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Planning your first post-pandemic trip? Why (and how) to splurge on a luxury vacation rental

April 09, 2021
7 min read
The pool area of an AvantStay home in Malibu, California
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It's been more than a year since the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a global pandemic, but things are looking up for the travel industry. Vaccination rates continue to grow across the U.S., and we're seeing increasing numbers of travelers in our nation's airports — especially since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cleared the way for fully vaccinated Americans to hit the road.

Many of you likely canceled or postponed at least one trip last year, creating a glut of pent-up travel demand that's just beginning to burst out into the open. And if you're looking to splurge on your first post-pandemic getaway, there are a myriad of ways for you to do just that.

One such option is by booking a luxury vacation rental. While Airbnb and Vrbo may be the largest and most well-known sites for home rentals, there are a number of smaller players that cater specifically to higher-end accommodations. And with many of these sites featuring sprawling homes in various locales, you may just find the perfect spot for you and your family to visit.

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Let's take a look at some of these under-the-radar platforms for booking luxury home rentals in 2021.

Why a luxury vacation rental?

A large group of frequent travelers have been grounded for several months due to the pandemic, and there are a number of reasons to consider splurging on a luxury home or villa for your first big post-pandemic trip.

  • Extra space: Most of the below sites feature larger accommodations. Instead of one- or two-bedroom condos, you're generally booking a five-bedroom home or seven-bedroom villa. Whether you're trying to get together with extended family for the first time in over a year, planning a big group getaway with friends or looking for a stylish corporate retreat, a luxury home could be the answer.
  • Additional amenities and service: Vacation rentals can be a great alternative option for accommodations, but they often don't offer full-service amenities like you have in hotels. However, luxury sites frequently include optional add-ons like an in-house chef or a group wine tasting — and many even offer a dedicated concierge to ensure your trip is exactly what you want.
  • Curated properties: Finally, most sites with luxury vacation rentals are choosy about their listings, taking time to curate the homes and villas that meet their high standards. That minimizes the chances of booking an underwhelming place that looks better in photos than it is in real life.

And while these characteristics can come with a higher price tag, it may not be as expensive as you think — especially when you're spreading that cost out over a large group.

Intrigued? Here are some interesting sites for snagging a luxury vacation rental on your next trip.

AvantStay — with exclusive TPG discount

You and your friends or family could enjoy a beautiful home in Malibu through AvantStay. (Photo by Becca Manheimer/The Points Guy)

The AvantStay platform offers three- to 10-bedroom homes across 19 destinations, mainly within the U.S. And these properties have a lot going for them. You can relax in the infinity pool of this seven-bedroom villa in Scottsdale, Arizona, or visit the winery across the street from this four-bedroom house in Sonoma, California. The accommodations include everything you'd need for a comfortable stay, but you can also coordinate additional services — like a fully-stocked fridge or in-house spa treatments.

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And to sweeten the deal even more, AvantStay is currently offering an exclusive discount for TPG readers. Simply visit this page and use the code TPG250 to get $250 off a stay of $1,500 or more.

Onefinestay

If you're looking for the combination of a luxury home and the ability to earn (or use) points for your rental, consider booking with Onefinestay — which participates in the Accor Live Limitless (ALL) loyalty program. The 5,000+ properties span roughly 50 global destinations in North America, Europe, Asia and Oceania. Note that the U.S. spots are mainly in larger cities and the surrounding suburbs — including dozens of apartments in New York City and many in the towns just outside of Los Angeles.

And if you add your ALL account number during the booking process, you'll earn 1 point for every 1 euro spent on the rental fee of your property — though note that you must call if you want to redeem Accor reward points.

Marriott Homes & Villas

A Marriott home rental in Florida (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Another great option for earning (or redeeming) points on your luxury vacation rental is Marriott Homes & Villas — an option that a number of TPG staff members have utilized in the last couple of years. The properties listed on the platform have been specifically curated and are limited to those run by professional management companies. And the geographical coverage is impressive: The site includes homes in 38 states plus numerous other destinations in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe.

In addition, Marriott Bonvoy members will earn 5 points for every $1 spent on rental fees (plus any applicable welcome gift and standard bonus for Bonvoy elite members). Each night will also count toward your elite status qualification. And while you can redeem your Marriott points for these properties, you'll only get 0.6 cents of value from each point — well below TPG's most recent valuations.

Read more: 6 things to know about Homes and Villas by Marriott

Top Villas

While it started as a small, three-villa operation in Florida, Top Villas now boasts more than 4,000 villas in 50 destinations around the globe. Unlike some of the others on this list, however, this site includes smaller, more intimate properties — ideal for a romantic getaway with your spouse or socially-distant trip with your nuclear family. Top Villas has a large presence in Florida and California but also features lower-trafficked spots like the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. And each rental comes with a guest experience manager plus a local representative throughout your stay.

Or, if you really want to splurge, consider booking a Caribbean location with a full staff to cater to you and your guests' needs.

Villaway

A final option for a luxury vacation rental is Villaway, a site featuring over 6,200 homes across 144 destinations. Villaway touts its personal concierge service as a key differentiator for travelers, one that's included on all reservations. These specialists can arrange for a variety of additional services (for a cost), including airport meet-and-greet services, private tours, yacht charters, and in-house catering services.

Our test searches indicate that these properties are among the priciest of the sites on this list — but they also offer some incredible settings from which to enjoy your vacation.

Bottom line

Vacation rentals can be a great alternative to hotels, and if you're hoping to blow things out on your first post-pandemic trip, consider splurging on a luxurious home or villa at one of the above sites. It may cost more than going through a site like Airbnb or Vrbo, but the additional space, optional add-ons and specially-curated properties, you may find that it's well worth the premium.

Featured image by (Photo by Becca Manheimer/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees