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Finding a Luxurious Home Away From Home

Websites like Airbnb and Couchsurfing have long helped travelers save money by renting and swapping their homes (or merely their couches) rather than pay for hotels. But as the sharing economy evolves, and as luxury travel grows, rental and home swap sites are increasingly catering to travelers with the desire (and budget) for a more sumptuous home away from home. 

 While a spotlight is on luxury properties, vacation rentals both high and low offer more space, privacy and amenities than most hotels. Little wonder then that the number of people renting vacation homes has continued to rebound since the recession. More adults in the United States are choosing to stay in rentals, according to a report by the market research company PhoCusWright, and the portion of the vacation rental market booked online has grown rapidly, moving from 12 percent in 2007 to 24 percent in 2012.

All of this comes despite concerns about how much sites like Airbnb cost states like New York (where it’s often illegal to rent your apartment while you’re away) in lost hotel tax dollars, as well as potential safety and health-code violations.

TripAdvisor.com, which has a database of more than 400,000 vacation rental listings, deepened its commitment to the rental market this year by rolling out a “peace of mind guarantee,” assuring travelers who rent through TripAdvisor’s online payment system that they will be reimbursed up to $10,000 if certain problems arise, such as if the home “does not materially match the description” or if “the guest cannot enter the home.” The guarantee is provided by FlipKey, a subsidiary of TripAdvisor. (More information: Tripadvisor.com/pages/peace_of_mind.html.) ..