Best Vacation Rental SitesReviewAdvice

Best Vacation Rental Sites for 2016

What is the best vacation rental site?

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Best Vacation Rental Websites

Many dream of one day owning a beautiful house on the beach or a cottage in the mountains but when we snap back to reality, it is clear that dream may be a long way off. However, there is one option that could be the next best thing, a vacation rental. A vacation rental is a house, apartment or a villa that you can rent for a short time as your home away from home. Vacation rentals typically come fully furnished and offer varying amenities.

With a vacation rental, you don't have to worry about property taxes or ongoing maintenance or other issues that are typically associated with buying a vacation home. However, you do get the benefit of being able to escape to a beach, or the countryside, or the woods when you need some rest and relaxation.

Best Vacation Rental Sites: What to Consider

  • First look at the available locations. Rental companies offer rental opportunities in different locations. Finding a location that you want should be your first priority.
  • Do you know any private owners? Sometimes renting through a friend (or a friend of a friend) can save you money and time.
  • Search for amenities that are most important to you. Whether you are looking for a romantic getaway for you and your significant other, or you are looking for a fun trip with the whole family, make sure you are choosing a rental tailored to your type of vacation.
  • Sometimes rentals have strict policies concerning the number of people that are allowed to stay in a home. Make sure you book one with a high enough occupancy limit for you and your friends and family.
  • Are you a renter or an owner? There are more clear differences between sites for owners. Make sure you get one that is ideal for your area.

The Best Vacation Rental Websites

HomeAway Review

  • Pros
  • Established and trustworthy
  • Intuitive search tool
  • Incredibly wide selection
  • Consumer reviews from former occupants
  • No traveler fees
  • Cons
  • 10% or less in booking fees

HomeAway is a vacation rental site where you can connect to a network of different home owners in order to find the perfect location and accommodation for you. Using their intuitive and easy to use search tool can help you find a rental that is perfect for your vacation. First, you can type in the destination, dates and number of occupants. This will show you all of the available rentals that match your specifications. Then you can set even more filters such as price, number of bathrooms and bedrooms, the type of location (lake, ocean, mountains ect.), the type of property, and a large variety of other features.

When you are ready to book a rental you can read through the rental agreement and sign once you've decided that you are ready. However, before you submit your payment make sure you look at the property photos carefully and read reviews provided by people who have stayed in the place before. If there are limited photos, reviews and information or if you have a hard time contacting the owner, you should look for another rental.

HomeAway features properties all over the globe so you can choose anything from a beach house in Florida to a castle in Denmark. With such a wide variety and a comprehensive search tool, you are likely to find a rental that best suits your dream vacation.

Verdict - Superb

HomeAway's variety and easy to use site make it an excellent choice when you are looking for a vacation rental.

VacationHomeRentals Review

  • Pros
  • Intuitive search tool
  • Established and trustworthy
  • Fairly wide selection
  • Consumer reviews from former occupants
  • Allows owners to post unlimited pictures
  • Cons
  • $299 per listing annually

Vacation Home Rentals is a vacation rental site owned by TripAdvisor that has a lot of special features. Like many of the top vacation rental sites, Vacation Home Rentals has an excellent search tool that can help you easily find the right place for you.

When you type in your destination and the dates of your vacation, you are presented with a map of the area you selected so you can pick the exact area that you'd like to stay in. For instance, if you'd like to take a trip to Maine you can easily choose one of its seven counties to stay in using the map feature. Once you select your area you can filter your results even further buy checking amenities that you'd like to have like air conditioning, a private pool, or a full kitchen.

Vacation Home Rentals allows owners to put up an unlimited amount of pictures to give home owners a complete idea of what the property will look like. Other top sites limit owners to including only five photos.

Verdict - Great

Vacation Home Rentals is a great option for both renters and owners. Their backing by Trip Advisor is an excellent advantage.

VRBO Review

  • Pros
  • Established and trustworthy
  • Intuitive search tool
  • Incredibly wide selection
  • Consumer reviews from former occupants
  • No traveler fees
  • Cons
  • Basically the same as HomeAway
  • 10% booking fees for pay-per booking service

VRBO is owned by HomeAway and the two sites share many similarities. In fact, you can see on VRBO that it is "powered by HomeAway" giving it the same resources and access to many vacation rentals around the world. However, VRBO has been around longer and the company has a well established reputation and audience, which is noteworthy.

Because it is powered by HomeAway, VRBO has access to the same worldwide vacation rentals. It also has a very similar search tools with excellent filters, making it easy to find the right place for your vacation.

Although, the two sites are very similar for travelers, there is one significant difference for homeowners who are looking to list properties. Since it is a long-standing vacation rental site, VRBO has a core group of loyal users, which is valuable to owners who are renting out homes. However, HomeAway does appear to have more ad campaigns circulating throughout the media.

Verdict - Very Good

For renters, VRBO is basically the same great site as HomeAway. For owners, you want to look into taking advantage of VRBO's long standing history.

FlipKey Review

  • Pros
  • 60 day free trial for owners
  • Intuitive search tool
  • Consumer reviews from former occupants
  • Fairly wide selection of properties
  • No traveler fees
  • Cons
  • 5% to 10% booking fees for payment service

Flip Key is another vacation rental site that is owned by Trip Advisor, one of the largest travel sites in the industry. Being backed by such a well-established company with many types of listings and thousands of reviews is a big advantage.

Traveler's enjoy an easy to use website with an intuitive search function and a large variety of available listings. Type in your dates and destinations and then find a list of available rentals sorted by the different areas of the region you chose. Plus, the site will give you a brief description of what your chosen area has to offer. For instance, if you type in Maine, you read through a description of the state's skiing, hiking, and cuisine opportunities.

For owners, the abundance of reviews and traffic from Trip Advisor is ideal for gaining exposure for your listings which ultimately means bookings. They also offer tools to help you put those reviews on your own site. Plus, you can take advantage of their 60 day free trial if you just want to try it out.

Verdict - Very Good

Flip Key a good choice for travelers who are looking for a seamless rental booking experience and plenty of available information.

VacationRentals.com Review

  • Pros
  • Affordable rates for owners
  • Intuitive search tool
  • Incredibly wide selection
  • Consumer reviews from former occupants
  • No traveler fees
  • Cons
  • Basically the same as HomeAway
  • 10% booking fees for payment service

Vacation Rentals.com is another site that is, "part of the HomeAway family" meaning it is owned and powered by HomeAway. That means that it has the same excellent resources and over a million listings all over the world. The search function is also very comprehensive, allowing you to quickly find exactly what you are looking for.

First you enter in your preferred destination and the dates of your vacations. The site will generate a list of rentals that meet your criteria. You can continue to filter results by checking different amenities, rental types and nearby attractions.

While Vacation Rentals is nearly the same site as HomeAway.com for travelers, it does make a difference for owners. Vacation rental owners need a site that is both cost effective and yields good results. VacationRentals.com is the cheapest option of HomeAway's three rental sites and some users report getting the most bookings there. However, this can vary from owner to owner. Rentals in certain areas will do well on some sites but not others. Plus, HomeAway is a top player in the industry so they may be hard to beat.

Verdict - Good

For travelers, VacationRentals.com is another clone of HomeAway.com and you will find very similar listings, service and online tools on each site. However, owners may want to consider the site for its affordable rates.

Best Vacation Rental Sites Recap

Travelers who are looking for an excellent booking experience should try out some of the trusted vacation rental websites sites to make sure they find the best deal. Owners should be sure to read terms and conditions and take advantage of free trials before they chose a site to list their properties.

Best Vacation Rental Sites FAQs

Should I contact the property owner directly or go through an agency?

Each option has its pros and cons, and it depends on your situation, personal needs, and vacation preferences. If you contact a property owner directly, you pay no middleman commission and can negotiate things like rent and date right away. However, you are only limited to one or two or three properties, assuming the landlord owns that many houses.

With an agency, you either pay a commission per search or an annual fee that allows you to explore the agency's portfolio of properties around the world or within the confines of the specific region you want. Houses that you can tour online range from penthouse suites to five or six bedroom villas and luxury studios that are suitable for singles and young couples.

Why is it better to rent a vacation home than to book a hotel room?

First, you have price. Hotel room rates, when you add them up on a monthly basis, cost way more than a private vacation home. For example, you can pay $100 per room at a decent hotel, which comes up to $3,000 on a monthly basis, whereas you can rent a well-kept and reasonably furnished apartment or house (I did not say room!) for half-price, say, $1,500 per month.

Second, you have flexibility. Some hotels may not accept pets, whereas, with some luck, a landlord may grant your four-legged cutie pie access to the premises.

Amenities and accommodations come in third position. Unless you book at a 3, 4, or 5-star hotel, you may not have enough amenities, such as pools and fitness centers, at a regular hotel. But you can rent a vacation house with these amenities or share them with other tenants if the landlord owns several properties and favors a collective use of amenities.

How do I make sure I get the home I see on the internet?

Confirm this point with the landlord or rental agency personnel before signing any paperwork. Normally, you would get the same property or a similar one if the agency handles multiple villas or apartments in the same location. The process works similarly to what you see in the car rental industry, in which you don't necessarily get the same car you saw or booked on the rental agency's website.

If your heart is set on staying in the home you see in pictures on the site, contact the landlord to ask if you can stay in that rental.

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FYI, HomeAway, VRBO and VacationRentals.com now charge traveller fees. This makes them no better for travellers than FlipKey. Sites that do not charge traveller fees include Vacation Home Rentals, HomeEscape, United Vacation Rentals, and of course, booking directly with the owner. If you see a home you like on a site that charges a traveller fee, often you can google the name of the home and find the owner's website for direct booking.

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In order for MoneySavingPro to remain a consumer free service, many of the companies covered in our industry reviews compensate MoneySavingPro for new sign ups.

However, the results of our comparison tools, the rankings of the providers and the information presented is not affected by compensation. Indeed, many of these companies approach us for an advertising partnership after we have already written a published their reviews.

While we try to research and review as many providers as possible in the 100+ industries we cover, we have not reviewed every company available.

Our rating system is independent of compensation and reflects our true understanding of the industry and the company based on a variety of factors. The companies that receive the highest rating will always be the providers that we believe offer the best value to the consumer.

Advertiser Disclosure

In order for MoneySavingPro to remain a consumer free service, many of the companies covered in our industry reviews compensate MoneySavingPro for new sign ups.

However, the results of our comparison tools, the rankings of the providers and the information presented is not affected by compensation. Indeed, many of these companies approach us for an advertising partnership after we have already written a published their reviews.

While we try to research and review as many providers as possible in the 100+ industries we cover, we have not reviewed every company available.

Our rating system is independent of compensation and reflects our true understanding of the industry and the company based on a variety of factors. The companies that receive the highest rating will always be the providers that we believe offer the best value to the consumer.