In case you haven’t felt it, there has been a subtle but seismic shift in the way savvy Londoners are booking their staycations.
While Airbnb is, and will continue to be, a great platform to book holiday accommodation, searching for a hidden gem can be fatiguing and with time as our most precious commodity, we’re opting to switch to sites specifically curated with unique abodes.
Enter: Kip. Now a year old, this accommodation booking platform was created by friends Sarah de Vere-Drummond, who has spent a decade working in boutique travel marketing, and Liz Simpson who formerly edited travel website i-escape.
Liz tells the Standard: “During 10 years of friendship Sarah and I used to compete to find the best little hideaways for our own holidays. Every so often we’d say, ‘we should do our own website of these’, but it was always just a joke until we suddenly found ourselves freelance at the same time, and one night in the pub we said, ‘Now’s the time! Let’s actually do it’.”
Sarah adds: “We really felt there was a gap for a curated collection of stylish self-catering hideaways. The kinds of places that we really wanted to stay in ourselves with beautiful interiors, thoughtful details and stunning locations.”
The idea for Kip is simple: boutique self-catering hideaways in the UK for two to four people under £200 per night.
It works differently to other booking sights as a membership is required to access the listings (£10 per year or £1.99 per month). “We decided early on that we didn’t want to take a commission or charge the client every time they book like other sites do,” Sarah explains, “we just wanted to keep it really simple – one single flat fee for a whole year of access to really gorgeous, hard to find paces.”
Liz adds: “[We wanted] to make it feel more exclusive. We were trying to do something really different than all the vast corporate websites – especially Airbnb, who offer you so much choice it’s dizzying. We wanted to offer a curated selection and keep the special feeling of our hideaways being under the radar and hard to find, rather than mass market.”
The strap line for Kip is ‘small places with soul’ and a glance at the website will show you just that. All properties listed are stylish and chic and guests can choose anything from a luxury yurt in the south of Wales to a Cornish cottage for two, complete with a roll-top tub.
All listings are currently UK-based, but the pair says they would love to roll it out internationally one day – but ‘not mass market’.
“We’d like to roll it out to countries that create really special, great value and unique hideaways,” Liz says.
“I can’t wait to start finding places in Portugal, Sweden, Mexico, Sri Lanka; they do hotels brilliantly, so I’m sure there are some incredible small rentals out there.”
While Kip is the newest and shiniest kid on the block, there are plenty of other new-age booking platforms that have popped up over the past decade. Here are some of our favourites.
Love Home Swap
Best for: families looking for inexpensive holidays.
Locations: worldwide. Always fancied a jaunt to Morocco or Colombia? There’s a home for that.
Price: membership starts from £8 per month. Home swapping is free.
When staycations were given the green light earlier this summer, cottages across the UK booked up almost instantly. But for those in the know, they spent the season swapping homes instead. “We have different swap options to suit every sort of swap,” Love Home Swap’s MD, Celia Pronto, says. “There’s classic swaps which is when you go to theirs and they come to yours, and this can be either at the same time or on different dates. We also offer points swaps which allow you to travel without having to match your plans with another member.”
The premise is pretty simple. All you need to do is sign up to Love Home Swap’s membership plan (which starts at £8 per month) and you can contact another user to swap homes or simply see if their’s is available to stay in. While there are thousands of listings worldwide, this year we’d recommend checking out the platform’s excellent array of UK homes. How about this pretty converted chapel in the Peak District? Or this one bedroom bolthole on the Cornish coast? Sign us up.
Best for: a chic and inexpensive stay in some of the world’s biggest cities.
Locations: US cities peppered with some international additions like London, Rome, Dublin and Dubai with Glasgow coming soon.
Price: London prices range from £70 to £1,015 per night, but New York stays range from £50 to £542 per night.
Named by Forbes as travel’s newest ‘billion-dollar-brand’ earlier this year, instead of listing other people’s homes, Sonder has taken a different approach by focusing on the apart-hotel market.
Founded in the US in 2012, Sonder leases apartments and transforms them into design-led spaces ranging from studios to six-bedroom homes and then leases them to prospective guests. All of the spaces are incredibly chic and the kitchens are stocked with basics like olive oil, salt and pepper and even artisan coffee.
Best for: business travellers who want to save on bookings.
Price: prices are similar to other booking sites but the points earned with each booking goes towards lowering the cost of a future booking.
This newly-launched members-only hotel booking platform looks to convert up to 30 per cent of ‘hidden’ booking fees applied by other websites into points that members can put towards their next booking. Founded by London-based duo Maya Poulton and Joey Kotkins, the site features over 7,000 hand-picked hotels and memberships are £175 a year – but if you travel around five to six times a year, this can earn you £800 in free travel.
Best for: a posh staycation.
Locations: London, Paris and Los Angeles.
Price: from £150 per night for a studio in Chelsea, to £2,520 per night for a six-bedroom home in Kensington.
Founded in London in 2011, Veeve only recently expanded to Paris and LA. With over 1,000 listings, Veeve looks after homes while they are being rented, offering professional housekeeping, fresh linen, towels and toiletries and concierge services. Veeve takes the listing a bit further than other sites with its incredibly detailed location advice and tips for making the most of the area.
One Fine Stay
Best for: those looking for hotel-level luxury in a homely setting.
Locations: global, but London, New York, Mexico, Paris and Rome and among its ‘top’ destinations.
Price: from £100 to £3,000 + per night.
Operating since 2010, One Fine Stay gives guests the chance to stay in some of the world’s most luxurious homes. Acquired by AccorHotels in 2016, One Fine Stay still maintains its upmarket Airbnb feel but with hotel-quality standards.
Best for: couples and families looking for quirky stays.
Locations: worldwide, but with over 1,200 English listings, a staycation is certainly in order.
Price: from £50 to £1,000 + per night.
There’s something for everyone on CoolStays – from homes that can sleep over 20 to cosy cottages, historic castles, eclectic cabins and even ‘boatels’, each of these hand-picked listings is ideal for the ‘gram. Founded in 2012, CoolStays now has a portfolio of over 1,300 (most of these in the UK) ranging from a lighthouse on the Croatian island of Korcula to a Nordic-inspired home in the Scottish Highlands. You can view some of our favourite CoolStays here.
Gallery: Airbnb’s top 10 unique homes available to book right now (House Beautiful (UK))