The Best Vacation Rental Sites of 2022

Choosing the right place to stay on vacation can make or break the entire trip. Feel confident in your rental choice by booking with one of the best vacation rental sites.

By Brie Greenhalgh | Updated May 10, 2022 5:45 PM

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The Best Vacation Rental Sites Options

Photo: istockphoto.com

It’s time to jump on the vacation rental bandwagon if you haven’t already. This growing market has exploded in popularity in the past several years, thanks largely to the ease and accessibility of the best vacation rental sites. Renting out part of a home—or the entire house—is fast becoming a source of pride and income for many homeowners eager to share their home with visitors who want to experience a local stay in a new city. For travelers in a group or family, having an entire house at their disposal is a great advantage that can make a long trip more convenient—not to mention the extra space is much appreciated.

Travelers can easily search for vacation rentals by using one of the top vacation rental sites. These vacation rental websites include pertinent information about the rental listing, guest reviews, amenities, expectations, and sometimes different experiences that can also be booked. And of course, there are plenty of filter choices to narrow down a selection with specific amenities or a minimum number of bedrooms. We evaluated several home rental options to come up with a list of the best vacation rental sites that will provide travelers with the top choices for booking a memorable vacation.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Airbnb
  2. RUNNER-UP: Vrbo
  3. FULL-SERVICE BOOKING: Expedia
  4. BEST HOME EXCHANGE: Love Home Swap
  5. HONORABLE MENTION: Homestay
  6. ALSO CONSIDER: Booking.com
The Best Vacation Rental Sites Options

Photo: istockphoto.com

What to Consider When Choosing One of the Best Vacation Rental Sites

With more than 115,000 vacation home rental agencies globally, it can be overwhelming to decide where to book weekly rentals. When booking private home rentals, there are several factors to consider, such as the type of rental, amenities, fees, and cancellation policies. The most trusted vacation rental sites will make this kind of information readily accessible on their websites to avoid confusion. Use the following criteria to help guide the decision-making process for where to book private home rentals.

Availability and Guest Needs

When guests are searching for a rental in a less popular destination, larger vacation rental sites will have the most rentals available; however, any site will quickly book up when guests search for a place to stay during popular festivals or events. Plan ahead to reserve the ideal house to rent for the weekend when making arrangements to visit a city when a big event is happening.

The number of guests staying together is another criterion that is important to factor. Some vacation rental sites will have more options for larger groups, whereas others focus on individual bookings of single rooms in a house—sometimes just an available couch! The maximum occupancy will be an excellent place to start, but if the group has more children than adults (or vice versa), then ask the host about sleeping arrangements and maximum occupancy limits.

If special accommodations are needed, be sure to review the home’s accessibility, especially in the case of mobility limitations. In these cases, reviewing the exterior and interior photos is helpful, but it’s also wise to reach out directly to the owner with any questions to avoid confusion and disappointment.

Types of Rentals and Number of Listings

The best vacation rental sites focus on various rentals to meet a range of travel needs. Some offer everything from private house rentals to shared rooms, while others focus only on renting out part of a home instead of the whole house. On rental websites, it’s possible to find whole homes, high-end villas, entire islands, private rooms, shared rooms, hotel rooms, guest apartments (perhaps with a mini kitchen but a shared bathroom), or just a bed.

Check the listing carefully to make sure the rental is exactly what’s expected to avoid any unpleasant surprises upon arrival. Booking a room in an occupied house is a great option for gregarious budget or solo travelers, but it’s not ideal for friends and families traveling together.
Ideally, there should be at least dozens of rentals listed on a short-term rental site, regardless of the room type available. This offers travelers many options for choosing a rental that meets their needs.

Amenities

Choosing to stay in a cool old home is different from choosing a hotel that offers standard amenities. Still, some amenities can be expected depending on the type of rental. When renting a private house for longer than a weekend, check to see if there is a washer and dryer, air conditioning, Wi-Fi, a fully stocked kitchen, and entertainment of some kind such as games or a TV. Some condo rentals come with access to property amenities such as game rooms, gyms, pools, and laundry facilities.

Shared rooms will list any communal amenities available to guests, but they might also come with restrictions. For instance, the kitchen might be available for use only during certain hours of the day. When booking a room in an occupied house, review the available amenities to make sure the conditions are acceptable. Always be proactive by asking any questions before booking.

Though it’s not an amenity per se, checking the location and proximity to any public transportation is also essential when deciding where to book. Traveling without a car means it’s best to choose a rental near a bus stop or train station. On the other hand, staying in a popular, walkable tourist neighborhood could be more costly overall, even if it would save on transportation fees.

Deposit, Payment, and Fees

Reputable vacation rental sites do not hide information regarding the cost of a rental. Each host or rental agency is generally allowed to choose their own deposit requirements (often, there’s a limit that can’t be exceeded) and nightly rental price. Any fees collected by either the host or the rental website must be clearly listed in the listing or the subtotal before booking. This provides prospective guests with an accurate estimate of what they’ll pay at the time of booking and upon arrival if full payment isn’t required up front.

Mobile App

The best vacation rental sites make transactions easy to search, book, and manage by providing hosts and guests with mobile apps. These apps are handy ways to view a mobile-optimized booking on a phone compared to reading tiny print on a website.

The other advantage is that these apps make it safe and easy to communicate with the host or rental agency. Rather than exchanging phone numbers, all communication can be completed through the app. And in the unlikely event that a problem occurs that needs to be escalated to customer service, it’s enormously helpful to have the entire conversation recorded in the app.

Property and Host Reviews

It’s a badge of honor for property owners to have five-star reviews for their property, but it’s not an easy feat, especially when newbie home renters don’t understand what to expect and leave a negative review for something that was clearly stated in the listing. Some websites provide their top-reviewed hosts with badges that signify their superior ratings, which instills confidence in prospective guests. On the other hand, some hosts and rental agencies suffer poor performance reviews for repeated problems, so it’s worth checking their listing on other sites to verify their track record.

Reviews about a property are an essential and necessary tool that provide future guests with an accurate picture of what to expect about a property and the host. Reading reviews is an important responsibility of prospective guests.

Some home rental sites also allow hosts to review their guests. This is an advantage for hosts who can decline guests with a history of poor behavior in a rental, so it’s wise to treat a rental property with respect.

Cancellation Policy

Every vacation home rental should have a cancellation policy readily available for guests to examine. However, there is no standard cancellation policy in the home rental market, so it’s best to review the website’s policy carefully. Most locations have a limited time frame for returning a deposit, and it’s sometimes determined by the host—but it often falls within criteria set up by the vacation rental site.

Customer Support

While it’s never fun to have to reach out to a website’s customer support, it’s best to book a rental on a site with a solid customer support system. Ideally, guests can reach out to customer support 24/7 and over a variety of media such as phone, email, and live chat. This affords guests the reassurance that any issues will be resolved quickly.

Our Top Picks

We narrowed down our choices for the best vacation rental sites by reviewing key criteria such as the types of rentals, the listings available, cancellation policies, customer support, and other considerations that made these sites stand out.

Best Overall

The Best Vacation Rental Sites Option: Airbnb
Photo: airbnb.com

Why It Made the Cut: Airbnb consistently ranks high on the list of rental sites due to its massive number and type of listings, easy-to-use website, and the ability to book experiences along with a rental.

Airbnb has become a household name as the biggest home-sharing platform. Though it began as a room-sharing site for budget travelers, this vacation rental site now offers entire home rentals (of every price range), private or shared rooms, and even some hotel rooms. There are 5.6 million listings available to search, which means guests are sure to find a great place to stay in nearly any city as Airbnb continues to expand its footprint in the world. Best of all, the company strives to inspect and vet rental locations in person to verify the accuracy of each listing. The properties that have been inspected are verified as Airbnb Plus, a listing that gives renters confidence they’re getting what they pay for.

The website is easy to use, and the side-by-side map and listings make it easy for travelers to see exactly where they’re booking. Airbnb has an impressive customer support system that makes it easy to get help when needed. However, in an effort to cater to many needs of guests and hosts, Airbnb’s cancellation policy has six tiers that can be confusing, so guests will need to pay attention to the fine print when booking. But one major win for travelers is that Airbnb offers guests the chance to book experiences along with their rentals to round out their vacation.

Specs

  • Types of rentals: Entire home, private room, shared room, hotel room
  • Number of listings: 5.6 million
  • Mobile app: iOS, Android
  • Cancellation policy: Determined by host
  • Customer support: Phone, in app

Pros

  • Over 5 million listings worldwide
  • Guests can book experiences through the site
  • Side-by-side map and listings streamlines browsing
  • Airbnb Plus listings assure quality

Cons

  • Cancellation policy can be confusing

Runner-Up

The Best Vacation Rental Sites Option: Vrbo
Photo: vrbo.com

Why It Made the Cut: Vrbo offers travelers a collection of private rentals only, and its website makes it easy for travelers to organize (and coordinate) their favorite listings when planning a trip with a group.

Families and groups appreciate that Vrbo has made a name in the private home rentals niche. There are no shared or private rooms available on this site, which means guests don’t have to worry about tiptoeing quietly into the house late at night. There are over 2 million listings available worldwide on this site, and that number grows every year. A popular feature on its website and mobile app is the trip board. It’s an easy way for guests to organize and coordinate their favorite rentals as they plan a trip to any destination.

There are also a wide range of filters that can be used while searching, which makes it easy to narrow down to exactly the type of property that’s needed. And Vrbo’s customer support has an entire team dedicated to helping with cancellations, which is reassuring for guests who need assistance. Since the listings on Vrbo are for entire homes, there tend to be higher fees (including cleaning fees) than those on other websites, but the convenience of having an entire house overcomes the extra cost—especially since having a kitchen can save on meal costs.

Specs

  • Types of rentals: Entire home
  • Number of listings: 2 million
  • Mobile app: iOS, Android
  • Cancellation policy: Determined by host
  • Customer support: Phone, in app

Pros

  • Trip boards allow guests to save and organize listings
  • Wide range of filters to customize searches
  • Dedicated customer service team to handle host cancellations

Cons

  • Fees can be relatively high

Full-Service Booking

The Best Vacation Rental Sites Option: Expedia
Photo: expedia.com

Why It Made the Cut: Expedia offers full-service vacation bookings with hotel rooms or full house rentals in addition to other offerings such as flights, cars, and airport transportation.

Expedia has a long history in the vacation booking industry, so it makes sense that it would also offer house rentals. Guests can find 1.8 million private home rentals on Expedia in addition to over a million hotel listings. That means guests are sure to find a place to stay in many cities where there might not be a home rental available. Booking on Expedia also means guests can book flights and transportation at the same time as their accommodation to streamline the entire vacation planning process.

Since Expedia has been in the business since 1996, it knows the importance of offering travelers plenty of search filters to find the ideal property to rent. This long history in the business also ensures the company keeps customer needs at the forefront, which is why it offers travel experiences geared toward families, businesses, and LGBTQ+ travelers. Expedia’s filters also include extensive accessibility considerations for travelers with disabilities. Still, vacation rentals on Expedia might have a higher price point than others, and there might not be as many reviews for each property compared to other sites. But Expedia’s established business model and solid customer support program help ensure a great experience if a guest needs help with their booking.

Specs

  • Types of rentals: Entire home, hotel room
  • Number of listings: 1.8 million
  • Mobile app: iOS, Android
  • Cancellation policy: Determined by host
  • Customer support: Phone, live chat

Pros

  • Guests can book flights, cars, airport transportation, and vacation rentals at the same time
  • Extensive accessibility search filters
  • Explicitly business-, family-, and LGBTQ+-friendly traveler experiences available

Cons

  • Prices may be relatively high
  • Fewer reviews available than on other sites

Best Home Swap

The Best Vacation Rental Sites Option: Love Home Swap
Photo: lovehomeswap.com

Why It Made the Cut: Love Home Swap offers like-minded homeowners a chance to swap places with other homeowners in over 100 countries rather than paying for lodging.

Love Home Swap fills a need for homeowners who love the idea of opening their home to travelers in exchange for a chance to stay in someone else’s home in another part of the world. Guests can either swap homes at the same time, or they can offer the destination homeowner points that can be used at another time. This makes for flexible bookings so that everyone has a chance to stay somewhere they’d like to visit. The biggest advantage is that homeowners eliminate the cost of lodging completely since they’re willing to let guests use their homes.

Both guests agree to conditions regarding cleaning, pets, and exchanging keys, which is helpful so that homeowners address their unique concerns rather than following rules that might not apply to them. Unfortunately, there is no mobile app yet, but it’s still easy to communicate with international travelers using free apps or email. There’s also an active community platform so travelers can plan their vacations and connect with like-minded people. Love Home Swap users have 2 weeks to try the site for free, then they must sign up for a membership; however, it’s a small price to pay when guests could enjoy an entire house rental for free in a dream destination.

Specs

  • Types of rentals: Home swap
  • Number of listings: Not specified
  • Mobile app: No
  • Cancellation policy: Full points refund within 48 hours after booking
  • Customer support: Phone, email

Pros

  • Guests can choose between classic swap or points swap
  • Swapping eliminates the cost of lodging
  • Active community platform

Cons

  • No mobile app
  • Users must sign up for a membership after 2-week free trial

Honorable Mention

The Best Vacation Rental Sites Option: Homestay
Photo: homestay.com

Why It Made the Cut: Homestay offers students, solo travelers, and budget travelers a room in an occupied house for a great price.

Homestay has carved out a niche as a website that offers travelers rooms to rent in homes that are occupied by the owners. It’s ideal for travelers on a budget or who really prefer to stay with a local host who might become a great friend. Most hosts are friendly and helpful to guests, which can make the stay more enjoyable and fulfilling if a guest is interested in learning about the city and things to do and see. Since there are only single rooms available, the global average nightly rental rate is $38, which makes it a great way for cost-conscious travelers to see more of the world.

Homestay only offers customer support by email, but having a live-in host usually eliminates any issues with a booking since you can communicate directly. It’s important to note that Homestay does not conduct any background checks on the hosts, so guests should check host reviews. The vast majority of guests enjoy quality experiences with local hosts, which is why Homestay is a growing and popular way to book a stay in a shared space.

Specs

  • Types of rentals: Private room
  • Number of listings: 37,000
  • Mobile app: iOS, Android
  • Cancellation policy: 7 days before arrival
  • Customer support: Email

Pros

  • Single-room rental available
  • Global average nightly cost of $38
  • Live-in hosts can address any issues or concerns

Cons

  • Customer support is only available over email
  • No background check performed on hosts

Also Consider

The Best Vacation Rental Sites Option: Booking com
Photo: booking.com

Why It Made the Cut: Booking.com offers total vacation packages, including home or hotel rentals, cars, flights, airport transportation, and even experiences.

Home rentals are a newer space for Booking.com, but the company is fast building up the number of rentals available on its site. It’s helpful to be able to search for a place to stay and see both home rentals and hotel rooms come up after a traveler has already booked their flight and rental car on the same site. Travelers who are more environmentally conscious will especially appreciate that Booking.com offers a Travel Sustainable search filter to book stays at locations that are eco-friendly.

Since home rentals are newer to Booking.com, the site does not complete background checks on hosts, and there are fewer reviews available compared to other sites. Most rental properties on Booking.com require payment directly between host and guest, which eliminates Booking.com’s customer support as an intermediary if there is an issue, but it might also reduce costs without the excess middleman fees. The other feature guests will appreciate is that they can also book tours and experiences on the website to help get their vacation planned and ready to go ahead of time.

Specs

  • Types of rentals: Entire home, hotel room
  • Number of listings: Not specified
  • Mobile app: iOS, Android
  • Cancellation policy: Determined by host
  • Customer support: Phone, live chat

Pros

  • Guests can book flights, cars, airport transportation, and vacation rentals at the same time
  • Guests can book experiences through the site
  • Travel Sustainable badge awarded to eco-friendly rentals

Cons

  • No background check performed on hosts
  • Many rentals require guest to pay host directly
  • Fewer reviews available than on other sites

Our Verdict

In terms of overall value and available listings, we recommend Airbnb and Vrbo as the best vacation rental sites. Airbnb offers the widest variety of home sharing listings and has a solid customer support system, while Vrbo is a popular choice for private home rentals and organizing a trip with other people.

How We Chose the Best Vacation Rental Sites

Our process of narrowing down the best vacation rental sites was driven by the need to ensure quality listings from brand-name companies, great customer support, and flexible options for guests. We conducted an in-depth evaluation of dozens of websites. We ensured user-friendliness and considered the availability of a mobile app as an appealing bonus.

Our selections include sites that have different rental niches that suit the needs of different travelers, whether they’re exploring in a group, family, or solo. This helps provide prospective travelers with an advantage as they begin their search for the perfect vacation or summer rentals. These rental sites aim to assist guests with a high-quality experience during the booking process and during the stay by making it easy to reach out to customer support, read property reviews, and leave their own reviews for future travelers.

Before You Book Through One of the Best Vacation Rental Sites

Home sharing isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re a private person and can’t imagine sharing a house with total strangers. Sharing a house isn’t the only way to enjoy a vacation rental, but it’s a great option for people who love to get to know local hosts. Otherwise, renting a private house is a great way to go when traveling with a family, but if there’s any concern about the kids being too rough with any of the home’s amenities, then a hotel might still be the best option.

And while some homeowners love the idea of swapping houses with total strangers, a home swap will not be for everyone. Strangers will exist in the house without the homeowner there, so all valuables need to be locked away and expectations set about heating and cooling, food, keys, cleaning, and more. But for people who don’t mind stepping into another person’s home for a week, it’s an ideal way to be immersed in a local neighborhood in a new city.

It’s also important to thoroughly read the listing and ask questions before booking. Going off photos alone is a sure way to end up disappointed about a listing upon arrival. There is important information about property rules, details, and location that should be read before booking. This also includes reading recent reviews to make sure the experience at the property remains top notch. And finally, make sure to understand the cancellation policy before booking to avoid undue frustration if a trip needs to be cancelled.

Cost of Booking Through One of the Best Vacation Rental Sites

The low nightly rates on some vacation rental sites are immediately appealing to travelers looking to score a deal. Unfortunately, those nightly rates are often only the starting price as there are several fees tacked on by the property owner and the booking site. If an instant quote is available to view the total price before booking, guests can immediately see a breakdown of what fees are included and the total price. In some unfortunate cases, the fees can exceed the cost of a short stay.

Be sure to check the total price and review the fees before booking. Some common fees that are included with most bookings are: owner/host fees (3 to 5 percent on Airbnb), booking service fees (under 14.2 percent on Airbnb), and cleaning fees. It’s possible for cleaning fees to reach $200 or more depending on the property.

Since hosts are using these rental sites as a way to advertise their listing, they also pay a small fee for their listing and each booking. Many hosts try to cover this cost, which is part of what the owner fees cover. The fees that owners pay could be as little as 3 percent or as much as 8 percent of the total reservation.

The Advantages of Booking Through One of the Best Vacation Rental Sites

The popularity of vacation rentals means there are plenty of advantages to booking these properties instead of traditional hotels. Here are several reasons it’s a great idea to book through the best vacation rental sites.

  • There’s more space in a private home compared with adjoining hotel rooms.
  • It’s a convenient home base to return to and relax as though you’re at home.
    If booking a shared space, it’s a unique way to connect with locals.
  • These properties typically have kitchens or access to a kitchen, which can make eating cheaper and more convenient.
  • Many properties also have pools, access to gyms, grills, or other amenities that might not be available at a hotel.
  • Staying at a house can be easier for those with disabilities. However, guests with physical restrictions may want to ensure that the rental can accommodate their mobility needs.
  • Searching for “vacation rentals near me” or “cheap home rentals near me” makes for a fun staycation in a nearby town.

FAQs

Choosing the right place to stay is an essential part of vacation planning. Otherwise, it can make or break the trip. To help guide the decision-making process, use the answers to the following frequently asked questions to allay any further questions or concerns.

Q. Do vacation rental sites require prepayment?

It depends on the site and the property owners. In most cases, yes, you’ll find that either a deposit or a full prepayment is required to reserve your rental. This protects homeowners against the loss of a booking if guests have to cancel and a new guest doesn’t book the property over the old reservation. Hotels follow the same practice. Be sure to check the listing’s details to understand if a deposit or full prepayment is required at the time of booking.

Q. Do I get my money back if I cancel my stay through a vacation rental site?

It depends on the property owner and the vacation rental site. There are cancellation policies available on every site, but some sites have multiple policies to accommodate a variety of situations. For instance, the top sites usually offer free cancellation for any reason within the first 24 hours of making the reservation.

Otherwise, property owners might choose to state that they can only return 50 percent of the money up to a certain period of days before the reservation. In some cases of extremely late cancellation, there might not be any money returned. It’s best to read through the cancellation policies of the site and the specific listing before booking to avoid any surprises.

Q. Do vacation rental sites charge fees?

Yes. Fees vary from one rental site to the next, but they typically average around 15 percent. This fee is usually found in the subtotal before payment.

Q. Do vacation rental sites show real pictures of the properties?

It’s the property owner’s responsibility to provide pictures of their listing, and they are required to have some. Occasionally, listings are managed by a sole homeowner and other times by a property management agency. It’s in an owner’s best interest to provide quality, accurate photos of their property to manage guest’s expectations. Some websites might allow guests to post photos in their reviews, so it’s worth checking those as well.

Q. Do vacation rental sites allow you to bring pets?

There are some vacation rental sites that specifically cater to pet owners and offer rentals that allow pets. However, most other sites leave that decision up to each property owner. It’s not terribly common to allow pets, as homeowners try to avoid having excess cleanup between guests and lingering dander for potential allergy sufferers. Still, it’s worth seeing if there’s a search filter to sort by properties that do allow pets on any of these sites.