Would you like to enjoy all of the conveniences—and privacy—of an entire home for half the cost of a typical hotel room? That’s what HomeAway offers travelers with their vacation home rental service.
RewardExpert spoke with Melanie Fish, HomeAway’s travel expert, to learn more about the company’s rapid growth, why the vacation home rental market is expanding and how you can use the website or app to plan your next vacation.
Inspired by Family Vacations
HomeAway, which is based in Austin, Texas, was founded in 2005 by Brian Sharples and Carl Shepherd. It was acquired in 2014 and is now part of the Expedia family of brands.
“Brian traveled a lot with his family and was a big fan of staying in vacation homes,” Fish says. “However, he was not a fan of the hoops he had to jump through to find them. There were a bunch of different resources for every destination and it was a fragmented, messy process. He created HomeAway with Carl as a go-to resource for renting a vacation home no matter where you want to go or what type of experience you’re looking for.”
Travelers will now find more than 1 million vacation homes in 190 countries for rent on HomeAway—and Fish expects that number to continue to grow.
“The percentage of people who have stayed in vacation homes has tripled since just 2010,” she explains. “And the reason the market is growing so rapidly is because of value and privacy.”
Perfect for Making Group Memories
Twenty percent of HomeAway’s travelers are booking a home for six or more people.
“The average party size is four, but friends and family groups are huge at HomeAway,” Fish says. “Most of them want a home so they can have the whole space to themselves. We have new research that shows people want privacy. It’s actually their top priority when they are traveling.”
Though she agrees hotel rooms still make sense when one is traveling solo or at the last-minute, Fish personally prefers renting a HomeAway when she’s vacationing with family.
“That way, I have a bedroom for every person I’m traveling with,” she says. “The average vacation rental home is almost 2000 square feet, versus the average hotel room that is around 300 square feet. We find, on average, you get twice as much space for half the cost per person when you rent a vacation home.”You’ll also avoid the unpleasant surprise of hidden costs.
“You will pay a cleaning fee and a booking fee, but those are transparent,” she adds. “You avoid the surprise parking fee when you arrive or the resort fee, for example. And you won’t pay $3 for a bottle of water.”
Use Your PC or Mobile Device to Search and Book
To get started, just visit HomeAway.com or download the free app from Google Play or the App Store. You can search for rental homes by country, state, or city and narrow the results by your desired travel dates. The listings are extensive in most popular destinations. For example, you’ll find 7,917 properties in Maui, 6,064 in Breckenridge, 4,007 in the Florida Keys, and 10,252 in Paris.
“You can then continue to add filters to your search, such as price or number of bedrooms,” Fish says. “You can even search for waterfront properties, pet friendly properties or those that have a pool or hot tub. It’s easy to find exactly what you are looking for, and you have a lot more experiences to choose from.”
She encourages travelers to ask the vacation homeowners lots of questions before booking.“I’ve recently asked what kind of coffee machine is in the house,” she says, “but you should ask them any questions that were left unanswered by their listing, including for a contact for during your stay. You want the privacy of a vacation home, but you also want to be able to reach someone if you can’t figure out how to turn on the hot tub or turn off a light run by a hidden switch.”
Book and pay for your rental though the HomeAway website or app and you’ll be covered by their Book with Confidence Guarantee. This means you’re protected—up to your full rental payment—against listing fraud and owner misrepresentation. Additionally, you’ll have 24/7 access to customer service assistance in the event that you have issues or questions regarding your stay.
“I encourage everyone to start planning their next trip now,” Fish concludes. “January is the busiest vacation rental booking time of the year. HomeAway bookings always peak the second and third weeks of January.”