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The Best Vacation Rental Sites

What's the Best Website to Use for Booking a Vacation Rental?

Are you tired of the same old hotel experience when you go on vacation? Do you crave something more unique and personalized, where you can truly feel at home even when you're away? If so, then vacation rentals might just be the perfect solution for you.

If you've ever stayed in a vacation rental property, you already know their charm and allure. Unlike traditional hotels, vacation rentals offer a level of comfort, privacy, and flexibility that is hard to match. These properties are often privately-owned homes or apartments that are rented out to travelers on a short-term basis.

Friday, March 1st

2024 Vacation Rental Site Reviews

Top Consumer Reviews Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award Airbnb Review 5 Star Rating

Airbnb

5 Star Rating
  • Over 6.6 million listings across more than 220 countries and regions
  • Offers a wide range of properties, including shared spaces and entire homes
  • Safety measures such as the Airbnb Safety Center and Urgent Support Line
  • Transparent about costs and fees, providing a detailed breakdown at checkout
  • Rebooking and refund policies in the event of host cancellations or travel issues
Top Consumer Reviews Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award

Airbnb, the renowned online marketplace for short- and long-term homestays and experiences, has revolutionized the way we travel. Founded in 2008 by roommates Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Joe Gebbia, Airbnb started as AirBedandBreakfast, a creative solution that emerged from a simple air mattress in a living room transformed into a bed and breakfast. Today, Airbnb boasts an impressive 6.6 million listings across 220+ countries and regions, offering an unparalleled range of accommodations and experiences for adventurous travelers like yourself.

Choose your adventure: shared spaces or entire homes

In the early days of Airbnb, sharing a space with the property owner was the norm. However, times have changed, and now you have the flexibility to choose between shared spaces and entire-home vacation rentals. If you're a backpacker seeking a cheap place to crash and the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture, living with a host might be just what you're looking for. On the other hand, if you prefer a more traditional vacation experience, complete with privacy and the comfort of an entire home, Airbnb has an abundance of options to cater to your needs. Simply use the convenient filters to specify your preferences and find the perfect match.

User-friendly browsing experience: your window to the world

Airbnb's visually appealing browsing experience is a true delight. The homepage presents an array of cool listings from various categories, allowing you to explore options that suit your preferences. Whether you're dreaming of a lakefront retreat, an extraordinary treehouse, or a cozy cabin, Airbnb's curated categories make it feel like you're browsing on Pinterest. And with the ability to filter results based on accessibility features, amenities, pet-friendliness, and more, you can tailor your search to find the perfect home away from home. One of Airbnb's most unique features is the ability to choose "experiences". You can go on a walk with goats in Michigan, have an Instagram-tailored photoshoot done on the coast of Greece, or take a Caribbean cooking class with a certified chef in Aruba.

Distinctive designation: Superhosts

Airbnb recognizes exceptional hosts through the Superhost designation. These experienced and highly-rated hosts are committed to providing exceptional stays for guests like yourself. By identifying Superhosts at a glance, you can be assured of an outstanding experience without the need to delve into countless reviews.

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What is Airbnb Plus?

The Airbnb Plus label on listings introduces a special category of homes that have undergone meticulous verification for quality and comfort. With each home meeting specific standards and guidelines, you can expect top-notch amenities, easy check-ins, quick host responses, and unique designs that create unforgettable memories.

Fees are not as straightforward as they could be

Upon checkout, you'll receive a breakdown of costs and fees. This overview includes the per-night cost, total nights, cleaning fee, service fee, and the full amount before taxes. The fee charged to guests for vacation rentals typically does not exceed 14.2% of the booking subtotal, which includes the nightly rate, cleaning fee, and additional guest fee (if applicable) but excludes Airbnb fees and taxes. The exact fee amount varies depending on different factors. For some stays over three months, the Airbnb guest service fee is reduced after the third month. In this regard, Airbnb is in the middle of the pack: we've seen better, and we've seen worse.

Growth challenges

As with any vacation rental service, Airbnb is not without its downsides. Some users have expressed concerns about declining service quality, difficulties in accessing customer service, and scripted responses from representatives based in India. These challenges may arise due to the exponential growth of Airbnb as a platform. However, most experiences on Airbnb are positive. Many users have had outstanding stays by carefully researching and selecting properties with high ratings.

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Read the reviews

One reviewer and their wife, who have stayed at over 100 Airbnb properties, have had consistently excellent experiences. Their secret? Meticulously reading reviews and selecting only places with A+ ratings. They also utilize Google Street View to explore the neighborhood and communicate with hosts solely through Airbnb's platform. Even in the rare instance of encountering a minor issue, Airbnb responded promptly and de-platformed the host, ensuring a positive outcome. This reviewer's experience showcases the potential for exceptional stays on Airbnb with appropriate research and communication.

Airbnb is committed to your well-being

Airbnb understands the paramount importance of safety for both hosts and guests. That's why they have introduced the Airbnb Safety Center, a centralized hub offering an array of resources to promote safety. From security checklists and emergency contact forums to safe travel tips and one-touch emergency services contacts worldwide, Airbnb goes the extra mile to ensure your peace of mind. With the Safety Center easily accessible within the Airbnb app, you can feel confident in your choice of accommodation. In addition to providing these safety resources, Airbnb also runs background checks on its USA-based hosts when they create a listing.

Round-the-clock support: urgent assistance when you need it

Airbnb's Urgent Support Line is a great feature available 24/7 during your active reservations. Hosts and guests alike can rely on a dedicated team of safety specialists to provide swift assistance for pressing issues. Need to rebook accommodations or request refunds? Require immediate support due to unforeseen circumstances? The Urgent Support Line is there for you, ensuring a seamless and worry-free experience. With access to insurance programs and expert guidance, Airbnb prioritizes your well-being throughout your journey.

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Rebooking and refund policies: your safety net

Airbnb's Rebooking and Refund policy serves as a safety net to protect your interests. In the event of host cancellations or travel issues, Airbnb has your back. Guests receive a full refund for host cancellations prior to check-in. For cancellations within 30 days of check-in, Airbnb offers refunds and assistance in finding comparable accommodations. Moreover, if you encounter travel issues like undisclosed hazards or inaccurate information about the listing, Airbnb stands ready to assist you with partial or full refunds and alternative accommodations.

Looking ahead: Airbnb's progress

Airbnb's journey has not been without challenges. At the time of our last review, the Better Business Bureau had given them an "F" rating. However, Airbnb has made significant strides in improving their services since and currently holds a "B" rating. At this rate, we expect they'll reach an "A+" rating soon.

A great choice

Airbnb has revolutionized the way we travel, offering a vast selection of listings in over 220 countries and regions. Whether you prefer sharing space with a host or having an entire home to yourself, Airbnb accommodates your needs. While some negative experiences have been reported, they are not the norm, and there are things you can do to prevent them. With robust safety measures, round-the-clock support, and distinct designations for outstanding listings and hosts, Airbnb provides an enjoyable and secure platform for travelers worldwide. They earn our highest rating when it comes to vacation rentals.

Tripadvisor Review 4 Star Rating

Tripadvisor

4 Star Rating
  • 900,000+ properties in 190 countries
  • "A+" BBB rating
  • 24-hour customer support
  • Payment Protection guarantee

TripAdvisor, the "largest travel guidance platform in the world" , has been revolutionizing the way we plan our vacations for over two decades. Founded by Stephen Kaufer in 2000 after the hassle of planning a family vacation, TripAdvisor has become a trusted resource for wanderlust enthusiasts worldwide.

A world of choices

One of the standout features of TripAdvisor is its extensive range of properties. With over 900,000 options to choose from, you're sure to find the perfect accommodation that suits your preferences and budget. Whether you're looking for a cozy bed and breakfast or a luxurious resort, TripAdvisor has got you covered. The platform operates in 40 countries and 20 languages, making it accessible to travelers around the globe.

Comprehensive search and filtering options

After entering your destination and travel dates, TripAdvisor will notify you if there is a shortage of rentals during that time that match your dates.

  • When you click on a property, you'll be taken to the owner's description, which includes a house rules section - a good thing to keep in mind when renting a vacation rental over a hotel is that special rules may apply since you might be staying in someone's secondary residence. You can also see how long the owner has been hosting, their response rate and speed, and the languages they speak.
  • You can filter rental properties by internet, backyard, Wi-Fi, fireplace, and virtually any other amenity you can think of. You can also filter by whether it's kid/pet-friendly, has wheelchair access, and more. Additionally, you can filter by the neighborhood the property is in, the type of property it is, whether housekeeping is included, the distance from popular tourist destinations, and the views (like waterfront or mountain). They've thought of everything.
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One-stop trip planning

TripAdvisor features articles like "9 events in Rome to check out all year round," which include hyperlinks to pages for individual destinations with relevant traveler information like admission fees, suggested visit duration, other travelers' photos and reviews, and directions. You can also "favorite" individual destinations and add them to an itinerary for your vacation. No more trying to track down trip inspiration between note-taking apps and Google Maps. It's all in one place with TripAdvisor.

Cost transparency issues

When booking a vacation rental through TripAdvisor, you will often be directed to one of their partner sites, such as Holiday Lettings or Vrbo Sometimes we noticed a discrepancy between the cost listed on TripAdvisor and the cost listed on the partner sites. Unfortunately, this makes browsing on TripAdvisor for your rental less effective, because you won't be able to tell with certainty if the place you have your eye on fits your budget until you begin the booking process.

Typical booking fees

TripAdvisor employs a booking fee system that varies based on the rental price, ranging from 8% to 16% of the rental cost. These fees contribute to the maintenance of the platform and its 24-hour customer support. While these fees are automatically added to your invoice upon booking, TripAdvisor provides a breakdown of your total cost, including booking and owner fees. Although the exact nature of owner fees is not explicitly explained in TripAdvisor's help topics, our guess is that they are charges imposed on hosts that are then passed on to customers.

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Payment Protection guarantee

One of the key advantages offered by TripAdvisor is their Payment Protection guarantee. When booking through the platform, customers qualify for this guarantee, which safeguards against fraudulent advertisements (the rental is not owned by the person listing it), inaccessible rental (you paid and can't get in), and misrepresentation of a rental (it doesn't look like the photos). If any of these circumstances occur, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000, providing peace of mind when making your travel arrangements. However, not all of TripAdvisor's partners are covered by this guarantee, so be sure to read the fine print.

Cancellation policies vary

TripAdvisor does not have one standard cancellation policy. Before you cancel your booking, you'll need to read the cancellation policy that you should have received with your booking, which outlines the conditions as set by the owner or property management company of your rental. There you will find the cancellation timeline for your vacation rental and whether or not you're eligible for a refund.

TripAdvisor Plus

For frequent travelers looking to save money, TripAdvisor offers an exclusive membership program called TripAdvisor Plus. For an annual fee of $99, you gain access to a wealth of benefits and savings. Enjoy member-only savings, a flat 10% discount on everything, and perks from TripAdvisor's partners, including car rental services, flights, spa credits, and complimentary meals. You'll also gain access to personalized travel consultation via text, where you can receive tailored recommendations and advice from real experts.

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Questions raised about authenticity of some reviews

One common complaint about TripAdvisor is the removal of negative yet truthful traveler reviews from the site, particularly for large hotel chains and restaurants. Some customers have even reported receiving emails from TripAdvisor asking them to remove their negative reviews, despite no violation of the site's rules. It seems that TripAdvisor may have shifted its focus to function as a marketing platform for featured attractions rather than remaining the merit-based, customer-curated travel guidance platform it began as. In addition, TripAdvisor has received some press attention in recent years for fake reviews. TripAdvisor should take more stringent measures to address this issue and implement systems to flag these potentially fraudulent reviews.

Still a good option

Despite its drawbacks, TripAdvisor remains a powerful tool for those seeking comprehensive travel guidance. With an impressive range of properties, 24-hour support, and the added benefits of TripAdvisor Plus, this platform has something to offer every adventurer. While improvements in addressing fraudulent reviews and enhancing price transparency would be welcome, TripAdvisor's wealth of information and user-friendly interface make it a valuable resource for planning your next unforgettable vacation.

Vacay My Way Review 3.5 Star Rating

Vacay My Way

3.5 Star Rating
  • 4,000+ properties in the USA, with plans to expand
  • New player in the industry
  • Listings are free from ads or platform-based algorithms
  • Transparent pricing with no guest service fees, saving up to 20% compared to other websites
  • Flexible cancellation policies with three options (Strict, Standard, and Flexible) based on length of stay

VacayMyWay is a relatively new vacation rental company that aims to revolutionize the industry by prioritizing affordability for guests and maximizing revenue for hosts. Founded in 2019 by industry veterans based in Denton, Texas, VacayMyWay offers a fresh approach to vacation rentals. With 4,000+ properties in the USA and plans to expand to Europe, Canada, and Mexico in the coming years, the company strives to simplify vacation planning while fostering transparent communication between guests and hosts.

Streamlined booking process and property selection

Navigating through VacayMyWay's website is a breeze, thanks to its clean and user-friendly interface. The optimized search and filtering functions ensure that you find the best property to suit your needs, and the listings are free from ads or platform-based algorithms. However, it's important to note that due to its relative novelty, the site currently has a limited number of listings. Consequently, finding reviews under each listing can be a challenge, but as the platform gains popularity, this issue is likely to improve.

Transparent pricing and no guest service fees

VacayMyWay's best feature is its commitment to transparency and cost-saving benefits for guests. No sticker shock here. The website displays the rental costs upfront during your initial search, ensuring that you know exactly what you'll be paying. Unlike many other vacation rental platforms, VacayMyWay does not charge any guest service fees. This means you can save up to 20% compared to booking through other websites. Instead of hidden booking fees, you'll only pay for the nightly rate, cleaning services, and taxes. Such straightforward pricing is a welcome relief for travelers tired of finding varying prices for the same property on different platforms.

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Emphasis on trust and communication between guest and host

VacayMyWay places an emphasis on building trust between guests and hosts. The platform encourages what they describe as "unfiltered communication" from day one, allowing vacationers and hosts to establish a rapport before their stay. This approach is meant to foster a sense of transparency and create a more personalized vacation experience. By removing the barriers between guests and hosts, VacayMyWay strives to bring back the human connection that can sometimes be lost in the digital world of vacation rentals.

Unclear customer support protocols

VacayMyWay provides customer support through both phone and email, and they say that you can usually expect a response within 24 hours. However, the absence of information regarding what to do in the case of urgent situations during a vacation is a drawback. Given that anyone booking through such a new company will be going out on a limb, it would be beneficial for VacayMyWay to outline a clear protocol for addressing urgent issues that may arise during a guest's stay so they can proceed with confidence.

Flexible cancellation policies

VacayMyWay offers three cancellation policies for the hosts to choose from: Strict, Standard, and Flexible, providing varying levels of protection against lost revenue and flexibility for guests. The policies range from a 60-day advance cancellation notice for a full refund for stays of 1-7 nights under the Strict policy to a more lenient 1-day notice under the Flexible policy. VacayMyWay says the type of policy is decided based on the length of stay and "the probability of fulfilling a booking of a particular length," although they don't go into detail on how that probability is calculated. You will have to check with your host before booking to find out which one applies to your rental.

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The jury is out

It's not just property reviews that are difficult to find here. We were also unable to locate any consumer reviews of VacayMyWay itself. As a result, we have no idea how well they are upholding their values. We hope in this case that no news is good news.

Take a chance on VacayMyWay

VacayMyWay shows promise as a vacation rental option with its refreshing approach to pricing, transparent communication, and commitment to simplifying the vacation planning process. While the platform is relatively new and still expanding its inventory, it provides a clean and pleasant user experience. The company's dedication to lowering costs for guests and increasing revenue for hosts is commendable. With further development and growth, VacayMyWay has the potential to become a valuable player in the vacation rental market.

Home Exchange Review 3 Star Rating

Home Exchange

3 Star Rating
  • 100,000 members in 130 countries
  • Arrange accommodation through a simultaneous home swap or by paying with GuestPoints
  • Community chat feature and 24/7 email support
  • Annual membership fee of $220 eliminates accommodation expenses

In a world where travel has become increasingly commercialized, Home Exchange offers a refreshing alternative that brings us back to the roots of exploration and connection.

A little history

Founded in 1992 by Ed Kushins, Home Exchange emerged from a belief that travel should be about more than just sightseeing - it should be about forging meaningful connections with local communities and embracing the spirit of sharing resources responsibly. Since its inception, Home Exchange has grown from a simple idea to a global community of over 100,000 members in 130 countries. Its concept was a revelation: stay in someone else's home, experience a new culture firsthand, and create unforgettable memories, all while enjoying the comforts and authenticity that come with living like a local.

May not be for everyone

Who is Home Exchange suited for? It's important to note that this service may not be for everyone, as it requires a level of trust and a willingness to share your personal space with strangers. However, the benefits it offers are undeniable. If you're seeking a cost-effective way to explore the world while immersing yourself in local cultures, Home Exchange is tailor-made for you. Whether you're a solo adventurer or a couple craving new experiences, Home Exchange welcomes you to embark on a journey that will leave you with cherished memories and lifelong connections.

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The better your location, the better your prospects

Be aware that the nicer your home and its location, the more success you'll have in arranging home exchanges. For example, if you have an upscale apartment in NYC or a beachfront condo in Santa Monica, you're more likely to get offers than someone who lives in a rural area far away from tourist attractions. Keep in mind that some homeowners prefer not to host travelers with children, and you might also need to find a kennel for Rover.

Easy to get started

Getting started with Home Exchange is a breeze, and it all begins by creating your listing on their user-friendly platform. Showcase your home's unique features with well-lit photos and make sure to indicate its availability in the calendar. While you're browsing members' homes for potential destinations and dates, you'll also receive inquiries and exchange requests from fellow travelers who are interested in staying in your home.

Use the messaging system

Once you've identified homes in destinations that interest you, it's time to send personalized messages to initiate the exchange process. Through Home Exchange's messaging system, you can communicate with potential hosts, discussing the details, sharing preferences, and building connections even before your journey begins. The platform facilitates seamless organization and planning, ensuring that your exchange experience is smooth and hassle-free.

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Two kinds of exchanges

Home Exchange offers two distinct kinds of exchange vacations to suit your preferences:

  • The Classic Exchange: This type of exchange involves two families swapping homes, either at the same time or on different dates. It's a reciprocal arrangement where you can experience living in someone else's home while they stay in yours.
  • Exchange with GuestPoints: GuestPoints provide a flexible option for exchanging homes. If you find a member with an available home but they don't wish to stay at your place, you can offer them your GuestPoints. These points can then be used by the recipient to stay at another member's home in their desired destination. Each member receives GuestPoints upon signing up and hosting others.

Community support at your fingertips

Home Exchange offers 24/7 email support. Most vacation rental services offer more instantaneous support options, but it makes sense that Home Exchange is more hands-off, given you will be arranging your accommodations with another homeowner directly. However, you do have the option to connect directly with Ambassadors from the HomeExchange community. This personalized chat feature allows you to interact with fellow members who can share their insights and knowledge about Home Exchange, giving you another support system to fall back on should you have questions or concerns.

Happy customers abound

The true measure of any service lies in the experiences of its customers, and Home Exchange has garnered rave reviews from its global community. One delighted traveler shared about her recent trip to Italy, where she found the Home Exchange process to be effortless. She praised the immediate support and guidance from the Home Exchange team, emphasizing the joy of staying in a unique, "heart-connected" accommodation that wouldn't have been possible through traditional means. In addition, Home Exchange maintains a strong reputation on consumer report websites, with a track record of promptly addressing customer complaints and providing reliable support.

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Unlock affordable and memorable journeys

Instead of shelling out money for hotel rooms or vacation rentals, Home Exchange lets you simply swap homes with another member, eliminating accommodation expenses altogether. With the annual membership fee of $220, you gain access to a network of homes and can embark on multiple exchanges throughout the year, making your travel dreams a reality without breaking the bank. No booking fees to be seen here.

Changes since COVID-19

During our research, we noticed that the number of homes available on Home Exchange has drastically decreased since our last review. Previously, there were 400,000 Home Exchange members (and at least as many homes), but now there are only 100,000. This decrease is likely due to quarantine regulations and an increased sense of caution worldwide. We also noticed an increase in the cost of an annual membership, which is now $220 compared to the earlier price of $150. That means users will be paying more for fewer options than they had before. However, an annual fee of $220 is still far less than you would be paying for a single weekend trip to any destination, so we aren't too worried about it.

Not for everyone

In conclusion, we rank Home Exchange in the middle of our other vacation rental services because it may not be a viable option for most travelers. Not everyone wants to go through the hassle of making their home guest-ready, and some may find it too stressful to worry about other people in their home during what is supposed to be a relaxing vacation. Although Home Exchange has received many great reviews and does what it is supposed to do, we rank it lower than other services that offer more freedom to choose accommodations and travel dates.

Vrbo Review 2.5 Star Rating

Vrbo

2.5 Star Rating
  • 2 million properties in 190 countries
  • "B+" rating from the BBB
  • Easy-to-use website

With an impressive inventory of 2 million properties spread across 190 countries, Vrbo has cemented its presence in the vacation rental market. Originating as Vacation Rentals by Owner, Vrbo was established in 1995 and soon gained popularity among homeowners seeking short-term rental opportunities. Over the years, it underwent acquisitions, rebranding, and is now owned by Expedia Group.

Standard search and booking process

Vrbo offers the typical user-friendly search interface, allowing users to filter rentals based on their preferences. By inputting dates, destination, and guest count, users can narrow down their options using various filters such as bedrooms, availability, price, property type, and amenities. Detailed listings with photos and guest reviews help users make informed decisions.

No background checks on hosts

Unlike its competitor Airbnb, Vrbo falls short in terms of safety protocols. The designation of "Premier Host" is based on positive attributes but does not include criminal background checks.

Hidden fees

Vrbo's fee structure can be confusing and potentially burdensome. In addition to the nightly rate, users may encounter additional fees set by hosts, such as cleaning fees. Vrbo also imposes its own service fee, further adding to the overall cost. While the platform attempts to provide at-a-glance fee breakdowns on the result page, users may still find themselves paying more than initially anticipated.

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Varying cancellation policies

Cancellation policies on Vrbo vary from property to property, making it crucial for users to review each listing's policy before booking. While some properties offer full refunds with as little as 14 days notice, others have strict non-refundable terms or require lengthy notice periods.

Breaches of "Book with Confidence"

Vrbo attempts to address rental issues through its "Book with Confidence Guarantee." Promising coverage for unexpected owner cancellations, material misrepresentation of properties, and serious health and safety concerns, this guarantee should offer some reassurance. However, the effectiveness of this guarantee has been called into question, with reports of unresponsiveness and delays in providing necessary assistance. Startling reports have emerged, such as customers losing thousands of dollars when property owners mysteriously vanished after bookings were made. The credibility of this guarantee is significantly compromised, leaving Vrbo's customers understandably distressed.

Properties not as advertised

Unfortunately, we have more negative reviews to share. One Vrbo customer discovered that a listed 2-bedroom condo turned out to be an unventilated alcove with a plastic curtain "door." The host's belongings cluttered the space, including trash and medication. Despite reaching out to Vrbo multiple times, no response was received, leaving the reviewer frustrated and cautioning others to avoid the platform. Many other users encountered misrepresented, dirty, and unsafe rentals, so it isn't an isolated incident.

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It can get worse: hidden cameras

As if those things weren't bad enough, disturbing incidents involving hidden cameras have plagued Vrbo's reputation. During our research, we learned that multiple lawsuits have been filed against the company after guests discovered covert surveillance devices in private areas, including bedrooms.

Better Business Bureau alert

At the time of this review, Vrbo was not accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and held a "B+" rating. A message was posted on the company's page informing visitors that a concerning pattern of complaints had been discovered regarding cancellations, refund delays, and failure to honor guarantees. The lack of accreditation and the troubling reports are the nail in Vrbo's coffin when ranking it against higher-performing vacation rental options.

Just walk away

In our exploration of Vrbo, we have uncovered a concerning array of issues that raise serious doubts about the service's reliability. From breached guarantees and privacy violations to unresponsive customer service, the platform's track record is far from reassuring. While Vrbo boasts an extensive property inventory, that won't matter much to you if you wind up with a less-than-acceptable vacation stay. With competing platforms offering more robust security measures and greater transparency, we advise you explore our better-rated options when searching for vacation rentals.

Home to Go Review 2.5 Star Rating

Home to Go

2.5 Star Rating
  • Displays wide range of lowest-priced listings pulled from various partner websites
  • No direct booking through HomeToGo; acts as an intermediary between the customer and partner site
  • Transparent pricing to ensure no hidden fees and taxes

HomeToGo is a vacation rental search engine that claims to offer the "largest selection of vacation rentals" worldwide. Founded in 2014, the Berlin-based company operates in 25 countries across Europe, North America, South America, Australia, and the Asia-Pacific region.

User-friendly interface and efficient search experience

HomeToGo's user-friendly interface allows you to search and compare prices on vacation rentals from multiple platforms, offering a comprehensive inventory of listings. The site provides standard filtering options to narrow down your search based on accommodation type, amenities, and more. Additionally, the platform offers a convenient "search in the description" feature, allowing you to keyword search and quickly find specific details within lengthy property descriptions. This is particularly useful when looking for unique features or specific requirements.

Wide range of vacation rental options, but there may not be reviews

HomeToGo aggregates vacation rental listings from various partner websites, giving you access to a wide range of options. However, we noticed that there were some properties without any customer reviews either because the property was new or because the partner vacation rental company chose not to provide them. In such cases, you may need to visit other platforms to find reviews for a particular property, which is inconvenient.

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No direct booking through HomeToGo

While HomeToGo simplifies the search process, it acts as an intermediary between you and the actual property holder. When booking a property, you're actually submitting an inquiry request to HomeToGo, who then forwards it to the property holder. The property holder has 24 hours to accept or deny your request. It's worth mentioning that you might not always be approved, and there have been issues where the partner company is slow to respond to a request to book. In some cases, you might click on a HomeToGo listing and be taken instead to the partner company's website where you can book directly.

Fees, cancellation terms, and customer support dependent on partner company

HomeToGo strives to provide transparent pricing, ensuring there are no hidden fees or taxes. Once you click the "start booking" button, you'll see the full total, although the level of detail in the breakdown of taxes and fees may vary depending on the partner company. It's important to note that HomeToGo is not responsible for setting cancellation terms. These policies are determined by the partner, and it's advisable to review their terms before making a booking. While HomeToGo offers email and phone support Monday-Friday during regular business hours, you should contact the partner company with issues involving the nitty-gritty details of your stay.

Search results have mixed booking types

When looking at consumer reviews of HomeToGo, the experiences are mixed. Some users really like HomeToGo because it's easy to use, has convenient search options, and doesn't have hidden fees. They say it's a good alternative to other vacation rental companies that make it harder to tell at a glance how much you'll be paying for your stay. However, some individuals have encountered issues with HomeToGo. A common complaint is that they need to enhance the filtering options to display only rentals that can be booked through HomeToGo. It can be frustrating to click on a listing with the expectation of paying one price, only to be directed to another platform without information about additional fees, resulting in a higher overall cost than you saw on HomeToGo.

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Disappearing bookings after payment

Some users have raised more serious concerns. For example, there have been cases where customers paid in full for a rental through HomeToGo, but didn't receive any information or confirmation about their booking. One person even had their listing disappear after booking, and their credit card was charged with the money going to a company in Belarus. HomeToGo denied having any record of the rental or any association with the other company involved, leaving the user out of pocket with no help from HomeToGo.

Unexpected charges with no explanation or compensation

In addition to these incidents, other users have reported discrepancies regarding payment issues. For instance, one user booked a vacation through HomeToGo but had to cancel due to family circumstances. Despite HomeToGo's booking conditions stating that only the deposit would be taken as a penalty, they charged the full amount and hadn't refunded the money despite multiple attempts to contact them. While the partner company was responsive and investigated the matter, HomeToGo has remained unresponsive to the reviewer's inquiries about the unexpected charge. The reviewer expressed disappointment and mentioned the possibility of resorting to legal action to get their money back. Note that as of this review, HomeToGo was not accredited or rated by the Better Business Bureau.

Useful as a search tool, but book elsewhere

Based on these reviews, it's pretty clear that although HomeToGo may initially help save money by finding the cheapest deals, its disorganized handling of the booking process with partner companies could ultimately cost you. HomeToGo appears unwilling to take responsibility for their mistakes and are content with holding onto customers' money, often blaming the partner companies. It's probably a good idea to use HomeToGo to find the best deals and then book directly through the partner site to avoid any potential problems. For most of your vacation rental needs, we recommend our higher-ranked services.

Vacasa Review 2 Star Rating

Vacasa

2 Star Rating
  • 44,000+ properties in 35 US states, Central America
  • "A+" rated and accredited by the BBB since 2014
  • 24-hour customer support
  • Premium Clean program with standardized cleaning guidelines based on CDC recommendations
  • Virtual tours

Looking for the perfect vacation rental in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Belize, or Costa Rica? With over 44,000 homes spread across 35 U.S. states and several stunning destinations in Central America, Vacasa has you covered. However, if you're dreaming of a European getaway or a Caribbean paradise, you'll have to set your sights elsewhere. But hey, specialization can be a good thing, right? In theory, Vacasa focuses on what it knows best: delivering memorable vacations in the U.S.

Homeowner-focused property management

Vacasa's story began in 2009 after its founder struggled to find a trustworthy property manager for his vacation home. Determined to create a solution, Vacasa was born. Their local teams take care of the homes, aiming to "maximize revenue for homeowners." While this might not sound ideal for thrifty travelers, it does mean that Vacasa should have a laser focus on delivering excellent experiences for homeowners and guests alike.

Standard search and filter functions plus virtual tours

Vacasa's search functions are pretty standard. Simply type your desired location and travel dates into the search bar, and you're immediately presented with an overview of available properties, including average prices per night and essential information like occupancy. The filters allow you to customize your search based on preferences such as views, washer and dryer availability, and even whether the property is "snowbird friendly," or, in other words, available for long-term stays during the winter months. One standout feature of Vacasa is the ability to take virtual, 360-degree tours of their properties. This lets you get a feel for the space before committing to it.

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Fees will make your heart sink

Vacasa's fees may raise an eyebrow or two. Vacasa charges property owners between 20% and 50% per booking, and those costs are inevitably passed on to you, the guest. The breakdown of fees isn't crystal clear, but brace yourself for a potentially hefty bill. For example, a 3-night booking in Maine costing $540 saw additional charges of $348.35, encompassing cleaning fees, a limited damage waiver, state taxes, and a booking fee. For a grand total of nearly $1,000, it's worth shopping around to see if other vacation rental services offer a more affordable option for your desired property.

Standardized cleaning guidelines in wake of COVID-19

What do you get for that hefty cleaning fee? Vacasa's Premium Clean program, launched after the outbreak of COVID-19, implements standardized cleaning guidelines based on CDC recommendations. According to their website, housekeepers are required to dedicate extra time to thorough cleaning, ensuring high-touch surfaces are disinfected. Employees who come into contact with someone with COVID-19 are barred from working. The pre-pandemic cleaning guidelines outlined on Vacasa's website were already pretty rigorous, too. We liked that the process is standardized so you should never have to wonder if your bedding was washed or if the hot tub was cleaned when staying in a Vacasa rental - it should be the same everywhere.

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More lip service than customer service

Now, let's address the elephant in the room: whether Vacasa actually delivers on their promises. While Vacasa has an "A+" rating from the Better Business Bureau and has been accredited since 2014, many customers have voiced their discontent with Vacasa's management - and we find many of the issues in these complaints unacceptable in the first place, whether or not Vacasa followed up with the customer afterwards.

Shockingly descriptive complaints

Such complaints range from slow responses to maintenance requests, to dirty properties, and, shockingly, heating issues due to unpaid propane bills. This review says it all: "For a $12k mansion rental for my daughter's wedding, it was very disappointing. The house was not maintained properly with broken screen doors and porch lights that didn't work. Dead animal smell upstairs and mold in the tile grout. There was an inch of dust on the fan blades and theater room tv didn't work. We paid over $1,600 in fees for cleaning and we didn't receive a clean house ourselves!"

Property management companies: less of a personal touch?

There have also been grumbles about unexpected fees and charges for other services without corresponding value: one disgruntled customer lost his wedding band at a property and was charged an extra fee for Vacasa to search for it, but was made to feel like he was low-priority and no empathy was expressed for his situation. It could be that property management companies may not be the best choice for vacation home rentals. When you communicate directly with the owners, they may feel a greater sense of ownership and accountability for your experience. We have the impression that Vacasa is run by individuals who dislike their jobs and are only in it for the paycheck. After all, what's one more unhappy customer among thousands when you're clocking out at 5pm anyway?

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Flexibility for me, not for thee

Vacasa's return policy does not inspire faith, either. If you accidentally book or have a change of heart, you have a 24-hour window to cancel and receive a full refund. (However, this exemption doesn't apply to last-minute bookings made the day before your trip.) After those initial 24 hours, canceling within 30 days of check-in will only grant you a partial refund, leaving behind your booking fee and tax money. And in some states, you'll need to cancel a whopping 60 days in advance. It seems Vacasa expects flexibility from its guests but may not extend the same courtesy in return, given some customers reported their bookings were canceled last-minute with no explanation offered. Vacasa also did not offer to cover the difference for a replacement rental.

Avoid Vacasa

In summary, Vacasa offers a "just okay" selection of vacation rentals across most of the United States and Central America, but their customer reviews raise concerns about maintenance, cleanliness, and higher-than-appropriate fees for the quality of the service delivered. Their cancellation policies are more rigid than other services we have reviewed, earning Vacasa a lower-than-average ranking among vacation rental sites.

Kayak Review 1.5 Star Rating

Kayak

1.5 Star Rating
  • Travel search engine that finds deals on vacations, flights, accommodations, and car rentals
  • Filter for free cancellation and price tracking alerts

Kayak, a metasearch engine owned by Booking Holdings, is widely known for its role in revolutionizing the travel industry since its inception in 2004. As a comprehensive travel search engine, Kayak aims to assist millions of travelers worldwide in finding the best deals by aggregating information from various travel sites. With an impressive growth trajectory and a portfolio of international brands, Kayak has established itself as a prominent player in the online travel domain. However, our research of Kayak's vacation rental booking service has uncovered significant concerns and left us deeply dissatisfied.

Typical booking process

When booking a vacation rental through Kayak, we found the process to be relatively straightforward. By navigating to the "stays" tab and entering our desired location, dates, and number of guests, we were able to initiate the search. Kayak also offers a free cancellation filter and price tracking alerts in case you're not ready to book and want to wait until it's cheaper. Kayak ranks vacation rental properties using internal algorithms and sorts booking options based on factors such as price, guest ratings, and popularity. The cheapest offers are highlighted in green.

Kayak isn't responsible for issues with finer details of your vacation

Kayak provides a live chat option for assistance. Any problems with your vacation booking itself will go through and be subject to the policies of the respective partner. The same applies to cancellations.

Unsatisfactory customer service

We didn't find much about customer reviews for Kayak's vacation rental booking service. However, we did come across some negative experiences with flight bookings, which might suggest similar issues with vacation rentals. One customer had a tough time when their flight was delayed and they asked for a refund. Even though the refund was approved, they had trouble communicating with Kayak's customer service team and didn't get the refund they were promised.

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Fraudulent practices and misleading advertisements:

Another user shared a disturbing experience about Kayak canceling their booking and trying to charge them more than double the original price. This showed a lack of honesty and openness on Kayak's part, causing the user to describe the company as fraudulent. Additionally, we found numerous instances where customers described booking through Kayak, only to discover their deal that had been advertised as the lowest available was actually far more expensive than they could have booked it for elsewhere. Kayak's response? "Tough luck: you clicked on the deal."

Trouble getting refunds

Other reviewers have reported purchasing through a company listed on Kayak, expecting it to be safe. However, they then experienced trouble canceling or getting refunds. The responsibility lies with Kayak for partnering with a company that cannot be trusted and not taking accountability for the situation.

Stay away

Overall, we were disappointed and concerned with our experience using Kayak's vacation rental booking service. Despite their claims of being a game-changer in the travel industry, we found numerous issues and problems. Their customer service and refund process were inefficient, and we encountered fraudulent practices, misleading ads, and untrustworthy partnerships. We recommend being cautious when using Kayak as a travel booking platform. With an "F" rating and no accreditation from the BBB, it's clear that Kayak has a long way to go in earning the trust of travelers.

Agoda Review 1 Star Rating

Agoda

1 Star Rating
  • 3.6 million properties in 200+ countries and territories
  • Best Price Guarantee
  • Price Freeze feature
  • Up-front booking fees

Agoda, a travel-booking platform operating for 20 years, is part of the Booking Holdings family, which includes other brands like Kayak, RentalCars, and Priceline. While Agoda claims to provide deals to millions of travelers worldwide, its track record is far from stellar.

Legal actions

Agoda has faced legal action and criticism for listing illegal and unregistered hotels, engaging in alleged unfair competition, imposing hidden charges, and delivering poor customer service. The company has made efforts to rectify its practices, but the past transgressions raise red flags about its reliability. However, Agoda boasts an impressive selection of properties, with 3.6 million options available worldwide across 200+ countries and territories.

Best price guarantee and price freeze

Agoda provides a Best Price Guarantee for hotel room reservations. If a lower rate for the same room and dates is available and bookable on another website, Agoda will match that rate or credit the difference in AgodaCash to the customer's account. Agoda also offers a "Price Freeze" feature where customers can pay a small deposit to lock in a room price. If the price goes up, they pay the frozen price, but if the price goes down, they pay the new, lower price.

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Mostly up-front booking fees

Agoda does not list their range of booking fees anywhere, but for a 3-night listing in a Portland hotel, a 1.5%, 6%, and 3% fee were all labeled as "tax" without any explanation. These fees can add up quickly on purchases of hundreds or thousands of dollars. However, these separate fees still only added up to 10.5%, which is better than some other services we have reviewed. We appreciate that we did not have to search for the amount being added as tax as it was displayed on the checkout screen.

Too much stress

Agoda's website layout and functionality is comparable to reputable travel sites. Users can easily search for properties by entering their destination and dates, and apply filters for deals, discounts, property type, distance to the city center, and amenities. However, the use of flashing red buttons and labels on listings urging immediate action gives the website a scammy feel and creates unnecessary pressure on users. The level of stress we felt while trying to make a booking was akin to entering a casino.

Pressure tactics

Labels such as "JUST MISSED IT!" were even present on listings for a booking that was a year in advance. It would be better if the website simply did not show listings that are no longer available, instead of making users feel like they need to book right away and having to dig through unavailable listings for the ones that are available. Additionally, technical glitches such as non-functional buttons and disappearing sidebar elements were frustrating and inconvenient.

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Customer reviews: disillusionment and financial loss

Dissatisfied customers have voiced their frustrations with Agoda's service. One reviewer recounts a nightmarish experience where their hotel had no record of their booking, and Agoda's customer service failed to resolve the issue effectively. The reviewer did not receive a refund and lost $2,100 despite being promised one. In another instance, Agoda originally showed a vacation rental booking as refundable, but changed it to non-refundable during the booking process. When the customer tried to adjust the booking by one day, Agoda falsely claimed that the hotel would not allow it. The hotel confirmed they were happy to adjust the reservation but Agoda lied again and said the adjustment was unavailable. Instances of misleading information and unresponsive customer support highlight the service's shortcomings, leaving customers disillusioned with Agoda and out potentially thousands of dollars.

Inconsistent charging methods and potential disputes

In certain bookings, the platform shares customers' credit card information directly with hotels or properties. This means that the property will charge you directly, rather than through Agoda. In other cases, you will be charged by Agoda. You can determine which option applies to your booking on the checkout page. This could lead to inconsistent experiences between bookings, especially if there are any charge disputes that you need to resolve. Remember that customer review where the hotel said they had never received a booking from Agoda, but Agoda still took the customer's money?

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Convoluted return policies

Agoda's refund and cancellation policies vary depending on the type of booking. For vacation rentals, customers may face penalty charges if they shorten their stay during the high season or fail to cancel before the specified due date. Refunds for cancellations made before the due date are usually processed within 10 days, while refunds for late cancellations or changes in reservations may take longer and incur penalty charges. Agoda's return policy seems convoluted and potentially inconvenient for customers, especially if they encounter unforeseen circumstances or need to modify their plans.

Better Business Bureau: alarming "F" rating

Agoda's reputation takes a significant blow with its "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau. This rating, the lowest possible, raises serious concerns about the company's business practices, customer satisfaction, and ethical conduct.

Seek more reliable alternatives

Agoda's vast property selection and user-friendly website may initially seem appealing, but deeper examination reveals a multitude of issues. From legal controversies and poor customer service to misleading pricing tactics and unclear return policies, Agoda fails to inspire confidence. We caution potential customers and advise you to explore alternative travel-booking platforms that offer more reliable service and prioritize customer satisfaction.

A1 Vacation Homes Review 0.5 Star Rating

A1 Vacation Homes

0.5 Star Rating
  • 14,000+ properties worldwide
  • Direct booking business model eliminates additional fees

At first glance, A1 Vacation Homes may appear to be a promising vacation home rental service with its claimed 14,000+ properties listed worldwide. However, a closer look reveals some concerning aspects.

Who are you, exactly?

Despite being based in Miami, Florida, most of the listed employees on LinkedIn are seemingly located in India, including the founder and CEO, Zahid Hussain Khan. The "about" page on A1 Vacation Homes' website contains grammatical errors and fails to provide substantial information about the company itself. Instead, it dedicates the opening paragraph to discussing the origins of their company name, which does little to instill confidence in their legitimacy.

Primarily serves property managers

A1 Vacation Homes primarily serves property managers. Its business model centers around property owners paying a membership fee to list their properties on the site, bypassing the fees typically associated with booking platforms. However, the website lacks the modern look and feel that one would expect from a reputable vacation rental service.

No direct booking

Like other vacation rental sites, travelers can browse through the listings based on location, travel dates, and specific preferences. Rather than enabling direct booking through the platform, though, A1 Vacation Homes redirects users to a contact form where they can reach out to the property owners directly. Given this business model, it would be reasonable to expect a rigorous process for verifying the identity of these property owners to ensure that travelers can trust whoever answers their booking request. However, it appears that there is no such safety net in place.

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Is it a scam? Illegitimate listings and potentially fake reviews

A1 Vacation Homes is not rated or accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Additionally, we couldn't find many reviews for A1 Vacation Homes. The positive reviews we could find all seemed to be structured and worded the same (not quite like a native speaker of English), so we tend to think they are probably fake. The one-star reviews gave much more detail and seemed to be legitimate. These negative reviews often labeled A1 Vacation Homes as a potential scam site.

Alarming customer reviews

We found quite a few customer reviews that were downright shocking. The lack of credibility and accountability leaves little room for trust in this platform.

  • One particularly alarming customer review highlights the prevalence of fraudulent listings on A1 Vacation Homes. The reviewer encountered three consecutive listings that were outright scams. One turned out to be a vacant lot, another was listed without the owner's knowledge, and the third displayed misleading pictures that didn't match Google satellite images. Shockingly, despite these red flags, all three listings were labeled as "verified" by A1 Vacation Homes.
  • Another reviewer detailed an incident where they requested a quote from a property on TripAdvisor, only to receive an email from someone posing as the owner. The scammer offered a discounted rate and provided a link to the property on Vrbo. However, the legitimate owner listed on Vrbo had no knowledge of this arrangement, leading the reviewer to conclude it was a scam.

Questionable practices and unresponsive customer service for property managers

Property managers aren't happy with A1 Vacation Homes' practices, either. One reviewer reported being approached by a salesman from A1 Vacation Homes, who promised a money-back guarantee if no rentals were generated within 90 days. However, when the reviewer failed to receive any rentals and sought a refund, their attempts to contact the company were met with silence.

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Trust and reliability lacking

A1 Vacation Homes presents a facade of a legitimate vacation home rental service, but upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that trust and reliability are sorely lacking. With a dubious presence and questionable practices, this platform falls far short of delivering the safe and satisfying experience travelers seek. Although we were interested in its direct booking model, we did not find it to be supported by the security and assurance this model would require to function. Even in the instances where a listing is legitimate, each property owner will have different policies and processes, leaving customers uncertain about what to expect. Not having a rating or accreditation from the Better Business Bureau is also cause for concern: it highlights the company's questionable practices and its inability to earn trust.

A warning to stay away

We recommend exercising caution and looking at one of our better vacation home rental services. A1 Vacation Homes fails to meet the expectations of a reputable service, and their track record and unresponsive customer service leave much to be desired. We advise against falling victim to their empty promises and misleading practices. A1 Vacation Homes earns our lowest rating.

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Continued from above...

Vacation home rentals come fully furnished and equipped with all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay, from kitchen cupboards full of cookware, to cozy living areas and comfortable bedrooms. It's like having a home away from home, complete with personal touches that reflect the unique style and taste of the owner.

One of the best things about vacation rentals is the sheer variety of options available. Whether you're planning a family reunion, a romantic getaway, or a solo adventure, you can find a vacation rental that fits your needs perfectly. Want to relax by the beach? There are countless beachfront properties waiting for you. Prefer a secluded cabin in the woods? You'll find plenty of those too. From urban lofts to countryside villas, there's something for everyone.

Unlike traditional hotels that are typically owned by large hotel chains or corporations, vacation rentals are often owned by individuals who use them as second homes or investment properties. These owners may be local residents or people from different parts of the world. Some vacation rentals are also owned by small property management companies or vacation rental agencies that handle the day-to-day operations on behalf of the owners. These agencies may handle tasks such as marketing, guest communication, and property maintenance.

How do you go about choosing the right vacation rental? That's where vacation rental websites come in. These platforms connect travelers with property owners, making it easy to browse and book the perfect vacation rental for your needs. Not all vacation rental websites are created equal, though. It doesn't matter how many properties they have if they don't offer good customer service or aren't responsive when you need assistance.

Here are some things to keep in mind when making your choice:

  • Reputation. You want to use a website that has a solid track record and positive reviews from previous users. Look for platforms that have been around for a while and have established themselves as trustworthy and reliable. Has the platform been rated by the Better Business Bureau?
  • Selection. The more properties a website has, the greater your chances of finding the perfect vacation rental. Top rental websites have extensive listings across various destinations, ensuring you have plenty of options to choose from, while others may be limited to one country. If you're looking for something special or traveling to a popular destination during a busy time, like a holiday or summer break, you'll have better luck finding a place to stay if the company has a large selection.
  • Pricing and fees. Some websites advertise a lower per-night cost on the search page than what you'll actually end up paying after cleaning and amenity fees. It's also a good idea to check if the vacation rental you're interested in is listed on multiple websites, as there may be price differences that could help you save some cash. Look for websites that offer transparent pricing and don't surprise you with hidden costs.
  • Cancellation policy. Life is unpredictable, and sometimes plans change unexpectedly. A flexible cancellation policy can provide peace of mind in case you need to modify or cancel your reservation. Make sure to read and understand the terms and conditions regarding cancellations, refunds, and any applicable fees. Does the property owner determine the terms of the cancellation period, or does the website have a blanket policy?

Ready for a vacay? To make it a breeze to find the perfect stay, Top Consumer Reviews has evaluated and ranked the best vacation rental websites currently on the market. We hope this information helps you find the perfect home-away-from home accommodations for your next trip, no matter where you want to go.

The Best Vacation Rental Sites Compare Vacation Rental Sites Compare Vacation Rental Site Reviews What are the best Vacation Rental Sites Best Vacation Rental Site Reviews

Vacation Rental Site FAQ

A vacation rental property is a fully-furnished apartment, condo, house (or even a castle, boat or RV!) that you can book for your next trip instead of a traditional motel/hotel. Many vacation rentals are privately owned, and the owners take pleasure in showing you everything they love about their hometown. It's a great way to get the inside scoop on your destination, from restaurants to activities.
A vacation rental is like having a home away from home. You'll have more room to stretch out, play games, eat and cook (if you want!), and maybe even throw in a load of laundry while you go explore your destination. If you're traveling with a large party - your kids, friends, extended family - a vacation rental will almost always provide the most value if you're staying for more than a night or two.
There are many well-known listing sites that let you browse by destination, number of guests, and desired amenities. Some vacation rental properties are more off the beaten path and not listed with the larger services; you can find those by searching for rentals in the area where you plan to travel.
Just about! (Maybe not in Antarctica though.) You'll have an easier time finding vacation rentals in popular tourist towns and their suburbs, but you may still discover something over the river and through the woods near Grandma's house too.
Most vacation rentals are fully furnished, with all of the linens you need for the bathrooms and bedrooms, kitchen equipment for cooking and eating meals, and often a washer and dryer. Depending on where you're traveling, you could get access to parking spots, a community pool, Wifi and more. Some really attentive property owners stock the bathrooms with spa-quality shampoo and conditioner, offer beach chairs and boogie boards for your use, and so on. You can almost always find a thorough description in the listing of what the rental has to offer.
Read the details to see what your vacation rental has. If it's not listed, it might not be there (e.g. Wifi, coffee maker, etc.). You can usually contact the owner before booking if there's something obviously missing. Also, most vacation rentals do not offer daily maid service; the cleaning is done after you leave, to prepare for the next guests.
Policies vary by owner and by listing service. Most have a required deposit that may or may not be refundable, depending on when you cancel: it's hard for rental properties to book last-minute guests. A travel insurance policy might be a smart add-on, whether you use a vacation rental property or not.
That's not common, but it does happen. It's a good idea to read through reviews from previous guests of the rental properties that interest you: that's usually the first indicator of whether or not a rental is going to be amazing or awful. But, if you book a rental and have problems - you arrive and can't get in according to the instructions you were given, the property is significantly different from what was described, you don't have running water or heat/AC - the listing service might have a toll-free number you can call to get help if you can't reach the property owner/manager.
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