Renting a vacation home
Strong demand for short-term rentals has pushed prices up. Rentals are up 27 percent at Hawaii Life, a brokerage service with 320 rentals across the Hawaiian Islands, now averaging $490 a night. HomeToGo.com, a rental company, said the average price for a unit in the United States is up about 10 percent compared to 2019. Some of its most affordable rentals are in Carlsbad, Calif. (the median price is $158 a night), Jacksonville, Fla. ($159), Tucson, Ariz. ($210), and Nashville ($212).
Keep an eye on fees, especially cleaning fees, which are best amortized over a longer stay. A $100-a-night cabin on Airbnb with a $150 cleaning fee comes to $250 for one night. Spread over a week, it adds closer to $20 a night to the rate. Or look for a rental without a cleaning fee, like one of the tiny homes at Majestic Farm in rural Sullivan County in the Catskill Mountains (from $155 a night).
Consider a big house — which may look expensive — and fill it with friends and family to split the cost. Sasha Hoffman, who runs the group-travel planning service The Sasha Edition, recently rented a villa for 14 on St. Lucia for $1,900; a nearby luxury hotel was charging $3,000 a night for a double. She and her group paid the equivalent of $135 a person a night.
Free home stays
Like other travel services, house-sitting took a hit during the pandemic, but has come back, like home rentals, by providing more privacy than hotels. House-sitting provides free accommodations on platforms like House Sitters America ($49 membership for one year) and MindMyHouse ($20 a year), which match homeowners to travelers.
At Trusted Housesitters ($129 annual membership), where membership is now higher than it was before the pandemic, most arrangements include pet sitting. Recent listings included a two-bedroom, two-cat apartment in Washington, D.C., and a ranch home with a golden doodle near Raleigh, N.C.
The pets “are going to sleep in the bed with you, so you do need to be a pet lover,” said Stephanie Perry, of Dover, Del., who frequently house-sits while running a digital business.
Similarly, home swaps on services like HomeExchange (annual membership $175) and Love Home Swap ($11 a month) allow you to exchange your house with another traveler. HomeExchange said it had 51 percent more exchanges in April 2022 compared to April 2019.