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Airbnb vs. Traditional Vacation Rentals

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Deciding where or when to rent a vacation home is no longer the biggest challenge for traveling families. Now, the issue can be how to rent a property. Should you go through a traditional rental agency or new direct booking online?

Airbnb, established in 2008, offers flexibility and personal reviews of properties and hosts, but a traditional rental management company offers a trusted and established reputation and vetted rental properties. Both rental options could easily appeal to different types of travelers and different price points. A traveler who likes to take risks and wants more of a unique rental experience may choose Airbnb, while a traveler who knows the exact destination, dates and type of property desired may choose a traditional rental management company.

We’ve compared both rental property options to help you make your decision.

Airbnb vs. Traditional Vacation Rentals: How It Works

On Airbnb, travelers rent from the property owner directly, which may allow for more flexibility on both sides. Hosts rent out rooms, entire homes, and even castles in more than 190 countries. The traveler searches cities, host profiles and properties and reviews. After creating a profile, the traveler can then contact a host and request a booking.

Some hosts prefer to have a conservation with prospective guests on Airbnb before accepting or declining a request, while others will do instant bookings. Travelers are also welcome to ask questions of the host and work out any details regarding dates or special requests.

Traditional Rental Agencies
A traveler chooses a city and then finds a rental agency in that city. The traveler does not deal with the property owner directly. The rental agent will typically answer any questions or be the middleman between the traveler and property owner.

The traveler can search properties online or may have the opportunity to tour the property in-person with a rental agent if the location is within close proximity of home. Many traditional vacation properties are restricted on the specific timeframe of travel dates, and can often allow week-long bookings only.

Related: Best Vacation Rental Destinations 

Airbnb vs. Traditional Vacation Rentals: Payment

Once the booking is accepted, guests typically have two options: they can pay the total cost upfront or pay half at the time of booking and the remainder at the time of stay. As the travel date approaches, arrangements are made between the traveler and host regarding check-in and check-out and how to pick up the key. The host’s contact information is also provided. Travelers are reminded to be respectful of the home and considerate of neighbors (but mostly encouraged to have fun, of course).

Traditional Rental Agencies
Most rental agencies require a deposit upon booking and the balance is due as the travel date approaches. Check-in and check-out times are predetermined by the agency and oftentimes are strictly enforced to allow for cleaning time at turnover. Details regarding the key are also predetermined by the agency and sometimes require the traveler to pick up and drop off the key at the rental management company’s office. A welcome bag or packet can sometimes be provided to travelers with details about the area, too.

Airbnb vs. Traditional Vacation Rentals: Refunds

If a guest experiences a travel issue or the vacation home rental does not meet Airbnb standards by not matching the online description, a refund can be requested if the issue meets the Guest Refund Policy. If the vacation home is not in the described location, does not have the described amenities, is not generally clean or is not the described size, the guest may be granted a refund at Airbnb’s discretion.

Traditional Rental Agencies
Agencies often have 30-, 60- or 90-day cancellation policies, which are strictly enforced, and deposits can be refunded within those timeframes. Because the properties have been vetted by the agency, it is unlikely a traveler would experience any property surprises upon arrival.

Related: Biggest Vacation Rental Mistakes

Airbnb vs. Traditional Vacation Rentals: Reviews

After a visit, travelers are encouraged to review the property and host, which may help the next visitor when making travel plans. The host can also review the renter, too, which could help or hinder your next rental request, so make sure to be a welcomed guest.

Traditional Rental Agencies
Some rental agencies may allow reviews to be posted online, but not all of them do. The agency would take any complaints into consideration and hopefully relay them to the property owner directly.

Related: What to Pack for Your Vacation Rental

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