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 best AirBnB alternatives would be helpful. AirBnB is definitely not the only accommodation game in town – here are some of our favourite sites like AirBnB to get you started, which includes a couple of curveballs you might not have expected!
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.
If you’re a property owner VRBO have two different models – either you can pay an annual fee, or you can list for free and pay a fee per booking. Sign up as an owner on VRBO here.
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.
They are normally our go-to choice for hotel bookings when we travel – we find they have a great choice, the site is easy to use, and the prices are usually the best. So definitely worth trying for your apartment hunt too!
For property owners, it’s free to list on Booking.com, with a fee applied per booking. You can sign up as an owner using this link.
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!
For property owners, like VRBO HomeAway has two models – an annual subscription where you pay no booking fees, and a free listing option where you pay per booking. You can sign up for HomeAway as a property owner here.
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 alternatives, 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.
If you’re a property owner, it’s also free to list your property on FlipKey, which will put your property in the TripAdvisor search engine, searchable across all their sites. Property owners can register here.
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.
Special offer: Finding the Universe readers get an additional 5% off, just book using this link.
If you’re a property owner, it’s free to list on Homestay. Do bear in mind that Homestay is a hosted experience, so is by definition a bit more hands on. If that sounds good to you, don’t miss out on up to $100 credit if you sign up as an owner using this link.
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.
For property owners, it’s free to list on Wimdu, with a fee applied per booking. You can sign up as an owner using this link.
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.
For property owners, Go With Oh is free to list, although of course you need to be in one of the cities they work in. You can sign up as an owner using this link.
OneFineStay is quite like 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.
For property owners, OneFineStay is quite selective, with many apartments not making their strict requirements. Fees are also quite high to reflect the fact that this a fully managed service. You can apply to list your apartment on OneFineStay with this link.
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 occasionally 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.
For property owners, there a yearly subscription to list your house, with a fee applied per booking. You can sign up as an owner using this link.
For property owners, there’s an annual subscription required to list your home, and you have to be a member of the TrustedHouseSitter community. Sign up as member using this link.
With over 600,000 properties on their books across 114 countries, RentalsCombined is a huge player in the vacation rentals market, and as they aren’t part of another network, are definitely worth checking out when you want more options. They focus on professionally managed properties rather than individually let out properties, and are great for both business and leisure travel. There’s also no booking fee, which is nice! See their listings here.
For property owners, you will be matched up with a property management company, and pay fees per booking. Find out more and sign up at this link.
11. Our favourite AirBnb Alternative?
Of all the above, the first place we usually go to when planning a trip is booking.com. We have found that they have the best choice of properties, the search engine is easy to use, you can filter by all sorts of categories and property features.
The fact that they cover apartments, hostels and hotels, as well as a number of other lodging options, means we nearly always find what we’re looking for at a good price. Definitely worth checking out.
Well, that about wraps up our guide to some of the best 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. She also has a list of even more sites like AirBnB if the above weren’t enough!
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!