Airbnb or Vrbo? Which Is Better for Planning a Vacation?

Airbnb coupon codes

Traveling continues to evolve in 2023, with new challenges and opportunities arising. As always, thorough preparation is critical to a successful trip, including considering various factors such as transportation, accommodation, and safety.

Airbnb and VRBO are famous for booking affordable and comfortable accommodations, especially for extended stays. In 2023, these platforms will continue to offer competitive pricing and a wide range of options, from private rooms to entire homes.

However, due to the ongoing pandemic, travelers may need to pay extra attention to safety protocols and local regulations. Airbnb and VRBO have implemented enhanced cleaning and safety measures, but it's always wise to research and take necessary precautions when traveling.

In addition to Airbnb and VRBO, there are other options for finding great travel deals in 2023, such as booking through travel agencies or using travel reward programs. Shopping around and comparing prices is essential to find the best deals and value for your trip.

Whether traveling for business or pleasure, being informed and prepared is essential in 2023. Stay current on travel news and regulations, and plan to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey.

Airbnb

We have booked several trips with Airbnb across the United States.

Although there are plenty of properties where you can sleep in a spare bedroom or a tiny house with a compost toilet (why I was once scared to use Airbnb), plenty of single-family homes house the entire family.

With the newish Airbnb Plus service, you can stay in luxurious properties that might rival an upscale resort hotel.

So, Airbnb hosts offer anything from the essential experience to 5-star stays without paying hotel premiums.

I Was Hesitant To Use Airbnb

My family has used VRBO since the early 2000s in the early days of online vacation bookings. My first impression of Airbnb was sleeping on a person's couch or in their spare bedroom–like CouchSurfing. This shared experience was a great way to save money in college but not as a married adult.

Well, I'm glad my assumptions were incorrect. Airbnb hosts offer single homes and vacation villas (you'll have the entire place to yourself!)

Why I Like Airbnb

At first, I didn't know what to expect from Airbnb. I thought Airbnb was a booking site for single people and couples traveling without children. I'm glad I was proven wrong.

Here are a few quick reasons why I like Airbnb more than VRBO:

  • More likely to deal with individual property owners (not rental agencies)
  • Cheaper than VRBO if you rent spare bedrooms, campers, tiny homes, etc.
  • Fewer hidden fees than VRBO
  • More amenities and perks–(hence “Air bed and breakfast”)
  • Hosts might offer more flexible cancellation policies than VRBO
  • Booking fees might be lower than VRBO

Airbnb Has More Amenities

One of my biggest takeaways is that the places we stay in have more “little things” like coffee, tea, and a few other small items that you won't get with a VRBO property.

But it's becoming more common for property owners to list on both Airbnb and VRBO. These properties don't have the unique amenities that make Airbnb “boutique,” but they still give you a clean and spacious place to sleep and relax.

Although this is the exception to the rule, one host called us the day before and asked what we liked to eat. We had a full fridge when we arrived at no additional charge!

Most VRBO properties will provide cooking utensils and a coffee machine (but you must bring spices and coffee grounds). However, some Airbnb properties only offer “the bare essentials,” too.

I describe Airbnb as the combination of a hotel and VRBO. You can get the privacy of having your rental unit and the on-site amenities of a hotel without hotel prices. To me, Airbnb is what VRBO was two decades ago.

Airbnb or VRBO
Airbnb pricing is simple and transparent.
Ensure you add the correct number of adults and children the first time.

Get Up to $50 off Your First Airbnb Stay.

Use this unique link to get up to $50 off your first Airbnb stay. (Note: Promotion amounts vary by month.) I might get a $20 Airbnb credit myself.

Why I Wouldn't Say I Like Airbnb

Possibly my biggest gripe with Airbnb is “flex pricing.” You can check the property's price three days a row and get three slightly different prices.

As I understand it, Airbnb uses an algorithm that combines the number of property views and the average booking price of similar properties in the area to adjust the price. In our experience, prices seem to go up as vacancy drops.

With VRBO, the prices are fixed based on the time of year you visit. So it's always worth checking out VRBO to establish a base rate. Then you can see if the Airbnb properties are cheaper.

Another reason I sometimes avoid Airbnb is the lack of family-friendly properties in certain areas. One example is our perennial beach destination, Hilton Head Island. There are on-island properties, but many were for childless travelers or outside our price range. img 634eba386debc

Why I Like Vrbo

Because of VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner), many families can rent an entire house for a fraction of the cost of a hotel room. After all, you can spend $100 at VRBO for a whole house or $100 for a tiny hotel room with two queen beds. Take your pick.

VRBO is a good timeshare alternative too. You can rent similar houses without signing your life away.

That said, VRBO holds a special place in our hearts because it was our first way to book a place to stay online without paying exorbitant hotel prices.

Another reason why I like VRBO is that there are plenty of options in nearly every city.

For the most part, you know you will be renting family-friendly houses, so it can be easier to filter the search results, too (if you have small children or don't want to stay in somebody's basement or spare bedroom).

Airbnb or VRBO
VRBO offers an instant book feature displaying the final price. But it would be best if you still made an extra click to see a fee breakdown.

In a nutshell, here are the reasons why I like VRBO:

  • Flat-rate pricing based on peak season or off-peak
  • Option to haggle with the owner for a lower price
  • Easier to find family-friendly dwellings compared to Airbnb

VRBO displays the property prices for the entire travel season upfront. If you want to compare prices but do not book today, the prices will likely be the same for your travel dates or three months from now.

With Airbnb, the price fluctuates by current demand and other factors. The variable pricing might pressure you to book today as you're unsure if prices will increase. It's like booking an airline ticket or investing in stocks and trying to predict if prices will increase or decrease.

Why I Wouldn't Say I Like Vrbo

I have three minor gripes with VRBO, but they shouldn't scare you away.

Vrbo Is Getting Crowded With Agencies

My biggest gripe with VRBO is that many listings are now operated by agencies that “pose” as individual owners. You usually don't find out until you start to book the property and see the additional agency fees that independent owners don't charge.

With Airbnb, you get an instant quote that includes all your fees without all the smoke and mirrors.

To be honest, VRBO has also introduced an instant book feature similar to Airbnb. For the two vacations we booked over the last year, we've used the instant book tool and liked it.

Airbnb is starting to get rental agencies who list their properties too. Usually, you can't haggle with agencies as much, and they tend to charge more fees than individual owners.

Miscellaneous Fees

Airbnb sometimes has some mysterious and vague booking fees as well. VRBO and Airbnb can increase their “pricing power” through these fees as more people travel.

But VRBO takes the top prize. When we booked our 2021 beach trip, we didn't see the VRBO fees until we went to pay. We didn't book that time.

VRBO isn't as much of a bargain as before. Whether you book a property owned by an agency or an independent owner, VRBO's booking fees have increased in recent years. Maybe the economy is too good, or they're trying to mimic the airlines. It's a nuisance either way.

But VRBO is often cheaper than a hotel. You can get a whole house for the price of one hotel room.

Less-stocked Properties

We've been spoiled at the few Airbnb properties we've stayed at. Although the little amenities are mere creature comforts, getting little things for about the same price as VRBO makes you feel more at your own home instead of renting a furnished apartment.

What you see with VRBO properties is what you get. Some owners might include coffee, filters, or other amenities like laundry soap.

But most houses usually only have a stocked kitchen and basic toiletries (i.e., soap, toilet paper, and towels). You have all the kitchen gadgets and home furnishings for a comfortable stay, but you must bring your supplies.

This experience is still better than a hotel (minus the continental breakfast) but lacks the personal touch you can get at many Airbnb places.

Compare Prices

Another trend I noticed last year is hosts listing on Airbnb and VRBO to reach more potential guests. Often, you see the same property on both sites, and it's expected to be cheaper on one site than the other. So as a traveler, you should do the same and look for potential properties on Airbnb and VRBO.

Homes might be cheaper to rent on VRBO when Airbnb's dynamic pricing is high, but otherwise, Airbnb will usually be more affordable as VRBO charges its hosts (and guests) more fees than Airbnb.

Summary

Whichever one you go for, both platforms are cheaper and more comfortable than a hotel room in many cases. Still, depending on your travel destination, one booking site might be better.

For us, Airbnb is a better option if you want to stay in regular neighborhoods or unconventional locales like desert yurts and school buses with compost toilets.

VRBO is better if you want to stay in resort areas, gated communities, or a more professional environment.

We've never had a bad VRBO experience, but it's “vanilla” compared to the Airbnb “spice.” That's just my opinion.

This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Author: Josh Patoka

Bio:

Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.