When you’re traveling to a new city, your choices today aren’t limited to hotels alone. Sites like Airbnb, Homeaway, and VRBO let homeowners rent their spaces to travelers. Which one is right for you though?
Airbnb is now the biggest of these sites to find a place to stay. But HomeAway and VRBO, both part of the Expedia network, aren’t too far behind. Each has its own pros and cons, but the one thing they have in common are the security threats you need to know.
What Sets Airbnb Apart
Generally speaking, an Airbnb listing will be cheaper than hotels and serviced apartments. It’s perfect for backpackers. But booking a room on Airbnb over a hotel gives you several benefits that you probably didn’t think about.
- You will meet, stay, and hang out with locals. Get a well-rated host and you’ll find someone happy to show you around the city, give you great ideas, and generally make your stay awesome.
- Your costs are flexible. Go grocery shopping with your host and cook up a dinner at home. You might end up saving some money.
- The small comforts of a home will add up to awesomeness. Hotels will charge for every small amenity or service. On the other hand, your Airbnb host usually won’t mind you borrowing everyday household items.
We’ve looked at more Airbnb basics if you need a primer.
HomeAway and Airbnb operate in the same number of countries. HomeAway has roughly two million listings, compared to Airbnb’s four million. Based on pure numbers, HomeAway is Airbnb’s largest competitor.
Biggest Differences Between Airbnb and HomeAway
- HomeAway has better reviews. While both sites only let actual renters post a review after successfully checking out, for some reason, Airbnb has a 14-day time limit. HomeAway lets renters write reviews up to a year from the time of booking. As a result, you tend to get more reviews, and better reviews, on HomeAway.
- Don’t let the service fee matter. Yes, HomeAway’s guest fee is 6-12%, while AirBnB’s service fee is 0-20%. But while the percentages vary, the average fee comes to the same for similar listings.
- HomeAway offers insurance against last-minute cancellation. Imagine landing in a new place and finding out your host has canceled your reservation. It’s a common problem on Airbnb, and the company makes you fend for yourself. Sure, you’ll get a refund, but a last-minute booking is going to cost a lot. On the other hand, HomeAway offers insurance with its Book With Confidence Guarantee. This includes not just a refund, but rebooking assistance in case of last-minute cancellations, so your costs don’t go up.
When to Use HomeAway Over Airbnb
I don’t think it’s a case of using one over the other. When you’re researching your travel plans, check the listings on both Airbnb and HomeAway. The listings don’t always overlap, and there isn’t a universal search aggregator.
VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) looks and feels like a much more expensive site than Airbnb. What makes it one of the high quality alternatives to Airbnb is that VRBO caters to a slightly more upmarket crowd.
Biggest Differences Between Airbnb and VRBO
- VRBO lets you rent only full houses, not a single or shared room. In a way, this is good because you know there are no hidden clauses about someone else sharing the space. It’s a persistent problem on Airbnb, with many travelers complaining about false advertising.
- VRBO’s service fee is 6-12%, while Airbnb’s service fee is 0-20%. That said, Airbnb service fees reduce as the total rental cost increases. VRBO homes are generally more expensive than those listed on Airbnb, so the fee looks hefty for long stays.
- VRBO cancellation policies are a little different from Airbnb. While both give you full or partial refunds, I found VRBO’s listings generally require you to cancel a month or more in advance for any sort of refund. Airbnb almost always gives you free cancellation in the next 48 hours from the time of your booking.
When to Use VRBO Over Airbnb
When you’re not on a budget and instead booking a vacation home for a family or a get-together, VRBO will be the better choice. The kinds of homes listed here are not available on Airbnb, which is a more mass-market site in some ways. VRBO’s listings look premium, and usually have price tags to match. But hey, you pay more for quality.
Airbnb vs. Hotels
While we’ve talked about the benefits of Airbnb over hotels, it’s not for everyone. Hotels are a service industry, while Airbnb listings are about fending for yourself.
Biggest Differences Between Airbnb and Hotels
- The conveniences of a hotel are tremendous. You’ll get 24-hour check-in, enter and leave the room at your own timings, get room service, and a maid will clean up your room while you’re away. That’s not an experience you can expect on Airbnb. If you want a vacation where you get what you want and when you want it, a hotel will always be better.
- Hotels offer last-minute deals, which Airbnb doesn’t. Again, since hotels are a business, they will often slash their prices at the last minute because their job is to fill up rooms. Airbnb hosts work on tighter margins, so they aren’t likely to do last-minute deals.
- Earn and redeem loyalty points. Hotel chains across the world give you loyalty points, usually on the same cards as your frequent flyer miles and other travel purchases. Plus, once you master the tips and tricks of Booking.com, you will get hotel rooms at prices that even Airbnb can’t match sometimes.
When to Use Hotels Over Airbnb
Do you want independence or do you want convenience? Anyone who wants independence while traveling should go with an Airbnb. Anyone who wants the convenience of a vacation should go with a hotel.
Looking for the Cheapest Stay?
For budget travelers, it doesn’t matter which service you use. It’s all about finding the best deal for a low price. There are sites like Tripping that let you search across every vacation rental listing apart from Airbnb.
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