For the recently vaccinated, you’re probably itching to book your first big trip in a very long time. The problem is, a lot of people have the same exact idea. If you’ve poked around Airbnb or any other vacation rental site recently, it may seem like every single cabin, beach house, and tree house in the United States is already taken for this summer.
“We believe this will be the biggest travel rebound in a century,” Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s cofounder and CEO, said in an online announcement on May 24.
But don’t throw in the towel on finding an available vacation rental in the United States this summer just yet. It’s still possible, especially if you’re willing to be flexible. Because many people remain untethered from office life—and from the strict holiday schedules and locations that come with it—Airbnb has introduced several new search features including flexible dates, flexible matching, and flexible destinations to capitalize on this.
Here’s how you can use these new features—plus a few more tips and hacks to find a vacation rental this summer.
1. Have an open schedule
If you want to get away, but aren’t tied to traveling over a specific holiday like July 4th weekend or a school calendar, then Airbnb’s new flexible date search can help. The alternative to fixed-date search, which started rolling out in February, allows travelers to look for rentals over a wide range of dates.
“I love the idea that finally I can search for a weekend getaway without knowing the specific weekend,” Joe Gebbia, Airbnb’s cofounder, told AFAR.
What does this look like exactly? Instead of choosing the calendar search setting, you can click “I’m flexible” and pick between weekend, week, or month. You can also specify which months you’re available to travel in, whether it’s just June, or June, July, and August. The results will then show you the available listings—and the specific dates—within the range you requested.
Vrbo has a similar feature it introduced in the past year that shows you the number of additional properties available if you were to shift the dates of your stay by a day or a week. It’s only offered for searches on select destinations, and you must search by specific dates first to be shown the expanded options.
2. Be flexible with pricing and specific amenities
Even if you’re flexible about when you go, you might come up empty-handed if you have your heart set on reserving a rental in Sonoma for under $300 a night with a hot tub.
Airbnb’s new flexible matching tool, which is being rolled out to users now, will expand your search results to include homes just outside of your specific parameters—whether it’s the next town over or just slightly over your maximum price. It will also show you listings that don’t include amenities you want, say a pool or hot tub, but will clearly mark which ones are missing so you can easily browse through your options.
While Airbnb couldn’t provide specific amounts, the flexible matching feature will only increase your search parameters within a reasonable number of miles and dollars. For example, if you search for listings $300 or under, it will also show you listings up to $320 or so.
3. Consider second-tier cities
Based on Airbnb guest-booking data in the United States, some of the top trending destinations for this summer include Whitefish Mountain in Montana, Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, and Acadia National Park in Maine. Because people still seem to be interested in rural or coastal stays this year, a city adventure could get you off the beaten path. But that doesn’t mean you’re limited to a big city like New York or Los Angeles.
“I’m interested in getting to more second-tier cities like Santa Fe,” Gebbia said, pointing out many smaller cities have amazing restaurant options and cultural opportunities. They also may be less densely populated and can often offer easier access to nature.
4. Or go anywhere
Say you know you want to go glamping in a yurt, but don’t have a specific destination in mind: Airbnb’s upcoming flexible destinations search tool, which goes live June 30, allows you to search by listing type. That way you can see all the available yurts across the United States—or any other broad geographic area—and plan your trip from there.
This tool’s algorithm is set to show you results near where you are based, so if you live in California and search for beach houses, you’ll get results along the Pacific Coast. But you can easily alter your results by moving the map around if you’d prefer to see what’s available on the East Coast or even in a different country.
5. Try again tomorrow
“Every day people are becoming hosts,” Gebbia said. Just because you didn’t find anything today, a new listing could be added tomorrow.
To convince even more hosts to come on board, Airbnb recently consolidated the process of listing your property into 10 steps. (Gebbia says he couldn’t even count the number of steps needed to sign up before.) By simplifying the host sign-up process, Airbnb aims to increase the number of available listings as the summer continues.
6. Look at alternative rental sites
You might be most familiar with Airbnb and Vrbo, but there are many other vacation rental sites out there and they may not be fully booked yet for this summer.
Love unique design? Welcome Beyond’s collection spans 44 countries and includes nearly 300 yurts, tree houses, private islands, and more. Traveling with children? Maybe one of Kid & Coe’s 1,400 private homes geared toward families is for you. Have your own vacation home? Consider home swapping on Love Home Swap, which offers 65,000 houses in 160 countries.
>> Next: A Guide to Vaccinated Travel