As much as everyone loves a luxury hotel and all the amenities that come with it, sometimes it just won’t do. Whether you’re traveling with children or the entire extended family, a villa or a chic city apartment can often be the better choice. Renting a private residence allows for more flexibility and privacy and let’s you live like a local. And budding foodies will appreciate having their own kitchen, which means you don’t have to just snap Instagram shots of the food porn at a Parisian/Tuscan/Napa Valley farmer’s market – you can bring the goodies home and cook up a feast, or let a professional chef do it for you.
But if you’re looking for a well-curated selection of high end properties, where do you start? While Airbnb has shaken up the apartment rental scene and does offer some gems, it’s not for everyone.
“Airbnb really changed everything,” says Sean Hennessey, the CEO of Lodging Advisors, a hotel consultancy firm. “It made the home rental business operate more like a hotel and they automated the logistics like reservations and payments.”
Airbnb also offered an aura of cool, says Hennessey, with a user application that feels similar to applying for a co-op or a club.
But scrolling through thousands of possible choices is overwhelming and time consuming, and particular needs may not be addressed.
Zoie Kingsbery Coe traveled frequently with her family, but found that hotels, even five star ones, were often challenging with young children. Anyone who has ever been forced to stick a travel crib in the bathroom while desperate for privacy can relate to this – or the particular teeth-grinding angst that comes with sharing a small hotel room with toddlers who go to bed at 7 pm. Coe started looking at home rental websites but found it frustrating.
“I was struck by the lack of websites that spoke to families, and were a pleasure to use,” says Coe. “I also wanted places that were stylish, but it felt like searching for a needle in a haystack.”
Her experience inspired her to launch Kid & Coe, which has more than 500 Lonny-worthy properties around the world.
Whether you’re traveling with a brood of children, an extended family or simply want to spend a long weekend experiencing what it’s like to live in a Tribeca loft, check out these stylish alternatives to Airbnb.
Behomm (pronounced “be home”) is a global home exchange site with very specific criteria—it is only open to designers and visual artists with a particular design aesthetic (translation: your place has to be cool). Membership is by invitation only, and Behomm offers a free one-year trial membership. If you like it, annual dues are €95. Launched by Barcelona- based graphic designers Eva Calduch and Agusti Juste, all of the homes are swoon worthy, but they insist that aesthetics has nothing to do with luxury. “A tiny home can be more beautiful than a castle. In fact, we personally get very happy when a small and beautiful home registers,” says Calduch. The site has about 1400 members across the world, with most of the properties centered in the Americas and Europe. If you happen to be a toy designer, window dresser or film director and would like to swap your Mexico City loft for a Greek architect’s Cycladic style beach front home, this is the site for you.
Luxury Rentals from HomeAway
HomeAway launched a luxury division, Luxury Rentals from HomeAway in October 2013. The inventory includes 4,500 global properties in more than 40 countries, and has been curated by travel expert Andrew Harper. The properties range from villas to estates, and come with amenities such as cinemas, wine cellars and gourmet kitchens. The Manuel Antonio Villa in Costa Rica, starting at $3,275 per night, has 10 bedrooms, sleeps 27 people and includes an Infinity edge roof top jacuzzi tub, roof top movie theatre, and built-in underwater seating area below the pool. Chalet Les Anges in Zermatt has 7 bedrooms and panoramic windows. Staff includes a house manager, housekeepers, and a private chef, with rates starting at $8,782 per night.
Kid & Coe
This family-focused company Kid & Coe launched in October 2013 with the goal of simplifying family travel by offering amenities such as play rooms, backyards and toys. The property descriptions also highlight the closest playgrounds and family attractions. The homes all have a casual cool, so expect lots of colorful teepees and chalk boards. Kid & Coe has over 500 properties in 145 global destinations including Paris, New York, Amsterdam and Barcelona, as well as beach front properties in Brazil, the Caribbean and Mexico. The Wooster Street loft in New York offers 4,000 square foot of kid-friendly space (starting at $1,200 a night) while Casa dos Chicos in Mexico has a treetop living area (rates start at $400 a night).
Founded in 2002 and acquired by AOL co-founder Steve Case, Exclusive Resorts is a luxury destination club that gives travelers access to a $1 billion-dollar portfolio of vacation homes around the world. The homes average 3,500 square feet, and all are owned by the company. The majority are four- to five-bedroom villas, and come with amenities such as infinity pools and gourmet kitchens. Pre-trip planning and on-site concierge services handle everything from stocking the fridge to arranging surf lessons. Five year membership plans start at $120,000 (one-time fee), plus annual dues (currently $1,205/night). Non-members can purchase the 21-day Gateway Travel Card for $32,550 (a set rate of $1550/night). No initiation fee is required, and nights are redeemable over three years.