Study Shows Travelers Prefer Vacation Rentals Over Hotels

The launch of in 1996 signified a new era for vacation rentals. Gone were the days of finding rentals by scouring newspaper classifieds for local mom-and-pop operations or coming across a handwritten sign in someone’s yard. While at first many travelers were skeptical of staying in someone’s extra bedroom or home while its owners were away, trends have shifted and it’s estimated by 2020, the vacation rental industry will overtake the hotel industry.

TurnKey’s 2018 Consumer Travel Survey* confirms that the sentiment toward vacation rentals is trending in that direction. We surveyed over 1,000 travelers who have stayed in a vacation rental, asking them questions about their accommodation preference, travel behavior, and more. Here are our key findings:

Deciding Factors

When selecting housing accommodations, most travelers agreed that guest reviews and location are the primary deciding factors while choosing a rental. Looking at the data, 24% ranked guest reviews as the most important factor in choosing a vacation rental, while 48% ranked it in their top 3, and 19% ranked location as the most important factor, while 41% ranked it in their top 3. Overall, respondents preferred vacation rentals to hotels.

On the other end of the spectrum, pet-friendliness was ranked the least important factor in choosing a vacation rental, even though 12% of respondents said they traveled with their pets. Those who did prefer pet-friendly accommodations ranked it as very important.

Travelers start planning and booking their housing accommodations about 2-3 months ahead of their trip.



The majority of survey respondents said they traveled during June, July, and August, and their destinations were primarily beaches or major cities. A large percentage of those headed to the beach were traveling to beaches in their own state, especially in states like New Jersey and Alabama.

When exploring seasonality trends by age, older demographics tend to favor traveling almost exclusively during warmer months, whereas millennials are more likely to travel throughout the year.

We found that seasonality does not affect a traveler’s preference toward vacation rentals and hotels.

Travel Frequency

Overall, travelers are planning on traveling less in 2018 than they did in 2017. Only 25% of respondents are taking more than 4 trips in 2018 compared to 32% from 2017.

Travel frequency was slightly affected by age. Non-millennial travelers plan to travel at the same frequency, while millennial travelers are reducing the number of trips they’re planning for the year.


Transportation Preferences    

In 2017, 46% of respondents traveled by car to their vacation destination, while 37% traveled by plane. Interestingly, those who traveled by car were more likely to prefer vacation rentals than those who traveled by plane.

Vacation Rental Experience

The leading reason travelers choose a vacation rental over hotel is because rentals generally offer greater personal and shared spaces. When looking at the data, 60% of respondents see “more room” as a reason to choose a vacation rental.

Vacation rental travelers also value the opportunity to experience something unique and different. About 42% of people said they chose a rental for a unique experience, one that many hotels cannot offer.

When looking at generational differences, we found that millennials valued cost over having more room. According to our survey, 65% of millennial travelers ranked “cost” as the most important factor in choosing a vacation rental.

Vacation Rental Features and Amenities

Based on our data, cleanliness is the feature most likely to make or break a traveler’s vacation rental experience – over 40% ranked cleanliness as the most important feature when staying in a vacation rental.

Overall, millennials place a higher importance on cost, location, and a unique experience, while placing lower importance on the amount of room, privacy, and amenities. Older demographics, however, value having more room. Millennials also attribute pet-friendliness as their second most important factor in a rental, whereas older generations ranked it as least important.

*Survey Methodology: We surveyed over 1,041 U.S. travelers from January 2018-February 2018. The survey included questions concerning frequency of travel in the last year, recent travel destinations, and factors influencing choice such as reviews and features when selecting a hotel or vacation rental. Millennials are defined as respondents aged 18 to 35. High income is defined as those with a household income of $75K/year or more.

For any data requests, please email

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