Dreaming of whiling away lazy sun-drenched days at your own villa on Cap d’Antibes? Perhaps you fancy a weekend in Paris tucked into a charming pied-à-terre from which you can explore the city like a local. Sometimes our wanderlust fantasies can’t be contained in a simple hotel room, or even in a penthouse suite. For some escapes, only a home rental will do. But who to rent from? We’ve researched three of the biggest names in vacation rentals, to give you all the goods on how to book and why.
Sugar Hill, Barbados – Photograph courtesy of Homeaway
What it is
Home-rental site that boasts access to more than one million homes in 190 countries and counting (the company purchased VRBO in 2006). On this site, “home” has a broad meaning as it also offers castles, yachts and yurts. The company launched Luxury Rentals from HomeAway in 2013; this more exclusive site offers high-end homes that have been vetted by the experts at Andrew Harper.
How to Use It
Simply enter your desired location and dates. Most listings feature ample photos and reviews. To only view luxury homes, go to luxury.homeaway.com.
HomeAway has size and time on its side. It is the largest vacation- home rental platform and has been in business for a decade.
The site does not charge travelers a fee.
Every rental includes the company’s Digital Concierge. Through the app, travelers can order groceries on Instacart and access Gogobot to help plan local activities. It also connects travelers with the owners, allowing them access to much needed info like door lock codes, Wi-Fi passwords and other relevant property intel.
Currently there are a limited number of homes that you can book immediately. The site pushes you to individual owners and rental agents. Some are prompt in replying but some may take several days. The company says it is committed to being fully online bookable by December 2016.
Grandeur in Costa Rica – Photograph courtesy of 3rd Home
2. 3RD HOME
What it is
This is a private club for second (or third or fourth) homeowners who want to exchange time at their vacation home for the use of another member’s luxury home. Members “deposit” time during which others can use their home. They then receive “keys,” which can be used to reserve one of the 3,300 homes—with an average value of $2.4 million.
How to Use It
First you’ll need a second home, and a nice one. The minimum home value for entry is $500,000. Primary homes are not allowed. The number of keys you receive is based on the value of your home, the market it resides in and the time of year you deposit. The initiation fee is $2,500 but is currently being waived. Once approved, you can deposit weeks and start earning keys that can be used immediately to reserve another home. 3rdhome.com
Allows second homeowners who have felt trapped into vacationing in the same spot every year to experience vacations around the world at a fraction of what a comparable home rental would cost.
3RD HOME is also affiliated with forty resorts, allowing you to visit full-service properties such as The Ritz Carlton Destination Club.
You need a second home to participate.
There is an exchange fee of $395-$995 per week depending on when you reserve.
A castle in Lazio, Italy – Photograph courtesy of AIRBNB
What it is
Founded in 2008 with a couple of air mattresses for rent, this site has gone decidedly upscale and global. You can still rent a bed in someone’s home, but now you can also rent a castle or stylish apartment in the right neighborhood of any city you are visiting; they have rentals in more than 34,000 of them.
How to use it
Register and start browsing. Each host has an online profile and guests leave reviews, so it’s easy to see if the property matches the description and what guests enjoyed. airbnb.com
You can reach out to the host and ask more questions prior to booking.
The host will contact you prior to your arrival—many are excellent trip advisers and give advice on nearby attractions and restaurants.
Customer service is available 24/7 for any problems that may arise.
An Airbnb listing is significantly less expensive than a hotel stay.
No hotel amenities like daily housekeeping or turn down service with chocolates on your pillow.
There have been reports of homes not being in the condition as represented, but these instances are very rare.