Life

Airbnb vs VRBO: What vacation rental site is right for you?

By Jim Byers, Special to Postmedia Network

Looking for a great place to stay for Thanksgiving, but want to avoid expensive hotels? Home rental sites like Airbnb and VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) have become increasingly popular as alternatives to hotel stays, as you get a more personal experience in a cool neighbourhood or can rent an entire, fully furnished house or apartment online.

You also can save a significant amount of money compared to a traditional hotel. Which service is best, though, might depend on what you’re looking for. They both offer listings around the world, but tourists who use both services seem to feel Airbnb is a bit hipper and more youthful in its offerings, while VRBO attracts more families.

“For folks who travel and are looking to be truly immersed in local and authentic experiences, that’s where Airbnb really shines,” said Aaron Zifkin, Airbnb’s country manager for Canada. “You get that feeling of belonging, a place where you can put your feet up and feel at home.”

Zifkin said Airbnb offers a ton of options outside the usual downtown hotel districts. “You can arrange a private room, but you also can set up a $10,000 per night apartment, or a boat or a treehouse or a yurt. People get together with family and friends over Thanksgiving, and we offer the ability for someone to stay on the same street or a block over.” In Canada, Airbnb has more than 60,000 listings “from the Gulf Islands out west all the way to Newfoundland.”

VRBO, meanwhile, is part of the HomeAway family, which is part of Expedia. VRBO officials could not be reached for comment, but I found a two-bedroom unit near Brittania Beach in Ottawa that was available Saturday and Sunday nights on Thanksgiving weekend for $83 a night.

Checking the Airbnb site, I found a nice-looking apartment “in the heart of ByWard Market” for $151 per night, with room for four people.

WHICH DO TRAVELLERS PREFER?

Travellers on social media have a variety of opinions. One Canadian-based travel lover said she finds Airbnb has more affordable options for budget travellers. Another, Elise Davis of Toronto, said she thinks of Airbnb as an alternative for hotels, but uses VRBO as a place to find timeshares.

Another traveller told me she’s used VRBO many times over the past 10 years and has liked it. She said she prefers to rent entire units as opposed to a bedroom in a place where the owner is staying.

Sandy Epps, a user of both VRBO and Airbnb who has a property outside Houston, Texas, told me she prefers VRBO.

“In my experience, it comes down to VRBO is for well travelled mature audiences, whereas, Airbnb it's more - dare I say – millennial."