Top 5 Vacation Home Rental Sites

Top 5 vacation rental sites (photo via airbnb)

[trip style = budget or lux]

Renting a vacation homeor holiday home as our European friends call itis an immersive experience. By sheer virtue of staying in a home, villa, condo or flat, you delve into your destination's beat, saying adios to hotel culture and hola to local culture.

I've rented about five vacation homes over the past few years, and it's a trip style I enjoy. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE staying at hotels, but by escaping the destination's hotel bubble, suddenly you're living in someone else's shoes, shopping where they do, eating what they do and doing what they do. That's the beauty of a vacation home; you can live like a local or spend a night or two cooking and doing the things you'd do at home. Your choice. Either way, here are five holiday home rentals sites that should be on your vacation rental radar.

5 Vacation Home Rentals Sites

Specialty: From cabins to condos to castles, Vacation Rentals by Owner features more than 150,000 property listings in 100 countries. This for-rent-by-owner pioneer, and one of the most-visited sites in the industry was founded 15 years ago and aquired in 2006 by HomeAway {featured below} and continues to operate as an independent brand.
Regions: Worldwide listings with an American focus {have used and would recommend}

Specialty: Airbnb targets in-the-know, design-conscious folk who are looking for stylish and unique accommodations from private islands to private yachts, and villas to VW vans. Searching for lodging in Paris or on a stationary plane is easy with their collection approach to listing rentals. Grouping like rentals together in collections by theme or location, you can see what you might want to rent from a worldwide or city perspective. Bonus: I love the instant book feature, which practically eliminates the need for a host to manually OK the booking.
Regions: North America, Europe and exotic locales {have not yet used, but look very forward to trying many of their listings, like this off-the-grid house...amazing!}

Specialty: With over 540,000 vacation home rental listings in 120 countries, HomeAway has the world's largest collection of online rental homes. Enough said.
Regions: North America, Caribbean, Europe, South America, Central America, Africa {have not yet tried}

Specialty: World-class ski resort-focused vacation rentals specializing in British Columbia, Canada at mountains like Whistler Blackcomb, Sun Peaks and Big White. Speaking from personal experience, this site is the place to book a mountain getaway!
Regions: BC, Canada {have used and would recommend}

Specialty: With a largest presence in BC, Owner Direct knows a thing or two about winter and summer West Coast escapes! Headquartered in Kelowna, BC, this Canadian vacation rental company is a leader in matching up owners and renters, as well as last-minute deals.
Regions: BC, Florida, Hawaii and California plus a few other listings worldwide {have used and would recommend}

Bonus: Inspirato
The new kid on the block is a vacation rental site with a twist. Launched this month and created for the luxury market, Inspirato offers exclusive private villa vacations with personalized concierge service at significant discounts in 40+ destinations in Europe, North America and the Caribbean. Deals are viewable to the public, but only memberswho pay an initial $9,500 fee and then an ongoing yearly $2,500 feecan book.

[photo credit: Airbnb]