Planning a summer vacation? Just not excited about staying in a cramped hotel for a week with the kids? Consider renting a vacation home instead!
- More space – Hotel rooms and families = an often too cramped situation! Vacation homes and families = spread out and relax! Vacation homes enable families to pick just the right size, giving everyone their very own breathing room. Vacation home rentals can also let you stay in areas where hotels may not be found.
- Privacy – Nobody stomping on the floor above you, no elephants running down the hall outside your door. Nobody complaining because the baby cried all night. Well, maybe nobody but you!
- Laundry – Messy kids? Need to cut down on luggage? Having onsite laundry can be a major advantage, especially for families traveling with kids. Cut down the amount of clothes you bring and not only save on luggage space, have less clutter to remember to bring back home!
- Kitchen – Ok, this might be a deterrent for some! But a kitchen comes in quite handy when everyone’s settled in for a bedtime movie and popcorn is on the agenda. Stocking a kitchen with basics such as drinks, snacks, and easy to prepare breakfast foods can save a lot of vacation dollars.
- Pets just might be welcome – Fido a must-have travel companion? Then search rental properties that allow pets. Many do.
Tips to Successful Vacation Home Rentals – Ok, so you’ve made the decision to explore renting a vacation home. But where to start? Begin with some basic information, and you will be ready to rent in confidence in no time. Here’s ten helpful tips that should get you on the road to a successful vacation home rental by week’s end!
1. Set a budget before you begin the search – Then stick to it! It’s easy to be swayed by photos luring you to that beach front mansion. Knowing your budget before you search will help stop “impulse renting.”
2. Establish your travel dates – and whether or not they are flexible. Flexibility might just snag a deal! Shifting travel dates by a week or two – or even by a month – can result in better prices as rental prices often drop during “off-peak” times. For example, if peak summer rates begin on June 23 and last until August 18, consider renting the week of June 16 or August 19. Still hot, still summer, and most kids are still out of school – and you save several hundred dollars off that rental fee. No kids? Take advantage of lower rates and don’t go during those peak weeks.
3. Make a list of “must have” features – Number of beds, is a kitchen a must? Messy kids demand onsite laundry? Our list of “must haves” is short – enough beds for everyone, a kitchenette to prepare small meals, laundry to cut back on clothing, and kitchen basics. Don’t forget linens and towels if needed. Not all places provide linens and towels, and if you are traveling by air, you don’t want to also pack these items.
4. Make a second list of “like, but don’t have to have” features – For example, beach front would be awesome, but comes at a premium price. Consider beach block, still walking distance, and typically a little less in price. Perhaps a small kitchenette with microwave but no oven will be sufficient – many meals can be prepared with a microwave. Driving to your rental? Then towels/linens may not be necessary.
5. Know what is included – and what’s not – before you rent – Avoid unpleasant surprises such as “no linens and towels provided” or “bring your own utensils” – not every rental provides these items. Most properties provide a fairly detailed list of what is included with the rental so be sure to review this closely. If you don’t see something you think should be included, consider e-mailing or calling the owner to verify.
6. Read property reviews – don’t just go by the photos – Reviews are a great source of property information, especially when they include renter provided photos. Just remember – owner provided photos typically represent the property in the most positive light. Not to say they don’t properly represent the property – just saying you should read everything on the property, and don’t just rely on the photos. Where to find these reviews? TripAdvisor as well as the rental sites themselves.
7. Google-Earth the rental property – A very simple method to see exactly where that gem is located. You won’t get “in” to see fine details, but you should be able to see how close the neighbors are, where the house sits on the property, perhaps even the lawn furniture down by the beach! Verify that it really is “right on the river” or slopeside. Google Maps can also be used to “site” a rental property.
8. Read the Contract – Know whether or not you will be charged Housekeeping fees, Security or Damage deposits, or other fees, as well as what is, and isn’t, included, before you agree to rent the property. And know who you should contact if there are any issues once you arrive. Call that phone number before you go to ensure it is valid, too.
9. Know the Housekeeping Policy – Are you expected to bring the trash to the curb before you leave? Extra fee if you leave dirty dishes behind? Just know before you go.
10. Ask the owner your questions – Not sure whether that kayak in the photo is included in the rental? Need to know if that beach front is swimmable for your two year old? Walking distance to the hiking trails or ski slope a must? Ask the owner! Many owners are vested in their property – they want you to be happy. Some will even send you links to nearby activities, if you ask.
Last but not least – Rent from a trust-worthy source! Armed with these ten tips, start searching for that perfect property. One rule of thumb is to check at least three different sources. This will help you establish going rates for the various types of property being considered. Checking multiple sources also throws a wider net to find your perfect place – not all rental homes are listed on all rental sites. If your destination is a larger resort area, definitely check out local rental agencies. Not only do they know the area, they often have listings that might only be found with them.
Here are three favorite global vacation property rental sites to get you on your way to renting that dream vacation home.
HomeAway – With over 300,000 vacation home choices from across the globe, the odds are you will find a HomeAway in your destination.
FlipKey – FlipKey is a part of TripAdvisor, and is fast becoming one of the “big boys” in the home rental market. With over 150,000 rentals in over 7,000 cities worldwide, and supported by TripAdvisor, it has become a “go-to” site for our family rental options. FlipKey also has a very good How To Stay In A Vacation Rental guide – helpful for first time renters.
Scams – Yes, sadly, those pesky scammers have begun to nip at the vacation home rental market too. A few rules I follow to avoid being scammed.
- Rent only from reliable sites.
- Read the property reviews. Thoroughly. And check out the photos. No photos = no rental.
- Google Earth or Google Map the address- make sure the house is there.
- Avoid wiring money – it won’t be returned if scammed! Rent with a credit card.
- Make final plans by phone, not by e-mail. Know who you are renting from. Ask questions only an owner might know.
- And finally – Follow your instincts. If it seems fishy, walk away no matter how good the deal seems. Just not worth the risk.
One final thought – many vacation homes are rented by individual owners. They may contract with a company to handle the rental process, but in the end, you are staying in their homes. Treat their home kindly, leave it in as good, if not better, condition than when you arrived.
Is it too late to rent a home for this summer? Maybe – but quite possibly not! With these tips in mind, take a look around the area you want to rent in. You might just find a rental with its doors wide open, just waiting for you to arrive and enjoy.
Have you rented a vacation home before? Would you do it again? And if you haven’t yet, might you now? Let us know in the Comments section below.