If you are traveling during the coronavirus pandemic, make sure you are aware of the latest travel rules and restrictions in the destination you are going to, and check the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest COVID-19 travel guidelines. We also have provided some tips for booking safe vacation rentals during the pandemic in this story.
There’s no denying that Airbnb has become an essential vacation rental resource for countless travelers the world over (for us too!), but it certainly isn’t the only game in town. Depending on the type of vacation home you are looking for, there are ample options.
We’ve put together our go-to list of vacation rental companies that we lean on whether we are simply looking for more choices for a popular destination or travel period (hello, last-minute holiday planners—we see you, we are you), or have something very specific in mind regarding amenities or design aesthetic. These are the vacation rentals for every budget, style, preference, and taste.
Homes & Villas by Marriott International
Best for hotel lovers and Marriott Bonvoy members
Last year, one of the world’s most recognizable hotel companies entered the vacation rental market with Homes & Villas by Marriott International. The result is a large and well-curated collection of properties perfectly suited for travelers who love the consistent cleanliness and service hotels and resorts offer but want the space and unique amenities vacation rentals provide.
Marriott has partnered with experienced home management companies, such as Austin-based TurnKey Vacation Rentals (more on this outfit below), to oversee the maintenance and operations of the residences, ensuring that homes are professionally cleaned and always come with guaranteed standards, such as Wi-Fi, in-home washers, premium bed linens and towels, and provided toiletries.
The collection features more than 12,000 high-end homes in 225 destinations throughout the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, and South Africa. The homes have an average nightly rate of about $500, but they range from urban and beach condos for about $150/night all the way up to sprawling English manors and Caribbean villas that go for $20,000/night.
Similar to other vacation rental booking platforms, you can search by your destination and dates. But if you’re looking for some inspiration to help drive your decision, Homes & Villas by Marriott International also has a series of “Curated Collections,” homes that are organized into such categories as:
Or go ahead and book Frank Sinatra’s midcentury Palm Springs paradise (pictured at the top of this article) or the sprawling Kauai villa pictured above.
In addition to the properties themselves, one of the biggest benefits of the Homes & Villas product is the fact that Marriott Bonvoy loyalty members can earn and redeem points when staying at the vacation homes.
To book: homes-and-villas.marriott.com
Where to head for sheer inventory and variety
Long before there was Airbnb, there was Vrbo (pronounced ver-bo, a name that derives from its original incarnation as Vacation Rentals by Owner), a platform for vacation homes dating back to 1995. Since then, Vrbo has grown into a massive collection of more than 2 million homes throughout the world.
Where Vrbo really thrives is in the size and scope of the inventory. It’s rare for the site to not have availability in a popular vacation destination for a popular season (clutch for all those last-minute planners out there). The search results really run the gamut from lower-priced, no-frills homes all the way to over-the-top massive mansions (and chic Arizona villas, such as the one pictured above).
With an eye toward catering to families, only entire homes are listed on Vrbo—no shared spaces. And given the site’s longevity, there is a solid stockpile of user reviews for many of the properties to help flesh out your booking decision.
Vrbo is owned by Expedia Group, which recently combined its HomeAway and Vrbo vacation rental brands into a single brand: Vrbo. Thus, Vrbo has the tech-backing to make for a seamless booking experience, including easy change and cancellation options.
To book: vrbo.com
TurnKey Vacation Rentals
Best for reliable service
TurnKey Vacation Rentals’ focus—and where it shines—is on providing a level of service and professionalism in line with what you would expect from a fine hotel stay. As a full-service property management company, TurnKey operates as the “middleman” between homeowner and renter with the goal of ensuring consistency across its homes.
The TurnKey portfolio features 6,000 upscale homes in the United Sates, including in California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Arizona, Colorado (see the Breckenridge chalet above), Texas, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maine, among several other states. All of the homes come with full kitchens, Wi-Fi, and around-the-clock customer support. Professional cleaning services are used between stays, and homes are outfitted with fresh toiletries, digital locks for touchless entry, and high-tech tablet devices that offer local suggestions on things to do and places to eat.
To book: turnkeyvr.com
Kid & Coe
Video: Acade-style gaming heading to strip resorts (KVVU Las Vegas)
Custom-built for families
“If a holiday is going to be relaxing, the kids have to be happy,” Kid & Coe managing director Caitlin Ramsdale recently told AFAR about the booking platform’s travel philosophy. Any parent or caretaker knows this to be absolutely true. Kid & Coe aims to make kids (and their parents) happy by offering 1,400 private homes (in 50 countries), home swaps, and hotel listings geared very thoughtfully to families (including the Bali villa above).
The tight-knit team (all parents themselves) carefully selects properties that are stylish and comfortable and that come stocked with such items as cribs, highchairs, toys, books, and swing sets. The site’s filters allow families to search for specific amenities that cater to different ages and stages, such as a bathtub, pool gate, bed rails, stair gates, and game console. There are detailed notes about each residence (“the stairs are steep so young children should be supervised,” for example), and some of the homes come with additional perks that can include optional babysitter, nanny services, or personal chef services provided upon request.
To book: kidandcoe.com
Love Home Swap
Best home exchange service
Here’s a thought: Why not use your home as vacation collateral? If you need a change of scenery, offer your home in exchange for, say, a chic mountain chalet (like the one in Mont Blanc, France, pictured above). That’s the idea behind Love Home Swap, which offers 65,000 home swapping options in 160 countries. When browsing for options, users can search for inspiration with categories such as “City bases” and “By the sea.” Swappers can also narrow their search to focus on their interests, such as kid-friendly homes.
For a traditional home swap you need to match dates and locations with a corresponding swapper, but Love Home Swap also has a point system that allows for nonsimultaneous swaps. Swappers can list their home for anywhere from 50 points a night to up to 450 points a night and can then use those points to redeem stays.
To book: lovehomeswap.com
Paradise for design lovers
You will be hard-pressed to find more visually stunning homes than Welcome Beyond’s collection of 272 design-centric and unique residences (listings also include boutique hotels, yurts, tree houses, lodges, and private islands) located in 44 countries. The majority of the homes are in Europe (such as the Portugal property above), but there are also a handful in the United States (most on the East Coast), and others scattered throughout South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
While they are all extremely easy on the eyes, the pricing and services cater to a wide range of tastes and budgets. Rentals are listed for as little $80/night and can go up to $6,000/night. Some of the properties have the option to include a private chef, butler, personal mixologist, or concierge who can arrange private boat trips, restaurant reservations, and other activities—helping to elevate the bookings from a vacation home to a truly memorable getaway.
To book: welcomebeyond.com
Specialized in over-the-top luxe homes
Cuvée is a collection of 75 luxury homes and villas (including a private island in the Bahamas), in destinations such as Aspen, Vail, Beaver Creek, Hawaii, Los Cabos, St. Bart’s, Turks and Caicos, and Tuscany. In addition to having all the bells and whistles you would expect from expansive mansions (think extras like cinema rooms, arcade games, wine cellars, professional chef kitchens, infinity pools, and more), most are ideally situated oceanfront or with epic mountain and landscape views.
The latest addition to the collection is The Mother Lode (pictured above), a unique four-level private residence in downtown Aspen, Colorado, complete with multiple living spaces, six bedrooms, an expansive rooftop with hot tub, a home theatre, full bar, arcade games, pool table, fitness equipment, and priceless views of Aspen Mountain Ski Resort.
The homes range from $1,900/night up to $20,000/night and include a concierge who can assist guests with arranging a private chef, spa services, and booking activities; daily housekeeping (upon request); welcome cocktails and hors d’oeuvres; a fully stocked bar; and refreshments and snacks stocked in the pantry and fridge.
To book: cuvee.com
Reliably well-appointed homes
Vacasa is a vacation rental management company that handles bookings from start to finish, ensuring that all rentals are vetted and professionally cleaned between stays (housekeepers must follow a comprehensive cleaning procedure after every stay, including sanitizing and disinfecting high-touch areas) and that renters have a 24/7 point of contact should any issues arise.
The service consists of more than 25,000 homes in destinations that include Hawaii, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, New England, Florida, and California (including the Idyllwild cabin above). Renters can preview rentals with virtual 3-D tours of the homes (a particularly handy feature for getting a proper grasp of the layout) and can filter by interests such as ski-in/ski-out, hot tubs, pools, dog-friendly, bikes, and kayaks, among others.
There is a corresponding Vacasa app where users can access their vacation rental details after they book.
To book: vacasa.com
Great for Caribbean villas
If you’re looking for a stunning villa retreat in the Caribbean, look no further than onefinestay’s hand-selected collection of homes. The company also features gorgeous homes and apartments in such cities as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Paris, and Rome. But its villa collection, including on the Caribbean islands of St. Bart’s, Turks and Caicos, St. John, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Antigua, Grand Cayman, and St. Martin (where the property above is located), is where it really stands out. There are also villas available in the Hawaiian islands, Costa Rica, Belize, Bali, Phuket (Thailand), Saint-Tropez (France), and Amalfi and Lake Como (Italy).
Onefinestay features 5,000 homes that are professionally managed and always include a personal welcome to the home, 24/7 customer support, and housekeeping service. Guests have the option to add any number of services, including grocery deliveries, a private chef, childcare, and spa treatments. Prices range anywhere from $400/night to $4,000/night and up.
To book: onefinestay.com
Built for BIPOC travelers
Noirbnb was cofounded in 2015 by Stefan Grant after he had a terrible vacation rental experience—neighbors called the police on Grant while he was staying at an Airbnb in Atlanta.
The resulting company is one that aims to provide a better and safer experience for travelers of color by celebrating and supporting them. Noirbnb relaunched in November 2020 with a freshly updated website, complete with new features that make it easier for hosts to post their listings and for users to find and book stays.
Some of the site’s most popular destinations include Los Angeles, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, Seattle, Atlanta, and Negril, Jamaica. There is also a Noirbnb Concierge Service, which builds customized itineraries for travelers, including transportation, accommodations, and activities based on their tastes and interests.
In a recent note about the relaunch, Grant acknowledged that the site’s functionality and features are a work in progress—but its mission to connect BIPOC travelers with the world remains true to its core.
To book: noirbnb.com
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