Whether we’re planning our next Joshua Tree bender or armchair-traveling through Europe on our lunch break, we’re usually—OK, always—doing so with the help of Airbnb’s endless homeshare listings. It’s just easier to plan a vacation if you know where you’re staying first, and it’s hard to imagine life before the home rental site, which was founded nearly 15 years ago and has since grown to include not only affordable apartments in expensive cities, but unique experiences such as fire eating. We’re grateful for you, Airbnb. But we were starting to wonder what lies beyond your pearly gates in terms of rental opportunities—and boy, did we find some slept-on gems.
The best Airbnb alternatives can whisk you away to just as many epic places, but with even more options catered to your specific needs. You can find luxurious, mid-century rentals on über-curated sites such as Plum Guide to go on a summer getaway, ring in the New Year, or celebrate a big birthday. There’s an entire network of affordable castles and converted follies you can rent across the UK that no one is talking about, and there are some pretty amazing listings on rental sites such as Vrbo which have great, no-fuss cancellation policies. Variety is le spice of life, traveler, and these Airbnb alternatives have something for everyone, from the RV-obsessed road tripper to the month-long renter and beyond. Start saving your clams—it’s nearly time to pack your bags.
If you’re looking to stay somewhere for a month or more, Blueground offers turnkey housing in stellar apartments in North America, Europe, and Dubai. Similar to Airbnb, the start-up helps you hone in on your dream spot by providing numerous search filters and qualifications, so you can make sure that you’re not only getting a legit place to stay in the heart of Paris, but a place with internet, laundry—which is very rare in Paris—and on-call support from the Blueground team, should you need them.
There are also clean, furnished rentals in the New York metro area, such as this East Village studio apartment, which comes with in-unit laundry, AC, garden access, and even allows you to bring your pet. As with all Blueground rentals, you’ll either be personally greeted by a Blueground team member or given self check-in instructions.
One of the best parts of traveling, as we learned from Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun, is the people you meet along the way. Homestay thinks so too, and connects travelers with local families to host them on their journey, whether they’re seeing New Zealand for the first time or traveling up the Gold Coast. “It’s an affordable accommodation alternative,” the website reads, “ideal for independent leisure travelers of all ages, interns, gap year students, students living abroad and anyone seeking a real and genuine travel experience.” As with Airbnb, you’re looking at extensive international listings in places such as Japan, Brazil, Australia, the United States, Europe, and more—for significantly lower costs. For just $64 a night, you can stay in Silverlake, Los Angeles (one of the priciest and over-booked neighborhoods) and get to know your five-star rated host couple, Isabel, and her husband, Ricardo “Ricky Rock” the musician, who are sweet as pie and chill AF, according to reviewers. You’ll be in one of LA’s trendiest neighborhoods, and you’ll not only have a private bedroom and restroom, but your own entrance as well.
The Landmark Trust
“How the hell do more people not know about this?” was our first reaction to England’s Landmark Trust, which offers an unparalleled opportunity to hole-up in its 200 historic castles, Victorian follies, seaside cottages, and sprawling villas in the UK, France, and Italy for a ridiculously small amount of money. If it seems too good to be true, just remember: There are over 10,000 castles alone in Europe, and many are lost to ye olde sands of time simply because no one can fund the upkeep—and that’s where this operation comes into play. “The Landmark Trust is a charity,” explains the organization, “[and it] rescues important buildings that would otherwise be lost.” When you book a spot, your money goes directly to supporting these national restoration projects. It also means you and the bros could stay at the Mansarda del Frutteto, an Italian Renaissance villa about an hour from Venice for around $798.64 a night, or tuck into a timber-framed cottage worthy of the bard himself in Suffolk, England for $449.27 a night. Browsing the extensive property list, from miniature castles to converted ruins, is practically a vacation in and of itself.
Oh Plum Guide, how we love thee. This is the Raya of rental sites, and just perusing its painstakingly curated, international homes—many of which are made by notable architects and designers, such as the Invisible House in Joshua Tree—makes us feel instantly cooler, richer, and more mysterious. We’ve dedicated an entire article to the best homes on Plum Guide, whose rentals can be booked for anywhere from a few days to a month—and often get booked-up fast—so be sure to lockdown that dream mid-century estate for you and eight buddies to ring in the next New Year, birthday, or Coming of the Lizard-Man Apocalypse. Many of the exquisite homes could star in their own music video or Scandinavian noir drama, and while some prices range in the thousands, there are unique, affordable stays such as this converted chapel in Woodstock, New York.
We also can’t stop lucid dreaming about this East Hampton, New York home dubbed “The 1968.” Can you imagine the game nights in this pad? The endless cinematic opportunities to sip sherry in a velvet robe on the shag carpet? It can sleep up to six people.
Do you love the outdoors, but don’t want to destroy your back by sleeping on dirt and pebbles? Are you game for a road trip across the Southwest, but don’t own a van or RV? We, too, believe in finding a happy medium between roughing it and vacationing like Anna Delvey, and RVShare makes it easy for you to connect with peer-reviewed, rental RVs. “In other words, it’s essentially the Airbnb of RVs,” writes Ian Burke for VICE about the ins-and-outs of RVShare. “Owners of RVs, campers, and everything in between are able to list their vacations-on-wheels on the platform and offset the cost of ownership by renting them out.” You just enter your pick-up address and timeframe, and bada-bing—you’re rolling in style.
Sonder is similar to Blueground in that it offers long-term, turnkey rentals on an international scale, but it goes above and beyond to cater to business retreats and corporate/group travel. “We thoroughly clean and disinfect each Sonder before and after every stay,” the company says on each rental’s page. The brand also offers self check-in and 24/7 guest support via the Sonder app, as well as recommendations for local restaurants and sites. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite Sonder stays, from New Orleans to Mexico City and beyond, but this breezy Austin, Texas apartment in the trendy SoCo district has charmed our summer plans the most.
As one of the largest RV rental sites in the world, Outdoorsy has created a peer-to-peer marketplace for anyone fancying themselves Jack Kerouac for the summer. Whether you’re looking to explore the United States’ National Parks or just want to get your kicks on Route 66 in a clean, vetted vehicle, this site is full of fins such as this cheery, red, off-road fort in Flagstaff, Arizona that’s ready to whisk you away to the Grand Canyon.
The OG, man. Vrbo walked so that Airbnb could run, and is similar to the latter with its international selection of apartment and home rentals, but actually has a better cancellation policy than Airbnb, which requires guests to cancel within 48 hours of booking to get a full refund, and to cancel at least 14 days before check-in. The Vrbo bros (Vrbros???), however, will give you a full refund if you cancel at least 60 days before check-in, and a 50% refund (minus the service fee) if you cancel at least 30 days before check-in. Treehouse rentals, escapes to Iceland, and actual Frank Lloyd Wright houses have never been more possible for you and the crew.
Are you planning a once-in-a-lifetime vacation? Are you a German heiress seeking one of the most coveted, exclusive resort groups on earth? Aman’s luxury hotels span across the USA, Europe, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia, and they have given us some truly deranged FOMO through their dreamy locations, which include the otherworldly Utah resort that went viral once Kylie Jenner vacationed on its premises, a Tokyo hotel for the perfect Lost in Translation Moment, and a veritable 12,163 square foot Moroccan mini-palace with two master suites, a private bar, garden, pool, and more.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.