Eight of the best alternatives to “rapping” Airbnb

luxury glamping holidays uk - Chris Snook Photography

luxury glamping holidays uk – Chris Snook Photography

Many Telegraph readers have shared how disappointing their recent experiences with Airbnb have been. Once heralded as the future of self-catering holidays, the booking website offers accommodation in real people’s homes. This model seemed to work for a few years, with the company’s profit trajectory certainly telling a confident story of a revolutionized holiday market.

Over the past few years, however, it has become apparent that many hosts have started charging as much as their hoteliers – if not more. Extorted cleaning charges, omitted above the main prices, have started to appear on the final bill. And seemingly innocuous parts of a journey, like check-out times, have become untouchable, with no reliable customer service in sight.

Our love affair with Airbnb may be waning, but there are plenty of self-service companies ready to take it on. Below, we profile eight options, whether you’re looking for luxury, a last-minute vacation or a glamping spot.

Sonder Casa Luz, Barcelona vacation rental house apartments - Sonder

Sonder Casa Luz, Barcelona vacation rental house apartments – Sonder

The best for luxury: Plum guide

One of the worst parts of trawling through Airbnb is the sheer number of options. Everything from architectural marvels to cramped back rooms are listed, and while the hidden gem may be out there, it’s going to take at least an evening of browsing to find it. Plum Guide removes the bloat: only three percent of homes submitted are accepted by the site, meaning you only see the very best rental properties in one place.

Even more reassuring is that the properties have been inspected by a Plum Guide representative, so someone has actually slept under the covers and eaten breakfast. It informs the “home truths” section of the listings, designed specifically for the details an overenthusiastic homeowner won’t reveal, like low ceilings or loud local wildlife. Perhaps most impressive is the website itself, as instead of internet-optimized, hyperbolic property names, the homes are given monikers like Fringe Benefit (think lots of frilly lampshades) or the evocative, Lisbon-based Custard Tart.

Where to order

Head to Santorini and stay at Poseidon’s House for a dreamy Cycladic holiday. From £767 per night.

holiday lets greece - Plum guide

holiday lets greece – Plum guide

Best for boutique rentals: Kip

There’s an emphasis on boutique here: think tiny cabins and precision-built cabins that sleep between two and six people. Like the Plum Guide, Kip only accepts a select handful of properties to list, saving you time trawling through hundreds of mediocre options. However, it is a membership site, which means users have to pay £17 a year (or £3.99 every month) to use it. Helpfully, however, there are never booking fees or additional costs, and there are often personal touches such as a bottle of wine or a piece of homemade cake waiting for guests. Without becoming a member, the search function still allows the curious punter to browse the properties and their respective price ranges. Everything more advanced – and of course the ability to order – is only available with membership.

Where to order

This bright cottage in Kent would be ideal for a quirky family holiday. From £190 per night.

kent cottages holidays uk - Richard Gadsby Photography

kent cottages holidays uk – Richard Gadsby Photography

The best for glamping: Canopy and stars

Attempting a wild escape with Airbnb can be like lighting a barbecue in a storm: not very likely. Fortunately, Canopy and Stars offers a bit of luxury in the great outdoors. The properties are of a wonderfully high quality, but the gimmick-free website itself is equally worth mentioning. With the extremely simple interface, even the most reluctant technophobe can find property descriptions, user reviews, photos, prices – which are guaranteed to be the lowest – and available dates. Again, there’s a well of reassurance to be found in the fact that Canopy and Stars staff don’t just stick to every location, but wonder about the really important details, like if the local pub really is only a minute’s walk away. And unlike the all-encompassing corporate attitude of Airbnb, Canopy and Stars operate as a charitable foundation and are partially employee-owned.

Where to order

A treehouse perched above a vineyard is guaranteed to be a hit with the whole family. From £310 per night.

treehouse stays uk - Canopy and Stars

treehouse stays uk – Canopy and Stars

The best for choice: Vrbo

Tales of rogue owners and disappearing landlords have made some readers wary of trusting Airbnb, especially when traveling abroad. Vrbo, a fast-growing, nearly identical rival, has the advantage in this regard. If there is no sign of the host upon arrival, ‘Reorder Specialists’ can immediately find an alternative nearby. The risk of being thrown into a hastily shared property with several other families – which is sometimes the Airbnb way – is also minimized, as Vrbo only rents out entire properties. There are also significantly fewer of those pesky cleaning fees.

Where to order

For the ultimate beachside apartment, relax in this stunning Californian apartment for £266 a night.

vacation homes in california - Vrbo

vacation homes in california – Vrbo

The best for longer stays: Sonder

Sonder’s stylish listings are grouped by neighborhood, making them useful for living like a local (at least in the short term). For travelers who usually spend a longer period on Airbnb, Sonder’s high-quality apartments are the ideal choice, as there are discounts after seven, 14 and 30 nights. The fashionable startup operates as a hotel-rental hybrid: some locations offer cleaning options, others are simply an apartment with easy self-check-in.

Where to order

In the heart of Barcelona’s lively El Raval, this minimalist apartment allows you to explore the neighborhood (and also take advantage of the rooftop restaurant). From £160 per night.

Sonder booking of stay - Sonder Casa Luz

Sonder booking of stay – Sonder Casa Luz

Best for last-minute getaways: Snaptrip

The spontaneity of a last-minute escape can be both a thrill and a hindrance. The buzzy-named Snaptrip acts as an aggregator, scraping private rental websites for eleventh-hour availability. Helpfully, the ‘holiday inspiration’ tab filters these places by type – dog-friendly places, beach breaks and group accommodation included – so it’s customizable. The company claims the price guarantee has saved customers £5m since its inception, which beats the algorithmic pricing structure Airbnb tends to operate in peak season.

Where to order

Argus Cottage is on the site of Pendeen Lighthouse in Penzance. Stay here for a relaxing trip on a majestic headland. From £373 per night.

Penzance holiday rentals - Snaptrip

Penzance holiday rentals – Snaptrip

The best for communities: Fairbnb

The name feels like a dime a dozen to its much larger rival (and it seems surprising that the billion-dollar company hasn’t gone to court). Regardless, this unassuming site – which operates primarily in Italy – donates half of its platform fee to a community project, even if the guest pays the same amount. At the moment this means that although it doesn’t quite work as a total replacement for the bigger listing sites, it’s worth investigating if your trip is likely to include a stay in a typical agriturismo or Tuscan villa: there are probably a couple of options to consider ( with the charitable benefit already factored into the price).

Where to order

Set in an isolated medieval town, this restored Italianate farmhouse sleeps up to nine guests. From £285 per night.

fairbnb lists holidays in farm stays - HEATHER VON BARGEN

fairbnb lists holidays in farm stays – HEATHER VON BARGEN

The best for the personality: Homestay

The days of Airbnb as a conduit for slumming it in someone’s spare room are long gone. If you long for the simplicity of stepping into someone’s daily life, Homestay is the ideal place to search for your next getaway. It essentially works like what Airbnb was intended to be: homeowners sharing empty rooms with visitors to their cities. For those worried it might be too intimate an experience, hosts on the site share how hands-on they’re likely to be, so the tour can be tailored to sociability. An enthusiastic proprietor in Japan offers two home-cooked meals a day, language lessons and nail art. Others, however, just leave you to it.

Where to order

Stay in a well-appointed Toronto apartment for £21 a night.

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