This post was most recently updated on February 8th, 2022
Interested in a Homeaway how-to tutorial? Do you want an alternative to staying in hotels–one that you can customize to your family’s needs? Do you want to save money? Using Homeaway (now combined with Vrbo) has done all that for me and my family. One of our favorite Homeaway stays was an apartment we rented in the Bastille neighborhood of Paris in 2010. It was close to a Metro station, slept all six members of our family, had a well-stocked kitchen where we could cook our own meals, and we had free wi-fi and long distance calling to the United States. We were across the street from a small grocery store and one block from a street market. The apartment owner helped us with our bags and left us some amazing macarons! All for 115 euros per night.
If the only reason you haven’t tried hotel alternatives is because you’re not sure how, please keep reading. I’ll tell you how to make Homeaway work for you too!
Go to the Homeaway home page here.
Scroll down the page and choose a destination by clicking on the state or country you want to visit. For demonstration purposes, I am selecting Europe.
Scroll down to a list of countries . I’m choosing France.
Scroll down to a list of local areas. I’ll select Ile-de-France (Paris region) because I’ll be traveling there next year. (It indicates there are over 8,000 properties to choose from)
Now, you can fill in the “filters” to help you sort for the perfect vacation rental for you!
First, choose the minimum and maximum price for one week’s lodging. You don’t have to be staying one week. Many locations have minimum stays of less than a week, even one day. So, determine the rate you are willing to pay for one night and multipy by 7 days for this search filter. I’m choosing 0 to $1500, because my budget allows for about $200 per night. (I’ll be splitting this cost with another couple).
Choose the number of people who will be sleeping in this property. Be sure to include any children in the count. I’ll choose four, because there will be two couples in our group.
Next, choose the number of bedrooms you desire. If you are traveling with another couple, I suggest you select two bedrooms, so you can enjoy some privacy. If you have young children with you, you may be able to get away with one bedroom, since many apartments have sofa beds in the living room for sleeping.
Under “Booking”, you can narrow your search further by selecting properties that will allow you to book online or will accept online payments. (Some properties on Homeaway will require cashier checks or wired payments; they are not as convenient). I chose “Accepts Online Payments”.
The last option is “more filters”. Use this to narrow down your search even further. For example, you could choose housing on a boat. Or you can specify that you definitely want air conditioning (which you might want if you’re staying in Paris in the summer!). I chose “downtown” properties. You can also choose whether you want the property to be managed by the owner or a property manager. (All of the properties I’ve ever stayed in with Homeaway were managed by the owners, and we had great experiences.)
Lastly, you will need to specify which dates you want at the top of the screen. Start with the day you arrive and end with the day you are leaving. Then click on the SEARCH button.
You will get a list of properties available on the dates you chose, with the filters you applied to the search. My list shows 116 results. I can narrow it down to 90 by choosing only Paris locations.
Now, I have a list I can work with. Assuming you know which attractions you are likely to visit, you may want to choose a property that is close to them. But in a place like Paris, you can get nearly anywhere on the Paris Metro, so as long as you’re not too far from a Metro station, you’ll probably be fine. Your Homeaway list includes a map with all your filtered properties on it. You can scroll down the list and read about each or you can click on specific markers on the map to learn more about each location.
Here are some more things to consider:
Will you have laundry facilities or an equipped kitchen? Will you have wi-fi? How many flights of stairs will you have to walk, or is there an elevator? Just how close is the subway or train station?
2. Minimum night stay
Every listing should post their minimum required stay, usually 3 days or 1 week. However, there are some that require 30 days minimum, and some that have no requirement. I have successfully persuaded an owner to let me rent his vacation apartment in Paris for two nights instead of his 3-night requirement–he was a gem, and I really appreciated it!
3. Look at the photos
Is it what you’re looking for? Do you like the sleeping arrangements? If you have questions, you can contact the owner by clicking on the “Send a Message” button
4. Read the reviews
And I really can’t stress this enough. If you don’t read the reviews, you’re taking a risk. Only once did I rent an apartment with a listing so new it didn’t have any reviews yet. I was lucky, and it turned out fine. I was happy to be able to give it a great review after our stay! But it could have gone south. So…read the reviews. Be sure you know what you’re getting. Those who have stayed in the rentals will tell you what to expect!
5. Be sure to read the detailed price breakdown
Here is where you will learn if there are cleaning fees, refundable damage deposits, or other fees required. It will tell you when payments need to be made and what forms of payments are accepted. It will explain refund and cancellation policies. You know. Kind of important stuff!
6. Contact the Owner
Be sure to ask any questions of the owner or property manager first. When you have all of your questions answered, book your vacation rental! Look forward to having a great stay at the place that’s just right for you. You can feel like a resident (instead of a tourist), you can save money, and you can prepare your own meals if you like. It’s an especially great way to go if you are traveling with a family or another couple. I have used Homeaway for an apartment in Madrid for a week, an apartment in Milan for 3 days, an apartment in Rome for 3 days, and an apartment in Paris for 2 days. All wonderful locations and very affordable options.
Two other vacation rental sites you might be interested in are VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner–now combined with Homeaway) and Airbnb (where you can rent an entire home, apartment, or a room in someone’s home, at a great rate). I’ve used both, so if you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments section below. And if you’ve had experience with other similar sites, please share your thoughts about them with PostcardsandPassports readers!
Note: I don’t own stock in Homeaway! Nor am I getting paid anything to promote it. I just really like it!
I love using these types of sites for booking lodging. I haven’t used homeaway yet, but I have had great experiences with Airbnb, booking a private room in someone’s apartment for a week while looking for my own apartment to rent.
My in-laws also had a GREAT experience finding a place for their family of 7! I’m not sure if they used Homeaway or Airbnb, but they found a pool house (complete with home theater, kitchenette, several rooms, home gym and sauna, access to the pool and tennis courts) all for around $150/night! It was a crazy awesome deal for them–AND, we loved stopping in at their pool house and enjoying the amenities while we were in the area, too. 🙂
These are great tips!
Thanks for the info. This sounds like a great way to travel, so much more personal and comfortable.
This is interesting! We are trying to go to Alaska! I’m going to have to check this out!
I’ve only been to Alaska once, when I was a kid. You’ll love it–it’s very beautiful!
Good stuff. I completely (well, almost always) prefer staying at hotel alternatives.
I love using sites like this. They are a great way to get a more “local” experience. I’ve used homeaway before and it’s great when traveling with a group, but I find I like airbnb more for travel by myself of with one other person.
I had never heard of homeaway, so I’m definitely curious about it now. I do tend to travel solo, though, so I’m wondering if the concept would be right for me (Would I feel lonely?) I also like the amenities of hotels like fitness centers, on-site breakfast, and concierges to help me find things like local karaoke bars and telephone to them in the local language. 🙂 Depending on the building that you rent through homeaway, I also wonder if in many cases it would be difficult to get a taxi (or difficult for the taxi to find the address if he was driving me home, and there was no front desk for the taxi driver to call and ask for directions). But I’m always open to learning about new options.
Harvey, Homeaway offers so many varied options. You might not have a fitness center, but there could be local walking groups you could enjoy, or you might end up down the street from a YMCA. Most of my homeaway experiences have been downtown apartments in locations a taxi driver would easily find or steps away from a subway station. Usually, the owners are so helpful, leaving guidebooks and tips in the apartment, giving you their cell phone number so you can call anytime with questions, giving you maps, etc. For me, it has been much more personal and accommodating in that way than a hotel!
I had never heard about Homeaway until reading your article. It looks like a great tool for finding a home away from home around the world. Thanks for sharing!
I’m a big fan of Airbnb but haven’t graduated to Home Away yet. So appreciate the care that went into setting this up. When I start planning a longer trip this will be invaluable.
I’ve used Airbnb too, but I think I prefer Homeaway – not as many fees!
I haven’t used this site yet and it looks fairly straight forward an application. Great to know about options in longer term housing at good prices.
I haven’t tried this before but as my husband’s job becomes more and more home-based, we’ve been researching it more. I think it’s time we give it a try.
I’ve never heard of homeaway either, but this comes in handy as I am planning a Europe vacation for later this month. Thanks for this.
I use VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) which is an alternative of Home Away. I had mainly very good experiences, with one or two exceptions when the apartments were not so clean. However, in Paris I paid the same price for a 3-bedroom apartment in the best area, as I would have paid for a very modest hotel room. I think Home Away is a good alternative to hotels.
Thanks, Anda, for your feedback on VRBO. I’ve used VRBO, too, but only a few times. I’d love to have your reference for a Paris apartment, as I’m going there next spring!
Great post. If you are looking at apartments in European cities it is also worth checking carefully as to whether the building has an elevator. Not all do. The other thing is that if it doesn’t list a washing machine in the amenities, then it probably won’t have one.
Great tips, Jo — thanks!
I so agree with your thoughts on Homeaway! I have used Homeaway for family, friends, and couples travel. A memorable experience was in Barcelona, when a bunch of friends stayed in an apartment right near the Sagrada Familia. The best part was having the apartment owner’s mother over to cook an authentic Spanish meal!
This is such a fantastic guide, thankyou for putting it together – it really does highlight how simple and incredibly easy it is to organize a homestay – so many people say that they would love to do it, though think it’s too difficult or too hard, or even too unsafe. Though with fab features like reviews and verification nowadays this really is one of the best and possibly safest ways to organize a homestay with a local!
Love that there are so many filters to choose from – best thing about the search feature is the ability to customize a stay. Thanks!!
This sounds like a great things for couples and family traveling together. I usually travel solo so this is out of my price range but will keep in mind for when the BF wants to start travelling with me.
Jennifer, you might want to use Airbnb, which has a lot more options for solo travelers.
This is a great resource. We’ve been traveling with our friends a lot more lately and we like to stay together in a larger place. Way more convenient than all getting separate hotel rooms. I’m going to check out Homeaway for our upcoming trip to Vancouver BC.
I’m going to use one of these sites, Homeaway or AirBnb, for part of our trip to England and Scotland next year. The hard part is not knowing whether the owner will have their home available next May as many don’t have their schedules up this far in advance. How far in advance do you book your stay?
Christa, I usually book apartments 3 to 6 months in advance, depending on the location and time of year (high season = booking further out). Usually there is a way to contact the owner directly if you have questions. I have always used that to ask about availability, exceptions to minimum night requirements, and other questions I might have.
Pingback: How to Save Enough Money to Travel - Postcards & Passports
Pingback: Fifteen Ways to Strengthen Your Family - Postcards & Passports
I used HomeAway(HA)in Canada and it was great. Everything was exactly as listed.
So on my next trip was to England. I booked HA in Oxford, another great location and experience. Next week I went London and met up with my sister and brother-in-law. I had set up arrival time went to the gated community where our HA condo was located. Buzzed number I was given and it did not work. A resident let me and my bother-in-law in the compound — we went to the door and there was a mother with her small children inside. She keep saying it was her place and knew nothing about HA.
Phoned HA and waited on the side walk with all our luggage. We were assured HA would find us another location. After about 2hrs HA put us up at the London Tower Hotel, because it was getting late but reassured they would relocate us to a HA place tomorrow. Hotel is beautiful but we were expecting to leave. Major problem was it was 4th July weekend, HA located in Florida and then there is the time difference. My sister got her friend at home (California) to call so we were able to site-see. After 3 days HA upgraded our rooms to bridge view, and comfirmed we would be stay there the rest of the week.
While HA did pay the extra cost of the hotel, we did have the extra cost of eating every meal out. The biggest drawback was my sisters and I didn’t have they relaxing evenings together to plan the next day.
I strongly recommend anyone using HA to have someone willing to make calls on U.S. East Coast Time in case you need assistance.
Dorita, I am so sorry you had such a frustrating experience. I would have been very unhappy about not having a kitchen for cooking and the common space with my family!