One benefit of trying the Google tool is that you can see the same rental across multiple sites and compare prices as you would a hotel room. (Rates often vary insignificantly across sites, which means you can choose a site based on other factors like a generous cancellation policy.) And that brings us to the notion of vacation-rental search engines, which allow you to browse properties from multiple rental websites like HomeAway and VRBO in one place. While these search engines have been around for years, many travelers are unfamiliar with them. They don’t necessarily have the same name recognition as a site like Kayak (which also now allows users to search for rentals).
Tripping.com is an example of a rental-search engine. With more than 10 million properties, it bills itself as the largest search engine for rentals and has properties from rental sites, including HomeAway, VRBO, TripAdvisor and Booking.com. That can make property comparison easier than jumping between rental sites.
Another aggregator, AlltheRooms.com, has, as the name suggests, a wide variety of accommodation types. Among them are rental properties from numerous websites, including Airbnb, FlipKey, Expedia and Priceline. When you search for a place to stay at a particular location, you can filter the property type by categories like home/apartments; homeshares (such as Couchsurfing); even tree houses, like those on the site Glampinghub.com (and you thought glamping was a fad), which lists luxury outdoor accommodations like yurts and beach huts. As with other search sites, you use AllTheRooms to browse properties and when you select one to book, you’re taken to another website, like Airbnb, Glamping Hub or Expedia.
Indeed, the sites you’ve been using for years to find hotels also include vacation rentals in their search results.
Expedia has a button on its home page that users can click to search specifically for vacation rentals instead of hotels. Orbitz and Travelocity (which are both owned by Expedia) have vacation rental hyperlinks at the top of their home pages, and turn up properties from the rental site HomeAway because, it too, is owned by Expedia. Hotels.com is yet another Expedia brand, and while there isn’t a big rentals link on the home page, you can filter search results for accommodation type to see vacation rentals.
Booking.com, a competitor owned by the Priceline Group, has a hyperlink on its home page that allows users to filter for rentals. To stay competitive, companies like Priceline are beefing up their rental property inventory, which means searches through these sites should become even more comprehensive in the future. (You can also browse RedAwning.com, which supplies vacation rentals to the likes of Booking.com, HomeAway and Airbnb.)
Another place to look for a rental is TripAdvisor. Long considered the go-to hotel review site, this was where travelers went to vent or find out if a hotel was clean, quiet or worth the splurge. In recent years, TripAdvisor has been reminding travelers that they can also use the site to book the places they read about — and those places include vacation rentals. They can be booked through TripAdvisor in more than 200 countries, and include destinations like Key West, Fla., and New York City. You can search for all kinds of properties — houses, condos, villas, cabins and cottages — and sort results by things such as review rating and price. A recent search for rentals in London turned up more than 7,000 apartments.
TripAdvisor has around 800,000 properties, including beach houses and ski chalets, in nearly 200 countries (visit tripadvisorrentals.com). There is also a TripAdvisor blog devoted to vacation rentals, where you can watch a video about the pleasures of renting tiny houses and read about properties with home theaters that TripAdvisor thinks are perfect for binge-watching Game of Thrones.
With many more places to look for rentals than ever before, it’s essential to read the fine print regarding deposits and cancellation policies, as well as any type of background screening the company may — or may not — do of its hosts.