Short-term apartment and vacation homes rentals are the fastest growing trend in travel, according to Frommers. For two people travelling together, apartments can usually be rented for no more than the cost of a hotel, and usually are much bigger and contain at minimum, kitchenette facilities.
The number of travelers that look for rental apartments or homes instead of hotel rooms has increased to the point that it has become a major industry, with companies making lodging available in cities around the world.
One company, Homeaway.com, has become so large that it has purchased sixteen smaller rental firms. One of the companies it has acquired is VRBO.com, which stands for "vacation rental by owner." That company was a relatively large one on its own, with apartment or home rentals in hundreds of different cities, including many within the U.S.
Other companies with similar services include AirBnB.com, which was recently ruled illegal in New York City, Rentalo.com, Flipkey.com, Wimdu.com, EVRentals.com and others. EVRentals is owned and operated by the Wyndham Hotels Corporation and offers the homes and apartments in areas that compete with their own hotels, demonstrating the importance of that segment of the market.
There are positive and negative aspects to renting a home or apartment. An obvious drawback is that they don't have to meet the same standards of quality and service or undergo the same safety standards and inspections. The best way to avoid this type of problem is to read many reviews of any property being considered before renting it. Another way to potentially avoid the problem is renting through a local real estate broker.
Many overseas rentals require a stay of at least a week. Domestically, AirBnB is known for rentals for any length of time, so there are exceptions to be found.
Another consideration is that in some places, such as the aforementioned New York City, as well as Las Vegas, it isn't legal for the owners of apartments or homes to rent the entire home or apartment for a short period of time. It's only legal if the occupant is also there.
In most of the world, the practice is legal and often promoted by local tourism offices. This also benefits the cities by allowing more tourists to visit during periods when hotels may be full.
There are also similar alternatives, which is the free-of-charge use of a room in someone's apartment or home. The most well known service of this type is Couchsurfing.com. There is also the option of utilizing a home swapping network (think of the film "The Holiday"), where you stay in someone's home or apartment while they stay in yours. Some web sites that offer this service include HomeExchange.com and Homelink.org.