The 9 Best Vacation Rental Sites for Renting Cabins
Looking to rent a cabin for an upcoming getaway? You're one of many like-minded others — so many, in fact, that some predict vacation rental homes/cabins will knock the hotel business out completely by 2020. We know they're great alternatives, but where should you start your search?
While extremely popular in general, some guests prefer not only to rent a cabin from a vacation rental site, but to rent it from the actual cabin owners themselves — think Airbnb. This allows them to have direct communication and often much better prices. We compared the top vacation rental sites to find which were owner-hosted, and which were otherwise best for cabin rentals.
From what we've seen so far, we've determined that the best sites for the following categories are:
- Largest selection of cabin rentals: Airbnb
- Best for diversity/inclusiveness: Innclusive
- Best for smaller rental units, i.e. apartments or rooms: Wimdu
- World's largest overall travel website: TripAdvisor Rentals
Come check it out!
We may as well begin with the site that started it all — Airbnb. From treehouses to castles to houseboats, you can find pretty much anything you want on Airbnb.
Just enter your destination, preferred occupancy dates, and number of guests, and Airbnb pulls up results according to category.
You'll get hundreds of results in your designated city on everything from cabins to apartments, full houses, townhouses, entire floors in multi-level houses, and single rooms in houses/apartments.
Here's one gorgeous cabin for starters that you can rent by owner for $100 per night (that's a pretty good rate considering hotels 1/8 that size rent for that price per night!). Jen and Gary are superhosts and pride themselves on the stellar condition of their Alfie the A-Frame Canadian cabin.
Superb! We'll keep our eye on that one as we enter the winter months. A cabin in the woods over Christmas sounds like just what the doctor ordered!
Remember, when you're searching for listings on Airbnb, you can filter results by 'Home Type' (note search specifications across the top). You can check your preferences for private rooms, shared rooms, hotel rooms, or, our preference — having the entire place, or cabin, to yourself. The drop-down menu looks like this:
More about Airbnb:
Are there vacation rentals by owner available here? Yes, there appear to be some, but they are mixed in with all the rest, so you may need to do some digging to find them.
Can renters contact the owners personally? Yes, using site tools.
- You can rent full cabins or houses (Some are even kid and pet-friendly with fully fenced backyards)
- App and site are easy to use
- You can get great deals financially using Airbnb - and you can earn credit when you invite your friends and they book an Airbnb rental too
- Your host's advice and suggestions can help you get a taste of how the locals live
- Airbnb reviews on BBB appear to leave it with an A+ rating (in spite of a low # of stars)
- Hosts can cancel anytime, although unlikely
- Listings in a certain region can get booked up with events and holidays, just like hotels
- Unlike hotels, there aren't many standard extras like pools, room service, front desk, etc. offered at Airbnb properties — although there is a filter where you can search for certain extras, like these:
Search around for cabins that seem to be rented by the actual owner, like we did with Jennifer's place. Booking with Airbnb offers a more personalized experience at a much better price than most hotels can offer.
Avoid any pitfalls by reading on-site reviews about your chosen listing (and be sure to include a few off-site reviews, too) to get a feeling for what to expect of your host and location. Get online and book your cabin as soon as you find out you'll need one to avoid missing out if things get booked up.
Another of the more popular vacation home rental sites we found was HomeAway.
First, you enter your destination and travel dates, then use their maps and filters to narrow your search results. Creating an account lets you keep track of your favorite finds and any correspondence with cabin owners or other booking information.
Once again, we found a cabin you can rent by owner right off the bat — but this one's $810 per night. Just a bit more than Jen and Gary's cabin on Airbnb! Feast your eyes, though. This is the Mt. Vill Telluride Luxury Ski-in Log House Cabin — what an amazing spot:
We'll definitely be watching the dates and prices on this one for future reference!
For any search on HomeAway, you'll have to enter the destination, and also enter the dates of your stay.
When you find a property you like, the site provides lots of info on the house, including the price per night, and a list of all the amenities — as well as a map of its location:
It also listed reviews from the property's 64 past renters.
You can view the owner's contact info, and an easy online form to email the owner a message.
More about HomeAway:
Are there vacation rentals by owner available here? Yes, they are all (or mostly) rented by owners.
Can renters contact the owners personally? Yes, using their site tools.
- Easy to use app stores your planned trips, considered trips, and all correspondence exchanged on the site
- Maintains a solid 4 stars on Trustpilot after 10,439 reviews
- Detailed info on each property is available, with lots of photos, maps, guest reviews, etc.
- Instant booking available
- Provides over 2,000,000 vacation rentals in nearly 200 countries
- Some didn't like fees added for security deposit, insurance, etc.
- Although they maintain a high 4-star rating on Trustpilot, they carry a low 1.5 star rating on SiteJabber after 1,340 reviews
- Some prefer to talk with owners/travelers over the phone first; site restricts you to communicating only using their site tools for initial contacts (although there is a space on the contact form to enter your phone number, there's no guarantee they will use it)
HomeAway is a convenient option with plenty of choices for those looking to rent a cabin by owner. Although liked by most, there are some who questioned the communication restrictions and extra fees. We recommend reading the on-site reviews for your destination prior to booking.
Outside review sites are helpful as well, but keep in mind that reviews aren't always accurate. For example: one mentioned being unable to message the owner until after paying. However, we were able to send a message without paying a dime. Always double check!
Feel like you're having deja vu? That's probably because this homepage is almost exactly like HomeAway's homepage — which is probably because they're owned by the same company. Actually, according to Tripping.com, VRBO, HomeAway, and VacationRentals.com are all currently under the same ownership. So what's the difference?
While VRBO has nearly 800,000 listings of its own, they are primarily larger spaces, like entire houses, with an average of 1,850 square feet, and many with backyards. This makes them ideal for families with children and/or pets. HomeAway has a bit more diversity of size and type within its million+ listings, including downtown or beachfront apartments, rooms within homes, lake houses or cabins, homes beside golf courses, and more.
There are a wealth of woodsy mountain and seaside cabins on VRBO (which, coincidentally, stands for Vacation Rentals By Owner), depending upon your price range, travel dates, and the region you search:
Searching on VRBO is very similar to the other sites, where you enter your destination along with the dates of your stay.
When you decide on a property, VRBO gives you all the pertinent info on the house, too, such as amenities and other features. It also provides info on the owner of your property:
We can contact Kay using the form on the site. We can also read all 56 reviews written by previous renters as well:
This looks really great, so we'll send Kay a message to see if she has time to chat. Now let's summarize our experience with VRBO.
More about VRBO:
Are there vacation rentals by owner available here? Yes, but some are listed with property managers. Look through them carefully to find the listings by owner.
Can renters contact the owners personally? Yes, using the site's tools.
- VRBO reviews on Trustpilot carry a solid 4 stars after 34,624 entries
- Many found the VRBO cabins/rentals to be very close to descriptions on the site
- Most enjoyed their rentals and found the cabins/rentals clean and well-stocked
- Some found the cancellation period (60 days) unreasonable
- Although VRBO reviews on Trustpilot are mostly stellar (4 star average) after nearly 35,000 entries, SiteJabber and ConsumerAffairs scores are much lower (with fewer entries)
VRBO is easy to use, almost exactly the same as HomeAway (in fact, we couldn't find anything different), with countless rentals to browse. Again, owners are only accessible via site tools provided. Finally, reading reviews on-site is recommended, as well as at least a few elsewhere.
Rent By Owner
Another favorite site for easy cabin rentals is Rent By Owner, a site strictly for rental cabins, homes, and units listed by owner.
I searched for information and/or contact info for the owner and found nothing. Looks like there's no way to reach the owner, but at least I got some pricing information — $570 for 2 nights in early October:
A neat part of Rent by Owner is that they integrate listings from other sites as well, so you're not missing any rentals.
One thing to note: it appears that on Rent by Owner, some rentals are hosted by bonafide owners and others are not. You'll need to sort through and find the owner-listed sites as you go.
More about Rent by Owner:
Are there vacation rentals by owner available here? Yes, there are some, but they are mixed in with others hosted by management companies and possibly otherwise. Browse through and you'll see which are which. It's easy enough to sort through.
Can renters contact the owners personally? Yes, you can contact them using site tools.
- Has over 375,000 listings
- Guests can filter searches on the site by destination, dates of visit, price range, number of guests, and number of bedrooms
- Ease of use
- Not all listings are by owner in spite of the site's title
- Lots of rentals are pulled in from other sites like VRBO and HomeAway, so if you just searched those like we did, it might get a bit redundant
Although some listings on Rent by Owner are not, in fact, by owner, you can easily determine those that are by scrolling down the listing to the contact info. As always, check previous renter reviews both on and off the site before putting any money down. You can follow Rent by Owner across social media for updates or by contact them for calling 1-888-216-4649.
Another of the more well-known cabin rental sites is FlipKey. Since being acquired by TripAdvisor in 2008, FlipKey has functioned as one of their 20+ travel brands.
Our first glance over at cabins revealed this rustic Telluride cabin in Colorado for $200/night:
A neat feature of FlipKey is that when your'e looking at a listing, you can see the rental's proximity to popular attractions in the area:
Each listing will list its featured amenities, too:
Of course, you can view the rental's booked dates and availability for the months ahead. and you can also read the reviews left by previous renters:
More about FlipKey:
Are there vacation rentals by owner available here? Yes, most appear to be listed by owner.
Can renters contact the owners personally? Yes, using site tools.
- You can narrow your search within the destination for # of bedrooms, price range, amenities, rental types, and other popular filters as shown below:
- Easy and simple booking
- 4.3 star rating on Feefo
- 3-star rating on Trustpilot (average)
- Great customer service
- Some were confused about cancellation deadlines, timing of the return of damage deposit
- Some had difficulty making or changing arrangements accurately between the owners and FlipKey's customer service
FlipKey lets you fine-tune your search criteria to find your perfect rental quickly. Then you can book instantly and find out within 24 hours if your booking is accepted; if not, your card isn't charged a penny. Be sure to thoroughly read agreements pertaining to refunds, cancellation deadlines, and insurance provisions before entering those credit card digits.
Another popular spot to find vacation rental sites for cabins by owner is Tripz.com, where no service fees are charged and the owner's contact info is linked to you straight off the bat.
We thought for sure with a website stating 'Vacation Rentals by Owner Without the Fees', we'd hit the jackpot, so we were excited to get started. To search on this site, you enter your destination and dates, then move the map around or zoom in to see different areas and details:
We looked for a cabin first near Bryson City, and Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! — we found one!
Beautiful! Looks like we can read the description, and there's a way to message the owner to book the cabin:
We loved the pictures, so we read the description and checked out the map. Then we could also view the price details on the cabin:
There's not much of an 'Owner Profile' available, but we were able to enter our name and phone number in order to get the site to show us hers. We read through some reviews by previous renters (the most recent of which is from June 2017).
Here's another cabin listed on the site as well:
For this one, we were able to get the phone number of the 'owner' right away:
And just for fun, went back in and tried one last rental cabin:
More about Tripz:
Are there vacation rentals by owner available here? Yes, but they are mixed in with management companies. You'll need to check each one to find out about the ownership.
Can renters contact the owners personally? Yes - by email and/or phone.
- High ratings on Trustpilot, a site called 'Best Company', and FaceBook
- Numerous vacation rentals worldwide
- Lots of information and plenty of pictures provided of each rental
- A few reviews from owners (off the Tripz site) indicated they did not get any inquiries on their properties after signing up, which was unusual for their area
- Some guests stated they tried to book sites only to find out the owner/s either did not realize their rental was listed on this site, or to find that the rental was not available for dates needed
Tripz has beautiful rentals all over the world, and overall looks like a great deal. Lots of reviews agree that it is, too. Renting directly from owners and cutting out extra fees definitely sounds like the ideal process. However, there are some offsite review sites that indicate problems and suspicions, so conduct all transactions cautiously.
Another common site to rent apartments, holiday homes, and cabins online is Wimdu.
Founded in 2011, Windu's site boasts of over 15 million stays booked and rentals available in over 150 countries. Their search tool has you enter your travel dates and number of guests first, then move the map to find your destination:
You can also narrow your search by choosing the type of property you'd prefer (villa, apartment, house, chalet or cabin, private room, farmhouse, boat, treehouse, car, or castle), the price per night, number of bedrooms, and amenities desired.
For starters on Wimdu, we found a cute Swedish cottage for $257/night:
Looks awesome. To speak with the property host, all you'll have to do is create an account.
We can book the place using PayPal or a major credit card, but the host has 24 hours to accept or not (again, see fine print at the bottom of above form). If accepted, we'll receive a confirmation email, the host's personal contact info, and the exact address of the room.
This pretty much completes our Wimdu review. Let's summarize:
More about Wimdu:
Are there vacation rentals by owner available here? Difficult to say for sure. People connected to listed properties are referred to by first name only, and only as 'hosts'. Perhaps after guests pay to book the rental and exchange more personal contact info, this can be known.
Can renters contact the owners personally? Yes (or 'hosts'), but only through their messaging tool until the booking is paid and confirmed.
- You can download their mobile-friendly guest app
- Maintains a 3.5-star rating on FaceBook (slightly above average) and 4-star rating on Trustpilot
- Great locations and accommodating hosts
- Lots of very low prices
- Mentioned in several well-known publications including the Economist, New York Post, The Telegraph, New York Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle
- Some reported difficulty using the site and a lengthy wait to get their security deposit back
- Mostly apartments and rooms, although there are other types of listings as well
Wimdu is a well-known and reputable site with over 350,000 properties worldwide and 2.5 million registered users. In business since 2011, you can read through their reviews on Trustpilot, FaceBook, and other such sites to confirm. Although they may have fewer properties than some other sites we've reviewed, we think they'll most likely always be legitimate rentals with courteous and helpful hosts.
After having an unfortunately difficult time renting vacation property as a black man, Rohan Gilkes set out to make sure others had a better experience than he did.
His cabin-renting alternative to Airbnb, Innclusive, which he runs with co-founder and CEO Zakiyyah Myers, requires hosts to make a commitment to inclusion and guarantee diversity in the renting of their property.
We did a little search for our woodsy cabin to kick things off, and found this:
A very nice retreat cabin for $165 per night.
There's a description available, too:
Also, under 'Interaction,' it lets us know that the host will be able to help us before and during our stay, so it sounds like they'll be nearby.
Finally, you can see on the contact form that we're invited to "send a message to the owner" so hopefully we'll actually be renting from the bonafide owner. We shall see!
To search for vacation properties on Innclusive, you enter your destination, check in/out dates, and price range.
More about Innclusive:
Are there vacation rentals by owner available here? Yes, we found two in a short search, so you can undoubtedly find many more on this site.
Can renters contact the owners personally? Yes.
- Owners make a commitment to be inclusive and agree to a diversity guarantee for their rental property
- Responsive customer service
- Owners are reachable, either in person or by phone or text/email, for most or all of your vacation
- Maintains a 4.7-star rating on FaceBook reviews
- Not all cabin rentals offer contact with actual owners, but rather hosts of some other type
Browse Innclusive thoroughly to find your perfect vacation cabin rental. Contact owners before putting money down whenever possible. Also, remember that if an owner tells a user their property is unavailable during certain dates, it will remain unavailable to all users - this is to ensure what happened to Rohan Gilkes does not occur again. We hope you enjoy your vacation rental and remember to "be yourself wherever you go."
With 80% of those rentals easily booked online with payment protection, TripAdvisor now takes up a substantial space in the vacation home rental industry.
We started our search in the Blue Ridge Mountains this time, and opted for the 'Nugget's Nest', shown below:
And they definitely aren't lying about the view:
We enjoyed the pictures (there are 47!), so we scrolled down further to check out the details.
The description sounds amazing, so we dive into the owner's info. Looks like Clay S has 1 rental in Blue Ridge, responds to 100% of his messages within a few hours, and has been listed on TripAdvisor since 2015. He speaks English and is also a member on FlipKey.
You can also message Clay S using the form provided, and you can read reviews from previous renters as well:
More about TripAdvisor Rentals:
Are there vacation rentals by owner available here? Yes, on some of them.
Can renters contact the owners personally? Yes, using site tools.
- 4.5-star rating on Feefo
- Easy, efficient site
- Owners usually respond promptly to messages sent (within a couple of hours or less)
- Owners/hosts are usually knowledgeable on the area, friendly and helpful
- Some mentioned appreciating the range of positive and negative reviews being allowed on TripAdvisor Rentals
- 2.5-star rating on ConsumerAffairs
- Some customers did not like a few of the booking companies doing business on TripAdvisor; felt TripAdvisor should get more involved
- Some had difficulty getting refunds processed even though they believed they were within refund policy deadlines
- Some did not feel the Payment Protection offered when booking via TripAdvisor was a good value
TripAdvisor is huge, so you'll likely find something you love on this site. However, if you don't get an email back right away, regardless of the subject, you might need to try again. Review all agreements and policies thoroughly, especially cancellation policies and dates. You may decide you'd prefer booking with actual owners than alternate booking companies - they're usually your better option.
So there it is. Which do you like best for cabin rentals by owner? Do you have a different site in mind? We enjoyed looking at the sites mentioned above, as well as others like OneFineStay, BoutiqueHomes, Kid & Coe, Redweek, HomeExchange, GuestToGuest, HomeToGo, 9flats, and more, but most were either too difficult or impossible to confirm hosts were actual owners, or they were housing swap sites or otherwise didn't meet our criteria. Either way, however, if you've noticed a great site that consistently allows renters to contact or rent straight from owners, let us know!
Note: Some renters have noticed their favorite cabins available for rent on several sites, and were able to use the photos to search with Google image and find the owner to communicate more directly. Not sure if this is extremely ethical or not, but in case you really need to reach them somehow and all else fails, you could try it!