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The Best Sites for Booking Short-Term Rentals

More and more travelers are opting to stay in short-term vacation rentals rather than traditional hotels. Short-term rentals offer amenities like kitchens, extra space, and homey touches that help guests feel like locals. Booking sites make finding and reserving these rentals easy, but with so many options it can get overwhelming. This comprehensive guide covers the top sites to use when booking your next short-term rental.

1. Airbnb

Founded in 2008, Airbnb is the largest and most well-known site for listing and booking short-term rentals. The site offers over 6 million listings across 220 countries and regions. Options range from spare rooms in someone's home to entire houses, apartments, and unique stays like boats, treehouses, and even castles.

Pros:

  • Huge selection of listings across the globe
  • Thorough search filters to find exactly what you want
  • User reviews help identify great places and hosts
  • Variety of prices to suit different budgets
  • Secure booking and payment system

Cons:

  • Quality and accuracy of listings can vary greatly
  • Lots of competition for popular listings
  • Service fees drive up total booking cost
  • Last minute bookings can be difficult
  • Customer service response times can be slow

For travelers who value choice and unique stays, Airbnb is a top pick for booking short-term rentals. The sheer number of options makes it possible to find great places to stay all over the world.

2. Vrbo

Formerly known as HomeAway, Vrbo focuses exclusively on whole home vacation rentals. It provides over 2 million house, condo, and apartment listings across 190 countries. Most are privately owned second homes or investment properties rather than primary residences.

Pros:

  • Specializes in fully-equipped homes rather than shared spaces
  • More consistency than Airbnb in terms of quality and amenities
  • Lower service fees compared to some competitors
  • Family-friendly with listings catering to groups
  • Allows instant booking for some properties

Cons:

  • Smaller total inventory compared to Airbnb
  • Fewer budget/shared options
  • Listings concentrated in vacation destination areas
  • Less common to meet/interact with homeowners
  • Some outdated listings and photos

For travelers prioritizing space, privacy, and household amenities, Vrbo stands out as a top vacation rental booking site. The home-like accommodations appeal to couples, families, and groups.

3. Booking.com

Booking.com dominates the general accommodation booking sector with over 28 million reported listings. Options range from major hotel chains to independently owned boutique hotels to privately owned short-term rentals.

Pros:

  • Enormous assortment of accommodation types
  • Properties held to consistent quality standards
  • Rewards program offers discounts for frequent users
  • Flexible search filters by location, price, etc
  • Easy comparison shopping across listings
  • Seamless booking experience

Cons:

  • Heavily focused on hotels rather than home rentals
  • Properties in top destinations book out further in advance
  • Higher booking fees compared to direct reservations
  • Generic experience lacking local flavor
  • Impersonal customer service

For travelers who enjoy hotel-style stays or have fixed must-haves, Booking.com makes an ideal one-stop site to evaluate options. The sheer volume of listings and review data aids the booking process.

4. FlipKey

Owned by TripAdvisor, FlipKey offers over 300,000 vacation rental listings in over 11,000 cities worldwide. Property managers and homeowners list everything from cabins to condos to beach houses.

Pros:

  • Vacation rental focused site with good variety
  • TripAdvisor integration helps identify top rentals
  • Traveler photos showcase inside views
  • Flexible search by number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc
  • Site verification aims to prevent rental scams

Cons:

  • Much smaller inventory compared to bigger sites
  • Availability limited during peak travel times
  • Communication with owners can be delayed
  • Some outdated listings and photos
  • Service fees on every booking

For travelers wanting a vacation rental focused site with tight TripAdvisor integration, FlipKey makes a good option. Property owner responsiveness helps ensure a smooth booking and stay.

5. Vacasa

Vacasa manages over 35,000 vacation rentals across North America, Belize, Costa Rica, Italy, and Spain. Guests book directly through their site or via rental listing sites. Their designated local staff provide 24/7 support throughout each stay.

Pros:

  • Professionally managed homes with consistent quality
  • Housekeeping and maintenance staff oversee properties
  • Local Vacasa employees assist guests as needed
  • Properties stocked with essentials like toiletries and kitchen items
  • Flexible search filters to find optimal rental

Cons:

  • Smaller total portfolio compared to bigger sites
  • Limited to the regions where Vacasa operates
  • Properties book out further in advance
  • Higher nightly rates on average
  • Strict cancellation policies

For travelers wanting extra assurance during their rental stay, Vacasa's professionally managed homes provide local oversight and concierge-like services. The enhanced hospitality makes up for the higher prices.

Choosing the Best Short Term Rental Site

When choosing a short term rental booking site, first decide the type of accommodations and locations suited to your travel party and trip parameters. Consider factors like:

  • Desired destination(s)
  • Number of people/rooms needed
  • Length of stay
  • Budget
  • Preferred amenities
  • Management preferences

The best sites also share key features that improve the booking experience:

  • Large portfolio of rental listings
  • Search filters to find optimal matches
  • Recent photos representing the listings
  • Detailed property descriptions
  • Traveler reviews and ratings
  • Secure online booking engine
  • Responsive customer service

Comparing the strengths of Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com, FlipKey, and Vacasa shows how they overlap while still catering to different priorities amongst travelers. Fortunately we have more rental options than ever to choose from thanks to the convenience of booking sites. Do your research to determine the best fit for your next vacation rental stay.

Reveal your property’s rental profitability

Buy this property and list it for short term rental.