By K.J. Matthews, Editor-in-Chief
Nowadays, many travelers looking for a home or apartment to rent while on vacation simply use Airbnb to find a nice and affordable place to stay. And, why not? It’s reliable, easy to use, and has one of the world’s largest online inventories of accommodations. Some consider it the leader in the online vacation rental space business.
But depending on your taste, where you’re vacationing, and how much you’re willing to shell out, you may actually have more options than you realize. Recently, a number of online vacation rental sites have popped up. All cater to the discerning traveler by showcasing niche rentals and offering travelers some out-of-the box options they haven’t seen before.
These sites cater to everyone from luxury travelers to budget-conscious families. And, they’re disrupting the whole vacation rental game.
Here are nine sites to check out before you book a place to stay.
If you’re traveling to Los Angeles, New York City, London, Paris, or Rome and you want to be pampered in a plush pad, then this is your site. Talk about overindulging! Onefinestay knows how to spoil travelers. Only the finest homes and apartments are approved and listed on the site. Complimentary toiletries, high thread count towels, and luxury linens await customers. And, to make you feel as though you are staying at a 5-star hotel, it also offers free Wi-Fi and maid service and 24/7 customer service, should you need it. But, as you might imagine all of this pomp and circumstance comes with a price. Their properties are located in very upscale parts of cities. And, nightly costs are more on par with high-end hotels. For example, one week at a house in Hollywood for the month of June, ranges from $330 to $1,400 per night. That same week in the city of London can cost between $415 and $550 on average per night. But, like we said, these homes have some the most luxurious amenities which cater to high-end customers.
Luxury Retreats literally spans the globe finding the most luxurious properties for you. From the Caribbean to the U.S. to Europe to Asia and Africa, they have some of the priciest real estate on the globe. Expect a full concierge with private chefs, butlers, housekeepers, and villa managers. Fifty Employees run this company. And, they fly all over the world searching for mansions belonging to millionaires and then put the villas through a rigorous inspection test. They have more than 2,000 properties in 50 destinations to choose from, with an average nightly rate of $2,000. Yes, it’s pricey, but we’re sure you’ll be staying in some of the world’s finest properties owned by some of the world’s richest individuals.
Now, we’re talking economical. Home Exchange has more than 65,000 homes in 150 countries and unlike some of the other sites, this one is simply a home swap. You list your home, browse other home listings that you are interested in doing the swap with and then reach out to the owners. The great thing is that the terms of your swap are negotiated with the host and the company offers 24/7 member support. You’ll have to register to use the site and purchase a membership package that is $150 per year or $12.50 per month. But, it might be worth it for travelers with homes who’d like to vacation in a great destination, stay in a similar dwelling, and do it all with minimal costs.
This is another house swap site, but with a twist. This site caters to those with second homes worth half a million dollars or more. The way it works is that you list your upscale property and wait for it to be approved. Once approved, you have to pay a $2,500 initiation fee. From there, you list your property for other members to use and list the exact weeks other members can use it. Depending on the value of your property and the amount of time you allow it to be used, you will be given credit in the form of keys. The more keys you are awarded, the more options you have to find and stay at other members’ homes. Once you find a place and someone chooses your place, then terms are agreed upon, and you pay an exchange rate beginning at $395.
If your trip is a little longer, like a month or two, then HomeSuite might be the place for you. This relatively new start up caters to people looking for short-term housing. HomeSuite prides itself on providing less expensive furnished apartments than other major vacation rental sites, and makes it easier to find a place that allows monthly leases. You search by city and date, and you can choose short-term, long-term, or a month-to-month lease. Right now, it’s only in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Seattle. But, they’ve announced plans to move into the Boston and San Diego markets.
HomeAway is a vacation rental marketplace owned by Expedia. It runs and operates more than 10 other vacation rental sites. Luxury Rentals from HomeAway is one of them. It’s labeled an exclusive, luxury vacation site. It’s another way for high-end travelers to stay in distinguished properties which include homes and high-end hotels. The company says these villas and mansions are put through a rigorous screening process before being offered to travelers. And, their inventory might make any competitor jealous. Instead of choosing cities, you search this site by continents, countries, and regions. Choose from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central America, Europe, Mexico, Canada, South America, Oceania, and the U.S. Once a location is chosen, you enter dates and the number of people staying with you. Then it shows a list of homes available. For example, in South America it listed a luxurious, lakefront house in Patagonia, Argentina for about $700 a day for the month of May. In Africa, we spotted a villa in the Seychelles for $1,265 per night for the same month. Prices can be higher or lower depending on the location, size of the property, and time of year. But, looking at Luxury Rentals’ large selection is akin to looking through the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book.
Boutique Homes has done well zeroing in on a niche market of very small hotels and uniquely crafted homes located in Asia, Africa, and South and North America. It has search criteria that lets you locate homes or hotels by categories like the sea, countryside, desert, mountains, and urban dwelling. What you’ll find on this site are designer properties with an eclectic and artistic vibe. It was created by two seasoned travelers who are married to each other. At the bottom of the page, you can click on the country you are interested in visiting and pictures and descriptions of available accommodations show up. Click on the Info./Rates tab for detailed pricing and a description of the property. If you like it, just hit the Inquire or Book button to reach out to the owner.
If you are traveling to the United Arab Emirates and you want something more than staying in a standard, luxury high-rise, JustProperty.com might work. It’s got over 100,000 property listings in the UAE and Qatar and a new app. It not only lists apartments and homes for rent, but also office space for lease and property for sale. Scroll through and you’ll see a massive amount of inventory. This may suit the traveler who wants to really get a feel of what it’s like to live in an Emirati neighborhood.
If you are short on time and want to check out the properties on many sites all at once, this tripping site is for you. Type in your destination and dates and get listings from several different vacation rental sites with more than eight million rentals. Prices range from a dirt cheap $10 per night to a whopping $10,000 a night. Once you find a place on the Tripping website, you’re taken directly to the partner site that’s advertising the deal to book it. Sites participating are HomeAway, VRBO, FlipKey, HouseTrip, Interhome, Roomorama, and Booking.com.