Vacasa vs. Airbnb: Key differences to know before you book

Published Date: February 21, 2023

a modern white living room with a couch and a table
Staying in a rental home can be a great way to spend a vacation. You aren’t confined to a single hotel room, and you have access to creature comforts like a kitchen, laundry and outdoor space. Vacation rentals also offer the opportunity to enjoy more local flavor, as you aren’t confined to a hotel’s location which is often in the most tourist-heavy areas. When it comes time to book a vacation home for an upcoming trip, it can be hard to know where to start. It seems like there are about a million different websites and apps you can use to book, but what are the real differences? Does it really matter where you book your trip? Here are the differences between Airbnb and Vacasa, two of the most popular vacation home booking sites, plus an alternative that offers a true home away from home. But first, there’s one structural difference it’s important to understand about Vacasa vs. Airbnb: Vacasa is a full-service property management company, whereas Airbnb is a listing platform. This fact may seem more important to homeowners, but understanding this distinction when deciding which service to use to book your vacation. Read on to see why. 

Where you find listings 

Airbnb listings are found on the Airbnb. You can use their full website or app to book, but the listings are the same. Homeowners have chosen to list their home (or room) for rent on the Airbnb platform specifically. Since Vacasa is a full-service property management company, they list their clients’ homes  on multiple platforms, including their own website,, Vrbo and yes, even Airbnb. Their goal is to showcase listings in as many places as possible to increase bookings for homeowners. 

Available destinations and listings

As of August 2022, there are roughly six million active listings on Airbnb and more than four million hosts. That means you can find an Airbnb to rent in almost every corner of the world. Vacasa takes a different approach. They focus on what they call “drive-to” vacation destinations, with roughly 35,000 listings concentrated in the most popular vacation hubs in the United States. (One reason is their use of local, on-the-ground property management teams.) Choose from beach destinations like Hawaii, San Diego, Myrtle Beach, Miami, Cape Cod and the Florida Keys. They have a big presence in ski areas, too: Park City, Lake Tahoe, Stowe, Sun Valley and Vail. You can also find Vacasa-managed homes in Belize, Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico. 

Types of rental properties 

Vacasa focuses on whole-home rentals, including condominiums, townhomes and single-family properties. You’ll find homes with a wide variety of amenities, including pools, hot tubs, boat docks and accessibility features. Many are also pet-friendly. Homes range from one-bedroom cabins to large vacation properties that will fit the whole extended family. If you’re looking for a more unique experience, Airbnb is a great place to search. You can choose from shared rooms, private rooms in a home or full home rentals. In addition, Airbnb offers a range of property types. Ever wanted to stay in a castle? What about trying out a tiny house? Or fancy a weekend in a treehouse? Airbnb is well known for its truly unique listings, from converted airplanes to hobbit houses.    

3D walkthrough 

You can’t always believe what you see in rental property listings, and it can put a damper on your vacation to arrive at a home that looks dramatically different from the pictures. Vacasa tackles this problem by providing virtual 3D tours for many of its properties, allowing you to get a better feel for the layout, views and size of the home you’re thinking about renting. Currently, Airbnb doesn’t allow hosts to upload videos or 3D tours to their listings, so you’ll only find still photography on their platform. However, many hosts include links to videos of their homes on external websites. 


Vacasa charges renters a booking fee, cleaning fee and damage waiver. Additionally, you may be subject to extra fees, like a pet fee, hot tub fee or early or late check out fees. Be sure to click on “pricing details” to see what you’ll be required to pay in addition to the nightly fee. Similarly, if you rent a home through Airbnb, you’ll pay a cleaning fee and a service fee. You also may be subject to a security deposit, extra guest fee or local taxes. Regardless of the platform you use to book, it’s important to take a close look at the required fees and any cancellation penalties, as these line items can add up quickly. As of November 2022, Airbnb added a feature to its search results page called “Total price display,” which allows you to see available homes with the fees included.  

Level of customer support

Because Vacasa is a full-service property management company, renters staying in Vacasa-managed homes enjoy 24/7 customer service via phone or their app. There are also local management teams in case you need in-person support during your stay. And because property managers are nearby, it’s easy to get issues resolved, whether you get locked out, run out of the pre-stocked amenities or experience a maintenance emergency. If you experience an issue while staying in an Airbnb rental, your first course of action will be to reach out to your host. This could be the owner of the property or a property manager working on their behalf. That means that the speed and quality of the response can vary. If you can’t reach your host, you can contact Airbnb customer service and request help via AirCover, their included travel protection program. 


Vacasa has a well-earned reputation for in-property technology solutions that help ensure a smooth vacation for renters. This includes things like smart locks and Wi-Fi. The Vacasa app serves as your primary resource for every rental, with home access instructions, directions, parking details and a complete home guide. Airbnb leaves the smart home technology up to the individual property owner, but renters can access a lot of helpful booking information in the Airbnb app, which is also how you can contact your host. 

Go from renter to owner with Pacaso

If you find yourself regularly renting vacation homes in your favorite destination, it might be time to consider buying your own second home. Pacaso puts ownership in reach thanks to a co-ownership structure that lets you purchase ⅛ of a luxury vacation home. Pacaso homes are professionally designed and decorated, and stocked with everything you need to simply arrive and start enjoying. And, our SmartStay™ system ensures scheduling is easy and equitable for all owners.

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Jen Lyons

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