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5 best alternatives to Airbnb for vacation rentals in 2021

Airbnb isn’t the only vacation rental service on the market — here are five others to consider.
Image of a Smiling gay couple sitting together on lounge chair on pool deck of vacation rental and Young family walking outdoors at beach house
From Sonder to FlipKey, here are some vacation rental services with options all over the world.JohnnyGreig / Getty ; Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

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As a writer who travels the world for a living, I have stayed in all types of accommodations, from five-star resorts to affordable home rentals and everything in between. When I’m looking to immerse myself in a local neighborhood or I’m traveling with a large group, I prefer to book a vacation home. However, after reading reports about (albeit uncommon) hidden cameras in Airbnbs and other situations, I wanted to explore my options, so I started to look for some other rental companies. Fortunately, there are many excellent home rental alternatives to Airbnb at comparable rates that provide a much better value.

Vacation home rentals have been a rising trend amongst group travelers who are looking for accommodations that provide the warmth of a home with the convenience of a hotel. Netflix even has a new show called “The World's Most Amazing Vacation Rentals” highlighting unique properties from every corner of the world for a range of budgets. “A lot of the amenities we experienced on our trip were things we didn't even know we needed, like a llama yoga studio outside of our treehouse located in a bamboo forest ten minutes outside of metropolitan Atlanta,” said Jo Franco, the host of the show.

SKIP AHEAD Airbnb home rental alternatives

With many of the home rental newcomers, you get additional benefits and perks, including access to 24/7 concierge service, the ability to earn and redeem points through a loyalty program and even a private chef.

“What we learned throughout the journey was that it's definitely not just a bed you're booking,” said Franco. “It's everything you get access to because of the property. Travelers today are looking for amenities that become catalysts to memories they'll make on their trips. It can be as small as a welcome basket, or as big as a helicopter ride.”

Home rental alternatives to Airbnb

I’ve booked a stay on a few of the other home rental sites, and these are some of my favorite companies based on value, price and amenities. If you’re planning a trip, here are my top picks for Airbnb alternatives. The prices shown are subject to change based on the type of home or unit and availability.

Homes & Villas by Marriott International

This luxury home rental platform launched in 2019 as Marriott’s solution to the rising demand of vacation rentals. The platform now has more than 30,000 luxury home listings in over 250 popular destinations around the world. High-end, spacious homes and villas are hand-picked and professionally managed by local property management partners, including Vacasa, LaCure, TurnKey Vacation Rentals, and Reserva Conchal.

I booked a stay in a beautiful Malibu home offered on Homes & Villas by Marriott International and I enjoyed the contactless check-in and 24/7 support. But the main reason why I recommend Homes & Villas by Marriott International is that it’s the only home rental platform that allows guests to earn and redeem Marriott Bonvoy points. Guests will earn five points for every eligible dollar spent plus Elite Point bonuses per the Loyalty Program Terms & Conditions. Marriott Bonvoy credit card members will earn 10x the total points per eligible dollar spent (valid through December 31, 2021).

There is a three-night minimum requirement to make a reservation, which can be a drawback if you want to book a short weekend getaway. Rates can vary depending on the destination, but you get a better selection of homes and a greater value. For example, homes in Palm Springs range from $52/night for a 1-bedroom to $5,121/night for a stay at the famed Invisible House in Joshua Tree.

Sonder

Sonder is a great option for long-term business travelers or short-term stays because they offer fully-furnished and well-stocked apartments in over 35 markets including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco. Reservations can be made and managed directly through the Sonder app, which I found to be convenient and user-friendly. The chic apartment interiors impressed me the most. They are thoughtfully designed, drawing inspiration from the local neighborhood and city — and therefore, no two units look alike. Sonder rents and operates individual apartment units or entire floors of existing upscale apartment buildings, which may already offer luxury amenities such as a fitness center, pool and secure building.

FlipKey

This TripAdvisor company is a marketplace for vacation rentals with over 830,000 listings across 190 countries. Since FlipKey is part of TripAdvisor, home listings will show user ratings and reviews, which can be helpful. There are two fees associated with each reservation: a non-refundable booking fee and an owner fee. The booking fee ensures a secure transaction and includes 24/7 customer service, while the owner fee includes things like housekeeping costs. Listings range from apartments and condos to larger homes.

AvantStay

AvantStay offers more than 400 private short-term vacation rentals in the United States, and the company recently announced expansion plans to seven new markets, including Mexico, its first international market. The hospitality brand has a consumer app that makes it easy to access your bookings and any pertinent information about your reservation, including how to check in and out using the contactless smart lock, house rules, and helpful neighborhood details. I love that AvantStay offers 24/7 support and flexible check-in times, which can be convenient after a red-eye flight. The homes are very family-friendly and come equipped with an Echo Dot, Netflix, games and outdoor amenities like heated pools and/or fire pits.

One of the downsides of AvantStay is the fees. Aside from a cleaning and service fee which are higher than most other home rental sites, homes in select cities such as Santa Rosa and Palm Springs also charge a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) and sometimes even a tourism tax. In some cases, the total fees are half the cost of the reservation itself.

AKA

Designed for long-term weekly or monthly stays with a seven-night minimum, AKA offers well-appointed hotel residences that are perfect for business or international travelers and families who seek cozy accommodations with a little more solitude. Furnished, luxury apartments are located in major metropolitan cities like Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C. and London. AKA operates similarly to a hotel with luxury amenities such as 24-hour front desk staff, a business center, an in-house Tesla, a fitness center, bike rentals and a private screening room. The rates are relatively reasonable considering the accommodations and services you get. Additional fees vary per city but may include a municipal surcharge and Transient Occupancy Tax.

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