Alternative Accommodation: The Rise of Non-Traditional Vacation Rentals

Vacation rentals are no longer restricted to the conventional “homes” they once were. Having already been identified as one of the biggest industry trends to watch this year, non-traditional vacation rentals are undoubtedly on the rise.

In 2017 alone, HomeAway saw a 55% year-on-year increase in the number of barn bookings, 40% growth in houseboat stays and a further 30% on treehouse reservations. So far this year, Airbnb’s nature lodge reservations are up 700%, ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) bookings have increased 600%, yurts have seen a 155% growth and RV reservations have risen by 133%.

To find out more about this growing trend and what it means for vacation rental owners with peculiar properties, read on.

What is alternative accommodation?

In a nutshell, alternative accommodation typically refers to non-hotel offerings for vacationers. As well as more traditional vacation rental houses, this term includes everything from home swaps to camping, and housesitting to couchsurfing.

Under the umbrella term of “vacation rentals”, guests are now spoilt for choice with non-traditional options. And for owners, the constant influx of new and specialized listing sites is helping them to get more visibility and, ultimately, more bookings!

What are the most popular types of non-traditional vacation rentals?

These days, it seems that no matter what kind of unusual property you have, you can transform it into a vacation rental business. Let’s take a look at just a few types of properties which are set to make waves this year. If you already have any of the below, you’re in for a fully-booked season!


A possible extension of the well-known expression “farm-to-table”, farm-to-bed is the latest trend to truly take off in the world of vacation rentals. Whether they’re authentic barns on former working farms, or new builds made to look like they were previously barns, there are plenty of opportunities to attract group bookings in a spacious, lofty barn.

How to market your barn: target group getaways, family reunions and wedding parties.


Naturally, the best places to find houseboat rentals are on the water. Besides popular European capitals such as Amsterdam, Paris and London which have offered houseboats to tourists for years, many US destinations are also catching on to the idea. Florida Keys, San Francisco and Seattle are just a few locations which are gaining popularity.

How to market your houseboat: target traveling couples or families with older kids (remember: houseboats can be dangerous for small children).

Nature lodges

Plenty of guests are in search of peace, quiet and most importantly, nature on their travels. Lonely Planet says that nature lodges “take travelers out of the city and into accommodation that will see them waking up amongst some of the world’s best scenery”. So it’s no wonder nature lodge bookings have risen so dramatically in recent years!

How to market your nature lodge: target eco-warriors and mindful millennials.

RVs and campers

According to Outdoorsy founder Jeff Cavins, each year, more than 35 million people look at renting an RV. But many don’t follow through because there is a severe lack of commercially owned vehicles available from traditional rental services. For RV or campervan owners who aren’t making the most of their vehicle, this year could be your chance to earn some extra cash!

How to market your RV: target road trippers and senior travelers.

Shipping containers

Architectural Digest calls shipping container architecture “durable, plentiful, and affordable” – in other words, it could be an ideal investment for someone looking to buy vacation rental property. These capsule homes optimize space for ultimate comfort.

How to market your shipping container: target backpackers, light travelers and families with little ones.


Quite possibly one of the coziest and most romantic of all non-traditional vacation rental options, treehouses have received plenty of media attention in the last few years. In fact, an Atlanta treehouse was the most wished-for property on the whole Airbnb site in 2016! Treehouses are attracting increasing guest numbers with their promise of immersion in nature, sleeping under the stars and luxury finishes.

How to market your treehouse: target outdoorsy adventurers or business travelers looking to switch off and connect with nature.


These traditional dwellings (and their many modern reinventions), are also gaining traction as vacation rental offerings. Whether owners offer a back-to-basics stay or a full-out glamping experience, Airbnb stats show yurt bookings have already increased significantly for this year – a trend that’s set to continue.

How to market your yurt: target big groups and festival-goers.

When it comes to finding guests, there are countless ways to advertise your alternative vacation rentals. Above all else, you need your own bookable website to be able to take direct reservations and build your own unique brand.

What do you think about this article?

5/5 - (2 votes)
Show Comments (0)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ready to take more direct bookings?

No set up fees, no credit card details, no obligation. Try Lodgify free for 7 days.