Get the Best Deal on Airbnbs, Vacasa, and Other Vacation Rentals
Sometimes you'd rather stay in an Airbnb or another vacation rental. Maybe there aren't good hotel options at your destination. Or you want more space, need a full kitchen or extra amenities, want something that feels like your own place, or hope to save some money.
In most cases, there aren't opportunities to save huge amounts off the standard price of a vacation rental, but you can always take advantage of a few strategies to save money. But in some cases, you can sometimes get an incredible deal by booking Vacasa vacation rentals through the Wyndham loyalty program.
Money saving tips
Hotels will often keep their official rates high while trying to unload capacity through discounted channels like secret deal sites. With vacation rentals, the price the owner is willing take is roughly the same, regardless of how you book. But there are still some ways to save money.
- Prices sometimes drop as you get close to your travel date. If it looks like a unit may not get rented, owners may drop the price in the hopes that it doesn't sit empty. Since most rentals at your destination might sell out, you probably don't want to wait until the last minute to book. A good strategy is to book a refundable alternative reservation (in a vacation rental or at a hotel). When it gets closer to your trip, check the vacation rental prices for your destination and see if you can get a better deal.
- Many places can be booked directly (for less money). By avoiding the hefty commissions from the vacation rental websites, owners can afford to offer a lower price for direct bookings. If you see a unit you like on a vacation rental site, there are often clues in the description that will allow you to search for the owner's own rental website. In many cases, local rental companies that represent many properties will cross-list those properties on Airbnb and it isn't hard to find the rental company's own website. You'll just need to be a little bit more careful when you book, because you don't have Airbnb's (often paltry) help in adjudicating any disputes.
- If your stay is close to a week or month, check the weekly or monthly rate. Rates for longer periods of time are typically cheaper than daily rates. It might be worth extending your trip by a day or two, even if you aren't planning to stay the extra nights. This is especially true if you cross the threshold for a longer stay.
- If its your first stay, you should be able to earn a nice bonus by taking advantage of a "referral". The services want people to maintain a single account (to more reliably track everyone's "reputation"), so they make it hard to open multiple accounts to take advantage of multiple new customer offers.
- You could try to negotiate the price with the owner. Since you can contact the owner to ask questions, you could try to negotiate the price. This is more likely to work on last minute reservations, new listings, or when you are extending an existing reservation.
Other than some exceptions described below, there are no award charts for vacation rentals. But you can still pay for your reservation using points.
For example, Venture points can be used to "erase" purchases made through vacation rental website, cashback can be used to pay for stays, and you can book a limited number of vacation rentals at fixed value per Ultimate Rewards point through the Chase travel portal.
While they are more like hotels than vacation rentals, you can also hotel points to book their timeshare properties, like Marriott Vacation Clubs, Hyatt Residence Clubs, Hilton Grand Vacations, or Choice's partnership with Bluegreen Vacations.
Earn extra rewards on your Airbnb reservations
Another way to save on your vacation rentals is to earn more rewards on your bookings.
- Book through a special link. Instead of going directly to the Airbnb or other vacation rental website or booking in the app, you can book through special links to earn extra rewards.
- British Airways 2 miles per dollar. BA webpage.
- 'Delta 1 mile per dollar. www.deltaairbnb.com.
- ANA (Japan) 2 miles per 200 yen (a little more than 1 mile per dollar). ANA webpage.
- Qantas 1 mile per dollar. Qantas webpage.
- Only some credit cards earn bonus points on vacation rentals. The Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, Ink Preferred, Amex Green, BOA Premium Rewards, BOA Travel Rewards, and U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve work (as does the Freedom Unlimited and Freedom Flex when booking directly through Chase). So does the less-popular Amtrak, Fairwinds, Synovus, and Wells Fargo propel cards. The travel category on most other cards only work when you are booking traditional hotels.
- A potentially better option is to purchase and use Airbnb gift cards. If you buy them at grocery or office supply stores or at Amazon, you can often earn 3-5x points on your purchase, which is often more than you would get from a direct purchase. At the grocery store, you are also likely to get store loyalty points (fuel rewards). You can still collect portal rewards by clicking through a link, even when you are paying with a gift card.
Most traditional shopping portals don't provide rewards on Airbnb spending, but often do with other vacation rental services like VRBO or Booking.com. Check a site like Cashback Monitor. Earn extra rewards using Shopping Portals.
Airbnb does partner with several different frequent flyer programs. By using their links, you'll earn miles on every rental.
Another option is to buy gift cards online while taking advantage of a shopping portal benefit. You'll typically won't be able to trigger bonus category rewards on your credit card, but you'll get both regular credit card rewards and the portal rewards.
A slightly more complicated option is to buy your gift cards through the United Mileage Plus X app. You'll earn 2 United miles per dollar (2.5 for United cardholders) plus whatever points you'd earn from your general-purpose card. This combo may be better or worse than what you could get by earning bonus category rewards.
Incredible deals with Wyndham
The best way to save money on some Vacation rentals is through the Wyndham Rewards program. Wyndham has more vacation club resorts than the other hotel programs. More interestingly, Wyndham partners with Vacasa and Cottages.com. Vacasa manages thousands of vacation rentals (mostly in the United States) and Cottages.com manages over 15,000 sometimes-spectacular vacation properties in Europe.
- Rentals cost 15,000 points per bedroom per night. This makes them an incredible deal for 1 bedroom units. Larger units get more expensive quickly. But many 1 bedrooms have extra beds in the bedroom, living room, or lofts and can often sleep more than 4 people. The Wyndham credit cards offer a 10% discount on award stays and this applies to vacation rentals.
- Just as with any other vacation rental service, many units on Vacasa.com and Cottages.com have minimum stay requirements. These still apply when booking with points.
- Even better, award bookings include the typically expensive fees and taxes. For example, a two-night rental in a $300 per night beach house would might include an extra $300 in cleaning fees, booking fees, and taxes. Your 30,000 points per night is saving you over $900 in total expenses (or 3 cents per point). This makes Wyndham awards particularly compelling for shorter-term rentals where the fees are a more significant percentage of the total price.
- Not every Vacasa rental can be booked with points. Properties are free to participate or not and even participating properties can choose the dates they want to participate. Don't expect to be able to book extremely expensive properties during peak weekends, but you don't need to limit yourself to the off-season.
- You can't book online. First you'll need to find specific properties that are available for cash-based reservations on your travel dates. Then you'll need to contact Wyndham and inquire about award availability. If you get a cooperative agent, they may be able to tell you all the units at your destination that are available to be booked with points.
- Vacasa reservations can only be cancelled 30 or more days before your stay. Cancellation with Cottages.com is property-specific.
The official phone number for Vacasa bookings is 866-996-7937. But an article by Frequent Miler says you can email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 506-646-2943.
The official number for Cottages.com is 866-232-8628. For Wyndham Vacation Clubs, you usually need to call the individual locations.
Getting Wyndham points
While these award prices can be great, most people don't have Wyndham points. Guide to Wyndham Rewards.
- You can buy last-minute Wyndham points for 1.3 cents each. If you are getting more value than that, it can make sense to purchase points for your reservation. For example, at this rate, a night in a 1 bedroom including taxes would cost $195. Unfortunately, you can only buy 45,000 points per person per year, so this limits the number of points you can acquire for your vacation rentals.
- If you expect to be able to take occasionally take advantage of Wyndham vacation rentals, it is worthwhile to try to get a credit card that earns Wyndham points. The Wyndham Earner Plus and Business credit cards typically have signup bonuses of 45,000 points. They also earn decent rewards on gas, grocery, and restaurant spending (and the business version of the card earns bonus rewards on utility spending).
- You can also use Capital One miles. Each Capital One mile can be converted to 1:1 to Wyndham points. A 50,000 point bonus is more than enough for three vacation rental nights.
Marriot's Home & Villas program allows you to book a collection of "selected" Marriott-approved vacation rentals with your points (or earn points on cash reservations). There is no award chart. The required number of points is calculated from the cash reservation price. You always get .6 cents per point. Because this is less than what you can often get from using your Marriott points for hotel awards or by transferring them to frequent flyer programs, you are usually better off saving your points.
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