Holiday travel season is officially upon us. You’ve picked your exciting locale, scheduled your PTO, and now it’s time to turn your attention to something that can make or break any vacation: where you stay.
Vacation rental homes are a great alternative to hotels because not only can you generally find them more affordable, but they make for a totally different kind of holiday. Staying in a home or apartment versus a hotel is perfect for people who want to feel really and truly immersed in the culture of a city. There’s no other way to tune into the heartbeat of a place quite like living like a local—and now, with so many services for vacation rental homes, you aren’t sacrificing the amenities or luxury feeling of staying at a hotel.
Depending on which kind of traveler you are, here’s what booking service you should look into.
If you’re a rental newbie…
Whether you’re traveling on a budget, need a bit of guidance, or simply have no idea where to start, these services are great for demystifying the vacation rental process and helping you every step of the way.
The most widely-known vacation home rental service has made its mark for a reason. The range of rentals it offers is truly incredible: You’re just as likely to find a tiny one bedroom studio apartment as you are to find a Wonder of the World up for grabs on the site. Airbnb’s site has undergone a massive facelift in the last year or so, making the user experience one of the easiest out there, so you can easily customize your search and find the best place for you.
Opt for high-end lodging through Airbnb Plus, make paying for group travel crazy easy though the Split Payment feature, and search for local experiences at your destination to round out your vacation and give you a taste of local culture. You’re most likely to find affordable options here, purely due to the sheer amount of rentals available worldwide. You can even choose to just book a room if you don’t mind cohabitating with other travelers or your Airbnb host. Just be sure to read the reviews—they’ll tell you if you’ll need to scope out a cafe for Wifi and how manageable the six-floor walkup actually is.
Launched in 2017 to bridge the gap between hotels and rental homes, Domio is only available in six locations within the United States (they are expanding to more cities very soon). However, if you’re planning a domestic getaway, their properties are worth checking out. The limited amount of options makes for an uber-specialized experience: each of the hundreds of homes Domio offers is custom-decorated by interior designers. The kitchens are fully-stocked, and guests have access to a 24-hour support should they need help with literally anything. Plus, the homes available through this site are all generally affordable—though of course, there’s a scale. For the traveler overwhelmed by choice who just needs to be sure that whatever they pick has been throroughly vetted, this is the service for you.
If you’re looking to splurge…
Where to check out if you want to truly escape into a bit of opulence for your vacation.
Private beachside retreats, rustic villas, full-on ski chalets… if you’re looking to live in the lap of luxury, this is the service for you. One Fine Stay visits and vets each home in their 180+ destinations around the world, preparing it with amenities that rival and even surpass most five-star hotels.
Beyond the variety of luxe rentals, the guest services One Fine Stay offers also fit the upscale bill. Book extra services and experiences, from private butlers to spa services to restaurant reservations, so you can get the feeling of a resort while still feeling like you have your own space.
If you’re staying long term…
For when you’re heading out of town for a few weeks or a few months—services providing all the flexibility and variety you need.
HomeAway, the vacation rental service behemoth that also owns VRBO and Vacationrentals.com (among others) is rivaled maybe only by Airbnb in terms of variety. The main difference is that HomeAway is a bit more traditional—where Airbnb offers you the option to rent only a room, HomeAway is mostly entire properties, so that you really get that feeling of privacy. And due to the fact that it pulls from so many other rental sites like VRBO, the properties you do find feel more vetted. Which, if you’re staying long term, is definitely a necessity. Just be sure to pay close attention to your search: If you plan on staying somewhere for more than a week, you might want to look at only properties with in-unit laundry. Or maybe, a gym is important to you. All this is super easy to select and navigate via the HomeAway search engine.
The design-focused rental company was founded to bridge the gap between home and hotel, and it does so in the most stylish way possible. The comfort of a hotel (in-person check-in and check-out, “concierges 2.0” that help you navigate the city, unlimited wifi) balances out the freedom that comes from having your very own place to live. The peace of mind needed when searching for a longer-term holiday rental comes from the 60 or 70 item checklist each Oasis property must meet.
Which is what also makes it so perfect for people traveling on business, in search of somewhere to stay whilst they maneuver a foreign city for a longer stretch of time. The site has an entire section dedicated to business travel and offers guests upgrades like private drivers and breakfast boxes to take care of the logistics whenever needed.
If you’re a design aficionado…
Listen, no one chooses a holiday home because it’s ugly. But if you’re the kind of person who would pay more for a beautiful cement kitchen or carefully selected antique furniture, you might want to consider these options.
What makes Hotelette different is that it was actually started by designer Allison Crawford—so a dedication to interior design is quite literally built into every property. Like Domio, Hotelette doesn’t have the broadest range of homes available, with properties in Austin, Nashville, and most recently, Dallas. But given that the company approaches vacation rental homes like boutique hotels, this makes sense.
Each house was painstakingly designed to draw in elements of the surrounding culture and provide guests with the feeling of staying in their dream homes. The website offers city guides to each of the cities—Dallas coming soon—put together by Crawford and her team. The whole operation feels deeply personal and is perfect for travelers who place a premium on design.
Architecture buffs, this one’s for you. Though it follows a similar business model to Airbnb, the guiding difference with PlansMatter is its dedication to architecture: “We are driven entirely by the design quality of the property,” Co-founder Scott Muellner told us in an interview, “our selection criteria is based solely on architectural integrity.”
Which explains why each property listed on PlansMatter feels like it belongs in the pages of an architecture book. There’s even a Frank Dixon-designed home up for grabs. You get a crystal clear idea of exactly what you’re getting into with each property—and we don’t mean things like “includes wifi” or “no elevator.” The descriptors of each place include a list of awards and honors each property has won. This accounts for the higher price tag on most homes available through PlansMatter, but if you’re willing to sacrifice savings for style, the service is worth checking out.
If you have kids…
Of course, having children shouldn’t (and doesn’t) preclude you from going to any other service on this list. But sometimes, you just want to nip potential future headaches in the bud by being absolutely, 100 percent certain that the vacation rental you pick is right for you and your family—which is why this service is so great.
With 50 locations worldwide, you’re hardly strapped for choice. Kid & Coe-curated private family homes and apartments are vetted and kid-proof. They offer mind-easing services like baby equipment rentals and books and toys in their locations, so packing for your holiday is exponentially easier.
With “family amenities” like multi-bedroom homes, sweeping backyard spaces, and toddler-friendly paddling pools, each property is geared towards making the whole family feel like they’re on vacation. Kid & Coe provides its guests with key info about nearby attractions and the best coffee shops (important), so your itinerary is also essentially taken care of. Choose from the kind of vacation you’re looking for (categories like “last minute availability” and “best for kindergarten kids” make your search instantly easier) or just browse by destination. The best part? The design isn’t sacrificed in any of these homes. From villas in Tuscany to Haussmannian apartments in Paris, every space is absolutely stunning.
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