The Best Airbnb Alternatives, From Plum Guide to Bnbfinder

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While I absolutely live for hotel stays (themed hotels and fantasy suites are my primary passion in life, but I adore my tried-and-true Double Trees, too), even I can admit that there are some notable advantages to staying at a vacation or home rental from platforms like Airbnb or VRBO. They’re usually more spacious, making them great for larger group getaways, bachelorette parties, family reunions, and the like. Plus, vacation rentals often are decked out with other convenient amenities, including full kitchens, laundry machines, hassle-free digital check-in (i.e., not having to talk to anyone IRL to get inside the property), and generally being more pet-friendly.

As a hotel loyalist who rarely uses these alternative lodging options, I have to admit the main reason I would opt for a homeshare listing as opposed to booking a room somewhere is usually an attempt to save some dough. Lately, though, while I love Airbnb’s unparalleled offering of unusual and themed accommodations, I’ve found its rentals to be far more expensive (especially after factoring in booking, service, and cleaning fees) than some five-star resorts. After recently forgoing an Airbnb rental for a hotel due to a series of additional fees, I began to wonder if there are any other alternatives that have emerged since the last time I had booked with the O.G. vacation rental company (it was, like, 2012, for reference and, spoiler alert: there are a lot.)

It turns out I’m not the only one who has become increasingly disillusioned by the staggering fees and surprise expenses you often find with ubiquitous vacation rental players—not to mention taking out my own trash, doing the dishes, and making the bed during the final moments to complete the checkout process. According to a recent survey by bnbfinder, 92 percent of people say price is a factor when booking travel accommodations and traveler frustration with vacation rental website service fees is an 8 on a 1-10 scale.

“The data tells us there’s a growing trend among savvy travelers to use sites like Airbnb or Vrbo, almost like a search engine to source a vacation rental, and then explore ways to book that same property directly to sidestep paying service fees,” said Eric Goldreyer, CEO and owner of bnbfinder in a press release. “At the same time, with many Americans expecting to spend more on their trips this year, it’s evident travelers aren’t just budget-driven—they’re craving overall value in their vacation rentals.”

I realize that many people aren’t hotel peopleeven if saving money or looking for overall value in a rental isn’t a consideration. While I find it hard to believe there are people out there who actually prefer to make their own beds and forgo the luxury of having housekeeping on speed dial for a complimentary toothbrush or comb if forgotten at home, some people favor booking a true home away from home instead. If you’re one of these people who prefer the benefits of non-hotel lodging when you’re away from home, Airbnb isn’t the only platform to choose from these days—and it’s certainly not the most wallet-friendly if you’re trying to avoid extra fees. Read on to check out the best Airbnb alternatives when booking your next trip.

Plum Guide

Plum Guide is certainly not the booking platform for cutting costs per se, but it is the sexiest option on the market right now. “Restaurants have the Michelin Star. Books have the New York Times Bestseller List. Vacation homes have the Plum Guide,” is the brand’s tagline, and it couldn’t be more spot on. In a heavily oversaturated booking website market, Plum Guide aims to offer a tightly curated selection of the absolute, hands-down best of the best vacation rentals around the world—it’s all about quality over quantity. Plum Guide’s experts vet every home available for rental—many of which don’t make the cut—ensuring that only the best of the best are available on the platform. The company uses a proprietary algorithm and works with hospitality critics to interview hosts and inspect properties. This ensures that travelers have access to top-notch accommodation.

Not only do they strictly vet every host to make sure they’re reliable, responsive, and trustworthy and inspect the home to make sure it’s immaculately clean, but they also look for the “strengths and weaknesses” of a home, including things like shower pressure, WiFi speed, and other details that often don’t get mentioned in other vacation rental booking sites. Plum Guide is truly a next-level vacation rental experience that anyone with a taste for luxury, an appreciation for interior design and architecture, or just someone with anxiety about staying in someone else’s home without knowing them will love. All of the benefits of certain AirBnb rentals apply here: greater privacy (less shared walls, etc.), unique properties, local immersion, etc., but the luxury settings and curation come at a premium price, sure to delight those willing and able to splurge a little on their next vacation or staycation. Initially only available at a handful of these curation locations, Plum Guide now includes more than the traditional vacation and travel spots, even including some rural, coastal, and less-frequented locations.

Buy Plum Guide at Plum Guide, $null


Committed to offering guests “hotel amenities without hotel formality,” Sonder bridges the gap between a full-service hotel and rental platforms, offering mostly aesthetically-focused short-term apartment rentals in the U.S. and abroad. Sonder is all about delivering a mobile-first service, including seamless check-in and check-out, dinner recommendations, towel requests, and more right from your phone. Unlike some booking platforms, Sonder manages, maintains, and runs its rental properties—not the host, so you don’t have to deal with meeting someone ahead of check-in to get the key, figure out parking, or get an unwanted tour or invite for a communal breakfast.

Most of the listings are units within a larger building, meaning you often have access to on-site security, parking, and premium amenities like a fitness room, pool, and on-property laundry. The Sonder app is basically a digital concierge, containing wifi instructions, neighborhood guides and dining recs, and options for requesting toiletries, late check-out, and more. Reviewers say staying at a Sonder rental feels more like a hotel rather than staying in someone else’s space, making it a great choice for those who are new to this type of accommodation rental or for those who live for a supremely minimalist apartment with resort-level perks.

Buy Sonder at Sonder, $null


For those of us looking to skip the hotel and steep service fees common on many vacation rental platforms, look no further than bnbfinder. While it’s smaller than some of its competitors, what you see is what you get—no surprise service fees. bnbfinder describes itself as a “book direct marketplace,” void of added fees and commissions, which means renters save money and its professional hosts earn more profit compared to its competitors.

As the name suggests, travelers can book traditional bed and breakfast accommodations, apartments, and single-family homes in a variety of cities in the U.S. The service-fee-free options are more limited compared to other platforms, but if you’re looking to save money as a renter or make more money as a host, bnbfinder is an excellent choice.

Buy bnbfinder at bnbfinder, $null


Vrbo (Vacation Rentail By Owner) is the most well-known rental accommodation platform next to Airbnb (even though Vrbo has been around since 1995—Airbnb was founded in 2008), known for offering more luxury properties and being more pet-friendly overall. Unlike other property rental companies, Vrbo only offers stand-alone homes, whereas Airbnb and other services have options for mutually shared spaces (i.e., staying in someone’s guest house or renting a bedroom in the host’s home).

Compared to Airbnb, reviewers seem to find that Vrbo has fewer service fees, though, unlike Bnbfinder, you will encounter additional charges depending on the host and the type of rental. Vrbo has a slew of themed, premium, and luxury whole-home houses for rent and less out-of-the-box accommodations like RV rentals, campsites, and private rooms in a home. Plus, reviewers applaud Vrbo for its superior customer service and renter protection, making it a reliable Airbnb alternative for those seeking an entire home.

Buy Vrbo at Vrbo, $null

The Blueground

For those looking for longer-term (a month and over) apartment rentals with all the bells and whistles of a typical apartment rental and some hotel-like amenities, the Blueground, a newer apartment rental start-up, is a fantastic option. The pricing for Blueground rental apartments is per month, making this a great alternative for those working in a city for an extended period of time, those in need of temporary housing for a summer internship or extended vacation, or if you’re in between housing during a move or in escrow and are OK with a furnished unit.

And, unlike a month-to-month lease (which is pretty tough to find these days), the Blueground offers on-demand support for any issues that should arise during your stay.

Buy The Blueground at Blueground, $null


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