For your next vacation, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be checking into a place like La Casa Contenta, a stunning four-bedroom mansion in Temecula, Calif., with unobstructed views of the Palomar Mountain range. At least that’s what the vacation rental company HomeAway says in its 2019 Trend Report, a preview of next year’s big travel trends.
And “big” is the biggest travel trend for next year.
Super-sizing, it says, is taking hold in American vacationing. Demand for castle rentals is up by 55% this year, and demand for estates rose 25%. The reason? Maturing millennials, who now top out at nearly 40 years old, are exploring less and nesting more with their growing families on vacation, often multiple generations or friends vacationing together, according to HomeAway.
It’s just one of the travel trends identified by the vacation rental company. Its data revealed the most popular vacation rental destinations and the biggest up-and-coming destinations. They also shed some light on the newest generation of home renters. But HomeAway’s insights suggest some contrarian strategies for your next vacation, too.
There are more than 23,000 vacation rental companies in the U.S., according to a recent study by Hostfully, a vacation rental booking platform. The U.S. private accomodation market is worth an eye-popping $36.6 billion, according to research company PhocusWright.
A travel trend you’ll love: Bigger is better
Larger vacation homes like La Casa Contenta make sense for extended family groups. (Multigenerational travel is one of this year’s hottest travel trends, reports my Forbes colleague Debbi Kickham.) The California Wine Country estate sleeps ten people for only $68 per person, per night. That rivals any nearby hotel option, even when factoring in double occupancy.
And the accommodations are considerably more upscale. It’s a Spanish Colonial Revival estate located just a mile from Temecula’s first winery and minutes to Pechanga casino, Old Town Temecula and classic golf courses. The estate offers four bedrooms and three baths, including one with an antique clawfoot tub, elegant formal living room and a kitchen with an original O’Keefe & Merritt antique stove.
I stayed in a similar HomeAway rental in Temecula area last year. I travel with a smaller group (just three kids), but the economics make sense even for us. My brother was graduating from San Diego State, and we needed a little extra room for my uncle, who flew in from Washington. Our Temecula rental, which also offered incredible views of the valley, was a perfect choice.
Perhaps there’s also a contrarian strategy here: When everyone else goes big, go small.
HomeAway has also documented a 70% spike in requests for tiny house rentals. These accommodations typically offer less than 500 square feet of living space. They’re ideal for a couple who want something cozy and private, while not sacrificing the amenities of home. You’ll also pay a little less for these rentals. But if you’re traveling with kids, don’t go for the tiny home unless your children are accustomed to RV-like closeness.
And the best vacation rental properties are …
HomeAway’s data revealed another travel trend: Its most “liked” and most booked properties have something in common. Both HomeAway’s most booked property in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and its “hearted” home in Davenport, Fla., are close to Walt Disney World. And HomeAway’s property with the most positive reviews in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., is near Dollywood.
Resort areas take customer satisfaction seriously, and competition for guests is fierce, so it’s no surprise that rentals near theme parks would fare well. The contrarian strategy? Even if you’re not planning to visit a theme park, you might get better service by visiting a resort area. (As someone who lived in Orlando for 12 years, I can second that. They don’t call it the Magic City for nothing.)
But there are areas far away from resorts that American travelers are discovering. In the last 12 months, vacation rental demand in Ohio’s Hocking Hills has grown by more than 130%. It’s up 375% over the past three years. Why? This picturesque destination is southeast of
Columbus and home to one of the country’s most beautiful state parks.
Also on this year’s up-and-comers list: Newton County, Ark., with its very own Grand
Canyon and Ozark National Forest; and Loudoun County, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C. It’s a big area for wine tourism.
The takeaway: When it comes to vacation rentals, you can also find a great experience by zigging when everyone else zags. Check out the Hocking Hills if you’ve already seen Disney World.
Another travel trend: Gen Z likes vacation rentals
HomeAway’s data also suggests Gen Z (born from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s) are embracing vacation rentals as no other generation has. For example, 35% of Gen Z travelers are likely to travel with friends, the highest of any group. Gen Z travelers also spend their time away in cities (more than 60% of the time), far surpassing rural and suburban destinations. And Gen Z travelers are already familiar with the benefits of a vacation rental.
“More than three-quarters of these newly independently vacationing Gen Z’ers have already stayed in a vacation home, cabin or condo at some point in their lives,” says Melanie Fish, a HomeAway spokeswoman. “That makes them far likelier than their parents to consider vacation rentals a primary lodging option as they continue to mature.”
It should come as no surprise that Gen Z has taken to vacation rentals. After all, this is the generation that grew up in the sharing economy and had parents who took them on vacations where they rented a house or cabin.
HomeAway also noted a staggering 325% increase in demand among travelers with children last year. No kidding. Gen Z is being raised in vacation rentals.
Ready to check into a stunning mansion?
Ready to check into a stunning mansion? Hang on. Take an inventory of your group and ask yourself: What do we need? If you’re on the road with your extended family and have a car or a generous budget for Uber or Lyft to get to the grocery store, then by all means, book the rental of your dreams. But if proximity to downtown is important or if some members of your party won’t have access to a car, then you might consider a hotel instead of a vacation rental.
As someone who lives in vacation rentals (that’s no exaggeration — I spent about 300 days this year in a rental), I can tell you that one size doesn’t fit all. But if you’re traveling with friends or family, a vacation rental like La Casa Contenta is worth considering in 2019.
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.