THE Best Way To Travel: HomeAway Holiday-Rentals

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

One of my very favorite ways to travel is Slow Travel. To me, that means living like a local while exploring a new place. And, one of the best ways to live like a local is to live AS a local. We've got an extraordinary resource for our Wandering Educators today! Homeaway Holiday-Rentals is the premier site to find home rentals while you're traveling - ALL over the world! Taking a large family to France? Rent a chalet that sleeps 15. Heading to Florida for Spring Break? Find the perfect apartment. We've shared the top Ten Budget Rentals Worldwide from Homeaway, and let me tell you, it sure makes you want to travel. One of the many benefits of renting a home while you're traveling is that you have a HOME to stay in - complete with kitchen, privacy, possibly a yard (or a pool or a loch), and more. For our family, this is the only way to travel.

Want to read about staying in a home rental?  We've been following the adventures of friends and travel writers Lara Dunston and Terrence Carter, as they take a year to explore much of the world with Homeaway Holiday-Rentals. You can find them here:, and look for our interview with Lara in the next month!

We were lucky enough to sit down and talk with Sarah Chambers, PR Manager of Homeaway Holiday-Rentals, about the genesis of the company, locations and owners of the homes, Top Ten Tips for renting a holiday home, staying in the Lake District, and more. Here's what she had to say...



WE: Please tell us about HomeAway Holiday-Rentals...

SC: HomeAway Holiday-Rentals connects travellers directly with home owners and managers, providing access to a huge variety of great value, unique accommodation worldwide. The site has the largest selection of homes available online, with over 185,000 properties which travellers can browse for free and book with confidence thanks to over 200,000 independent traveller reviews.  For holiday home owners, the site provides a simple, cost-effective way to market their property and manage bookings, with unrivalled worldwide exposure.

The company is part of HomeAway, Inc., based in Austin, Texas, which operates the world’s leading holiday home rentals sites in Europe, the USA and Brazil and represents over 475,000 properties worldwide.


Me and Mum at Marlowe Cottage, Lake District

Me and Mum at Marlowe Cottage, Lake District


Marlowe Cottage Afternoon Tea

Marlowe Cottage Afternoon Tea


Me and Mum at Marlowe Cottage Kitchen

Me and Mum at Marlowe Cottage Kitchen



WE: What was the genesis of

SC: started life as back in 1996, founded by a husband-wife team who themselves had a holiday home and were looking for a more efficient way advertise it for rent. The internet provided the ideal platform, as it enables you to display a wealth of information about each property, including photos, location maps, detailed descriptions and calendars, unlike a small (and pricey!) classified listing in a magazine. 

And thus, was born. Around the globe, a similar phenomenon was in motion, as other couples and entrepreneurial partners set up their own, local holiday rentals sites, often operating from someone’s kitchen table or lounge!

In 2005, Brian Sharples and Carl Shepherd, both strong advocates and users of holiday home rentals themselves, saw a gap in the market to create one larger, easier-to-navigate marketplace where owners and travellers worldwide could connect, and so they created HomeAway.

They acquired the leading sites in the USA, UK and Germany and gradually we have developed our sites and technology so we can share content and provide a consistent, user-friendly experience in local markets worldwide, as well as a recognisable brand that travellers know, and can trust. 



WE: Where are the holiday homes located?

SC: The properties listed on HomeAway sites worldwide are… worldwide! In the UK, historically we had a lot of content of Europe, particularly France, Spain and Italy, as this is where Brits tended to buy. But now, as we share content with our sister sites around the globe, and also due to people getting more adventurous in terms of where they buy, we now have properties in over 120 countries; including in established favourites such as France, Spain and the USA, as well as a growing number in north and eastern Europe, and more exotic far-flung destinations like Thailand, Bali, South Africa, Costa Rica and Brazil. 



WE:  Who owns the holiday homes you represent?

SC: The homes listed on our sites are owned by a combination of private property owners, and property managers. Travellers using the sites can either submit an email enquiry to them directly via our site, or alternatively call the telephone number they provide. All subsequent communications, bookings and payments take place directly between the owners or managers and the traveller, so it remains quite a personal experience and we encourage travellers to ask lots of questions before they book.



WE:  What are your top tips for holiday home rentals?


Top 10 tips for renting direct

1.    Speak to the owner before you confirm your booking to sound  them out about the property, location and nearby facilities;
a.    What’s ‘next door’?
b.    What amenities and attractions are within walking distance?
c.    Do you really need a car to make the most of the holiday?
d.    Are linen and towels provided? What EXACTLY is included in the price?

2.    Ask for extra photos if not all rooms are shown in the advert. Also ask if the owner has a private website

3.    Look for sites with guest reviews, or ask the owner for references. Reviews from past guests are a great way to get a feel for the property and owner/manager. If they’re new to renting though and you’re one of their first guests, you really have to go with your gut instinct, which is why it’s so important to talk to them first.

4.    Make sure you clearly understand the owner’s individual policies on refunds, cancellations, deposits, payment schedules etc…

5.    Get everything in writing and ensure you have a complete record of all communications. Follow up all telephone conversations with an email, ‘This is just to confirm that, as discussed, XYZ….’

6.    Ask the owner the best way to get to the property. Can they arrange airport transfers? Many owners can help you get special deals, or the best price from local cab or car-hire firms

7.    What time is check-in / check-out? Is this flexible?

8.    Make sure you know who is going to hand over keys to you and get a mobile number for them

9.    Check who will be available to you in case of any problems once you are there. Will someone (English speaking) be available locally? If not, will someone be available by mobile? Ask the owner for contact details of maintenance staff and local emergency services

10.    Check if you need to clean the place before you leave, or if an end-of-stay clean is, or can be, included in the rental rates. Also check if you need to take out rubbish.



WE:  Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

SC: Only that I would highly recommend people try travelling in this way, and not just because I work in the industry! Before starting work here four years go, I never realised you could stay in, essentially, other peoples homes, but it is such a great accommodation option. Not only is it good value – you get far more for your money than just a ‘room’ – but who doesn’t love having a good nosy around someone else’s house?! It provides great inspiration for home improvements and it’s also interesting to see people’s individual styles. Owners also usually have plenty of useful tips for your holiday. You definitely get a unique experience in each place.

It’s so relaxing too, particularly for a family break. Last year, I treated myself, my partner and my parents to a break away in a gorgeous cottage in the Lake District, as it was my Mum’s 65th birthday. My Mum instantly fell in love, the photos just didn’t do the place justice – the owner had really combined period charm with modern comforts and luxury to perfect effect. Plus, after days of wandering around the nearby lakes and villages, we weren’t confined to our separate rooms, or a hotel bar, but could relax in ‘our’ garden or around the wood-burning fire in our lounge together. There was also a sumptuous afternoon tea awaiting us on our arrival.

And in December last year, I was lucky enough to be whisked away to a studio in New York, in ‘SoHa’, for my 30th birthday treat, which I felt provided us with a much more authentic experience. The street we were on had the typical brownstones with stoops, which was very exciting for me – I felt like Carrie in Sex in the City! Although were weren’t right in the heart of Manhattan, we were only one stop from Central Park and two from Times Square, and Broadway was a couple of streets parallel. Jumping on and off of the subway, hailing yellow taxis, having pancakes on Broadway and strolling through Central Park, then heading back to our apartment we felt like real New Yorkers, if just for the weekend!


SoHa Studio. Photo provided by owner

SoHa Studio. Photo provided by owner


SoHa Neighborhood

SoHa Neighborhood


Me on SoHa street

Me on SoHa street


WE: Thanks so very much, Sarah - we highly recommend HomeAway Holiday-Rentals to our readers! We're so happy we are able to share such a incredible way to make travels abroad much more memorable.

For more information, please see:


All photos courtesy and copyright Sarah Chambers, except where noted.