Vrbo vs. Airbnb: The Pros and Cons for Travelers in 2024

Cute cabins? Check. Charming castles? Check. These sites have it all. Here's how they differ.
The Pros and Cons of Vrbo vs. Airbnb for Travelers
Photos, left to right: Vrbo, Airbnb
Harriet Baskas
by Harriet Baskas
Updated Jan 02, 2024
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Vacation rental companies such as Airbnb and Vrbo offer millions of unique properties that could be the ideal location for your wedding, a prewedding event, or a romantic vacation. But what are the pros and cons of booking with Vrbo vs. Airbnb? To start, both sites have a wide variety of properties, oodles of photos, and plenty of reviews to sleuth before a stay.

When it comes to their similarities: both Airbnb and Vrbo have a variety of added fees, filters to help you search, and policies regarding booking and cancellations. However, there are some nuanced differences between platforms, which is why certain people tend to gravitate to one brand for bach parties and the other for romantic getaways. It ultimately boils down to personal preference. We've done some research to help you navigate the two vacation rental sites and discover the differences between Vrbo vs. Airbnb.

What is Vrbo?

Vrbo to find the best travel spots
Photo: Vrbo

Vrbo began in 1995, when a Breckenridge, Colorado, condo owner set up a website to help him rent out his ski unit. He called it VRBO (or "Vacation Rentals by Owner") and it's since been rebranded as Vrbo (pronounced VER-bow) under the Expedia Group. Today, it offers more than 2 million short and long-term vacation rental listings around the world in venues that range from cottages, condos and cabins to whole houses, villas, chalets, estates and other luxury spaces.

Vrbo Pros

Vrbo's listings are all full-site, stand-alone vacation rentals. You won't find listings for rooms in homes or other shared spaces or end up in one by mistake. The tools for searching and filtering properties on Vrbo are user-friendly and informative. In addition to searching by price, location, and number of bedrooms, Vrbo users can easily select filters for properties where pets, children and/or smoking are allowed. Travelers can also seek out properties that have been highly rated for cleanliness, or rentals where weekly or monthly discounts are offered.

Vrbo offers 24/7 customer support and displays the total price of your stay (excluding tax), including the Vrbo service fee and host fees for cleaning and other items during your search.

Vrbo Cons

Vrbo offers fewer properties than Airbnb (2 million versus 7 million), so in some destinations your options may be limited.

What is Airbnb?

Airbnb for the best travel spots
Photo: Airbnb

Airbnb got its start as "AirBed and Breakfast" in 2007, when two roommates in San Francisco put a few air mattresses in their living room and offered overnight lodging, with breakfast, to attendees in town for a design conference. In 2009, the site name was changed to Airbnb and by then, the offering ranged from extra rooms in homes to full apartments, homes, and other forms of vacation rentals.

Today, Airbnb has over 7 million listings ranging from rooms in homes, hotel rooms, entire places, cabins, treehouses, mansions, tiny homes, caves, and a wide variety of other unusual spaces around the world.

Airbnb Pros

With over 7 million vacation rental listings in more than 220 countries, Airbnb offers plenty of options, including treehouses, caves, cabins, castles, yachts, windmills, farms and other spaces for short- or long-term stays.

The site also offers Airbnb Experiences, which are one-on-one or group activities such as photo shoots, candle-making, cooking and hiking, offered by locals in cities where Airbnb properties are located.

The Airbnb search process allows you to filter for property type (house, apartment, guesthouse, hotel), a wide variety of amenities, accessibility features and booking options such as self-check-in and Instant Book, which are listings you can book without waiting for the property owner's approval. Prices are shown before taxes, with cleaning fees and Airbnb service fees listed separately. Many properties offer long-stay discounts.

Airbnb Cons

Fees can add up. In addition to the nightly fee, the cleaning fee (determined by the host) and the Airbnb service fee (which includes 24/7 support) often add quite a bit to the bottom line.

With 7 million properties and millions of individual hosts, the consistency of service, host responsiveness in case of issues, and representation of the properties can be uneven and inconsistent. Experts advise reading reviews carefully and choosing properties offered by Airbnb "Superhosts" who have earned that status via positive ratings, responsiveness and other criteria.

Vrbo vs. Airbnb for Wedding Events

elegant travel spot in Majorca, Spain
Photo: Flashpop / Getty Images

Couples looking for a unique site to hold a wedding and related wedding events can turn to Airbnb or Vrbo wedding rentals for options from intimate mountaintop cabins perfect for micro weddings to castles, villas, and estates that can accommodate and welcome larger gatherings.

With so many choices on each platform, the challenge will be narrowing down Airbnb destination wedding venues. and then working with the property hosts to determine if the site has all the amenities you'll need and if it is open and able to host your wedding event.

In response to the rise of disruptive and unauthorized parties, in 2020 Airbnb put a temporary party and event ban on all listings, which included a 16-person occupancy cap. At that time the "event friendly" search filter was removed from the platform. That party ban was made official in 2022, but the 16-person occupancy cap was lifted to allow hosts of unique, larger properties to host events that comply with Airbnb's ban on disruptive parties.

The Knot has a list of some of the best Airbnb wedding venues across countries and states. But if you're searching on your own for an Airbnb for your wedding event, choose the 16+ option for the number of guests, read the venue description carefully, and contact the host through the Airbnb platform to discuss your plan with the host.

The Vrbo vacation rental platform still has an "events allowed" filter setting, so finding a Vrbo wedding rental may be a bit easier. But Vrbo also has a party house booking ban. If you want to host a wedding or other event at a vacation rental, Vrbo guidelines urge you to check the property house rules listed on the Vrbo site, discuss your plans with the host, and be sure to get approval before booking. In some cases, there may be extra fees levied if an event is held onsite.

Vrbo vs. Airbnb for Destination Bach Parties

Frank Lloyd Wright Designed Home on Vrbo
Photo: Vrbo

Turning to Airbnb and Vrbo for a destination bach party? Both Vrbo and Airbnb properties can also be great venues for pre-wedding bachelor and bachelorette celebrations, including beach parties, but your group must be willing to comply with the event guidelines set out by the host and each platform.

Search Airbnb using 16+ age filter for guests or use the "events allowed" filter on Vrbo. Always be sure to contact the property host ahead of time to disclose your plans. The Knot has a list of great Airbnb and Vrbo properties that are open to destination events to get you started.

Vrbo vs. Airbnb for Romantic Getaways

Woodland cabin on the Golden Circle
Photo: Vrbo

Of course, there are Vrbo and Airbnb properties that are ideal spots for romantic getaway, a honeymoon, or a couple's trip. Airbnb's "Categories" filter can come in handy here, allowing you to browse and select properties that fit your definition of a romantic place, whether it be a houseboat, a windmill, a vineyard, an island, or a beach.

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