5 Alternatives to Airbnb that Personalize Your Homestay Experience


An excellent alternative to potentially cookie-cutter or impersonal hotels, vacation rental homes are experiencing a massive surge of popularity. No longer limited to deal seekers or couch surfers, the well-heeled and design-oriented sets are getting in on the home rental scene. We know you’ve heard of Airbnb, but today we’re spilling retreat secrets that cater to specific needs. Not only are the homes listed on the following sites exquisitely appointed and filled with great design ideas, but many of the services also offer recommendations and guides to exploring the city like a local.

A unique, less-touristy experience, homestays are a more personal, and sometimes inspirational, option. Whether you require kid-friendly swaps or want to experience a night in an igloo in Iceland, these five sites offer homes for rent tailored to particular needs.

1. One Fine Stay

Currently available in London, Paris, New York City, and Los Angeles, and expanding to other major cities soon, One Fine Stay is considered an upmarket Airbnb, catering to travelers with a discerning eye for interior design and architecture who want to experience a city from the locals’ perspective. One Fine Stay chooses only exceptional homes that are considered to be the “acme of style” to feature on their roster of rentals.

One Fine Stay also separates itself from other home vacation rental sites by providing local greeters, 24/7 concierge services, and housekeeping (they provide the sheets) and other hotel-like amenities. Dubbing their home rentals as the “unhotel” or “home-away-from-home,” One Fine Stay offers travelers the opportunity to live the life of the homeowners for a few days and nights: the rentals come with an iPhone that lists the owner’s recommendations on where to eat, things to do, and adventures to experience. (See above image.)

Image courtesy of Kid&Coe.

2. Kid & Coe

Traveling with children? Not all vacation rental homes are kid-friendly, which is why this site is so necessary for families vacationing with little ones in tow. Run by parents for parents, Kid & Coe rentals offer amenities from cribs and high chairs for the very young, to game consoles for the slightly older set. All homes are reviewed for safety and are required to meet certain child-proofing requirements, including outlet plugs and corner guards. Kid & Coe rental residences also come with a curated insider guide of the city, listing family-friendly activities, dining options and attractions, all based on suggestions from locals.

Rental properties are selected based on their proximity to parks and family-friendly restaurants. Design lovers, fear not: far from being a series of Sesame Street-themed abodes, these homes also appeal to the adults’ aesthetics, with only the most stylish digs included on their small, but growing, roster. Ideal for adventurous families, Kid & Coe-approved vacation homes are available in over 30 locations, ranging from the popular (Los Angeles) to the remote (Iceland).

Image courtesy of Welcome Beyond.

3. Welcome Beyond

Looking for a treehouse? Or an igloo? Perhaps a private island? Developed with the adventurous and quirky traveler in mind, Welcome Beyond offers unique and unusual rental residences in Brazil and several countries in Europe. Easily searchable by accommodation types (“Beach house,” “Yurts and camps”), interests (“Art, Architecture, and Design,” “Spas and Resorts”), or locations, Welcome Beyond features properties that range from polished to eccentric. If the search results aren’t matching your specific requests, you can contact them directly to find your personal “hand-picked paradise.”

Each residence listed also includes a Q&A with the home or property owner, covering topics like nearby attractions, history of the lodging, design inspiration, and personal favorites and recommendations.

Image courtesy of HomeAway.

4. Luxury Rentals from HomeAway

Luxury Rentals from HomeAway is a great site to browse and compare vacation rentals due to its sheer range of options in countries around the world. But this is not a case of quantity over quality: the diverse range of properties are vetted using a 75-point checklist from Andrew Harper, a leading luxury travel company and publisher of the respected travel publication Hideaway Report. Luxury Rentals from HomeAway focuses on the most exclusive homes, some of which offer on-site staff to attend to your needs. This site also provide user reviews, allowing you to peruse fellow travelers’ experiences of each location.

Choose from lodges, bungalows, villas, lofts, estates, farmhouses, or even yachts, and use any one of the other extensive filters to narrow down your search.

Image courtesy of Travive.

5. Travive

Aimed at an elite group of travelers, Travive has villas and mansions in San Francisco, New York, Mykonos, on a private island in the Caribbean, as well as an entire village in Italy available to rent for discerning jet-setters. Extremely exclusive – membership is by invitation only right now -Travive is designed for the luxury-minded who want the pampering and service of five-star hotels combined with the comfort and privacy of a well-appointed home. The ultimate in bespoke experiences, Travive acts as a host with exquisite taste, offering private jet and yacht rentals, as well as restaurant and activity recommendations and accommodations through their 24/7 concierge service. Travive also takes note of your preferences, so that all future stays will be tailored to suit those requests.

Travive properties are an art and design lover’s dream. Indicate that you are an art collector, and select pieces from renowned artists will be displayed in your rental villa–all of which are available for purchase. Coming soon in 2014, the design skills of interior designers and home furnishings from luxury furniture companies showcased in Travive properties will be made available for the traveler as well. Whether it’s the dining room table, or the entire look of your vacation rental, Travive will provide the necessary connections to bring the look, feel, or exact piece back home with you.

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