accommodations are generally more affordable: Rates start at less than $50 per night, typically cover daily breakfast and may include use of amenities like loaner bicycles, parking spaces and Wi-Fi access, which makes Homestay a superb option for solo travelers who are willing to overlook the lack of privacy to save some money.
Best for hotel lovers: Sonder
Pro: Many rentals have access to extra facilities, such as lounges and fitness centers
Con: Few properties are available outside the U.S.
Reserve a property listed by Sonder if you crave the standards and conveniences you’d find at a hotel, but don’t want to sacrifice the perks of a vacation rental. Every Sonder accommodation is professionally cleaned between stays and comes equipped with amenities commonly available at hotels, including free Wi-Fi access, toiletries, coffee makers and plush bedding. But unlike most hotel rooms, Sonder listings also feature popular vacation rental amenities like contactless check-in, fully equipped kitchens and in-unit laundry. Some even offer access to swimming pools, fitness centers or rooftop lounges thanks to their locations within city apartment complexes.
But remember, Sonder’s network doesn’t include homes, cottages, cabins or other kinds of larger accommodations, so if you’re looking for three or more bedrooms, your options may be limited. The company’s geographic coverage is also small compared to other vacation rental sites. Currently, you can book rentals in 31 American cities, plus international destinations like London, Montreal and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Best for women: Golightly
Pro: Vetting process for rentals helps ensure quality
Con: If you don’t know a current member, getting approved for membership may take a little longer
Female travelers who worry about their safety when choosing vacation rentals should consider using Golightly for their next stay. An invite-only platform available exclusively to women, Golightly seeks to quell safety concerns by limiting membership to women and carefully vetting each property in its network. To have access to Golightly’s vacation rentals, which are all owned or managed by women, female travelers need to either receive an invite from an existing member or apply for a membership online and subsequently receive a referral.
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After going through an interview process, getting approved and paying the one-time membership fee (which is currently waived through 2020), female members and their travel companions – who can be male, provided the host allows male traveling companions – can stay at one of numerous affiliated properties. Available options include apartments in cities like Rome and Austin, Texas; cottages, villas and homes in beach destinations like St. Simons Island, Georgia, and Kauai, Hawaii; and more unique rentals like a ranch in Clyde Park, Montana, and a yacht in Phuket, Thailand. On-site amenities vary depending on the property chosen, but renters may have access to features like gyms, pools and balconies.
[See: 30 Great Girls Weekend Getaways.]
Best for LGBTQ travelers: misterb&b
Pro: Company donates a portion of proceeds to LGBTQ organizations every year
Con: Quirkier accommodations (think: houseboats and barns) are hard to come by
Founded with the goal of helping members of the LGBTQ community feel safe, comfortable and connected to one another when traveling, misterb&b offers a variety of apartments, private rooms and homes, most of which have LGBTQ hosts. Properties can be found all over the world, including in many destinations known for offering gay-friendly atmospheres, such as San Francisco; Mykonos, Greece; and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. But regardless of where travelers choose to stay, they’ll receive local insight from their host, plus access to numerous resources on the misterb&b website, such as a calendar of gay pride events, expert tips for how to travel safely as a member of the LGBTQ community and destination-specific guides about everything from gay beaches to gay bars and clubs.
When it comes to accommodations, each space’s offerings vary. However, some of the amenities commonly available at misterb&b vacation rentals include terraces or decks, pools and free daily breakfast. To help renters narrow down their options, they can filter for price, on-site facilities, property type and specific preferences, such as whether pets or children are permitted. And thanks to the company’s commitment to making annual donations to LGBTQ organizations like Immigration Equality and OutRight Action International, travelers can feel good about booking with misterb&b knowing that their stay is helping support the global LGBTQ community.
Best for families: Kid & Coe
Pro: Rentals offer all kinds of family amenities, including toys and bunk beds
Con: Some accommodations are only bookable as exchanges
Kid & Coe‘s focus on providing vacation rentals that accommodate both adults and children make it a popular option for families. Featuring a curated collection of kid-friendly homes, cabins, apartments, cottages and more, Kid & Coe’s listings help ease travelers’ concerns about finding a suitable place to stay when going on vacation with children. Each affiliated property comes equipped with a selection of family essentials, such as books and toys, bunk beds and cribs, playrooms and baby gear. What’s more, some rentals offer luxurious extras for parents like concierge service and access to a private chef.
Travelers will find a number of collection categories – including country retreats and properties that are best for babies and toddlers – to help them narrow down their options. Or, they can search by location. Rentals are available everywhere from ski spots like Zermatt, Switzerland, and Park City, Utah, to beach havens like Maui, Hawaii, and Bali, Indonesia. But remember, some Kid & Coe properties are only listed as exchanges (the company’s equivalent of a home swap arrangement), so fewer listings may be available in some regions after filtering for rentals.
Best for couples: Villas of Distinction
Pro: All rental fees cover concierge services
Con: Villa inventory is limited in select regions
For a dose of luxury fitting of a romantic getaway, book a stay at one of Villas of Distinction‘s high-end vacation rentals. Located primarily in popular vacation destinations in Europe, the Caribbean and the United States, all listed villas are fully inspected to ensure they meet the company’s quality standards. Each property also offers proximity to desirable locations like the ocean, vineyards, mountain ranges or national parks, providing the perfect setting to reconnect with your sweetheart.
When you and your partner are not soaking up some sun on a beach in the British Virgin Islands or sampling vino at Napa Valley wineries, you’ll find an array of villa amenities that are bound to dial up the romance. Reserve a clifftop rental with an infinity pool, a hot tub and a gazebo, or pick a tropical island property with outdoor showers and access to resort facilities like a spa and fine dining restaurants. No matter which accommodation you choose, you’ll enjoy complimentary assistance from a villa concierge, who can customize your stay to include fee-based extras like boat charters, meals prepared by a private chef, golf tee times and butler service.
[See: The Top Couples Vacations.]
Best for travelers concerned about discrimination: Innclusive
Pro: Extra measures are built into platform to prevent discrimination against renters
Con: Inventory for nontraditional rentals is small
Book a stay at an Innclusive vacation rental if one of your biggest worries when going on vacation is facing discrimination. Like other nonwhite travelers, the founder of Innclusive has experienced discrimination firsthand, but it was an incident that occurred when trying to book a vacation rental through a well-known platform that motivated him to create a new site with anti-discrimination measures in place. Innclusive aims to drastically decrease the number of opportunities for discrimination by implementing features like hiding renter photos and names until bookings are confirmed and making most properties’ bookings instantly approved. That way, hosts can’t refuse a renter based on appearance and are unable to deny one renter but permit another to stay the same travel dates.
Innclusive’s vacation rentals are available in more than 130 destinations around the globe, including Chicago, Madrid and Playa del Carmen, Mexico. However, most accommodations are traditional rentals (think: apartments, rooms and homes), so if you prefer more unique lodging, your options may be limited. Once you’ve decided where you want to go, you can narrow your search results by applying filters based on factors like price and amenity preferences. Some of the perks that you may find while staying at Innclusive rentals include fireplaces, hot tubs and complimentary on-site parking.
Best for city lovers: Plum Guide
Pro: Every affiliated vacation rental has to pass a rigorous approval process to get listed by the company
Con: Geographic coverage is limited
Travelers who prefer staying in an action-packed city will love reserving a rental with Plum Guide. Featuring a selection of vacation homes vetted through a multistage inspection, which evaluates everything from Wi-Fi speed to shower pressure, Plum Guide aims to give vacationers a memorable experience every time they travel. Though the company’s network is mostly limited to Europe and the U.S., travelers will find a number of Plum Guide rentals in major cities throughout both regions, including Berlin, London, New York City and Palm Springs, California.
Available amenities vary by vacation rental, but no matter where renters decide to hang their hat, they can expect to discover a variety of high-end features. For example, those interested in staying in the heart of fashion-forward Milan can anticipate finding trendy decor that may include glass floors, Italian leather furniture or bold wallpaper. Meanwhile, travelers who want to bed down in celebrity-filled Los Angeles will have their pick of accommodations with unique amenities like an electric guitar, a basketball hoop and a pool with views of the Hollywood sign.
Best for outdoor enthusiasts: Glamping Hub
Pro: Numerous options both in the U.S. and abroad
Con: Rustic accommodations mean some properties may lack air conditioning or Wi-Fi access
Whether you’re looking for a traditional glamping experience or a new twist on a luxurious camping vacation, Glamping Hub has you covered. Offering a mix of stereotypical glamping accommodations, including safari tents and treehouses, as well as quirky lodging rentals like domes, caves, igloos and cabooses, Glamping Hub turns a nature-focused trip into a high-end getaway. While many of the company’s vacation rentals undoubtedly draw inspiration from their surroundings by incorporating natural elements like wood and stone, most also come equipped with modern amenities travelers come to expect when going on vacation. Depending on the property you choose, you may have access to a hot tub, a fully equipped kitchen, free Wi-Fi access or air conditioning, among other conveniences.
Currently, Glamping Hub offers vacation rentals in 115 countries around the world, with more than half of its properties located in the U.S. As a result, the platform is ideal to use for domestic vacations, though its sizable inventory in countries like England, New Zealand and South Africa also makes it a great option for international trips. Consider using Glamping Hub for far-flung outdoorsy vacations like safaris and mountain climbing treks in addition to camping adventures and stargazing outings closer to home.
Best for indecisive travelers: FlipKey
Pro: Site offers dozens of online resources to help narrow down options
Con: Depending on the destination, rentals may impose minimum stay requirements
Those who have a hard time making decisions about travel plans will likely enjoy using FlipKey. Like other vacation rental sites, TripAdvisor-backed FlipKey offers numerous short- and long-term rentals in destinations across the globe. However, what sets this site apart is its expansive collection of trip recommendations designed to help vacationers decide where to go. For example, travelers set on visiting a lake can browse the site’s lake retreat suggestions, which includes locations like the Finger Lakes region of New York and Kelowna, British Columbia. Meanwhile, those who know they’ll be traveling with their dog can consult FlipKey’s list of pet-friendly vacations, which features Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Key West, Florida, among other options.
Once renters know their preferred location, they can search from a mix of homes, studios, chalets and even private islands to find the right property for them. But if they need additional guidance, they’re in luck: Travelers can filter for everything from the number of bedrooms and bathrooms they need to price to whether or not amenities like a garden, a hot tub, a private pool, a fireplace, a trampoline or a boat are available on-site. Renters can even decide which property to reserve based on the kinds of activities they hope to do during their stay, making it possible to pick a property that offers proximity to golf courses, ski slopes, city centers and more.
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