They're a bit tough to track down late in the season, mostly because 5% of vacation rental property owners like to keep those houses to themselves for the holiday. There are still deals to be had, though, and are worth looking into if you're willing to go into your pocket to pay for amenities that would be in short supply at the relatives' place. Those who'd shell out for access to a kitchen of their own (21%), a pool/hot tub (12%) or even laundry facilities (11%) that aren't vulnerable to distant aunts sifting through your underthings to make room for a load of dishtowels should thumb through rentals on a site such as HomeAway or TripAdvisor's ( TRIP) FlipKey before committing to more cramped and exposed environs. Bed and breakfasts
Can you guarantee either of the two items in the name "bed and breakfast" when staying with family? We're guessing not, which is why inns and bed and breakfast establishments are an increasingly popular choice among holiday travelers.
According to HomeAway subsidiary BedandBreakfast.com, 75% of travelers surveyed say they'll be taking at least one trip this winter. Of those, 50% say they'll be staying at a bed and breakfast during their trip. While destinations known for B&Bs such as Key West, Fla., Charleston, S.C., and Asheville, N.C., are in guests' winter Top 10, BedandBreakfast.com found that inns and houses in spots such as top-ranked New York City, second-place Boston and No. 4 Chicago are also in high demand. Breakfast is still a key draw for 47% of those guests, but rare urban accommodations including free on-site parking (54%) and flexible check-in (50%) are essential for the holiday home. Travelers worried that staying at a bed and breakfast still means enduring the shared bathrooms they were trying to avoid at the relatives' place probably haven't been to a B&B in a while. Of the 11,000 properties in BedandBreakfast.com's stable, only 12% have shared bathrooms. House swaps
Back in 2006, there was an $85 million Hollywood infomercial called The Holiday that focused on the online-house swapping industry. Jilted editor Kate Winslet wanted to escape her dreary English cottage and disinterested boyfriend while workaholic Cameron Diaz sought to flee her Hollywood mansion, the drudgery of film trailer production and her philandering ex. The two swap houses and somehow end up with film score composer Jack Black and single dad Jude Law, respectively.