Published on July 19th, 2019 | by The Local Staff


To Be, or to AirBNB

To Be, or to Airbnb? 

Everyone loves a summer adventure…but, adventuring can get expensive, especially when you are talking about overnight stays anywhere. Hotels are fine, but they can be overpriced and cookie cutter boring. You know what you are getting for the most part: patterned carpet, questionable bedding, tiny soaps and shampoo…meh. This summer, I decided I wanted to up the ante a little bit and see what kind of accommodations were out there that would make our getaways feel a little more personal; a little more LOCAL. 

After 3 mini-vacations staying at different rentals, I am happy to report we not only got better  pricing than we would have, we also enjoyed fantastic neighborhoods, food, VIEWS, and we met people that we may not have if we had settled on any ol’ Holiday Inn somewhere. We booked through 2 sites, but there are SO many vacation rental websites popping up. It can be hard to know where to start, what to look for and what site will work best for the type of vacation you are anticipating. So, I will toss out this list as a place for you to start your search for the perfect vacay stay. 

  1. Airbnb –Has roughly 6 million rentals in 191 countries.  They offer places as small as a room in a home, to apartments or houses. They also recently expanded their brand to Airbnb Plus (homes must meet a strict set of criteria, have upgraded amenities and high reviews) and Airbnb Luxe (luxury listings)! We used Airbnb for 2 of the 3 rentals at which we’ve stayed – I like that they also offer experiences specific to the area and restaurants you may enjoy. Airbnb also shows you the rental cost along with the price you will pay with the cleaning fee/service fee up front so you know what you are up against to keep costs down. 
  1. Homeaway – more than 2 million listings with slightly lower listing fees for the homeowner…this savings is more often than not passed down to you! Homeaway is currently the highest rated site for vacation rentals…(I think this is due to being bought by Expedia – opening up multiple avenues for people to find and book rentals.)
  1. VRBO (by Homeaway) – Set up exclusively for vacation homes, so no one is living in the house or apartment or cabin you rent. This was the 3rd option we went for when traveling with the kids and another family. We were able to rent a 10 person cabin with an amazing bathroom setup (2 showers, 2 stalls and a row of sinks) for less than what it would have cost just us for a tiny hotel room. The perk of these being exclusive vacation rentals is that they are already on a cleaning schedule and maintained for a set cost. Cleaning fees tend to be cheaper on VRBO than on any other site (not ALWAYS…be sure to shop around!). VRBO also has camp site rentals! They allow primitive sites to be listed, as well as some with basic conveniences. I recently saw a barn with bed and bath listed…might be fun in the fall!!!
  1. Flipkey – not as aesthetically pleasing, but Flipkey offers similar site to Homeaway. What I do like about this site is that they also have a vacation blog that is super-informative and they offer ideas to places maybe you would not normally vacation. Easily accessible and with some really interesting listings, I am looking at a place for our next outing here. 
  1. Love Home Swap – site for house swapping! Let a family come stay in your home in exchange for you using theirs! They offer beautiful, high end properties in 160 countries. 
  1. Sonder – this is a NEW one! Sonder actually OWNS their properties but chooses the locations and the amenities very carefully. They are quickly cultivating a home-away-from -home feel in cities people want to visit and immerse themselves in. They boast the experience as a whole, from location to design of the space, to their 24 hour service (you can reach them by text anytime!) as being exceptional. They are only in a handful of cities currently, but this is one to check out for sure…slow growth, but attention to the details!


  1. Know what you want. Know the things you are looking for in a property and narrow your search. It will save you time. Want AC? (there are listings without it! especially overseas!) Hot tub? Coffee service? Internet? Pet-friendly? Filter your search! 
  2. Check reviews! Don’t you dare book a property without checking the home’s reviews and the reviews of the owner. I would go a step further and not even consider booking unless they have at least 7 or more positive (4 or 5 star) reviews. 
  3. Know the fees. Some sites are up front with all costs, some are not. Before you hit “book” be sure you know what you are paying for. Cleaning fees, service fees and occupancy fees (some areas require that tax) can add up quick if you are not careful. 
  4. Shop around. Compare listings and ask questions. Most owners are really great about answering questions before you decide, and if they are not, don’t book.
  5. Know what you are expected to do on check out. Most hotels are grab your stuff and go, but that’s not how home rentals work. Most places will ask that all dishes be washed, any towels, etc. be piled neatly where they can be easily grabbed by the cleaning service (we laundered ours at the cabin, along with all of our clothes – no vacation laundry when we got home! WOOT!). Trash may need to be carried out. 
  6. Parking!!! Especially in larger cities, parking is not guaranteed with the listing. Check. If not, look for nearby lots that offer overnight parking. The studio apartment we rented in ATL did not have anywhere to park, but was in such a great location, we just parked in the nearest garage and walked everywhere else. Perfect for us, but maybe you want a reserved spot. Make sure you know before you book! 

Don’t count Dothan and the surrounding area out on this movement! Currently there are 65 rentals in and around the Wiregrass that friends and family could come stay and enjoy some of the local events, for school (ACOM) or for work (Farley or Ft. Rucker)! Check them out and BE WHAT’S HAPPENING! 

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