Let’s begin with Google search. If you’ve used it lately to find a hotel, you may have been given the option to filter those results for vacation rentals. In July, Skift, a travel news and analysis site, reported that Google was testing a vacation-rental filter and, indeed, you’ll find that it’s available in certain cities.
Here’s how it works: Type something like “hotels in Paris, France” in the search bar. That will pull up a Google map and a list of hotels and prices. (You can filter for your specific travel dates if you like.) Under the map is a drop-down menu that says “Accommodation type.” This allows you to select “any” or “vacation rentals.” If you select vacation rentals, you’ll be shown a list of options and prices, and the map will change to show only rentals.
To book one, Google directs you to a travel website like Booking.com or Hotels.com, or provides the contact information for the rental property owner or management company. Sometimes it will give a link to a website, where you can browse photos and read about the amenities, as you would for a hotel room. In certain instances, Google displayed more than a half-dozen sites where the rental listing could be booked. For example, a property in Rome was available for booking on sites including Hotels.com, Orbitz.com, Priceline.com, Travelocity.com, Agoda.com, Booking.com, Expedia.com and Hotwire.com. (Yes, classic hotel and airfare sites also allow users to book rental properties. More on that in a moment.)
Recent Google searches found vacation rentals in destinations like Barcelona, Berlin, Florence, Madrid, Paris, Rome and Venice and countries like Croatia and Portugal. The vacation rental filter doesn’t appear for every city you search. For example, rental options weren’t offered for other popular destinations like Buenos Aires, Cancún, Dublin, London, Marrakesh, Tel Aviv and Tokyo.
One benefit of trying the Google tool is that you can see the same rental across multiple sites and compare prices as you would a hotel room. (Rates often vary insignificantly across sites, which means you can choose a site based on other factors like a generous cancellation policy.) And that brings us to the notion of vacation-rental search engines, which allow you to browse properties from multiple rental websites like HomeAway and VRBO in one place. While these search engines have been around for years, many travelers are unfamiliar with them. They don’t necessarily have the same name recognition as a site like Kayak (which also now allows users to search for rentals).