We’re now halfway through February, which means that it’s time to rid yourself of Christmas nostalgia and start thinking about your summer vacation. If, like so many other travelers these days, you might prefer the authentic intimacy of a vacation rental to the corporate luxury of a hotel room, then the important holiday question is not so much where you want to do it, but how. Luckily for you, here at AllTheRooms, we’ve already answered that question by looking at how the two biggest vacation rental websites, Airbnb and VRBO, line up against each other.

What are they?

Though both Airbnb and VRBO offer similar services, some subtle differences could affect your vacation rental experience. On the one hand, Airbnb describes itself as a peer-to-peer online homestay network, which enables you, the “guest”, to book short-term lodging from “hosts” through their website. On the other hand, VRBO is an online vacation rental listing website, which gives you the option to contact the property owner and book your stay yourself.

What have they got?

In terms of the number of listings, Airbnb blows VRBO clean out of the water. Though VRBO boasts 794,000 active listings on its website, Airbnb offers you an astonishing 2 million accommodation choices in over 34,000 cities around the world. Furthermore, while VRBO’s vacation rental listings place a particular focus on entire homes and apartments for larger groups, Airbnb gives you the option to rent private or shared rooms, or the whole property. On both websites, the variety of vacation rentals available is impressive. Why not push the boat out and book Airbnb’s arctic igloo in Sjursnes, Norway? Alternatively, you could treat yourself to a 13th-century castle in County Galway, Ireland on VRBO. The possibilities are endless.


What will they cost?

Though the online community generally considers Airbnb’s price per night to be lower than that of VRBO, both sites will charge you a ‘service fee’ if you book through their website. Airbnb takes 6-12% of the reservation subtotal (before fees and taxes), a percentage which decreases the higher the subtotal. The total payment is then made 24 hours after you check-in. If you book your holiday with VRBO, you’ll be charged a 6% service fee, as well as making the total payment and security deposit up front. Alternatively, you can contact and pay the host yourself using the contact details provided.


What are their policies?

On the one hand, as an Airbnb guest, you’ll be given one of 3 standardized refund policies. “Flexible” is when a full refund (except fees) is provided after a cancellation is made at least 1 day prior to arrival. “Moderate” is when a full refund (except fees) is provided after a cancellation is made at least 5 days prior to arrival. And “Strict” is when a 50% refund (except fees) is provided at least 1 week prior to arrival.

In VRBO’s case, it is more complicated since every property has its own individual cancellation policy. Given that property owners receive payment up front, it is highly unlikely that a host would provide you with a full refund.


How do they help?

Airbnb’s ingenious review system, which can only be used by members who have exchanged services, means that reviews are fair, authentic opinions from the Airbnb community. Even better, if any problem does arise before, during or after your stay, the site’s dedicated 24/7 customer service team are considered “extremely reputable” by Airbnb users. VRBO guests can score properties and their owners in a similar way. However, although VRBO also provides 24/7 customer service, they state explicitly that they provide booking services only, taking no responsibility for the interactions between a guest and their host.


What do we think? 

In the end, which site you use will depend on what kind of vacation you’re looking for. Airbnb’s accommodation listings are good value but “residential”, meaning users tend to commit to being part of a cohabiting community. If you’re price-conscious and wouldn’t mind sharing a high-rise apartment with your host, Airbnb’s the site for you. The reasonable service fees, the variety of listings and the immersive features mean you’re sure to have an authentic experience wherever you go. On the other hand, VRBO’s focus on vacation rental properties makes it suited to larger groups willing to spend more on something like a family retreat. The site’s prudent insurance policies and reasonable number of listings will certainly make up for the pressure of dealing with your vacation host yourself.


Read More on ATR

Airbnb and Instant Booking: A Recipe for Market Domination

And All That Jazz: The Chicago Accommodations Market is No Longer so Simple


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