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The Best Places to Book Travel and Vacation Rentals in 2021

Best Places to Book Travel and Vacation Rentals

After the better part of a year in pandemic lockdown, most of us are itching for an escape. While many hotels are doing their best to make hotel stays safe for their guests, the only way to stay 100% safe right now is not to comingle with strangers in confined spaces. The next best option is to book a vacation rental, homestay, or B&B getaway where the only guests are likely to be you and those closest to you. These are the best vacation rental sites for anyone looking for a fun, safe getaway in 2021.

Airbnb

As the granddaddy of peer-to-peer vacation rentals, Airbnb needs no introduction. Still, no roundup like this would be complete without mentioning it. The site has the world’s most extensive collection of vacation rentals, from barebones campsites to tiny cottage rentals to luxury beachfront villas. Airbnb’s search feature is top-notch, making it easy to drill down by location, price, amenities, pet-friendliness, and more. It’s so good, in fact, that almost every competitor rental site is trying hard to copy it.

What We Like: What we love most are the unique stay opportunities. These include everything from treehouses and teepees to mountaintop yurts and even igloos. If you’re looking for way-outside-the-box stays, you can even spend the night in a giant Idaho potato, a retro Scottish “submarine,” or a shipping container home in the woods.

Booking.com

If you know you want to get away, but you’re not picky or haven’t yet decided on the type of accommodation you’re after, Booking.com is a great place to start. The site offers in-depth facts, features, and reviews on every property it lists. While it can be overwhelming, it’s also great to know they’re not leaving anything out. Plus, for 2021, the site is touting huge savings of 20% or more on early bird bookings to the most popular U.S. destinations.

What We Like: More than almost any other vacation rental site, Booking.com offers a dizzying variety of options. It’s expanded well beyond the days of “just” hotel rentals to include everything from chain hotels and mom-and-pop inns to peer-to-peer apartment and vacation rentals.

Expedia

Along with Travelocity, Expedia started as an all-in-one travel booking engine for flights, hotels, and car rentals. It’s since expanded to include more “boutique” offerings like private vacation home, condo, and cabin rentals. You won’t find the same character and uniqueness of rentals here that, say, Airbnb can offer, but the discount prices sometimes make up for the lack of choice.

What We Like: The search function makes it easy to find vacation rental stays in specific areas and neighborhoods within a destination. While searching Miami, for example, it’s nice to be able to look only at stays near South Beach or Ocean Drive.

Vrbo

Vrbo (formally “VRBO” or “Vacation Rental by Owner”) has long been one of the two largest vacation rental sites (the other, HomeAway, was absorbed into Vrbo by parent company, Expedia). It’s still among the world’s top accommodation sites with listings in almost every country. The site does an excellent job of screening out renters and homeowners to minimize fraud. Plus, its 24/7 customer service is available to help with any issues before, during, and after your rental stay.

What We Like: The site design is crisp, clear, and easy to use, which is especially useful if you’re not sure where or how you want to travel. Vrbo provides great jumping-off categories like “On the Beach,” “Pets Welcome,” or just “Swimming Pools.”

HomeToGo

HomeToGo is to vacation rentals what Kayak is to travel in general. It’s like a search engine of search engines. Technically, it’s a metasearch engine, meaning it aggregates results from other search engines. And that includes a lot of results, so you won’t be starved for choice. The site boasts more than 18 million places to stay from over 2,000 booking partners. Those include all the big names like Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com, and many you’ve probably never heard of. HomeToGo’s filters are clear and intuitive, including checkboxes for important things like “Instant Booking” and allowing you to search by nightly rate or total cost with tax.

What We Like: For anyone looking for the shortest path to booking the perfect, budget-friendly vacation, it doesn’t get much easier than HomeToGo.

Vacasa

Online since 2009, Vacasa has a history of vacation rentals and vacation rental management, so it knows a thing or two about both. While the alternatives on this list provide a wide variety of vacation rentals, Vacasa focuses on upmarket and luxury stays. Think swanky mountain chalets, large lakefront cabins, and oceanfront vacation home rentals. That means you’ll find fewer total listings, but the caliber of rentals is usually higher. That also usually means a higher price tag to match. But, in this time of COVID, you and your family deserve it.

What We Like: In light of COVID-19, Vacasa has made cleanliness a priority for its guests. Through its Vacasa Premium Clean program, it’s working to ensure that all rentals are thoroughly cleaned according to or exceeding CDC recommendations.

TripAdvisor

It started as a travel review and comparison site 20 years ago, but TripAdvisor has become so much more. These days, users can book everything from flights to hotel stays to rafting rides in Costa Rica all through a single search. It still features nearly 900 million reviews on destinations and businesses around the world. But, it now also aggregates vacation rental results from the many sites under its umbrella, including FlipKey, HouseTrip, and the aptly named VacationHomeRentals.

What We Like: With a strong focus on customer reviews, new travelers can find thousands of detailed, unbiased ratings and comments on nearly every accommodation before booking.

Booking any sort of travel right now seems like a dicey proposition. Check out our guide to when and how to book travel safely in the coming year. If you’re ready to pull the trigger, travel subscription services like Safara can be a great alternative to book your next accommodations.

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