The Traveler’s Guide to Peer-to-Peer Rental Platforms
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Peer-to-peer rental platforms can be one of the best ways to have a more unique travel experience — allowing you to ditch generic hotels, expensive rental cars or kitschy tourist experiences for something different.
By staying in someone’s home, renting their car or hanging out with a local on a tour or curated excursion, you might get to know locals on a deeper level. These sorts of travel platforms can improve your odds of getting a more authentic view of the place you’re visiting; plus, they can give you the chance to better support local economies — sometimes for cheaper than the standard alternatives.
And while Airbnb is one of the biggest peer home-sharing platforms, it’s far from the only one. Beyond home-sharing companies, there are peer-to-peer rental platforms for sharing cars, RVs and even experiences like in-home cooking classes.
There are several other peer-to-peer platforms trying to mimic Airbnb’s success with different aspects of travel. Here are the biggest peer-to-peer rental sites to know.
How peer-to-peer rental platforms work
When it comes to finding a place to stay while traveling, a hotel doesn’t have to be your only option. And there are plenty of reasons people prefer these types of accommodations to hotels.
Vacation rentals like Airbnbs often offer more space than a hotel room, making them a more economical choice for family reunions or large groups of friends. While not always cheaper than hotels, the extra space and savings from being able to cook meals in the kitchen or do laundry at the in-unit washer or dryer can provide some added value.
Accommodations found on peer-to-peer networks can also offer a more intimate connection with a local. Some Airbnb or Couchsurfing hosts are happy to socialize with their guests and offer recommendations.
But there are drawbacks, too, that can include:
Lack of hotel amenities that you take for granted (like 24-hour check-in, daily cleaning service or the ability to call the front desk for help).
No free continental breakfast in the hotel lobby.
No room service.
Typically no on-site luxuries like a spa or gym.
You also can’t take advantage of special perks granted to members of hotel reward loyalty programs, and it’s unlikely you’ll find a peer-to-peer vacation rental program that lets you earn free stays.
Peer-to-peer platforms for home sharing
You’ll find all sorts of accommodations on Airbnb, from guest bedrooms to yurts to entire houses. If you know what to look for when you’re browsing Airbnb listings, it’s possible to find real gems. It could be a unique type of lodging or simply a conveniently-located place with an outstanding host.
Many people prefer Airbnbs over hotels — not just to save money, but also because they tend to be more accommodating to the rising population of digital nomads who prefer to work remotely from their Airbnb versus a hotel desk or stodgy office.
You may not be able to earn hotel reward points by staying at an Airbnb, but you can sometimes pay for your stay with credit card rewards.
» Learn more: Best credit cards for Airbnb
Founded in 1995, Vrbo stands for Vacation Rentals by Owner, and it’s one of the oldest vacation rental platforms in the world. You’ll find cabins, condos, beach houses and the like in its listings. One of the biggest differences between Vrbo versus other vacation rental platforms is that Vrbo only allows you to rent entire, private homes.
These days, Vrbo is owned by Expedia Group, so its listings may show up on other platforms such as Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz or Kayak.
» Learn more: Airbnb vs. Vrbo — Which is better for travelers?
If you prefer canvas to traditional walls, campers might turn to Hipcamp. Whether you’re looking for a more unique camping location — or perhaps the national and state parks are booked up — Hipcamp likely has a campsite for you. Its listings cover all national, state, regional and Army Corps parks in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, for a total of more than 360,000 campsites across the U.S.
And beyond your standard campsite, you’ll also find listings to pitch a tent on ranches, nature preserves, farms and vineyards. From glamping to conventional camping, there are also options to book unique lodgings like treehouses, cabins, yurts, Airstreams and tiny houses.
Campspace is another peer-to-peer network for travelers who are looking for a bare-bones place to put up their tent. Most of the available sites are in Europe and cost about €10 to €20 ($10 to $21) per night.
Couchsurfing probably existed before the term peer-to-peer network, and it’s still popular all over the world. You won’t get much personal space, but you will get a place to sleep and more interaction with your host than a typical Airbnb stay. You can book on the Couchsurfing website.
Peer-to-peer platforms for transportation
Peer-to-peer networks don’t have to stop at the door to your vacation rental. You can also rent an RV, borrow someone’s boat and more.
You don’t have to know how to steer a ship to rent one of these yachts, sailboats or pontoons because most of the time, GetMyBoat rentals come with a captain. This peer-to-peer network lets you organize fishing trips, snorkeling adventures or just a relaxing day out on the water.
Your transportation and lodging are covered for one price when you rent an RV from its owner through RVshare. There you’ll find a diverse selection of RVs for rent — ranging from giant, luxurious motor homes to funky vintage fans. Considering there are so many great road trip routes in the U.S., an RV rental can make for a unique vacation.
Just note that RVs aren’t necessarily more economical than hotels once you account for gas, the cost to rent a campsite and other fees like mileage, generator and cleaning fees.
Rental car alternatives like Turo and Getaround are effectively an Airbnb for cars. They’re sometimes cheaper, sometimes more convenient and sometimes they’re your only option if traditional rental cars are sold out.
Through Turo’s peer-to-peer network, you book a car online or through the Turo app from the car’s owner and then pick up the car at a designated location — which could be the owner’s house, or a public area like a park or shopping center. Sometimes the owners can even deliver the car to you (usually for an additional fee). Some cars offer a feature called Turo Go, where you can unlock the car through an app, allowing you to start the trip without ever meeting your host.
You have to be 21 to rent most cars, though a few are accessible to people as young as 18 with an additional young-driver fee.
Rent bikes, surfboards and snow gear all over the world. On Spinlister, you can even rent the equipment for a few days, instead of going to local shops that limit you to renting by the hour.
Peer-to-peer platforms for experiences
Peer-to-peer platforms can offer a truly unique tour experience as well. Whether it’s a cooking class with a local chef, a walking tour of the city or perhaps a delightfully random experience like a drone flying class, you can do it with a local — booked through one of these sites.
The company best known for home sharing also offers group activities for travelers led by local experts. Think guided walks, sports, art classes and more with Airbnb Experiences.
Eatwith’s experiences are all food-focused, so you’ll find home-cooked dinners that you’re invited to join, along with cooking classes and food tours.
European-based experiences network Withlocals can connect you with friendly residents for private tours, workshops, dinners and more.
How to book peer-to-peer rentals with travel rewards
Peer-to-peer networks generally aren’t part of traditional travel loyalty programs, but there are a few ways to use your travel rewards to book some of these alternative lodging options.
Apply travel credit card statement credits: Some credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, offer travel statement credits that can be applied to bookings made with these peer-to-peer platforms.
Book through a larger hotel chain: There are some vacation rentals you can book with Marriott Bonvoy points available through Marriott Homes & Villas.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card