I’m not going to lie, we love AirBnB. It’s a wonderful way to find accommodation all around the world in lodgings that range from quirky to palatial, from budget to princely. If you’re new to the world of peer to peer accommodation, take a look at Jess’s post about AirBnB, which will answer all your questions.
The thing is, AirBnB has become a bit popular of late. There’s plenty of choice, but prices have definitely started to creep up. At busy times, properties can book out a long time in advance. In some cases, it’s also become quite the industry, losing the personal touch as landlords cash in, meaning the only human interaction you get is when you get your keys at the beginning of your stay.
With this in mind, I thought a handy guide to some of the other options on the market would be a good idea. AirBnB is definitely not the only accommodation game in town – here are some of our favourite AirBnB alternatives to get you started:
Our Favourite AirBnB Alternatives
Alternative 1 - VRBO
First up in my list of AirBnB alternatives is VRBO, or Vacation Rentals by Owner. Whilst perhaps not as well known as AirBnB, these guys have over a million properties on their books and have been operating since 1996, a full 12 years longer than AirBnB.
The VRBO model is a little different though, as they only rent out vacation properties. This means it’s not a hosted experience, and generally works best for families or groups of four or more looking for a slightly longer stay - although there are certainly many properties suited to couples. Originally, VRBO didn't charge guests a service / booking fee, passing this to the host instead, but they changed that in 2016, adding a booking fee to bookings.
Otherwise, the products are fairly similar. AirBnB offers a slightly slicker user experience, but it is much more popular. If you can’t find what you’re looking for on AirBnB, then definitely give VRBO a try.
Alternative 2 - Homestay
For me, Homestay is what AirBnB was supposed to be. It’s a genuinely hosted experience, meaning you always stay in a hosts home. This means you get a genuine, local experience, with the feeling of living with a local. We’ve used Homestay in locations around the world, including Paris, Savannah and London, and have always had a wonderful experience.
It is worth mentioning that there are a few downsides to Homestay – the main one being availability. Whilst they have properties in over 150 countries, they don’t have the choice of somewhere like AirBnB (although the same can be said for nearly every AirBnB alternative on this list!).
For example, we tried to find accommodation in New Orleans on our recent trip there, and there were hundreds of locations on AirBnB, and less than ten on Homestay.
Of course, the number of properties available is always growing, and there are a great many listed on Homestay that you just won’t find anywhere else, like this place we stayed at in London. So if you want a truly hosted experience, this is definitely the place to start your search. In addition, all Homestay properties include breakfast, which is a serious win in my book.
Homestay have kindly offered all readers of the site 5% off any Homestay booking if you use this link, as well as up to $100 off your first booking when you sign up using this link. Which is a win all round!
Alternative 3 - HomeAway
HomeAway is the parent company to VRBO, so as you would imagine, there is a great deal of overlap on their listings. There are some differences though, as HomeAway does have a bit more inventory on their books, particularly smaller apartments, meaning you get more options if you’re travelling solo or as a couple.
Whilst there is some overlap between Homeaway, VRBO and AirBnB, it’s not as much as you might think. In 2014, only 6% of HomeAway properties were also listed on AirBnB. That number has no doubt increased by now, but the bottom line is that if you restrict yourself to AirBnB, you are missing out on a lot of great properties!
Alternative 4 - Wimdu
If you’re focusing on cities, particularly in Europe, then Wimdu is a great option. More popular with European travellers, Wimdu currently offers 300,000 properties in 100 countries worldwide, meaning you have plenty of choice. Prices are also very competitive and the website offers everything you need including reviews on the properties.
We did a full review of our experience with Wimdu a few years back, you can read that here. If you’re travelling in European cities it’s definitely worth checking out, although there is a lot of overlap between Wimdu and AirBnB so keep that in mind.
Alternative 5 - Roomarama
Roomarama is very similar to AirBnB, although has more of a focus on professional travellers and mid to upper range properties. One key difference is the way payment is handled – on booking you are given a payment code, and you give this to your host once you are happy with the property at check-in, releasing your payment to the host.
Again, I’ve written a full review of a Roomarama experience right here for your to check out in more detail if you want to learn more about this service.
Alternative 6 - Flipkey
Flipkey is owned by TripAdvisor, so even if you’ve not heard of FlipKey itself, you can rest assured that this is no fly by night setup. Like the majority of AIrBnB competitors, it has fewer listing (300,000 rentals across 11,000 cities). That said, Flipkey doesn’t offer shared rooms – it’s private rooms or whole properties only.
Flipkey also has a nifty search feature where you can search for properties that meet certain criteria such as pet-friendly properties, waterfront properties, properties with a mountain view and so on, which is pretty neat if that’s what you’re after. Otherwise, there’s not a great deal of difference between AirBnB and Flipkey when it comes down to it, but they are still worth having in your arsenal when hunting for the perfect property!
Alternative 7 - Go With Oh
Definitely more of a niche site, Go With Oh primarily offer city apartments in 24 cities across Europe (although they list hostels and hotels as well).
The selection is definitely smaller compared to most of the other sites on this list, but this carries the benefit that the Go With Oh team can be more on the ball when it comes to quality control – every property they list is actually visited in person by a Go With Oh team member.
Go With Oh also don’t charge any booking fees or commission, and have a lowest price guarantee, so if you find the same property cheaper elsewhere online, they’ll refund you double the difference for apartments. If you’re travelling to one of the cities in Europe that they are in, you should definitely check them out.
Alternative 8 - OneFineStay
The last two options on this list are slight curveballs. First up, OneFineStay. This is somewhat similar to AirBnB, but at the high end of the property scale. Like $1,000+ a night kind of high end. Whilst the homes are owned by people, they are never a hosted experience, so you can experience some truly luxury properties all to yourself.
As I said, these places aren’t cheap, and OneFineStay only offers properties in five cities at time of writing: London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Rome. Still, if you know what you want and budget isn’t something that troubles you, OneFineStay could be just the ticket to a wonderful property in one of those cities.
Alternative 9 - House Sitting
Paying to stay somewhere is all well and good, but what if you could live all around the world, entirely for free? Sounds impossible? Well, it isn't, thanks to the concept of house sitting.
The way this works is that people who own houses occassionally want to leave them and go on trips. These can be for any length of time from a few days to weeks or even months. Rather than their houses sitting empty, they offer them up to people to stay in, usually entirely for free, in return for looking after the property, tending the garden, and generally keeping in in order. In many cases, they will also have pets that they want looking after - putting a pet into a boarding house for a prolonged preiod of time can be expensive, so house sitting is a win-win situation.
There are lots of house sitting options out there - one of the biggest and most popular communities to join is TrustedHousesitters. There is a fee to join, but once you're in, you'll have a world of choice when it comes to free accommodation around the world! Pretty cool.
Alternative 10 - Booking.com
Like I said, a couple of curveballs. Remember when people stayed in hotels, and someone would come to make your bed and clean your room? Sure, we love apartments, but every now and then, you just want a hotel. And the best place generally, we’ve found, for getting a great deal in any hotel anywhere in the world, tends to be booking.com.
But, what you might not have realised, is that Booking.com also do homes and apartments. So if you’re already a fan of the site and want to keep using it for your apartment booking, you can.
As an added tip, if you are looking for a hotel experience, check out HotelsCombined. They search all the major booking engines, including Booking.com, meaning you might end up with a better deal for a specific hotel than had you stuck with just one booking site.
Well, that about wraps up our guide to some great AirBnB alternatives.
As I’ve mentioned, we are still big fans of AirBnb and use it regularly – in fact, Jess has a whole post on AirBnB on her site, which you should definitely check out.
If you’re still to take the AirBnB plunge, this link will net you up to $100 off your first stay. And if you want some advice on finding the perfect apartment on any of these sites, check out this guide from Nomadic Matt. Enjoy!