Just because your bank account might be light is no reason to cancel your vacation this year. There are alternatives to expensive hotels. Expensive summer home rentals. Actually, renting someone’s vacation home for two to three weeks is usually cheaper than a fancy hotel and you get a lot more room to spread out. But finding a vacation home to rent out can be a real chore. Sites like VRBO.com have great inventory, but they are not easy to navigate or search. You have to know the exact town you want to stay in because there is no way to search listings on a map.
Enter Hotpads, the real estate site that is all about maps. It just added a “vacation” tab to its site, which lets you search for 20,000 vacation home rentals across the U.S. Results are plotted on a map, which is really convenient when you want to know how far away from the beach or the ski slopes the property is. Results can also be sorted by price and availability, which show up when you mouse over any given house icon. For instance, here is a search for Lake Tahoe vacation homes on HotPads (screenshot above), and here is what you get on VRBO (below). It is just alist of towns. Not very helpful, especially if you are traveling to somewhere you are not familiar with.
I don’t know why all real estate sites don’t just default to a map interface for search results. Sometimes it is an option, but usually you just get a mind-numbing list you have to scroll through. Homeaway, the Austin company which owns VRBO and several other vacation rental sites, should think about adopting a map interface across all of its sites. It has much more inventory—124,000 vacation homes—but they are so hard to find. For a company which raised $250 million last November, you’d think it could do better than that.