Last week, comedian Caleb Hearon took to Twitter to bluntly voice his displeasure with Airbnb, proclaiming, “i’m done with airbnb lmao these motherfuckers have curfews, quiet hours, and chore lists now. i will be at a HOTEL.” The tweet created a bit of a pile-on (33K retweets and climbing), with actress Tawny Newsome chiming in, saying, “the last [Airbnb] I stayed at, the owner turned away my delivery person citing her ‘no guests’ policy. I’m still not well,” and writer Caissie St. Onge recounted a time when her Airbnb host asked her to catch her runaway cat for her.
Systemic criticisms of Airbnb (and its effect on local real estate markets) are nothing new, but increasingly, hidden booking fees, unreasonable rules, and cleaning requirements are making the service less useful for renters than it used to be — and the same holds true for its chief competitors, like Vrbo, which carries similarly hefty tacked on costs. But despite their omnipresence, Airbnb and its ilk aren’t the only game in town. Here are three booking alternatives to consider next time you’re making travel arrangements.
Booking Direct Vacation Rentals. Booking Direct Vacation Rentals is a third party vendor that connects travellers with the owners of vacation rental properties so they can book with them directly, the idea being that both parties stand to gain financially by eliminating the middleman. CNBC writes, “direct-booking websites offer hosts an avenue where they can rent their properties to guests at a cheaper price while generating a higher profit than they can when a middleman such as Airbnb is involved.”
Most Airbnb guests will pay around a 14% service fee for their booking, and owners typically pony up 3%. By dealing with property owners directly, you can also negotiate rates and organise logistics in a way that Airbnb does not allow. It’s important to carefully read the rental agreement with your property’s owner before signing, as each home will still have its own cancellation policies and house rules.
Hopper. If you’re old enough to remember a time before Airbnb existed, travellers used to stay in these crazy buildings called “hotels”. If you’ve become frustrated with Airbnb’s tacked on fees and cleaning policies, it might be time to consider going retro. If you do opt for a hotel, check out Hopper, an app that connects travellers to discounted hotel rooms.
According to a myriad of Reddit users, the best usage of Hopper actually isn’t to book through the app itself, but to use it to see which hotels are offering discounts, then to call those hotels to book directly. This way, you can secure the competitive rates without having to go through the Hopper customer service (which is not typically as robust as what the hotel itself will offer) if an issue arises. The biggest perk: hotels on the whole tend to have better cancellation policies than Airbnbs. You’ll save money on fees and someone might even make your bed every morning.
Homestay. If you’re looking to save money and take in the local culture in a foreign country, you’re an ideal customer for Homestay, which connects you with families abroad that are interested in hosting travellers.. If this doesn’t sound like your speed, consider: by staying with a local, you’ll have access to someone who knows the ins and outs of the community you’re visiting and will be able to recommend the best restaurants and tell you the tourist traps to avoid.
Homestay makes sure all of their hosts are vetted by their local partners to ensure the profile listed is as described. You can also read through a host’s reviews to see what past guests have had to say. Additionally, there are dozens of options for bookings in spots like Barcelona, Sydney, and other great foreign locales for under $US50 ($69) per night, a price you’re rarely going to see on Airbnb. Each booking does include a 15% fee, but considering how much lower the rates are, it typically ends up being quite a bit less expensive than flat fees you’ll incur with an Airbnb.