Frequent and long term readers of this site probably know why we are writing a blog post about Airbnb competitors. For those of you who are newer here, welcome! You are reading a post written by two people who have been banned from Airbnb. If you don’t have the time to read our updated post on the topic, I’ll give you the short version: a homeowner decided to charge us $1,000 for damages we didn’t cause and when we wouldn’t pay, Airbnb decided to ban us. This was after several years of excellent reviews in a handful of countries.
We had just started our adventures in full time travel, and were counting on the ease and availability they offer. But in the middle of our US road trip, we had to find some alternatives to Airbnb - and fast.
Why You Need to Know About Airbnb Competitors
You may be wondering why you need to know about competitors of Airbnb. Some of you no doubt, have succumbed to the charms of that app and site as we once did before being cast from the kingdom. I don’t want this to be a post shitting on Airbnb, so I’ll keep this part brief and maybe expand on it in another post.
You need to diversify, both as a homeowner and a vacationer looking for apartment rentals. It’s a form of insurance to know you have more than one option in case something goes wrong. Also, Airbnb has proven itself to be a huge agent for change in neighborhoods by making them filled with nothing but transient tourists. Why is this bad? It drives out locals and raises prices. Shops in neighborhoods filled with Airbnb rentals tend to cater to transient visitors rather than people who live there, if there are any left.
But enough of all that. Onto the main point of this post!
Airbnb Competitors You Should Know About
VRBO: We’ve used VRBO very sparingly and isn’t necessarily a site we think of straight away. Part of the issue for me is that the site isn’t too pretty (although it’s gotten way better) and the apartments/houses available generally don’t suit our aesthetic and need. The site has been around forever and they do a great job with renter’s rights (which is in sharp contrast to AirBnB). I do believe it’s one of the first sites to offer short term vacation rentals, so definitely should be on your list. I just noticed they’re part of HomeAway so properties may be duplicated across their sites (see HomeAway below).
Booking.com: I find the user experience of their site to be a bit cumbersome, but I do like that they show you a lot of detail about the apartment you are looking at which helps in making comparisons and decisions. I also like that they operate more like a hotel booking agency and feel more confident in the vetting of the homeowners. They do extract a fee from the people listing their properties, which for some reason, makes me feel like these are more serious business owners than AirBnB. That may just be my bias though. (note: if you book a stay using the link above, you’ll get $20 off, and we will too!)
Hotels.com: This is not just for hotels anymore, despite what the domain name would indicate. They too decided they were missing out on the huge vacation rental market by not offering vacation rentals. We probably use this site the most because they offer free nights after you book 10, which is nice given how much we travel. They don’t have as many apartment rentals as Booking.com or other sites, but it’s worth checking out for their benefits if you travel a lot.
HomeAway: Since being purchased by Expedia in 2015 there have been numerous complaints about increased service fees and a review system that allows owners to approve reviews or not. Pros: you can cancel for up to a week after you book and only have to pay 1/2 upfront. We’ve never booked via their site because the user experience sort of turns me off.
TurnKey: Owned by TripAdvisor, who is constantly annoying me with their SEO designed list pages that have no content. If you ever run a search for the best of anything in a city, chances are that TripAdvisor will come up and the page will be pretty useless. They have quite a good stock of apartments to choose from though we’ve only used them a couple of times. It is sort of hit or miss with matching our aesthetics (sadly we are totally in the Airbnb demographic).
Trusted House Sitters: It may not be entirely fair to say that Trusted House Sitters is a competitor of Airbnb, because they are really different things. But I think that more people should use THS for vacations. Not just because it is super cheap (yearly membership is like $119/year)* but because you actually get to meet locals and visit places you wouldn’t normally go. You would have to be very flexible in your timing and be willing to do your own cleaning and caring for pets, but your accommodation would be free!
All said you need to find which site works for you. Quite often vacation rental properties will post a listing across several platforms, so be a smart shopper and find the right mix of price and availability for you.
Top Airbnb Competitors (recap)
VRBO: the original Airbnb
Booking.com: Huge assortment, easy to compare, loads of information about the apartment you are about to rent.
Hotels.com: Incentivise you by offering free nights like a kind of frequent user punch card.
HomeAway: Part of Expedia, so a much bigger company than it used to be. Strange deposit situations.
TurnKey: A bit of an older demographic and user experience, which will totally keep us from using a site.
Trusted House Sitters: Definitely not an apartment rental site, but a growing aspect of travel that shouldn’t be ignored. You’ll need to do some work (mind pets) for this to work out for you. Advanced planning & screening required.
*We are not being sponsored by Trusted House Sitters. We use the service quite a lot and have found house sitting to be a great part of finding accommodations while full-time traveling. If you click the link above, you’ll get 25% off if you sign up and we get a free month.