The Ultimate Guide to Vrbo vs Airbnb for Families

A family of three looks over a beautiful green, grassy scene together.

There are many vacation rental options available these days, but two of the most popular are Vrbo and Airbnb. Many travelers wonder: is Vrbo better than Airbnb for families? Both have their own unique advantages, but which one is best for a family vacation? Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference, destination, and many other factors. However, there are some obvious differences between the two booking platforms, some of which make families prefer one to the other. In case you’ve ever wondered whether Vrbo or Airbnb is right for your family, we put together this Ultimate Guide to Vrbo vs Airbnb for Families. In our article, we’ve included everything you need to know about booking a home rental for your next family trip, including booking processes, different fee structures, cancellation policies, and more. Keep reading to learn more and start planning your next getaway! 

Why Choose a Home Rental in the First Place?

The small patio at an Vrob near Añasco, featuring a turquoise table, hammock, and great view.
Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant

Before we begin our guide to Vrbo vs Airbnb, you may be wondering: why should I rent a home instead of simply booking a hotel room? While hotels offer families convenient amenities, there are plenty of reasons to choose a home rental instead. 

Firstly, larger families will appreciate the increase in space. Because when you’re traveling with kids or on an intergenerational trip with grandparents, the idea of a separate bedroom is extremely attractive! And, after a long day of exploring your destination, parents will be grateful for the multi-room setup during a nap or post-bedtime. Families who want to cook their own meals on vacation can also take advantage of home rentals with kitchens. Another perk of booking a home rental is the ability to have a washing machine, which undeniably comes in handy during extended trips. Plus, while some chain hotels have a generic feel, home rentals usually offer a more authentic and local experience. 

Planning a family vacation on a budget? Check out these Great Tips For Taking Family Vacation On A Budget!

Navigation + User-Friendliness 

A family of four sits on a bed packing a suitcase.

If you’re wondering “is Vrbo better than Airbnb for families”, the first thing to learn about is how user-friendly each platform is. Families tend to agree that Airbnb’s user interface is far superior to Vrbo’s. Here’s the breakdown when it comes to navigation:

  • Airbnb’s website and app have easy-to-navigate pages and clear markers for what you’re searching for.
  • Vrbo’s interface, especially its website, is considered clunky and hard to use/navigate by many families. Multiple families avoid using Vrbo out of sheer frustration with the general usability of the website.

And, even with occasionally cheaper prices, some may even consider Airbnb for the same destination simply due to familiarity and ease of access. Generally, the Vrbo mobile app is also a bit confusing to use. It’s not as straightforward as Airbnb’s, making this feature unpopular with families. 

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Accommodation Types 

A black mom holds out her hand with an iPhone to take a selfie of her family.

One of the main distinctions between Vrbo and Airbnb is the difference in apartment offerings. Here’s what you need to know about accommodation options between the two platforms:

  • Airbnb has much more flexibility when it comes to rentals. This may be especially helpful for families traveling on a budget. For example, often for a cheaper price, families can choose from a variety of shared spaces. This includes private rooms in a larger residence with other guests and/or the rental owner. Occasionally, you may even see an Airbnb listing for a single room in a smaller boutique hotel. Or in a bed and breakfast, which is pretty uncommon on Vrbo. Of course, you can also find full homes and apartments on Airbnb. 
  • Vrbo only offers full units, be it an apartment or house. This is the best option for families who don’t want to compromise on space or share with others. 

Finally, listings can sometimes be posted on both platforms. So, it’s worth checking out the reviews, and to see if there’s a potential cost difference. Knowing the various accommodation types is helpful in understanding the difference between Airbnb and Vrbo.

Selection of Accommodations Options for Families

An older child holds a tablet while two younger children loon on in a waiting room at the airport.

An important factor to consider when comparing Vrbo vs Airbnb for families is accommodation type. Generally, Airbnb has far more listings than Vrbo, meaning you’ll find the most variety in terms of rentals. This is mainly due to Airbnb offering shared accommodation options and single rooms, however. Both offer unique accommodations too!

  • Airbnb features interesting rentals that families will love. For example, in certain destinations, you may be able to find unique gems like treehouses, tiny cottages, and more.
  • Vrbo often has more straightforward listings and no-frills apartments and homes, with some options for unique finds like houseboats, castles, and RVs too.

If you see a potential listing you may want to rent, look for it on Google Maps in addition to the Airbnb/Vrbo map. That way, you can see which attractions are within walking distance, as well as grocery stores, shopping centers, etc. 

Research private vacation rentals through Homes and Villas by Marriott International!

Family-Friendly Search Features 

Children on the beach, a big wave, the child runs away in fright. Playa Los Tubos (Manati, Puerto Rico).

Vrbo and Airbnb have some similar features in terms of functionality. One of the main similarities is the use of the map to refine your search. Both can filter by important safety things like smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors; plus other amenities for families, like AC, washing machines, wifi, TV, and dishwashers. Families can also filter properties that are “instant book” (Airbnb) or “instant confirmation”, (Vrbo). Some properties will require host approval/confirmation. Both can also search for unique options like RVs, tiny houses, and farm stays right from the filters.

However, when it comes to specific family-friendly filters, Vrbo offers way more search options than Airbnb. Here’s the breakdown regarding family-friendly search features and the difference between Airbnb and Vrbo:

  • Airbnb lets families filter by cribs or high chairs. Plus, it has better accessibility features for wheelchair users (more specific search selection options). On Airbnb, families also have the choice to book local tours for their vacation. 
  • Vrbo allows families to filter their search by “Free Cancellation” dates, crib, kids’ high chair, etc. Another particularly unique feature of the platform is the ability to search by “children welcome” (declared as such by the host) and for “properties good for families” (rated highly by family guests/travelers). Then, Vrbo also allows you to search by nightly price and total price. This can be helpful in seeing options in your total budget. Airbnb does not do this.

Fee Structure on Vrbo vs Airbnb

A mom and her young son touch a large stone wall in Barcelona.

Families who are curious if Vrbo is better than Airbnb for families also want to know about the fee structures. Both Vrbo and Airbnb charge a service fee on top of the base rate, though this can vary depending on your host, location, etc.

Cleaning fees are applicable on both platforms, but these can vary as well and are always set by the host. Different states and countries will also have ranging service fees that may be applied to your total stay. Generally, families seem to agree that Vrbo has better upfront fees. This is amplified by the fact that on Vrbo, you can search for the total price (vs nightly price), which helps you know how much you’ll pay in the end. 

Book your next vacation home rental through Vrbo here!

Read the Reviews from Families

Grandma and kid sitting facing the fountain in Seattle, Washington.

Regardless of whether you choose a property on Vrbo or Airbnb, it’s important to read the reviews and assess whether the rental would be right for your family first. Look for family reviews of people who have recently stayed there, what are they saying about things like available cribs/cots, use of space for bedtime/naps, open staircases, location (parties, late-night restaurants, loud neighbors), etc.

Reviews will also help you know what is in the surrounding area (grocery stores, distance to the beach, restaurants, etc.). Plus, wifi capability if that’s a concern for working remotely. 

If your kids have allergies, don’t miss our list of Tips For Traveling With Children Who Have Allergies!

Booking Process on Vrbo vs Airbnb

A young boy wearing swim trunks stands on a beach with one of the Best Family Hotels in Dubai in the distance.

Next on our ultimate guide to Airbnb vs Vrbo for families is the booking process. Both Vrbo and Airbnb have a similar and straightforward booking process. Depending on the listing you’re considering, both platforms offer immediate and approved bookings. Usually, if you’re searching for a popular tourist destination, most listings will offer immediate booking.

However, there are some exceptions in bigger cities and small towns alike. Some listings on both platforms require host-approved bookings. In this case, you’ll have to message the host to explain your vacation plans, how many guests will be staying, etc. Then, they’ll have 24 hours to approve your booking.

If you need to contact your host before or during your stay, both Vrbo and Airbnb have an easy-to-use app that makes messaging them simpler too. 

Not ready for a home rental? Use Expedia or Hotels.com to book a hotel for your next vacation!

Flexibility in Cancellations 

Two kids holding their own skis look at each other and laugh, as they get ready to ski on a beautiful day.
Photo Courtesy: Gunjan Prakash

Families who travel often know the importance of flexible cancellation policies. For some families, this is one of the largest differences between Airbnb and Vrbo. Here’s the breakdown of how each platform addresses cancellations.

  • Airbnb tends to have better cancellation policies. This is especially true the closer your arrival date is. Though each host can choose their own cancellation policy on Airbnb, many employ a moderate cancellation policy, meaning guests can cancel until 5 days before check-in for a full refund. Some may even have a flexible cancellation policy where guests can cancel until 24 hours before check-in for a full refund. Though rarer, some listings may have a more firm cancellation policy, requesting 30 days in advance to receive a full refund. Usually, regardless of cancellation policy, most listings let you cancel a booking within 48 hours if you change your mind. 
  • Vrbo listings usually have varied cancellation policies as well, though the window for when you can receive a full refund is smaller. For example, hosts can choose a 60-day policy for a full refund (50% refund at least 30 days before check-in), a 30-day policy for a full refund (50% refund at least 14 days before check-in), or a 14-day policy for a full refund (50% refund at least 7 days before check-in). In some cases, hosts can opt to have a no refund policy. 

Customer Service

A mom holds her infant son on an airplane.
Photo Courtesy: Paul Hanaoka

Customer service is another important factor in our guide to Airbnb vs Vrbo for families. While Airbnb is the more robust platform of the two, some families report concerns with the website’s customer service. Given that there are millions of listings on the platform, the customer service can be less than helpful when problems arise, be it simple issues like a miscommunication with the host or more serious ones. In addition to customer service, Airbnb also offers a Resolution Center. Hosts can use this to request money or guests can use it to request a refund. There’s also an option to ask Airbnb for mediation if guests and hosts can’t reach an agreement. 

Families report better customer service with Vrbo. Guests who need help can contact Vrbo Customer Support, which is available 24/7 via phone or online chat. In the case of an emergency or natural disaster, the Vrbo support team will work with your host to rebook your stay. 

Looking for an alternative site to book your Villa? Try Top Villas here!

Why Families Love Them

A family of five stands smiling in snorkel gear.
Photo Courtesy: Emily Kapic

To get a better idea of Airbnb vs Vrbo for families, we also took the question to our Families Who Love To Travel Facebook community. In our poll, Vrbo won by a slim margin (102 to 95, with an additional 109 people reporting that they check both sights to compare prices). However, we also noticed that families’ experiences seem to vary widely depending on location (and maybe luck.) Generally, many report that Vrbo has better pricing, but can lack in user experience. Then, many families seem to have polarizing opinions about Airbnb. 

Here are some more specific insights from our Families Who Love To Travel Facebook community.

“I’ve heard too many horror stories about Airbnb. Plus, Vrbo is what my family uses so it’s what I went to first and started using. The only time I use Airbnb is when I’m trying to find a unique place to stay since they have that option and [Vrbo] doesn’t (that I have found).”

– Amy Faillace

“Vrbo generally has lower fees but I check both and go with the cheapest. However, I find Vrbo’s pricing as you are searching and clicking around so much more clear and user-friendly. I haven’t had ‘trouble’ with either, but Vrbo seems much more predictable as you are clicking through.

– Andria Jean

“I check both but have only rented with Airbnb. So far, in the locations I have searched, Airbnb always has more selection and lower rates. Better cancellation policy too. I do see a lot of people say Vrbo is better, so it may just really depend on location.”

Melissa Mehlhaff

“As a host, and as a guest, I feel that Airbnb is easier to use, I have a better idea of who my renter and my hosts are, and the process is more streamlined.”

– Rachel M. Fishbein

Happy Travels!

A family of four stands together smiling with the Edgartown Lighthouse in the background.
Photo Courtesy: Megan Tucker

We hoped you liked this Ultimate Guide To Vrbo vs Airbnb For Families! Between user navigation, fees, customer services, and the types of listings for families, we’re sure this guide will help you make a more informed decision next time you’re booking a family vacation. Not to mention, more knowledgeable about the difference between Airbnb and Vrbo. Hopefully, if you’ve been wondering if Vrbo is better than Airbnb for families, you have learned what you need to make the best decision for your family. Enjoy your next adventure with your kids! 

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision. 

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.

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Families Love Travel Team

The Families Love Travel Team has a zest for life and an even bigger passion for globetrotting! Comprised of real-life travel professionals, we work hard behind the scenes to provide dynamic solutions for adventuring with children. Our enthusiastic team understands the challenges that often accompany traveling with kids and is committed to making Families Love Travel an inclusive space to convey these experiences.