6 Alternatives to Airbnb to Try for Your Next Trip
When traveling, securing a place to stay the night is a must. Although Airbnb may be your go-to — which is no wonder, since it’s well-known for unique properties and ease of booking — the platform is not the only way to secure one-of-a-kind accommodations.
Several other companies (some even debuting before Airbnb) provide everything from luxe properties to free stays if you’re willing to do a bit of work while you’re on site. So whether you’re looking for a one-night stay or seeking to linger somewhere a bit longer, here are six alternative sites to consider before you book an Airbnb.
Although VRBO flies under the radar, the platform predates Airbnb. Susan Wheaton has been using VRBO to list her Martha’s Vineyard home since 2004. It’s also her go-to platform for booking short-term stays when she is on the go. “I’ve rarely had an issue with the services VRBO provides,” she says. “As a traveler, I have a tendency to use VRBO when searching both week-long and short-term rentals in the U.S.”
Many hosts list on Airbnb and VRBO to ensure their calendar stays full, so it’s wise to check both platforms to see which one offers the better price or makes you feel more comfortable. “I went to Maine for four nights with my family and found the rental I liked on both platforms, finally renting through VRBO,” says Wheaton, although she has found Airbnb more convenient for booking accommodations abroad.
When it comes to saving money, looking at the listings on Homestay can be kind to your wallet. If there is a Homestay listing in your destination, it’s a great way to find cheap housing while building on an interesting concept: staying in someone’s home, hence the name. “A lot of locals will offer a spare room in their home for travelers, meaning you get a truly local experience and live with someone who knows the area quite well,” says Kami Shoemaker, an avid traveler. In her understanding, Homestay’s fees are much lower than those of other platforms.
However, Shoemaker suggests that the booking site may not be your best bet when traveling to an obscure area. “It’s pretty simple to use, but the only downside is that it’s not as popular as other platforms,” she advises. “So unless you’re visiting a very well-known or popular location, you might have trouble finding spots.”
If you need to stay somewhere long term — say, if you’re moving to a new area and need to find a home or are working remotely for a few months — Furnished Finder can help you discover a longer-term rental. Designed for traveling professionals staying for a minimum of 30 days, this platform is a matching service between renters and landlords. Once you find a suitable stay, you contact the owner and work everything out through them. Each host updates their calendar and handles payments directly through the renter. Furnished Finder is a bit different than other platforms, because it puts you in contact with the owner, so you can ask questions and possibly even work out a better deal before booking.
One of the downsides of some platforms is that hosts can list their properties without external quality control. Sometimes photos and descriptions aren’t what they seem. Plum Guide is a great option for anyone who has been holding off booking a short-term rental because of the lack of vetting — this site has an intensive quality approval process. This assurance does come at a higher cost, though. If you’re looking for a bargain, don’t tempt yourself by looking at Plum Guide’s gorgeous listings.
Aside from Airbnb, Sylvie Coleman, a travel expert at a family website, often books via Plum Guide for vacations and business trips. As a host, getting listed on this platform is difficult, but the quality control gives travelers peace of mind. “The website has very strict criteria during applications, from listing shower pressure to the linen used in the bedsheets,” says Coleman. “It’s a great thing as you’ll always be assured to have a good quality stay.”
In hotel-meets-short-term-rental style, Sonder blends the service of a hotel concierge with the ease of booking unique accommodations. Although Sonder is currently only available in more metropolitan areas like Denver, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, the platform is growing due to impeccable customer service. “They have beautiful spaces in local neighborhoods and a very useful app, where you can control everything from WiFi to room service with 24/7 customer service,” advises Louise Walker, who travels regularly. In addition, Sonder’s app allows guests to do everything from ordering fresh towels to finding the area’s best restaurants.
Although a bit unconventional, if you want the comfort of home and possibly the company of someone else’s pet, Trusted Housesitters allows guests to stay for free in exchange for house or pet sitting. Before you raise an eyebrow, yes, both hosts and sitters are vetted, and signing up as a housesitter doesn’t automatically guarantee you’ll score a free stay.
“Overall, it’s pretty easy to use, since you just sign up, fill in as much detailed information as possible about yourself, and apply to any open spots you see,” advises Shoemaker. If you have a flexible schedule, one perk of using Trusted Housesitters regularly (and successfully, of course) means that word will spread, and homeowners will start to seek you out. “Once you gain enough reputation on the website, there will be times when owners themselves reach out to you,” she adds. Plus, making a vacant home appear lived in while feeding, walking, and taking care of pets is a great way to provide a service while exploring a new area.