Empty Leg Flights Might Be Your Ticket to Flying Private for Cheap: 7 Accessible Private Jet Subscription Services

Turns out, you can afford to fly private — and these companies can help you book a seat. Here are our favorite private jet subscription services that can get you seats on private planes.

Wish you could fly in the lap of luxury? Your chances are getting better — if you opt for an empty leg flight, that is. 

How much does it cost to fly private? 

It ranges significantly, but to charter a jet typically costs anywhere from $1,200 - $8,500... per hour.

You can see, then, why most regular folk don't even consider a discussion on the subject — it simply isn't realistic for most budgets. Well, at least it hasn't been until now. 

With companies like Jettly popping up, the private jet travel world is opening up to those who may never have dreamt they'd set foot on a luxury jet! 

Enter: empty leg flights.

What is an empty leg flight? 

Also known as deadhead flights, dead legs, empty sectors, or one-way transients, empty leg flights are flights that occur when a private jet has dropped off a client and the aircraft is headed for its next destination — with no one on board. 

This empty plane flying without passengers is considered a wasteful, non-revenue producing, lost opportunity, so most operators try to find passengers to fill it. This process is often done via a private jet subscription service, offering plane seats at a significantly discounted rate. 

The catch? You have to be flexible! The plane's direction might change on a whim if the next client cancels or switches plans — leaving you without a ride. But if all goes as planned? Your next plane ride is private, and very cheap.

Read on for our tour:

The 7 most accessible private jet subscriptions for empty leg flights

Jettly

Known as Canada's first and swiftest growing jet club, Jettly connects travelers to any of 9,500 private aircrafts at exceedingly low prices. 

According to Jettly, “every time we book a jet, one of the flights either to or from the destination becomes available as the aircraft repositions to pick up its next set of passengers.” 

Jettly then tries to fill these available, empty leg flights by sending out notifications to those subscribed to their service to see if the flight lines up with their travel plans. If it does? That passenger could save up to 75% off the regular price of a conventional private jet charter.

To use Jettly, you’ll need to first create an account.

Then from the flights below, we clicked in for details on the one starting in Dusseldorf on 9/19. 

First, this popped up:

So we entered our info and hit 'Submit'.

I immediately received a flurry of emails, including the following:

The Low Price Guarantee link took us here, where you can upload a competitor's price for them to beat:

If they can't beat it? You'll get a full month Jettly membership free!

Looks like Jettly's free plan allows unlimited flight requests so you can see their low prices and decide whether you'd like to upgrade to a paid membership plan. 

More about Jettly: 

Price: Personal memberships allow up to 3 charter bookings per month for $370. Business memberships are $670, and allow up to 10 charter bookings in a month. Additional membership benefits can be viewed here.

We decided to look through the detailed membership info and found this:

You can also opt for single flight arrangements for a one-time flight or empty leg with a direct-to-consumer price (see below!), ground transportation support, a personal flight coordinator, flight support up to departure, aircraft replacement guarantee, operator replacement guarantee, onboard catering support, and more.

And the prices aren't too bad!

There's also Jettly's Subscription Service, which comes in different plans ranging in price from free to $997/month:

In addition to the Free, Personal and Business plans we mentioned already, there's also a Jet Card for $997/month which allows unlimited charter bookings and perks like Skype and Slack integration, Jetty Welcome Swag, $50 in Jettly Eats per month and free UberBLACK transfers.

You can also find Jettly discount codes here.

How can I get this service? Create an account here and sign up.

Pros:

  • User-friendly website
  • Excellent customer service
  • Maintains full 5-star rating on FaceBook  and Yelp reviews
  • Some reported their system is simplified; recommended for anyone needing a charter for emergencies
  • Free app here

Cons:

  • Could not find any cons in the reviews we located

Bottom line:

Since Jettly is a newer company, there aren't a lot of customer reports available - and all of the few we found, at this point, are a full 5 stars. We'll keep our eye out for any updates, but as of now, Jettly is golden.

Jetsmarter

According to the New York Times, if you like the idea of:

  • Riding in a luxury jet (albeit with people you may not know)
  • Pulling into smaller, private airports with no TSA
  • Walking in for your flight just fifteen minutes before takeoff... 

You might like JetSmarter.

Search through available seats on JetSmarter's shared flights to book what you need for a fraction of the usual cost of a private jet.

You can also create a flight based upon your preferred aircraft type, destination and travel dates, booking all or part of the seats on board, with flight support provided and a low price guarantee.

You can pay-as-you-go and book flights at regular non-member rates, or join as an Individual, Family, or Enterprise for varying fees and enjoy discounted pricing on flights.

Use the JetSmarter app to book flights, or view already-scheduled flight options to over 170 worldwide destinations by date, choose a high-frequency route between major cities, or create your own flight.

Enjoy hassle-free boarding the day of your flight when you meet up with professional and courteous Ground Representatives at the private jet terminal. The best part? You don't need to be there any earlier than 15 minutes prior to your takeoff time.

The FBO private terminal offers a quiet place to relax between or before flights complete with complimentary champagne and a cozy lounge with WiFi.

No pat-downs today! Security at the FBO terminal is efficiently non-intrusive, consisting of an inspection of your bags and digital background check pre-boarding. If you charter a private jet, you'll skip the security checks completely.

The Ground Team greets you, gets you ready for your flight, then escorts you onto the plane.

Enjoy plenty of legroom and exquisite comfort aboard your flight, where heavy jets can look forward to complimentary 4G high-speed WiFi, gourmet dining, cocktails, at least one on-board flight attendant, and more.

When you land, a black car can be arranged through the Concierge to pick you up on the tarmac and assist you to your final destination.

More about JetSmarter:

Price: There's a $3,000 one-time initiation fee for both the Individual and Family memberships with annual membership fees of $4,950 and $9,950 respectively. You can also opt to 'pay-as-you-go' for the usual non-member rates. You can also look for JetSmarter promo codes here.

How can I get this service? Create your account, download the app, and choose your plan here.

Pros:

  • Fly with other likeminded passengers for an enjoyable ride
  • Ideal for flexible travelers who travel often and use the app often
  • Access to empty leg flights is good
  • Courteous staff

Cons:

  • Some expressed frustration at new changes which have been made to JetSmarter policy
  • Some complained that flights become uncomfortably crowded when fully booked
  • Not extremely affordable for some budgets

Bottom line:

One man's trash is another man's treasure. If you're accustomed to 100% tranquil solitude on private jets, or guaranteed flights at a certain time on a certain date, this probably isn't for you. These flights can get full and sometimes passengers aren't completely quiet and reserved. 

The more flexible you are, the more you'll probably like JetSmarter — but do read the fine print before signing on for your membership. Some felt new company policies weren't as great in value as the previous ones were.

Blackbird

Get matched with a pilot or a group of passengers headed your way and split the costs among you when you hitch a ride on a Blackbird!

With an app and level of convenience that’s been compared to Uber for the sky, Blackbird ensures there’s no long waits in line, no arriving 2 hours before your takeoff. Just roll into the serenity of a private airport tarmac at least 15 minutes before your flight is scheduled to depart, and you’re good to go. 

Headed by CEO Rudd Davis, who wants to make air travel accessible to everyday people, not just rock stars and celebrities, Blackbird utilizes a U.S. network of approximately 1,200 regional airports to avoid the busier and more expensive major airports.

Blackbird partners with JetSuite, Tradewind Aviation, Shorewind  Aviation, FoxTrot and others,  and are open to more quality partnerships as well.

More about Blackbird:

Price: There are 3 ways to fly with Blackbird.

  • Hitch is the cheapest (like an empty leg flight), where the pilot splits his/her costs with you and other passengers as a sort of flight-pooling. The cost varies with flight, number of passengers — could be as low as $50.
  • Reserve allows you to find a seat on scheduled flights, and ends up being about $300 per passenger.
  • Charter is where you actually charter your own flight, ending up at around $1,000 or more.

Note: Hitch flights depart from California and Florida only at this time and can travel a maximum of 500 miles--  but they'll be expanding into other regions soon, and offering longer flights. Until then, nationwide flights are offered through their Reserve and Charter programs.

How can I get this service? Go here, sign up for an account, and start searching for rides going your way.

Pros:

  • Very affordable rates with Hitch, if your flight is available
  • Get $25 credit with every successful referral and they'll get $25 credit too
  • Blackbird is meant for adults, but you can add children and infants as well (infants will ride in your lap)

Cons:

  • Departures only from California and New York  and only short flights offered with Hitch currently, but expanding (those who can afford it can try Reserve and Charter)

Bottom line:

If you've got departures headed out near you (Cali and NY only), Hitch is a fantastic way to snatch super low prices on short flights of less than 500 miles, either one-way or round-trip. If you're working with a bit more money, Reserve and Charter have greater range and longer flights available.  Either way, Blackbird seems off to a good start with a solid reputation to build on.

BLADE

Fly 3 ways with BLADE, and get on board the seaplane, helicopter, or jet of your choosing. Choose fly-by-the-seat and get on any scheduled flight in the Northeastern U.S., or opt to charter your own flight worldwide, or even crowdsource.

When you fly with BLADE, you'll be treated to their lounge's unique retro style, including specially designed Customer Experience member uniforms, all drawn from the memories of CEO and Co-Founder Rob Wiesenthal's childhood flights with his parents. 

Wiesenthal remembers his parents dressing him up for the flights:

"It was the golden age of aviation — the '60s to early '70's, the Jack  Kennedy, Frank Sinatra era — when getting on a jet plane was a big deal and an adventure. Not everybody did it. And there was always a story attached to it."

Noted in numerous publications included The New York Times, Business Insider, The Verge, CNBC, and Axios, BLADE has grown madly in popularity since its launch on Memorial Day 2014.

BLADE offers booking by-the-seat, which lets users choose from available seats on already-scheduled flights anywhere in the Northeastern U.S.

You can charter your own flight anywhere worldwide for the right price, with an additional option to crowdsource open seats across the BLADE network on the flight you create.

The BLADE Experience also features a specially designed sippy cup for your rose wine in a lounge decorated in iconic artwork and stacked with vintage reading materials.

Your flight with BLADE can be as long as cross country or as short as a helicopter ride across Manhattan - if you've got to get there, BLADE has a way.

In addition to By-The-Seat, Charter and Crowdsource, you can also set a Flight Alert and get notified when the next flight matching your criteria is available for by-the-seat purchase. (Flight Alerts will notify you of empty leg flights as well).

More about BLADE:

Price: Ranges with desired flight and type of ticket purchased. 

For example, a 10-person flight to Nantucket from Manhattan including helicopter transfers is appx $7,500. A direct flight from Manhattan to Nantucket in 2 days is $980 (sold out), while a Crowdsourced flight from Boston to Martha's Vineyard departing at 4:30 pm today would be $4,750 between 8 people ($593.75 each) in this Grand Caravan:

Make sure you have the app downloaded and check it often, as flights are constantly being added day and night. Also, be sure to check for BLADE coupon codes here.

How can I get this service? Set up an account here and start browsing for your ideal flight.

Pros:

  • Relaxing lounges with servers, drinks, and artwork
  • Flexible departure times (go when you're ready)
  • No long security check lines 
  • 3 ways to book flights
  • Helicopters, seaplanes, and more ways to fly

Cons:

  • Expensive for some budgets

Bottom line:

If you want to fly in style and hang out in swanky private lounges, BLADE is the spot for you — if you've got the cash to back it up. 

BLADE started out by transporting East Coast elites to their seaside vacation homes, so offering flights as low as a few hundred per seat is probably very gracious of them. Still, some might do better to wait for Flight Alerts for something cheaper if you've got that flexibility.

JetSuiteX

If other sites have left us wondering how to find their equivalent of empty leg flights, this next service comes right out and lets you book a seat on any available flight you select — using JetSuiteX.

JetSuiteX makes flying private affordable and offers a fleet of exclusively brand new Embraer Phenom 100 aircraft, accessible through its no commitment programs with pricing that sets it apart.

Although flights are currently only available for departure and landing within certain California and Nevada locations, the prices were still superb when we did our practice booking. 

The best part was the immediate pricing availability — no need for them to email you a secret quote later. It was all right there for anyone to see whenever they needed to see it.

You can earn perks with JetSuiteX when you refer a friend too. Here's how it works:

After you create your profile, click on Refer Friends and share your personal code on social media, text, email, or otherwise. Whenever friends use your personal code to book, you'll get $20 in flight credit. 

Don't forget to check JetSuiteX's SuiteDeals every day for flights starting as low as $536 — for the entire plane! You can also set up a SuiteDeal Wishlist to get notifications when a flight out of your desired airport becomes available.

More about JetSuiteX:

Price: It can range broadly, however you'll get the price upfront immediately.

For $199, I could get a seat on a one-way flight from Burbank to Oakland on the date of my choice. I chose the regular XFare, but there's also XPlus Fare, which would have been $219. 

XPlus fares are refundable, and offer extra benefits like free additional baggage, no change fees, and more, plus all the standard perks of JetSuiteX such as complimentary snacks and drinks, seat selections, etc. Regular Xfare is not refundable, and has only the basic benefits.

JetSuiteX also offers the more pricey private jet charter options, for anyone interested. Membership details are available here and charter pricing info can be negotiated by calling 1-866-779-7770, Ext. 5.

A round-trip booking from Orange Co, CA to Las Vegas NV for one person in late September was $199 one way and $399 for the trip back. To get an empty leg price for your trip, enter your destination and travel dates here.  

How can I get this service? Create your profile here and start browsing for flights.

Pros:

  • Maintains a 4.5 star rating on TripAdvisor
  • Maintains a solid 4-star rating on Yelp
  • Top notch customer service
  • Flight attendants will correct noisy passengers to keep the experience pleasant
  • No TSA, no lines, no parking fees

Cons:

  • While their terminals do stock coffee, water, chips, and soft drinks, it would be good to have a bit more selection there
  • Some felt their flight attendants were a little too stern
  • Some said there was no AC on their flight 
  • Larger passengers may find the seats a bit narrow

Bottom Line:

If you're traveling within their Californian and Nevadan routes, you'd do well to check JetSuiteX's empty leg flights for a seat — you could save up to 75% of regular private jet pricing. You'll get luxury flight accommodations without parking fees, long lines, or TSA headaches. And most previous customers rated them 4 or 5 stars on Yelp and TripAdvisor, too.

Air Partner

Those in the UK may find their cheapest Empty Leg subscription for private jet travel deals with Air Partner

Among their many services (including Group Charter, Private Jets, Cargo Charter,Travel Services, and more), Air Partner offers Empty Legs, with current listings available to browse as well as a subscription to their weekly email updates.

Air Partners' Empty Legs emails are distributed every Wednesday to subscribers free of charge. You can also view the emails online, here. Discounts abound on these lists, including, for example, a recent 8-seat private jet flight to the lovely Palma from London's Biggin Hill for £6,700 (making it only £837 per person), and a flight for 7 to Prague from the same city of departure for £5000 (£714 per person).

Or if you'd like to browse further, this 8-seater was able to fly from Paris to London for €6000, or €750 per person. How about Olbia to Stansted? This 11-18 seater flies there on September 20th for £12000, or £660-1090 per person.

To inquire on a currently open Empty Leg, you can fill out the form on their site, listed above.

Price: Depending upon the size of the aircraft (how many seats you need to fill) and your destination, you could pay as little as $600 per person, or even cheaper. To see your best deals, sign up for the weekly update subscription here.

How can I get this service? Go to the website and sign up here.

Pros:

  • Excellent customer service
  • Great deals, especially if you're traveling in a group
  • Supports two great charities
  • Handy free weekly email subscription of Empty Leg updates

Cons:

  • Not as cheap as some other Empty Legs offered elsewhere

Bottom line:

UK citizens may find a great deal on Air Partner, especially if they have a group to help fill the seats on their aircraft. Be sure to sign up to get Empty Leg updates in your inbox every week — it can't hurt to see what's available, particularly since it's free of charge!

JetPortfolio

With departures and destinations throughout the world, Dallas-born JetPortfolio gives members access to the best in private jet air charter as well as a substantial inventory of empty leg flights via a low monthly membership price.

Although technically not a private jet subscription, your low monthly membership rate of $69.00 beats most of the cheap private jet subscriptions as it offers a 5% additional discount off already low empty leg prices, unlimited requests, a weekly email with the lowest priced empty legs, and access to over 1,800 empty legs. Plus, you can cancel anytime.

Empty legs are the last minute seats available for a private jet, with an ever-changing inventory. On JetPortfolio, there are often more than 2,000 such flights listed. The image below shows empty legs in the United States over the course of a two week period. 

Some are priced already and others will have pricing requested. All empty leg flight deals are for the full aircraft, with specifics on dates and times set by the individual operators themselves.

The Empty Legs membership program is paid monthly and grants members access to both a full American and an International Empty Leg flight inventory. 

You can browse flights and request any you like with unlimited requests. You'll also get a weekly list of the lowest-priced empty legs available. 

Once you've decided on your flight, just reserve it and get ready to fly! JetPortfolio will treat you like every other Private Charter Client and you'll enjoy the entire aircraft at a magnificent rate.

JetPortfolio has access to over 2,000 aircraft including light jets, mid-size jets, super mid-size jets, heavy jets, pistons, and turboprops. Read about each type here.

Get the app here.

More about JetPortfolio:

Price: $69.99/month.

How can I get this service? Create your account here and start browsing empty legs.

Pros:

  • Maintains a fleet of 2000+ plush private aircrafts
  • Advanced digital booking system
  • User-friendly search engine
  • Low monthly membership fees

Cons:

  • No examples of empty leg flight pricing to view before paying membership fees; only routes

Bottom line:

This appears to be another newer company as there aren't many customer reviews available, nor anything on the BBB, Trustpilot, Yelp, or otherwise. What we did find was a glowing review of their digitized services, a few followers on LinkedIn, and around 150 likes on FaceBook. Their website is gorgeous, however, and if they stick to their word on empty leg flight offerings. you're sure to be satisfied with this service.

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75+ Amazing LGBTQIA+ Travel Resources, Discounts, & Helpful Sites

Travel is exciting for everyone, of course. But for the LGBTQIA+ community, traveling with like-minded individuals can be even more fun! To help with all of your travel planning, we've put together a list of 75+ travel resources & discounts to help you save on LGBTQIA+ travel.

With Pride events happening at destinations across the globe, cruise ships boarding for your dream queer vacation, and new LGBTQIA+-friendly (meaning lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and more) spots popping up in even the most remote locations, the world of travel for queer and transgender people is constantly expanding. 

And, LGBTQIA+ folks love to travel — a 2017 survey from Community Marketing Inc. found that the average LGBTQIA+ person had taken 3.2 vacations in the last 12 months since taking their survey. 

Still, travel in and outside the US can be a tricky thing for LGBTQIA+ folks. A recent survey from the UK government noted that over two-thirds of people in same-gender couples avoided holding hands in public for safety reasons. 

There are still 72 countries around the world where homosexuality is illegal, and likely many more where being transgender is as well. And, in the US, at least sixteen states have considered laws that would make it illegal for transgender people to use the bathroom they choose. 

Not to mention the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop US Supreme Court case in which it was essentially ruled that businesses have the right to discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people based on religious objections.

That’s why, for many folks, traveling to known LGBTQIA+-friendly destinations or traveling with other queer and transgender people can feel like the safest option. Fortunately, there are tons of resources, travel agencies, and LGBTQIA+-specific cruises, resorts, lodging, and camps out there to make sure that you have the best vacation possible. 

Here’s what you’ll get in this guide:

  • 11 of the best travel and safety resources for LGBTQIA+ folks
  • 65+ travel agencies, cruises, adventures, lodgings, and more to help you plan your travel

Resources for safe LGBTQIA+ travel

It’s important to do your research when you’re traveling to ensure that where you’re headed is safe and that you know the cultural expectations you’ll be facing when you arrive. These resources are a great place to familiarize yourself with the best practices for traveling while LGBTQIA+.

LGBTQIA+ travel resources

When you’re getting ready for a vacation, it’s always important to plan ahead. These websites and directories can show you where all the best destinations, events, lodging, and entertainment are around the globe:

  • Damron. In addition to their website with listings of LGBTQIA+-friendly hotels and destinations, they also publish print guidebooks with thousands of safe places for queer folks to stay around the world.
  • GayCampers.com. Offers a listing of gay and lesbian campgrounds in USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the Caribbean.
  • Gay Camping USA. Provides users with a list of gay-owned and gay-friendly campsites throughout the US. Join their Friends With Benefits program to receive a 50% discount on membership fees at select campsites.
  • Gay Cities. Offers travel guides for 235 different LGBTQIA+-friendly cities on six continents.
  • GayTravel. GayTravel provides approval ratings for travel-related businesses based on how LGBTQIA+-friendly they are. Check out their homepage and sign up for their mailing list to find promotions like their current 20% off rentals with Advantage Rent-A-Car when you use the code: GAYTRAVEL.
  • Global Gay Lodging. Offers a listing of LGBTQIA+-friendly hotels and other lodgings worldwide.
  • International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA). Founded in 1983, the IGLTA is a leading free resource helping the LGBTQIA+ community travel. Check out their Specials page for exclusive deals like complimentary breakfast and VIP treatment in Lisbon, 10% off a Treehouse rental in Peru, 10% off a macaron baking class in Paris, and more. Sign up for their mailing list to stay up to date on the latest specials and information.
  • Man About World. This is a gay travel magazine specifically for smartphone and tablet devices. They run 10 issues annually offering the best information on travel for gay-identified folks.
  • Out Traveler. This site is the travel arm of the popular Out Magazine. They’ve created destination guides for most major US cities and a few places around the globe as well. Out Traveler operates as a blog with articles posted regularly on topics from events for the LGBTQIA+ community to the best resorts and hotels to expert advice on travel.
  • Purple Roofs. Provides users with a directory of LGBTQIA+-friendly bed and breakfasts, inns, hotels, tour operators, and travel agents around the globe.
  • World Rainbow Hotels. Has a listing of LGBTQIA+-friendly hotels around the world, searchable by city, hotel type, and more. Also has a great events listing to plan your vacations around.

LGBTQIA+ travel agencies and groups

Planning a vacation can be taxing, and when you add in scoping out the most fun and safest places to be openly queer, you’re looking at potentially hours of work. These travel agencies and tour groups can take some of the guesswork out of building your next vacation and get you some great deals in the process:

  • Cruising with Pride. This travel agency connects you with all-gay cruises and gay-group cruises where you can get together a group of LGBTQIA+ folks to join a regular cruise. Plus, if you get together enough people for one of their group cruises, you could earn a free trip for yourself.
  • Detours. They offer group tours primarily geared towards gay men to destinations around the world. Detours is focused on creating trips with less restricting itineraries which means they don’t plan daily activities in advance, but instead choose things to do based on the group’s interests.
  • Equality Travel. A travel agency specializing in custom trips for LGBTQIA+ folks.
  • Gaytlas. Creates customized trips for LGBTQIA+ travelers, plus pre-planned packages. They also do regular happy hours around NYC for travel enthusiasts.
  • Gay Trippers NYC. Offers bus trips for LGBTQIA+ folks originating in NYC.
  • Happy Gay Travel. Connects users with different all-gay and gay-group travel opportunities worldwide. Sign up for their mailing list to be the first to know about new vacations and special discounts.
  • HE Travel. HE provides LGBTQIA+ adventures and tours around the globe. They specialize in culinary tours, bike tours, and their special Adrenaline Club tours for those who are interested in canyoning, bungee jumping, and other high-adrenaline activities. Save $100 when you register six months or more in advance for your tour, plus an extra 3% off if you pay in full six months or more in advance.
  • Out Adventures. This company offers vacation packages with safe accommodations and genuine local experiences around the globe specifically for the LGBTQIA+ community. You can opt for one of their small group adventures with no more than 16 people per tour or 40 people per cruise or you can have a vacation tailor-made just for you and your loved ones.
  • Outgoing Adventures. This company has tours available to locations around the world with groups of no more than 18 travelers. Their tours are typically designed for people ages 35 and over, and you can choose from trips that focus on local culture, luxury and pampering, or slightly more adventurous vacations with hiking and camping involved.
  • Out of Office. This UK-based travel agency sends LGBTQIA+ folks to destinations around the world and organizes gay group trips. They’ve also got special services dedicated to helping trans folks travel.
  • Pink Iceland. A travel agency that helps you plan LGBTQIA+-friendly vacations in Iceland. They also specialize in wedding planning.
  • R Family Adventures. Specializes in vacations for LGBTQIA+ families and friends. Their Family Vacations feature special kids programming to keep your kiddos entertained. They also have special deals with Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton where you’ll receive additional amenities when you book through them. Sign up for their mailing list for exclusive offers.
  • Rainbow Gay Tours. Offers tours and vacation packages for gay men in Barcelona and Madrid. Purchase more than one tour to earn 10% off.
  • Toto Tours. Offers adventure tours at locations worldwide for LGBTQIA+ travelers, with prizes such as a $250 bonus for one lucky winner on each tour. They also specialize in creating personalized vacations.
  • TravelGay. An online travel guide based in Europe that also offers specialized LGBTQIA+ group tours around the world. They also operate Travel Gay Asia with information, tours, and resources tailored specifically to travel in Asia. Check out their homepage for exclusive offers.
  • Trips With George. A gay-owned US travel agency. Check out their exclusive cruise deals here.
  • Zoom Vacations. Provides luxury, experiential tours at destinations around the globe. Join Club Zoom for free to receive special offers on vacations and discounts on gay-friendly services, accommodations, and shopping around the world.
  • 32 Travel. A travel group with meetups at a handful of cities around the US, they also plan regular group tours to international destinations.

Cruises and resorts for LGBTQIA+ folks

Gay cruises have been popular for decades and make up one of the most popular sectors of LGBTQIA+ travel. With parties every night, all-inclusive rates, and an entire ship full of your peers to meet and mingle with, cruises bring the best parts of a vacation into one neat package. Check these out:

  • Aquafest. This company has been connecting LGBTQIA+ folks with discount cruise prices since 2001. While they do not have all-gay cruises, they set you up with a block of LGBTQIA+ folks on mixed-clientele ships and provide special events for you to hang out. Sign up for their email list for exclusive offers.
  • Atlantis Events. Offers all-gay cruises as well as some resort vacations. Their cruises host over 25,000 guests and tend to cater towards men with only around 5-10% women typically in attendance. Sign up for their mailing list to get the latest news and special offers.
  • Brand g. Provides full-ship charters of 60-150 all-LGBTQIA+ passengers. Their specialty is river cruises with land tours around Europe and Africa as well as in India and Japan. Sign up for their mailing list to receive special offers.
  • GaySail. They provide luxury sailing trips on yachts and catamarans at destinations around the world. Sign up for their mailing list to get exclusive discounts and offers. Singles can also book small single cabins at a 30% discounted rate.
  • Olivia Cruises. In operation since 1990, Olivia Cruises is a lesbian-focused travel group that has taken over 200,000 women on vacations around the world. Join their mailing list to get entered to win a free cruise plus get exclusive offers and reminders to book early for Early Bird Discounts. Members who take five cruises also receive special VIP rewards. They offer a $100 discount to all current and former military members. Olivia also has deals with Delta, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, and Air Canada where you can receive discounts of up to 15% on your flights to and from Olivia Cruises.
  • RSVP Vacations. Offers all-gay and lesbian cruises. Currently their only offering is a Caribbean cruise at the beginning of 2019. Save money by signing up for their mailing list for special offers and news.
  • Source Events. Provides luxury all-gay cruises to destinations around the world. Most of their cruises are for around 150-300 passengers and take place on luxury tall-ship sailing yachts. Sign up for their mailing list to receive private offers.
  • VACAYA. VACAYA is a brand-new travel group open to all genders and sexualities specializing in cruises and resort adventures. Their inaugural cruise will be an all-LGBTQIA+ week-long cruise from New York to Provincetown in August of 2019. They’re offering a number of discounts including a $1000 early booking discount, a student discount of $799 total for interior staterooms, an invitation to a free VIP brunch when you pay in full by the end of 2018, and up to a 10% discount on Delta Flights to and from New York from within the US and Canada.

LGBTQIA+ camping and outdoor vacation resources

If you’re someone who loves to commune with fellow queer and transgender people in nature, or if you’re an adventurous soul looking for some high-adrenaline activities, these camping and outdoor vacations are sure to hit the spot:

  • A-Camp. Started by the website Autostraddle, A-Camp is a five-day camp experience in Ojai, California for queer adults. The week includes lodging in cabins, 100+ workshops and activities, nighttime entertainment, a swag bag, and more. Save $40 by registering before February 14.
  • Arriba Ski and Snowboard Club. This group is an LA-based ski and snowboard club specifically for LGBTQIA+ folks. They take several trips throughout the year to slopes around the world, plus host social events locally.
  • Big Gay Raft Trip. They offer two rafting trips per year in Glenwood Springs, Colorado for LGBTQIA+ folks. A day of rafting plus lunch costs $125, plus they’ve negotiated discounted lodging rates with their host, the Caravan Inn.
  • Camp Camp. Entering their 21st year, Camp Camp is an inclusive LGBTQIA+ adult camp that takes place each August in Southern Maine.
  • Out Kayaking. An LGBTQIA+ kayaking group based in the Pacific Northwest, they take dozens of kayaking trips throughout the year, including to international destinations.
  • Ski Bums. Billed as the largest LGBTQIA+ ski and snowboard club in the world, they offer group trips to locations around the world. Membership is free and gets you access to exclusive gear discounts including $40 off at evo.com.
  • The Woods Campground. This spot is a 161-acre clothing optional campground and resort in the Poconos exclusively for LGBTQIA+ folks.
  • Venture Out Project. This group provides backpacking experiences for queer and trans adults and youth. They provide you with all the equipment and food you need - all you need to do is bring hiking boots and clothing. 

Lodging resources for LGBTQIA+ travelers

Finding a place to stay can be one of the toughest parts about travel. So many same-gender couples and trans and gender nonconforming people have faced discrimination in lodging, particularly when asking for a shared bed. These options can connect you with homeshares and LGBTQIA+-friendly places to stay:

  • Axel Hotels. This chain of hotels is in places around Europe and specifically serves the LGBTQIA+ community - though they describe themselves as “heterofriendly.” They’ve got some great offers including 15% off in Barcelona when you book 30 days in advance and 5% off a minimum three night stay in Ibiza, Berlin, and Barcelona.
  • GayStayBnB. An LGBTQIA+ homeshare site currently operating in New York City only.
  • Home Around the World. Another homeshare site specifically for gay travellers that has both home exchange listings as well as rental offerings around the world.
  • LGHEI. This site is essentially couchsurfing for LGBTQIA+ people. Their directory provides a listing of folks with a couch or space to share for travellers and users can also find folks to swap homes with.
  • Misterb&b. This site operates much like Airbnb, but has hosts who are gay and can help you find the best spots for LGBTQIA+ locals. Through their referral program, you and a friend each earn a $10 credit when they book through your code, plus you’ll get an extra $200 if they decide to host. Sign up for their mailing list to enter to win a $500 travel credit.
  • Stay In Pride. This group offers listings of LGBTQIA+-friendly hotels, villas, apartments, yachts, and other accommodations in Turkey.
  • Stay With Family. Offers listings for home exchanges around the world, plus one of the most comprehensive lists of gay campsites out there.

Resorts, B&Bs, and hotels for LGBTQIA+ travelers

There are tons of different LGBTQIA+-friendly, many owned by queer folks, around the world - far too many to list here. But, here’s a short sampling of some of the best:

Businesses with LGBTQIA+ travel options

Many mainstream travel sites, airlines, hotels, and other companies have adopted tools to help LGBTQIA+ folks find the best and safest places to travel. Here are a few to investigate:

Traveling as an LGBTQIA+ person should be every bit as stress-free as it is for everyone else. Use these suggestions to help plan a fun, safe, and affordable trip to just about anywhere in the world. 

And, for more useful tips like these and ideas for saving money, be sure to keep up with the Knoji blog. Knoji has also answered thousands of queries about how to find the best discounts out there, so make sure to come back with all of your savings questions!

10 Sites to Book Local Tours, Experiences & Activities Online: Airbnb vs. Viator & Others

When it's time to plan your next vacation or getaway, you'll want to be sure you're living like a local. Luckily there are plenty of sites and resources for booking local tours, experiences, & activities in almost any city around the globe. Here are our top 10 picks.

Passport? Check! Suntan lotion? Check! Bikini? Check! Stress-free tour and experience booking guide? Hmm... 

Are you planning a vacation or quick getaway? If you're like us, your time away from work is precious, and you want to spend it doing exactly what you enjoy most. For vacations, that used to mean calling a travel agency or paging through multitudes of planning guides to create the optimal tour and activity schedule. 

But no longer! Now there are websites brimming with the best of each region's tours, activities and experiences, waiting for travelers to scroll through and book their own favorites from the convenience of their laptop, tablet, or even their phone. Take a look at some of the most popular ones we found before you dial up that expensive travel agent.

Viator

Founded in 1999, Viator is a TripAdvisor company which advertises activities, tours, and regional events through an extensive network of partners and sites.

In giving travelers direct access to booking their activities, Viator simplifies the trip-planning process and helps them avoid excessively long lines and sold out events while providing 24/7 multilingual customer service, millions of authentic previous customer reviews, and a 24-hour cancellation policy.

Before you set off on your next voyage, be sure to visit Viator to peek at the region's best activities and tours, figure out how much you'll need to spend to see what you like, and view options available for duration and booking. Here's how it works:

First, enter your destination in the search field. You'll be shown a list of activities in your destination:

We chose Chicago, and there are a ton of opportunities to experience the city, including: 

  • Air, helicopter, and balloon tours
  • Classes & workshops
  • Cruises and water tours
  • Culturally themed tours
  • Food, wine, & nightlife activities
  • Holiday/seasonal tours
  • Kid-friendly activities
  • Concerts & sporting events
  • Spa tours
  • Sightseeing deals
  • Shopping/fashion packages
  • Theme parks
  • Walking/biking tours, and more

You definitely won't be bored once you reach your destination!

You can choose your price range, look for discounts, and input your ideal time duration, i.e. number of hours/days spent engaged in the activity.

Subscribe to get updates on Viator's trip-planning opportunities to your inbox. You can also call in toll-free for info or if you'd rather not book online.

What types of activities/tours can you book? 

You can book a wide array of tours and activities on Viator including air and/or water tours, classes/workshops, culturally themed tours, food/wine/nightlife activities, sightseeing deals, theme parks, kid-friendly activities, walking/biking tours, and more.

How does it work? 

Enter your destination, select activities based on your interests, ideal time frame and price, and book directly on the Viator site from your desktop or smartphone. Groups and corporate events can be booked here.

Are any of the tours or activities led by locals? 

Viator's team of pre-vetted travel insiders and local experts design the best of each region's experiences worldwide, backed up by over 1 million verified traveler reviews, photos, and videos. Check Top Insider Picks for the best locally selected tours and activities. Additionally, Viator Private Tour Guides provides the largest network of qualified local guides on the internet, where customers can review tour guide profiles, qualifications and reviews left by other travelers, or even contact guides via the onsite messaging system. 

Viator pros:

  • Guides are informative, friendly, and punctual
  • Has a solid 4 stars on Trustpilot (73% excellent ratings out of 7,179 reviews left)
  • Great time-saver, especially if you're unfamiliar with the area
  • Has an A+ rating on BBB website

Viator cons:

  • Some complained of misinformation/tours lacking elements they believed were included
  • Some had trouble finding tour guides or contact info at meet-up site
  • Some were denied refunds they felt they were due

Bottom Line: 

Viator reviews indicate it's a great option for travelers unfamiliar with their destination. If you do have familiarity with the region, however, digging around on the site may save you money — do a little comparison shopping. 

Viator maintains impressively high ratings on BBB and Trustpilot. Make sure you thoroughly read everything printed on your trip/tour voucher, and if possible, confirm in writing the cancellation policy on tours before booking; most are non-refundable within 24 hours of the event. Check out their lowest price guarantee, too.

Airbnb Experiences

They aren't just for booking rooms anymore! Airbnb now offers experiences, tours, and other activities in every region of the globe.

Whether you prefer breezy nature trails, intimate concert venues, decadent food/drink tours, immersing yourself in the arts or nightlife, or strolling through quiet historical settings, Airbnb has something in every city for you.

When you visit the Airbnb Experiences site, you can choose your vacation dates:

Then select the number of adults and children participating in the tour/event and find the price range that's right for you. You can even choose the optimal time of day for your activity:

When I selected our preferences for 3 people on October 31st in Chicago after 12pm, Airbnb offered these events in our price range:

We liked the Gangsters and Ghosts Tour, so we clicked in for details:

Inside, we can read about the host, what the tour involves, how long it lasts, the starting times offered, the languages in which it's offered, the price per ticket, and where we'll meet up:

And we can read also through 125 reviews from previous tour participants:

Then finally, we get suggestions on some similar tours we might like, for more stuff to do while we're in town:

We're sold on this tour, so we booked it! Perfect Halloween activity in the Windy City. Now let's wrap up our assessment of Airbnb Experiences:

What types of activities/tours can you book?

Everything you can imagine — nature walks, art and architecture tours, surfing expeditions, food and drink excursions, nightlife, sports, history venues, holiday events, classes, horseback riding journeys, etc. — in every city.

How does it work?

You enter your preferences for destination, activity type, how many guests and their ages, time of day, price range, etc., and everything relevant pops up. From there you can read specifics of each experience offered.

Are any of the tours or activities led by locals? 

While most experience hosts live near their tours, their home address is not a deal-ender. Instead Airbnb asks that hosts be "deeply knowledgeable" about the content offered, which can be demonstrated by skill level (i.e. you built a business or career out of your knowledge/love of the subject matter), college transcript studies, proven hobbyist experience levels, awards won in the field, the host having been featured in articles on the topic, etc. You can read further details here.

Airbnb Experiences pros:

  • Devoted tour guides/hosts lead events
  • You can read through previous participants' reviews before booking
  • Ease of use, can book via the local experiences app on iOS and Android tablets or phones
  • Decent pricing
  • Great customer service

Airbnb Experiences cons:

  • Experiences may be shared with numerous others, often booked to max capacity for max profit, which may or may not make it more fun
  • Your tour group may not be the only one touring the same event/space - busy cities are busy and your booked experience may be one of many, i.e. wait times may occur

Bottom Line:

Most Airbnb Experience reviews indicated guests appeared to enjoy themselves, giving top star ratings on their experiences and hosts. Be sure to read through the reviews left on your destination experience before booking. Want to host an experience? Find out how it works here. You can also check out Airbnb's Guidebooks here for all the experience and other sites recommended by Airbnb hosts in every town.

Klook

Continuing our experience-booking excursion, we're finding lots of interesting alternatives to Airbnb. Klook is one such site, offering local experiences for destinations across the planet, including local travel tours, Klook travel curators' suggestions on seasonal activities and events, favorite spots booked by previous travelers, and more.

Klook delivers handpicked experiences, backed up by millions of user reviews. Their best price guarantee promises the best deals on experiences offered or they'll pay you the difference, and their app's seamless, safe booking procedure ensures security and accuracy.

Download their app for Android or iPhone for fastest booking and payment options.

When we entered our Chicago destination, we found an activity we liked (a helicopter ride), and clicked in. The experience page opened up to an exciting video of the highlights from previous rides, prices and package options, what to expect on the day of the event, cancellation policies, FAQs, and reviews from past tour guests. (Make sure you read all of these sections before booking - there may be requirements you would not be aware of otherwise).

Klook also showed suggestions for similar activities we might enjoy while in town. The Segway tour looks kinda fun, too!

Looks like some promising experiences are in store for us! Now let's get into a summary of our Klook visit:

What types of activities/tours can you book?

Everything from hot air balloon rides to fall foliage tours to river rafting, skyline luge tickets, spa treatments, and cooking classes.

How does it work?

Enter your destination, choose from categories available, select your date and number of people, view your package details, what to expect, and all activity info, then book!

Are any of the tours or activities led by locals? 

While we couldn't see whether our selected helicopter tour was led by a local (we assume it is), many tours will highlight the tour guides' specifics, especially if they are multilingual. Check each experience for yours.

Klook pros:

  • Klook reviews on VerifiedReviews maintain a 4.8 of 5 stars from over 13,000 reviews
  • Payable in a variety of currencies
  • As you book and complete experiences, you earn credits toward new ones
  • Bookings are confirmed instantly
  • There are lots of promos, especially if you download the apps
  • Great prices and a 'best price guarantee'

Klook cons:

  • Site seems sluggish
  • Hard to find info on specific tour guides

Bottom Line: 

With over 13,000 positive reviews on VerifiedReviews, Klook is doing something right. Prices are great and bookings are simplified. Subscribe to their email list for discounts up to 60% sent to your inbox. Corporate discounts are available here. Got more questions? Try Klook's FAQ here.

Expedia 

Next up on our local tours tour is the renowned Expedia. Yes, Expedia is allowing travelers to book local experiences at many worldwide destinations, too! You'll just have to head to their Things to Do page to start booking your local experience.

When we entered our Halloween Chicago preferences into their search field, we were informed that there were 65 things to do in Chicago on October 31st. Wow! Let's see what some of them are:

Looks like you can search through categories of Adventures & Excursions, with an average price of $271, Tours & Sightseeing with an average price of $80, or Attractions & Nightlife with an average price of $61. 

You can also find recommended local expert picks, family-friendly suggestions, or new Expedia tours (top left corner), and other assorted tour, activity, and transportation types (along left side of page).

If you'd like to see how others enjoyed the activities, check their rating and reviews. Each activity has a number in bold, followed by the number of reviews posted, just below the title of the activity in blue. (see above.)

Looks like the helicopter ride gets 5 of 5 stars from the 12 reviews posted — but it's also set at a slightly higher price than Klook's was. It might be time for a 'price match guarantee' search if we were really intending to book!

Other than that, we found an affordable river tour of Chicago's architecture that looked pretty good:

Ratings look great, too, but sadly our Halloween date was not available. It might be too cold on the water that day, so we opted for an early September date instead.

And the results were plentiful, so we booked a 10:45 AM ride without further ado:

While you're on the site, you may want to download the app in order to receive the latest info on Expedia's coupons and discounts.

And booking Expedia experiences can earn you Reward Points like booking hotels can, which are redeemable in various ways to save you money in the future. Very nice!

What types of activities/tours can you book?

You can book walking/bike/water/air/balloon/helicopter/bus tours, shows and sporting events, discounted passes to museums and other attractions, dining and food/drink tours, dinner cruises, and more.

Are any of the tours led by locals?

Yes, most of the tours are led by very well-informed local tour guides - even guests born and bred in the town being toured may learn new things from these brilliant and entertaining tour guides.

Expedia pros:

  • Members get discounts off things to do on Expedia
  • Fun, knowledgeble tour guides
  • You can read ratings and reviews on each tour/experience by previous participants

Expedia cons:

  • Too many cooks in the kitchen at times; make sure all parties involved with your event are on the same page with your booking. Some reviews claim Expedia goofed on their end when dates needed changes or other details got confused

Bottom Line: 

Expedia has lots of events, superb guides, and great prices. Just make sure if you make changes following the initial date on the booking that everyone involved (Expedia, the tour guide company, etc.) has the same information.

Peek

We now find ourselves at our 5th stop on our local experiences and travel tours journey, which brings us to Peek.

On their website, Peek's founders explain that they only work with the highest quality vendors, creating a team of travel experts who hand-select the best activities for each customer's travel style.

Peek has Travel Guides you can review if it's your first time visiting a destination to give you a tentative list of the top attractions. They also provide "Perfect Day" itineraries, which compile tips and schedule the best of each city according to tastemakers.

We put in our Chicago destination for the week of Halloween once again, and Peek found us 70 tours and activities during our designated time frame. That's quite a few! (It probably helped that we forgot to enter our price range):

Here are some of our favorites from that grouping:

Looks like they've got the same Gangsters and Ghosts Tour we peeked at on Airbnb Experiences — and for the same price as well. 

We decided we liked the rating and the price on the Haunted Lincoln Park Walking Tour, so we clicked in for details:

Looks like a 2-hour walking tour through an original cemetery 'known' to be haunted, as well as several other scary locales in the city like the site of the actual St. Valentine's Day Massacre — and good news, there's plenty of availability left.

One of the best among their Chicago local knowledge tours, guests will surely be enthralled with this adventure.

We can also read the reviews and ratings of past participants, which add  up to the tour's current 4.5 star rating after 53 reviews. Not bad! So, we'll go ahead and book:

There wasn't a tour open for the night of Halloween, so we opted for the night before. Good enough! Now let's into our summary of Peek:

What types of activities/tours can you book?

Peek lets you book everything you can think of as far as sightseeing, culturally-themed events and activities, food/nightlife, boat tours and cruises, sky tours, hop on and off bus tours, water sports, and more.

How does it work?

Enter your destination, dates of travel, and price range, then click on the category of activity that interests you when they all pop up. You can sort through them and view your favorites in detail as you go.

Are any of the tours or activities led by locals? 

Most are either from or currently live in the regions they're describing on the tour, and all are highly knowledgeable on the tour's content.

Peek pros:

  • Numerous activities to choose from in a variety of categories - something for everyone!
  • Prices on par with other experience booking sites
  • Courteous, informative staff and tour drivers
  • Efficient, easy-to-use site
  • Maintains an 8.2 out of 10 rating on ResellerRatings site after 132 reviews
  • Groups of 10 or more get special deals

Peek cons:

  • Some felt the classes they signed up for were too difficult for their skill level
  • Some mentioned confusion with activities offered through the Peek site vs. offered at actual activity locations; dates were different/prices, etc.

Bottom Line: 

Peek maintains high ratings on review sites and has prices about equal to others we've reviewed. The site seems easy to use and the tour drivers/guides are well-informed. If you have a discrepancy with anything you've booked through Peek, try contacting their customer service at support@peek.com. Do you have a tour or other type of activity you'd like to offer for booking through Peek? Go here.

GetYourGuide

GetYourGuide comes in next on our search of local communities' experiences booking sites, offering access to top attractions around the world:

Cancellations are permitted free of charge on GetYourGuide for most bookings up until 24 hours prior to start time.

When we entered our Chicago destination, we saw several top attractions pop up:

When we entered our Halloween-near dates, we got some other nice results; some familiar, some new:

You probably noticed that Chicago helicopter tour right away, didn't you? And you can also see that the price on it is just about in the middle of our 2 former tour competitors — a little cheaper than Expedia's $142 and a tad more than Klook's $133. Interesting to note the subtle differences — now let's get into our Chicago tour thru GetYourGuide:

This time we went for the 2.5-hour Historic Pub Crawl Walking Tour.

Looks like we'll explore 3 bars significant to the history of Chicago and learn facts about the Magnificent Mile and Chicago's jazz clubs. Fun! And we can read reviews from former participants, which cumulatively gave this tour a 4.6 out of 5 star rating. Not too shabby!

So we tried to book it for our Halloween date, but it's already totally booked up! We're flexible, so we put in for the closest available date to that, which was the 29th, and:

We got it — woot, woot! Now let's get into our summary of this experience booking site, GetYourGuide:

What types of activities/tours can you book?

Everything from timed entrance tickets to the Louvre Museum in Paris to a guided tour of the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum, and St. Peter's in Rome to a 1.5 hour canal cruise of Amsterdam or a helicopter tour and pub crawl in downtown Chicago.

How does it work?

Enter your destination, desired dates, and the categories of activities that interest you. Click on the ones that look best for details on each one, then click 'book' to get the reservation/tickets. Super easy!

Are any of the tours or activities led by locals? 

Yes! And GetYourGuide also offers their popular 'Like a Local' customized guided tours as well, which feature a Local Guide (or a"Lokafyer"), to show you everything from the perspective of the locals, such as these below:

GetYourGuide pros:

  • GetYourGuide maintains a solid 4 stars out of 5 on Trustpilot after 2700 reviews
  • Convenient and easy to use site
  • Reasonable prices
  • Guides are informative and helpful, offering plenty of insider tips on the area

GetYourGuide cons:

  • Some stated there were discrepancies between their voucher and what was offered on the tour

Bottom Line: 

GetYourGuide has a very high rating on review sites - but that doesn't mean every single tour and every single guide is going to be superb. Be sure to read plenty of reviews before booking, and notify the booking site at your earliest opportunity if anything seems amiss. Other than that, GetYourGuide has decent prices compared to similar sites and their 'Like a Local' tours are known to be very popular and many fill up fast. Any questions? Contact GetYourGuide's multilingual customer service team for answers

Nowboat

Without a doubt, one of our most interesting finds of the day has to be Nowboat. Committed to donating 3.5% of their profits to ocean-protecting NGOs, Hong Kong-based Nowboat offers a vast array of sea-based activities and adventures throughout the watery world.

Do you love snorkeling, sailing, diving, cruising, wakeboarding, surfing, kitesurfing, or windsurfing?

Or are you more into enjoying a relaxing cruise, dancing it up on a party boat, or indulging in the finest of seafoods?

How does Greece sound for starters? Or maybe Thailand, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Turkey, Indonesia, or Spain?

Into their homepage introductory search fields, we entered our favorite activity and destination as 'diving' and 'Thailand' — for which the following results showed up:

We clicked in for details on this one:

The Catamaran 48 is owned by a former chef who is ready to take you on a relaxed cruise featuring Thai and European cuisine and activities both in and out of the ocean.

If you're interested, you can opt for the Thai massage offered and then fall asleep in your private cabin which has an opening hatch allowing you to slumber under the stars while listening to the waves lap at the boat.

The Catamaran 48 package includes the essential crew, snorkeling gear, outside loud speakers, and an 8-person tender with outboard. The entire boat is 48 ft. in length, has 6 cabins, 4 bathrooms, a kitchen, living room, and washer and accommodates up to 20 people.

If you're interested, you send the operator some information to begin discussing your trip:

Since this particular voyage is sufficiently out of our current price range, we won't bother Georgios with a message — but you can, if your budget is in the proper range!

If our selection doesn't float your boat, just adjust the activity, region preferred, and other search criteria until you find something that does. Here's what came up when we entered 'kitesurfing', for a few examples:

Plenty of options! After you pick one and consult with the operator, you head to checkout, select your favorite NGO project to support as part of your booking, and then start packing!

During your checkout, you get to choose the NGO project that receives their next donation. NGOs currently listed include the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Mission Blue, and others. We love it!

Now let's get into a summary of Nowboat:

What types of activities/tours can you book?

Pretty much anything water-related like snorkeling, sailing, diving, cruising, wakeboarding, surfing, kitesurfing, windsurfing, etc.- as well as rock climbing and other land activities mixed into some packages.

How does it work?

You search for your favorite tour/activity, message the fleet operator to get details and exchange pertinent info, select your NGO for the donation, and get ready for your trip!

Are any of the tours or activities led by locals? 

All are professional tour operators and charter companies carefully vetted for safety, environmental consciousness, ethical labor practices, as well as various insurance necessities. Each is very familiar with the area they work within to provide tours or activities.

Nowboat pros:

  • Numerous types of tours, excursions, and activity packages worldwide
  • Tour operators are professionals and are carefully vetted
  • Provides an easy-to-use, all-in-one platform for booking sea adventures

Nowboat cons:

  • Most tours are quite expensive

Bottom Line: 

If you don't have your own boat and doubt you ever will, this might be the next best thing! If you're in the market for a trip like this, we highly recommend you take one. They look divine and the guides are well-vetted and experienced. We couldn't find many customer reviews other than FaceBook which were mostly just 5-star ratings with little more info, so if you book with Nowboat please do tell us about it! We'll be jealous, but we'll listen.

Showaround

See the highlights of your favorite city with a hand-picked local tour guide! Showaround helps match locals to visitors for tours of cities or certain aspects of cities. The hourly price ranges from free to around $100/hour, and you can search through locals' profiles until you find one you like. In London, for example, there are 293 Showaround locals signed up to choose from. Here are a few of them:

You can apply advanced filters to help find your ideal Showaround local as well:

Select your price range, languages spoken, type of activities you enjoy, and the gender you prefer, or a couple.

If you like, you can create a trip on Showaround, and get offers from locals to participate in your trip.

If you want to sign up as a local in your town, just follow these instructions.

Locals don't have to be experts. They can just be passionate and knowledgable about their city and have fun, outgoing personalities!

Let's check out what we can do to get shown around local experiences in London. Here we go:

We decided to look at Joe's profile for our Showaround Local. He has 6 perfect reviews from previous guests, and his price is $2/hour. Once we create a profile, we can view his. Here's Joe:

Joe is fluent in two languages, and knows about several types of London activities including shopping, food and restaurants, history and culture, art and museums, and exploration/sightseeing.

We created a trip on Showaround — here's what the process looks like:

You enter the info above regarding your trip, including where you're going, the dates you'll be there, number of people going, and the type of local you'd prefer.

Then your trip is created!

You can also sign up for updates through your Facebook Messenger if you wish:

Now let's get into our summary of Showaround.

What types of activities/tours can you book?

You can choose from categories of shopping, nightlife and bars, food and restaurants, art and museums, sports and recreation, walking tours or pickup and driving tours, or exploration and sightseeing.

How does it work?

You can browse through locals to see who seems good for your tour, or create a trip to let locals respond to you. Both require you to set up a profile, which you'll want to fill in thoroughly and add a few pictures. You can use the app too - go  here to download.

Are any of the tours or activities led by locals? 

Yep, they are all locals!

Showaround pros:

  • Many locals are cheap or even free; some are multilingual
  • You can read reviews of previous guests who've toured with locals
  • Payment options in a variety of currencies
  • Most reviews indicate guests enjoyed their tours and their friendly locals

Showaround cons:

  • Some didn't like the way payments are collected
  • Some didn't feel their local was professional enough

Bottom Line: 

Showaround is a fun and easy way to meet locals for tours which can be cheap or even free. Just be sure to read enough reviews to find out about the person, make sure you observe basic safety precautions, and enjoy!

Vayable

You can find unique experiences to explore in every city when traveling with Vayable. Search by the type of experience that interests you, such as adventure tours, dining, shopping, romance, art, nightlife, food or wine, architecture, walking/biking tours, historical tours, photography, and more. You can also sort your results in order of popularity, reviews, least to most expensive, or newest to oldest.

Here are a few of the experiences offered currently in cities around the world:

See anything good? We sure did! Let's peek at what they've got in our favorite Windy City destination now:

When we searched for experiences in Chicago, these above were the top results. As you can see, some of them are quite unique — not your everyday tours!

We decided to check out the 'Explore Chicago by Train' tour offered by Noah F. Here's what we saw when we clicked in:

The first page shows Noah's beautiful cover photo of the 'El' by sunset, and a little description of his tour.

Then you can go into his profile:

and even connect to a brief intro video of Noah:

If you want to contact Noah or leave a review about his tour, you'll need to create an account first.

Noah didn't have any reviews posted yet, though, so we visited another experience to see what the review section looked like. 

As you can see below, Russell H.'s Street Art Tour of San Francisco has 75 reviews:

And you can read them all, starting with Stephanie's below, right underneath his profile bio:

Nice! 

Want to create your own experience and become an Vayable 'Insider'? You can start here, and here's a little about it:

We love it! Now let's get into our wrap-up on this experience-booking site:

What types of activities/tours can you book?

Anything that gives a tour or provides cultural enrichment or education about a destination. This can involve art, music, design, food, drinking, architecture, history, fashion, shopping, etc., and must be a high quality, safe experience.

How does it work?

Guests browse experiences in a certain city to find what interests them. Then they can create an account to communicate with the Insiders and request a booking. After that, guests enter their credit card information, contact info, and any message they wish to send the Insider. 

If the experience is categorized as 'Instant Book', you'll get a reservation immediately and your card will be charged. Otherwise, you'll be charged with the Insider accepts the booking (must take place within 48 hours of request, or the request will be denied). Insiders are paid after the tour is complete.

Are any of the tours or activities led by locals? 

Yes, all Insiders are vetted as such and must be knowledgeable, personable, and trustworthy, and deliver a high quality, safe experience to their guests.

Vayable pros:

  • Provides unique, quality tours and experiences in every city
  • Insiders are vetted to be knowledgeable and trustworthy
  • You can book a small group or single person experience here, rather than show up to whatever size tour group the other sites end up generating (can be quite large).
  • Choose whatever activity interests you within your price range and book your Insider directly

Vayable cons:

  • Some weren't impressed with their tour and felt it was just average

Bottom Line: 

Vayable is a great way to charm visitors to your city if you know your way around very well and can provide a fun or unique activity or perspective on things. Guests should read reviews on tours and Insiders to get an idea of how they work before booking. Insiders without any reviews appear to be fairly common on the site, perhaps because they are just new. In any case, do what you're comfortable with on that note, and let us know how it goes!

SpottedByLocals

Get the goods on the best local spots in your city — or your upcoming vacation destination — from Spotters on SpottedByLocals.

Established in 2008, SpottedByLocals has created guides for 71 cities which are compiled on an app that can work even when offline. Spotters are locals to their cities, provide insight into their city via writing about their favorite spots, and commit to staying current and meeting SpottedByLocals founders in person. 

We love their Mission Statement

"We strongly believe many of the world’s problems are caused by people from different cultures not understanding each other. We aim to increase intercultural understanding, by allowing travelers to see a destination from a local’s perspective."

Get the SpottedByLocals app here to start using the features, including tips on where to go in your city and maps you can use even when you're offline.

SpottedByLocals is offered in 71 cities throughout the world.

Let's see what treasures we find in Chicago:

We can search by category:

Here's a lesser known spot featured in the 'Relaxation' category of the Chicago section:

And here's a very scenic downtown Chicago rooftop bar (yes, that is the Millennium Park bean in the distance):

There's also a listing for a bike repair station that offers free air — across the street from a bar where you can enjoy a drink while you're bike's getting fixed:

And here's a handy guide to riding the 'El' like a local:

We can check out some of Chicago's hand-picked spotters, too:

You can follow them on Twitter to see new spots posted as they're found.

Interested in becoming a Spotter? Check their video here for how the Spotters feel about it.

Lots of gems hidden in there! Now that we see how it all works, let's get into our final summary of the tour - on SpottedByLocals:

What types of activities/tours can you book?

Anything and everything. These aren't necessarily all tours, though - they are cool locales which have been spotted by locals who thought you should know about them. All are available and accessible to those who live in the cities as well as those considering a visit. The app costs $3.99 per city guide. They link to Booking.com for hotel bookings.

How does it work?

Users download the app and it's $3.99 per city guide. You can view each guide as it becomes relevant for your travels or just whenever you wish.

Are any of the tours or activities led by locals? 

Yes! All.

SpottedByLocals pros:

  • Maintains a solid 5 stars on Product Hunt for their app after almost 30 reviews
  • Impressive network of spotters are each personally vetted by founders of the app
  • Get tips on where to find the hidden gems and out-of-the-way spots locals enjoy, not just the main attractions of the city
  • Some especially liked the offline maps; said this app has changed the way they travel

 SpottedByLocals cons:

  • Only covers 71 cities so far

Bottom Line: 

Discover some off-the-beaten-path treasures with this app. Some have called SpottedByLocals a "traveler's must-have" local guide, and found it very useful, especially with so many features available offline. They may not have every city in the world yet, but they've got a great guide for 71 of them so far. Got further questions or need info about the app? Go here.

So which booking site do you like best, or do you prefer a different site entirely? Can you recommend a specific tour or activity you enjoyed? We'd love to hear about it in the comments below! 

The 9 Best Vacation Rental Sites for Renting Cabins

Looking to rent a cabin? You can still get the Airbnb booking experience you expect with one of these 9 vacation rental sites that offer cabins by owner.

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!

Airbnb

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.

Pros:

  • 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)

Cons:

  • 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: 

Bottom line:

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.

HomeAway

Another of the more popular vacation home rental sites we found was HomeAway.

Like Airbnb, HomeAway also matches cabins and vacation home rental sites with those seeking travel accommodations — with more options appearing to be offered by owner. 

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.

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • 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)

Bottom line:

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!

VRBO

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.

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • 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)

Bottom line:

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.

When I did a search for cabins in West Virginia, the site directed me to Country Road Cabins and connected me over to their partner site, Booking.com. I saw this:

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.

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • 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

Bottom line: 

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.           

FlipKey

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.

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • 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

Bottom line:

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.

Tripz.com

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.

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • 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

Bottom line:

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.

Wimdu

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.

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • 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

Bottom line:

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.

Innclusive

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.

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • Not all cabin rentals offer contact with actual owners, but rather hosts of some other type

Bottom line:

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."

TripAdvisor Rentals

According to interviews, TripAdvisor Rentals showcases over 830,000 rental properties worldwide.

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.

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • 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

Bottom line:

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!

Uber Alternatives: 9 Other Ridesharing Apps for Getting Around in Your City

Need to get around but you want an alternative to Uber and Lyft? There are plenty! We’ve gone in for the details on our top 9 favorites, and are here to share the goods.

Had enough of Uber and Lyft? Turns out, there are many alternatives in the ridesharing space, depending on where you live and where you need to go. 

But which ones are the safest, and which ones are worth your time and money? 

We've broken down the 9 best ridesharing alternatives to Uber and Lyft, and which cities each one operates in.

Juno

With an app founded by entrepreneur Talmon Marco, Juno is a ridesharing service alternative to Uber focused on providing drivers a fair wage. Juno charges drivers a 30-40% lower commission than similar services, and will eventually offer their long-term drivers restricted stock units (RSUs), allowing them to own part of the company.

Juno riders can choose 3 types of rides: 

  • Quick
  • Stylish
  • SUV-style, for large groups 

The app lets you know approximately how much each fare will be based on the type of ride you select, and gives you an estimated arrival time — then, when you’re ready to hit the road, nearby vehicles are called to your location. 

Wikipedia states that Gett acquired Juno in 2017 and cancelled the driver equity program. No further information was available about what this merger means for long-term drivers.

More about Juno:

Standard fares on Juno: RideGuru shares that Juno’s NYC pricing falls around the following (outside of times of possible surge pricing):

Initial charge: $2.55

Per Mile charge: $1.75

Per Hour charge: $21

Minimum charge: $8

Juno cities: Juno is currently only in NYC, but plan on expanding so watch this space.

Are  there any sign-up fees or specials? We couldn’t find much on either subject, but it's definitely special that Juno riders can use in-app tipping to give their drivers a little extra, and can also enjoy 24/7 live phone, email and text support as needed. Plus, you can find Juno promo codes here.

Juno pros:

  • Gives customers a socially responsible, ‘driver-friendly’ alternative to competitors
  • App usage is free
  • Drivers are only charged a 10% commission
  • Payments are done directly through the app
  • Riders can travel on credit up to 90 days

Juno cons:

  • Promotional offers may end without notice
  • Services are currently limited to NYC

Bottom line:

If you care about the hard work of drivers, Juno is for you. Be sure your driver is well taken care of while simultaneously ensuring your trip is hassle-free. Let’s hope they expand outside of NYC sooner than later!

Safr

With the aim of providing safe transportation for women, a new ridesharing service called Safr has emerged with unique in-ride security features designed for women, by women to present the top of the line in Uber and Lyft alternatives. If a rider feels unsafe during her ride, for example, they can press the Safe SOS button for help. Drivers are tracked via 24/7 real-time monitoring, as well, to ensure no rides are taken too far off the appropriate route.

Further, Safr drivers are personally vetted and screened through comprehensive background checks to be sure they meet the safest standards. Plus, the drivers, also all women, are paid higher than the industry standard, so you can feel good about using Safr. Additional safety features and more details about Safr can be viewed here

More about Safr:

Standard fares on Safr: According to Curbed.com,   an average Safr ride costs appx 10 percent more than UberX (or around   $1 more for an average $12 fare) - BUT the service says it also pays  its  workforce significantly more.

Safr cities: Safr is officially launched in Boston and Orlando with plans to expand into Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, and Washington.

Are there any sign-up fees or specials? We couldn’t find any sign-up fees or recent deals offered for Safr riders, but when you refer a new driver to Safr and they complete 25 rides in their first 30 days, you both get   $250. Safr also donates a portion of every fare to charities  supporting  women, children, animals, and the environment. Find Safr discounts here.

Safr pros:

  • Women reported this being a fantastic solution and makes them feel much safer to ride in the city, esp at night
  • Smart safety features to protect both riders and drivers
  • Portions of every fare donated to worthy causes 
  • Women can empower other women as drivers when they choose this option for a ride

Safr cons:

  • Their CEO was arrested last year, but it was apparently on totally unrelated matters which had nothing to do with Safr 
  • Some had trouble with the app being ‘glitchy’ and therefore couldn’t sign  up  for an account (you can also sign up through FaceBook, fyi)

Bottom line:

We think Safr is brilliant for women, riders and drivers alike. With so many issues reported lately on matters of safety with other rideshare companies, this is most certainly a long-awaited and very welcome solution for many women riders. We hope they can get the app glitches fixed — and that the company comes to our town next because we would surely try it out!

Via 

Another of our favorite and more interesting Uber competitors is Via. Via brings together the comfort of premium riding and the ethical affordability of public transportation to offer a unique on-demand transit option. 

Since their launch in 2012, Via has broadened their availability from Manhattan to all of NYC, Chicago, and Washington D.C.   Download their app to get matched with others going your way and ride together along optimized routes for greater efficiency and eco-friendliness. Via has successfully provided over 30 million rides globally.

More about Via:

Standard fares on Via: To give you some idea, according to Crain’s New York Business,  Via has been charging $5 to $7 per ride in Manhattan with trips to LaGuardia falling at around $25 and trips to JFK at around $40.   Additional passengers in the car are charged appx $5 each as well.

Via cities: 

  • NYC
  • Chicago
  • Washington, D.C.

They also license their technology to other companies for use in Austin, Texas; Kent, UK; and Paris, France.

Are there any sign-up fees or specials? We could only find outdated offers at the moment, but they do offer gift cards for folks in their geographies who could use a ride. Get them here. Find Via coupon codes here.

Via pros:

  • Punctual, safe drivers
  • Lower prices than cabs
  • Some reported having earned free rides when trying the app for the first time, and also later on by sharing promo codes with others 

Via cons:

  • Occasionally drivers pick up on the wrong side of the street 
  • Some reported being charged a different amount than quoted on the app
  • Some did not like being asked to walk to a nearby destination for pick-up (this is requested often)

Bottom line:

Via is likely worth the effort, is affordable and eco-friendly, and comes with a handy app. That said, some drivers are not as ideal as others — please report any that aren’t great. You and Via deserve only the best.

Curb

Curb is actually a taxi app — the number one taxi app in the USA to be exact — and, in keeping with modern tech and apps like Uber, it allows riders to hail a taxi via an app on their smartphones. 

With 50,000 cabs and 100,000 drivers,  Curb connects drivers with riders in nearly every major  city. It also  provides professional, insured drivers to users through its fast, safe,  and convenient app, allowing taxi drivers to remain  competitive  nationwide. 

Currently owned by Verifone Systems and previously known as Taxi Magic, Curb asks users to set up an account after they download the app and enter your pick up or destination point. Don’t know where you are exactly? Stay put — Curb can use your smartphone’s GPS to find you. You’ll then find the estimated fare and you can select a payment preference (some cities offer in-app payment; others offer credit card or cash options) or do so at the time  of your ride. 

Get the Curb app here.

More about Curb:

Standard fares on Curb:  According to Ridester, since Curb is a taxi app, base fares are often higher than ridesharing — but should be cheaper during times of surge pricing. Estimate your ride's cost here.

Curb cities: 

  • Alexandria
  • Arlington, TX
  • Arlington, VA
  • Austin
  • Boston
  • Buffalo
  • Chicago
  • Cleveland
  • Dallas
  • Durham
  • Fort Worth
  • Henderson
  • Irvine
  • Las Vegas
  • Long Beach
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Milwaukee
  • Nashville
  • NYC
  • Pasadena
  • Philadelphia
  • Portland
  • Raleigh
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • San Jose
  • Seattle
  • Torrance
  • Washington, D.C.

Are there any sign-up fees or specials? Also according to Ridester, Curb has a special new rider   promotion going on, which offers $15 in credit for new riders who download the app and take a ride. Use the Curb promo code: 60p79a. You can also find all the latest Curb promo codes here.

Curb pros:

  • There are 3 ride options: 1. Ride Now: Request immediate pickup 2. Ride   Later: Reserve up to 24 hours in advance 3. Pair & Pay: Use the app   to pay for rides you hail with your hand (Available only in NYC,  Boston,  Philadelphia, Miami, and Las Vegas)
  • Keeps taxi drivers competitive in the rideshare economy
  • Professional, insured drivers are available

Curb cons:

  • GPS challenges, esp. with proper pickup/destination locations and memory
  • Some had difficulties with the Access-A-Ride program

Bottom line:

For the most part, Curb is a perfect service allowing those needing a ride to easily hail those driving taxis without standing out on the street. Don’t bank on GPS though, (never do that!), and if you use Access-A-Ride, be sure you know your rights before getting in any vehicle. You may, unfortunately, need to remind others of them - and possibly their supervisors.

HopSkipDrive

HopSkipDrive is a ridesharing app designed for children created by 3 busy car-pooling moms who recognized the need for more safe transport alternatives for kids. Parents can book rides for their own children at least 8 hours in advance using the company’s mobile app or website.  

HopSkipDrive pairs the child with a vetted “care-driver.” Parents then receive a ride confirmation, a photo of the driver, and notifications at the times of pick-up and drop-off — or they can track the ride live in real time with the HopSkipDrive app.

And, as HopSkipDrive CEO Joanna McFarland explains, “You can book HopSkipDrive for tomorrow, next week, or the entire next school year.”

More about HopSkipDrive:

Standard fare on HopSkipDrive: The San Diego Union Tribune cites costs starting at $16 per trip for private rides, but parents can share costs by sending kids in carpools, reducing the fare to as low as $7 per child. 

HopSkipDrive cities: Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, and the Bay Area of California as well as Denver, Colorado

Are there any sign-up fees or specials? HopSkipDrive promo codes can be received from a current riding family and are valued as one credit, or a single ride up to $20.00. You can also find more HopSkipDrive discounts here.

HopSkipDrive pros:

  • A great solution for busy families with parents needing to be 2 places at once
  • Safe, vetted drivers
  • Parents receive photos and bios of drivers ahead of time, as well as their vehicle and license plate number
  • Easy to use app

HopSkipDrive cons:

  • A few complained about driver punctuality and customer service attitude (but they were in the minority; HopSkipDrive maintains a solid 4 stars on Yelp)
  • Minimum rider age allowed is 6 (unless accompanied by parent who brought their own car seat)

Bottom Line:

HopSkipDrive is a brilliant solution for super busy families. Most reported experiences have been stellar on the Yelp review site. Feel free to call customer service and ask as many questions as you need to in order to feel comfortable placing your child in a stranger’s car - I know I would!   But  overall this seems like a great idea if you’re pressed for time and have kids waiting for rides. 

GetMe Ride

When Michael Broome visited the Bahamas, he was struck by how difficult — and pricey — it was to get a taxi or any alternatives to Uber and Lyft when he needed one. 

After he returned home, he came to create GetMe Ride, allowing customers in his favorite vacation spot to not only hail taxis through a super handy smartphone app, but to also control their orders and track their drivers and routes through the app’s GPS technology. 

GetMe drivers are thoroughly vetted and certified, must have at least two years of experience, and, according to the Nassau Guardian, the company is contracting more than 75 independent, licensed drivers throughout the country currently. 

To  use the service, download the GetMe app, create an account, fill in your pick-up/destination, group size/vehicle type, and get ready! Your ride should be available shortly. GetMe Ride also has wheelchair-accessible vehicles and tour buses. Payments are made securely through the app so no cash is exchanged. Register to use GetMe Ride here

More about GetMe Ride:

Standard fares on GetMe Ride: This information could not specifically be found,   but the company states that the cost per ride will be calculated per mile, with a flat rate set for luxury vehicles.

GetMe Ride Cities: None int he continental U.S., but it's available to plenty of Americans who visit the Bahamas, and they plan to expand to Jamaica as well. 

Are there any sign-up fees or specials? None could be found.

GetMe Ride pros:

  • 85 contracted drivers are currently set to work for GetMe Ride
  • Free download works with iOS and Android
  • Fully endorsed by Minister Kwasi Thompson of Grand Bahama
  • Local taxi union was impressed with the app; happy that it caters to local taxi drivers

GetMe Ride cons:

  • Not found on any review sites yet

Bottom line:

GetMe Ride sounds like a great option for anyone visiting the Bahamas! Although other options already exist, they probably don’t offer booking this conveniently.

Wingz

San Francisco-based Wingz offers transportation primarily to and from U.S. and international airports, but has also recently expanded to offer Uber alternatives including around-town rides and working with senior care facilities.   

Previously known as Tickengo, Wingz is a peer-to-peer transportation alternative which offers scheduled, private, fixed-price rides in at least 30 major American cities. Wingz also lets users request specific drivers and build lists of their favorite drivers for future rides.

More about Wingz:

Standard fares on Wingz: According to MapHappy, Wingz is higher than main competitors on trips to/from major airports. For example, scheduling times for airport transport from 2 hours to 2 months ahead of time ran up to $34 with Wingz in several major cities (with competitor prices being around $26). However, during surge pricing times, Wingz will probably be cheaper.

Wingz cities: 

  • Austin
  • Dallas
  • Fort Worth
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Orlando
  • Phoenix
  • Portland
  • Sacramento
  • San Antonio
  • San Diego
  • Seattle
  • San Jose
  • Oakland
  • San Francisco
  • Tampa

Are there any sign-up fees or specials? Save $5 on your first booking with Wingz here, and find more Wingz promo codes here

Wingz pros:

  • Reliable
  • Cheap and friendly
  • Easy to book
  • Excellent communication and contact with customer service
  • Prompt, courteous, professional drivers
  • Clean cars

Wingz cons:

  • A few reported mix-ups on pick-up times and drivers not showing up (this was 3 out of appx 22 positive reviews, however)

Bottom line:

Wingz appears to be a decent option for airport travel (some have used it otherwise, but most reviews we found were focused on airport travel). Booking far in advance may warrant a confirmation call or email as the date of arrival nears to make sure nothing has been accidentally forgotten or erased. 

Getaround

Somewhere between a peer-to-peer rideshare and a rental car stands Getaround, another Uber alternative where customers find a car to ‘share’, rent it, and then unlock it with their smartphone app. Available in more than ten cities including Boston, Chicago, and Washington D.C., Getaround is setting up to become a top competitor in app-based transportation. 

Its 2 main areas of uniqueness are:

  1. Rental by the hour
  2. Getaround cars are all accessible via the app - no keys need to change hands

More about Getaround:

Standard fares on Getaround: Starting at $5 - $8 per hour; and booking fees are  an additional 3% of the trip price. If you ride over 200 miles in a  day, extra fees apply. You must also refill the fuel to the level it was  at time of pick-up.

Getaround cities: 

  • San Francisco
  • Berkeley
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • New Jersey
  • Oakland
  • Philadelphia
  • Portland
  • Seattle
  • Washington, D.C. 

Are there any sign-up fees or specials?  For your first trip, you’ll need to pay $10 for a DMV check and leave $150 on your card for a security deposit until your rental ends. You can look here for more Getaround promo codes, too.

Getaround pros:

  • Rentals are offered both hourly or daily
  • All Getaround cars are accessible via the app - no keys need ever change hands
  • Renters  can be as young as 19 years old (if they meet certain criteria, i.e.  clean driving record; they also pay more for every year younger than 25  they are)
  • Insurance is included in the cost of the rental
  • Available on both Android and iPhone

Getaround cons:

  • Cancellation less than 24 hours before the trip begins results in a fee of 50% of the trip price
  • Late returns are fined $50 per hour the car is late
  • Unauthorized drivers are not allowed; anyone caught allowing unauthorized driving is charged $250

Bottom line:

Getaround is perfect if you prefer to drive the vehicle yourself (I know I do!), especially if you just need the car for a few hours and don’t want to  deal with the rigmarole of renting a car from a major car rental company. It might get a little pricey if you’re younger than 25, though, or if you break any of the aforementioned rules!

Addison Lee

Popular with corporate clients, London-based Addison Lee provides premium chauffeur service worldwide with a global fleet of 6,500 cars throughout  the UK as well as several American cities including Los Angeles, San  Francisco, Philadelphia, Stamford, Princeton, NYC, and Long Island City.  

Book your ride easily via app, phone, or the web, or you can call their  Global Call Center at 1-888-888-5466 or 1-201-529-1452. Their lines are  open 24 hours a day. You may also email them for information at: usreservations@addisonlee.com. They are currently recruiting as well (and the benefits look sweet), so interested drivers should apply here.

More about Addison Lee:

Standard fares on Addison Lee: While prices are not listed, you can get a quote here. (Addison Lee prices are said to be appx 50% higher than Uber X, to give you some idea of the range.)

Addison Lee cities: 

  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Philadelphia
  • Stamford
  • Princeton
  • NYC
  • Long Island City

Are there sign-up fees or specials? When we called the company today (note: it’s a Sunday afternoon) to get information, we were given personal, polite attention immediately and all our questions were answered. (How often  does that happen on a Sunday afternoon??) We were informed that there are none of either currently being charged or offered.

Addison Lee pros:

  • Maintains a solid 4-star rating on TripAdvisor
  • Polite drivers
  • Clean, modern vehicles
  • Punctual
  • Prompt customer service

Addison Lee cons:

  • Expensive to some 
  • Some reported extra charges per minute when riders are late to board - even if their plane was late arriving

Bottom line:

Polite,  prompt drivers, clean vehicles, and relaxed rides. Addison Lee is usually perfect if you’re being taken from home to the airport, but being picked up at the airport can be a difficult situation timing-wise,  so to avoid extra fees for delay, some chose rides elsewhere.

International rideshare services

Need something in a city outside the U.S.? Don't fret! Just look into some of these:

  • In London, for women only: London Lady Chauffeurs
  • In Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Belgium, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, Poland, UK, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, India, Turkey, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Slovakia, Mexico, and Brazil: BlaBlaCar
  • In Europe: MyTaxi
  • In Southeast Asia: Grab
  • In India and Australia: Ola
  • In London: Kabbee
  • In Europe and Africa: Taxify
  • In Brazil: 99taxis
  • In Singapore: Ryde
  • In Russia: Yandex.Taxi