House exchanges became a low-cost vacation alternative in the 1950s. With the advent of the Internet, vacation rental and house swapping arrangements are fast becoming many travelers’ preferred accommodation choice in the face of rising hotel costs. Recent statistics indicate that nearly a quarter of leisure travelers have stayed in a vacation home and at least half are interested in trying it. Whether it’s a tiny cottage tucked away on an inlet of Georgian Bay or a sprawling Parisian apartment across from the Eiffel Tower, a vacation rental often provides more space and amenities while thoroughly immersing you in the local experience. But it can be difficult to comb through the nearly endless online listings, so here are our five favourite sites for finding your next temporary home away from home.
AirBnB is arguably the most well-known vacation rental site and has become particularly popular with budget travelers. Users are able to post a free listing. With offerings ranging from pull-out couches to private apartments, they currently boast over 300,000 listings in 192 countries. Once you find something you like, you can make a booking right away with a fee of six to 12 percent added by AirBnB. As a safety precaution, funds are not removed from your account until 24 hours after check-in to ensure accommodations live up to their description.
An offshoot of popular review site TripAdvisor, FlipKey has quickly risen through the ranks to be named “Top Vacation Rental Site” by Travel Leisure. Every rental owner is verified by the site’s staff and they feature at least 5,000 special deals daily to help you find the perfect place to stay during your next holiday.
HomeAway is the savvy traveler’s go-to for private vacation homes. While nearly a third of the site’s 290,000 listings are concentrated in the United States, you can search through vacation rentals in 171 countries. Search through listings based on your must-have features (two bathrooms? pet-friendly?) and rank them by location, dates, or price. You can also compare your favourite listings side-by-side while checking out reviews from previous guests.
With its 90,000 plus listings, 9Flats isn’t the largest of our vacation rental faves but they’ve accumulated a die-hard following. Focusing on the little things that set their rentals apart (“A window box full of herbs… a hammock on a sunlit balcony… a stylish espresso machine… a fully-stocked bookshelf… when did you last find these in your hotel room?”), they’ve found their niche providing unique holiday experiences – you can even book a stay in an igloo!
LoveHomeSwap offers the opportunity of finding a vacation home to stay in free of charge – providing you’re willing to let someone to stay in your own abode, too. Whether you want to swap or rent, you can save on accommodations for your next trip and find somewhere to stay that feels like home.