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What struck me most about our stay at a South Dakota campground cabin was the checkout flyer. On it were links to several sites where I could go and "rate" my stay. Most of them were owned by HomeAway (Nasdaq: AWAY  ) .

Seeing that made me smile. A small, family-owned business had turned to a large and fast-growing aggregator to get its name in front of potential travelers. More than irony was at work here. HomeAway's strategy -- acquire the major vacation rental listing sites to create a booking empire -- was paying off.

To be fair, one piece of paper doesn't make for a competitive edge. But the numbers are pretty startling. FlipKey, operated by Expedia's (Nasdaq: EXPE  ) TripAdvisor unit, claims "over 100,000" listings, while HomeAway had more than five times that at the time of its S-1 filing, months before its June IPO.

It's still too early to know precisely how disruptive HomeAway could be to the likes of Marriott (NYSE: MAR  ) and Hilton, which both operate large timeshare businesses. All I can say is that our seven-hour drive to, and stay in, the Black Hills went well enough that I find myself rethinking accommodations in two ways:

  1. My first stop for family lodging is now HomeAway. Spacious rentals with full kitchen facilities offer more than a hotel room ever could. The one catch? A pool. Our young kids love the water enough to limit my choices.
  2. For conferences and other types of research trips, I'm seriously considering AirBnB, which offers cheap space for couch crashers who don't need much more than a place to sleep while on the road for business.

I've learned to pay attention when my behavior shifts in this way. Often, it's an early sign of disruption -- like when I forgot to how to use my DVD player recently. Streaming had become second nature for me, just as it has for millions of others. Space-sharing looks like a similarly explosive change.

Do you agree? Disagree? Weigh in using the comments box below. And if you're in the mood for more stock ideas, try this free video. You'll walk away with a better understanding of a new computing revolution that's reshaping industries, as well as a winning pick from our Motley Fool Rule Breakers scorecard. Click here to start watching -- it's 100% free.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

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Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (1)

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  • Report this Comment On August 11, 2011, at 5:06 PM, VacationGoer wrote:

    I think many people are beginning to realize just how a good an alternative vacation rentals are to hotels, and that can be seen in the rapid growth of the industry.

    But, when you're staying at a vacation rental, it's important to realize the difference between VRBOs and professionally managed properties. Not knowing the difference could result in a negative experience.

    Professionally managed properties generally have someone on site to ensure your vacation goes off without a hitch, but you never know exactly what you could get with a VRBO because the owner could be a 1,000 miles away and completely unavailable if something comes up (you lose a key, have a maintenance issue, the property is double booked).

    HomeAway has definitely made its money being the advocate for VRBOs.

    However, HomeAway's largest competitor in the vacation rental software space, (, works exclusively with professional vacation rental managers and its consumer-facing website, RezSecure (, allows travelers to book trusted properties from trusted managers right there online. It's worth taking a look at next time you decide to choose a vacation rental for your next stay.

  • Report this Comment On August 12, 2011, at 11:37 AM, waterfallman wrote:

    Swimming pool! How about swimming in crystal clear waters always cleaned by falling waters.

    See what the New York Times

    had to say about The Waterfall House as a vacation rental. Located near the wonderful town of Woodstock NY. Homeaway, Yes!

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