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Everything to know about vacation rentals, including the best booking platforms, COVID-19 safety info, and the best places to go in the US

Business Insider logo Business Insider 8/21/2020 (Hannah Freedman)
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  • Although the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the US, some states are continuing phased reopenings and people are seeking safe ways to book future trips.
  • Renting a vacation home can offer a safer alternative than hotels, according to experts, since you can book an entire home and minimize contact with others.
  • Below, we outline some of the best vacation rental companies, plus how to decide if home rentals are safe, and the best places to book vacation rentals in the US.
  • Read more: Which is safer: Airbnb or hotels? Here's what doctors say
Table of Contents

The novel coronavirus has disrupted travel plans across the globe. Even as some states and countries lift restrictions and continue phased reopenings, other states are experiencing spikes and seeing the highest number of cases yet. Not to mention the EU ban on US travelers entering

However, in states where things are finally looking up, some travelers are cautiously looking to book travel, especially domestic trips that are closer to home.

And while hotels have implemented stringent new COVID-19 policies, many vacationers are opting instead for home vacation rentals. This is because it's easier to social distance when you have an entire home to yourself. You'll come into contact with far fewer people staying at a secluded home than you would wandering through a hotel lobby and stopping at the check-in desk. Even experts agree that vacation rentals like Airbnb may be a safer alternative to hotels right now. 

Keep in mind, as expanded on below, that there is no guarantee of safety when it comes to travel right now no matter what type of accommodation you book. We always recommend following guidelines from the CDC and WHO, as well as local and state policies, and assessing your own level of risk.

However, if you are looking to make future travel plans, considering a home vacation rental is a wise option.

These are some of the best vacation rental companies, including everything you should know about their COVID-19 policies, and the best places to book vacation rentals in the US. 

The best vacation rental companies

a wooden bench in front of a house: Airbnb © Airbnb Airbnb


Airbnb is one of the most widely recognized and used sites for booking vacation homes. While travelers on a budget sometimes turn to the platform to score a cheap room within a home, the draw for many during these times is the option to filter by and book entire homes. Users can easily search by location for homes to rent and filter by date, price, rating, and more. 

Listings and hosts are reviewed by past guests on everything from cleanliness to location to accuracy (so you know if the photos really match what you'll be getting in person).

While reading through past reviews is a solid way to filter out any potential duds or scams, those looking for a guarantee of hotel-quality stays can also filter exclusively for Airbnb Plus listings. 

See a full break down of the difference between regular listings and Airbnb Plus listings here.  

a house with trees in the background: Vrbo © Vrbo Vrbo


Vrbo is actually an acronym for "vacation rentals by owner," which is exactly what this site is all about. Much like on Airbnb, users can search in specific destinations by price point and other amenity factors for homes to rent from owners.

The biggest difference between the two platforms is that Vrbo is exclusively for entire homes — so there's no chance you can accidentally book a room or shared space. For peace of mind, Vrbo also offers a Book With Confidence Guarantee, which provides every traveler with payment protection against fraudulent listings and access to a team of re-booking specialists.

It's worth noting that HomeAway and Vbro used to be separately branded sites both run by Expedia Group. However, as of July 2020, HomeAway has been entirely folded into Vrbo.

Find a full overview of Vrbo and how it differs from Airbnb here.

a group of lawn chairs sitting on top of a building: Marriott © Marriott Marriott

Marriott Homes & Villas

Most travelers are familiar with Marriott and their wide array of hotels, ranging from budget-minded stays like Four Points by Sheraton to iconic luxury brands like St. Regis. However, the company also has a lesser-known arm of bookable vacation homes and villas. 

Ideal for travelers who want a private home backed by a major brand for the guarantee of a hotel-like stay, Marriott Bonvoy's Homes & Villas by Marriott International includes over 2,000 homes in over 100 destinations across the globe.

All homes are professionally managed and come with 24/7 customer support, professional cleaning, and high-end amenities. You can even earn and use Marriott Bonvoy points for stays.

Read a full overview and see top Marriott Homes & Villas in the US here.    

a large pool of water: Turnkey Vacation Rentals © Turnkey Vacation Rentals Turnkey Vacation Rentals

TurnKey Vacation Rentals

TurnKey has thousands of premium and luxury homes listed in popular destinations across the US. What sets the platform apart is that unlike companies like Airbnb or Vrbo, Turnkey vets every single property to ensure its a quality stay.

Every listing is also run by TurnKey's management company as opposed to just the owners, which means guests can expect higher standards when it comes to customer service, cleanliness, and amenities. The company also sets a higher bar when it comes to tech to create a more seamless process for both hosts and guests. The company's proprietary smart home technology includes time-coded digital locks, in-home tablets, noise decibel monitors, automated scheduling of housekeeping, and more.

However, while the platform is consistently adding new locations, it is not as widespread as other vacation rental services yet so they may not always have homes listed where you're traveling.  

Read a full overview of how TurnKey works here.

a large room: onefinestay © onefinestay onefinestay


Gallery: 6 things to know before booking a vacation rental, and where to search if Airbnb is booked or too expensive (Business Insider)

Another offshoot of a well-known hotel brand, onefinestay is part of the Accor group (you know them for brands like Sofitel, Raffles, Banyan Tree, and more).

Onefinestay was launched in London in 2010 and offers a curated global portfolio of high-end homes and villas. The properties are broken down by two categories: City and Villa. City includes apartments available to book in places like New York City, while beachfront homes in the Turks & Caicos are found under Villa. 

Every stay includes local support and the option to add tailored amenities and services. Onefinestay also takes care of everything from housekeeping to in-stay maintenance, offering convenience and peace of mind for both guests and homeowners. 

a dining room table: Vacasa © Vacasa Vacasa


Vacasa is a popular property management company that lists homes on Airbnb, in addition to operating over 25,000 vacation rentals around the world.

The booking process is easy and all listings feature past guest reviews and a handy 3D virtual tour so you can get a real feel for the space. 

Especially helpful in the COVID era, the platform offers no-fee options for changes and cancellations. If you have to reschedule a trip for any reason, you can cancel and receive 100% credit for a future stay, or you can cancel and receive a full refund (minus the booking fee) if it's at least 30 days before check-in. 

Every booking also promises 24/7 customer support, a local property manager, smart locks or lock boxes for a contactless check-in, a mobile app for requests and instructions, and professional housekeepers that clean and stock each home using EPA-approved disinfectants.

a bench in a park: Evolve © Evolve Evolve


The setup of Evolve will look very familiar to anyone who has used Airbnb or Vrbo before. You can search by location and dates and find a list of homes available. Each listing includes photos, an average rating, and past guest reviews to help travelers decide on a place when booking. 

There are additional filters for narrowing down the field that range from amenities like hot tubs or grills to practical needs like pet-friendly or wheelchair-accessible homes. 

Every home listed on Evolve is verified by the company, so you never have to worry about the possibility of being scammed or a listing not matching up to expectations. And, unlike many other sites where cleaning policies can vary wildly from rental to rental, every home is professionally cleaned by Evolve between guests. However, the extra fees for cleaning and services still range quite a bit from place to place. 

Travelers also have access to 24/7 support from Evolve if they run into any issues throughout their stay.

a house covered in snow: ©, &

Most people turn to online services like,, and to compare rates and get the best deals on hotels. However, you can also find homes and apartments available on these sites, too. 

After inputting your location and date criteria, filter for "Accomodation type" or "Property type." Here you can choose from options like "homes and apartments," "vacation homes," and "guest houses."

Just like hotels, properties on these sites are rated on specific amenities like location, value, and Wi-Fi, to help you choose the best spot.   

See a comparison of vacation rental sites here.

See more tips for booking a vacation rental here.

Are vacation rentals safe right now?

With COVID-19 spiking across the country, it's a challenging time to make vacation plans and many travelers are wondering if travel is safe at all right now.

We spoke to experts about home booking sites like Airbnb and there is some good news. Experts say that home vacation rentals may actually be safer than hotels right now since you can minimize contact when you book a standalone property, and won't have to encounter crowded common spaces or interact with people at check-in desks. 

Airbnb also introduced new Enhanced Clean protocols that hosts can opt into. In addition to rigorous new cleaning standards, those who participate can choose to add a Booking Buffer to ensure listings remain vacant for 24 hours after a guest leaves before a cleaning team or host can enter, and then another 48 hours must pass before a new guest's arrival. However, not all hosts are taking part in the new protocols.

Additionally, not all home rental sites have rolled out such policies, so you'll need to read up before deciding to book.

That said, there is no guarantee of safety right now. We always recommend following government guidelines and avoiding travel to and from coronavirus hot spots for your safety, as well as the safety of others. Regardless of where you stay, you should also wear masks in public spaces, practice social distancing, and wash your hands regularly.  

See what experts are saying about Airbnb safety here.

Compare hotel safety to Airbnb safety according to doctors here.

Find out how to know if a listing is taking part in Airbnbs new Enhanced Clean protocols here.

What are vacation rental cancellation policies like?

Every home vacation rental policy is different. It's vital to read individual policies to find out how flexible they are before making decisions.

Many platforms, including Airbnb and Vrbo, do not have any COVID-19 cancellation policies for new bookings currently being made. Instead, travelers should look for individual listings with more flexible options for canceling reservations. 

Read more about Airbnb's cancellation policy here.

Read more about Vrbo's cancellation policy here.

a person driving a boat in the water: Jordan Siemens / Getty Images © Jordan Siemens / Getty Images Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

The best places to book vacation rentals in the US

East Coast



West Coast


Other great home vacation rentals

Everything else you need to know about booking safe vacations during COVID-19

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