Are you looking for a one-of-a-kind stay? Trying to save money? Want more privacy? Hoping to wander off the beaten path? If you’re looking for options that you can’t always find with hotels, compare the top vacation rental sites for an unforgettable travel experience. We read the fine print and have the details of the best vacation rental sites with thousands of options all over the world. Through these sites, private owners offer their homes, condos, lawns, treehouses and vans up for short term vacation rentals or by the month, so you can travel and adventure.
Comparing the Best Vacation Rental Sites: Airbnb, Hipcamp and VRBO
While most Airbnb rentals are home based, the types of rentals can vary from a shared room to a treehouse. Choose from an entire home, a private room, a hotel room or a shared room. This booking site is ideal for a traveler who doesn’t mind sharing a bathroom with someone else. You can also add on experiences offered by locals, who can give you a tour of the best places to eat downtown or teach you to make local crafts. Airbnb also offers Airbnb Plus, which are stays verified for quality and design, and Airbnb Luxe, which are handpicked luxury homes with personally arranged services.
Search options: Since Airbnb is global, depending on your comfort you can choose a host that speaks your language. If you’re looking for a place with a pool, set it in your filters and you can choose to see only options that let you book immediately rather than have to negotiate your dates.
Ratings & reviews: Users can write reviews rate on a scale of one to five stars, considering cleanliness, accuracy, communication, location, check-in and value.
Specializes in glamping, tiny homes, camp sites and other unusual stays in public parks and owner’s private lands, and you can sort by Camping, Glamping and RV Sites. These are considered “outdoor stays,” but many of the rentals are hardly roughing it and often feature beautiful landscapes that you would rarely have access to otherwise.
Search options: Filters will cater to the experience you’d most like to have, whether you’re a backpacking pro or just hoping to catch a special sunrise from your bed.
Ratings & reviews: Users can write reviews and recommend the property after verified stays.
As the main Airbnb alternative, VRBO only offers truly private residences: no shared rooms, yurts or treehouses in their listings. If you’re looking for your own secure space, you’ll only find rentals that are all to yourself on VRBO.
Search options: The extensive search options on VRBO can help you narrow down thousands of rentals to exactly what you’re looking for, which saves you time and hassle. That means that more details are disclosed by the host who wants to attract you as a customer.
Ratings & reviews: Users can write reviews and rate on a scale of one to five stars.
You can filter by Instant Book, which means you don’t have to wait for the host to accept your request to book. Otherwise, you will have to fill out a few questions about you, your guests (if any) and your stay then wait for the host to approve. Usually, payment can be made in full or split for half now and half right before your stay.
Similarly, there is Instant Book, so you can guarantee your space as soon as you confirm your booking and pay for your stay. If Instant Book is not offered, you will need to request to book, which includes filling out questions about your stay.
While there is no Instant Book, the other processes are not as different. Depending on the property you choose, there will be a couple different ways to book. The traditional method means you would book as if you were booking a hotel, so your payment confirms your booking. If you book from a host, you will need to request to book.
Hosts set their own cancellation policies according to a three-tier system, and some will allow you to cancel any time until check-in with a refund, while others are strict and you forfeit your payment once you book. If there is an extreme problem with the place that wasn’t disclosed, you can discuss the issue with Airbnb who will work with you and the host. You can receive a refund on service fees up to three times a year if you cancel within 48 hours of booking and at least 14 days before your stay.
Similarly to Airbnb, hosts set their own cancellation policies according to six flexibility levels. These range from up until checkout to only a 50% refund if you cancel at least 30 days in advance. But, if something happened that is not what you expected, communicate with your host and/or Hipcamp to see if things can be made right.
Again, hosts set their own cancellation policies according to their own rules and there are two kinds of refunds, partial and full. Service fees are nonrefundable. Their “Book with Confidence” guarantee will ensure that you can get help quickly if anything goes awry, whether you need help contacting the host or finding another rental when your booking is cancelled.
You’ll see a service fee added to your total cost, and a hold is placed on your credit card for a security deposit just in case. Most hosts will add a cleaning fee (which can vary) while some can choose to roll it in to the nightly price.
Certain kinds of rentals on Hipcamp charge a cleaning fee, but if it’s a tent site, there is none. Service fees and security deposits are disclosed at checkout.
Cleaning fees are a separate charge but are shown upfront. Service fees are added to your final cost, and you’ll be charged a refundable security deposit when you book.
When it comes to the best vacation rental sites, there are plenty of options out there. If you’re looking for an outdoor stay, Hipcamp will offer the most selections. Airbnb offers a mix of stays from treehouses to private homes to shared rooms, while VRBO only lists truly private vacation rentals. Remember, book with Rakuten and you can save on your next getaway with Cash Back.
Mariko is a high school English teacher who has three children, illegible handwriting and an obsession with mail-order artisan ice cream. She lives in Hawaii, but she makes a point to eat her way through big cities as often as she can.