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Reasons to Choose a Vacation Rental Instead of Hotel Room

Updated on August 11, 2009
View from a vacation cottage rental on Vancouver Island, British Columbia
View from a vacation cottage rental on Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Hotels and motels are the most popular choice for travelers because they can be found nearly everywhere and they're convenient. However, vacation rentals are now becoming more popular and better known. Vacation rentals are self-catering and furnished short-term rentals meant for tourists. We stayed at our first vacation rental back in 1998 and have been hooked on them ever since!

So What Is a Vacation Rental?

A vacation rental can be pretty much any type of unit: a home, a cottage or cabin, a condo or apartment, or a villa are common. They are furnished and usually have kitchens so that you can cook your own meals. They are rented to only one party of guests at a time, like a family or a group of friends. Sometimes have extra amenities like a yard, a hot tub, a firepit, or a private beachfront. Travelers bring their own personal stuff like toiletries (although most vacation rentals have at least a small supply of toilet paper, tissues, soap, etc. to get you started) and shop for their own food. Laundry facilities are often provided because there's no daily housekeeping, unless you arrange for it. The whole self-catering concept of vacation rentals helps to give travelers a sense of having a comfortable home-away-from-home.

If you're worried that a "vacation rental" might mean a dingy little cabin stuck in the middle of nowhere, then think again: vacation rentals come in all sizes, from small budget "studio" units to huge, luxurious waterfront homes! Of course, most fall somewhere in between.

Vacation rentals are sometimes rented out by the owners themselves, and sometimes they are booked through rental or management agencies. In our own personal experiences we have dealt with both, and prefer renting from the owner. The owners usually have great tips about what to see locally, the best restaurants in the area, information on the nicest beaches or parks or pretty much anything else. Some of them have even told us the stories of how they came to own the vacation home!

Who Should (and Should Not) Rent a Vacation Home or Cottage?

Choose a hotel room over a vacation rental if you:

  • Like to know exactly what you're getting - most hotel rooms are pretty standard and you can reasonably know what to expect.
  • Are more comfortable sticking with the familiar reservation procedures and cancellation policies of a hotel. Vacation rentals typically have far more stringent cancellation policies since cancellations affect single-unit rentals much more profoundly than a hotel with 100 rooms.
  • Want or need amenities like room service or restaurants, daily housekeeping, supervised / planned kids activities, etc.
  • Want to be able to get immediate attention if you have a question or a problem. At hotels you can ask someone at the front desk or the concierge for assistance. That said, vacation rentals that are managed by agencies sometimes offer many of the same services that hotels do.
  • Like the hustle and bustle of seeing and meeting other travelers.

Try a vacation home or cottage instead of a hotel room if you:

  • Like the "home away from home" concept and the opportunity to live within the local community while on holidays.
  • Are fairly certain of your holiday plans. It is not uncommon to see vacation rentals with cancellation policies of 2 to 6 weeks, rather than 24-48 hours typically seen in a hotel.
  • Prefer a unique setting and don't mind the possibility of a little uncertainty or surprises. Vacation homes can be in many types of settings, including secluded in a forest, near the seaside, perched on a cliff, or even right within a city or town!
  • Want the freedom and flexibility to prepare your own meals whenever you like, rather than having to get dressed up and go out to find a restaurant.
  • Enjoy more privacy.
  • Generally don't need a lot of assistance or have a lot of questions during holidays. This is probably one of the more common concerns from people who have never rented a vacation home before: what do they do if there's a problem? Travelers can contact the management company (if one is being used) or can try to contact the owner (but be aware that the owner is unlikely to live by the phone, waiting for guests to call!). To try to address this, most vacation rentals will have a "Guest Book" or a "Guest Manual" to answer frequently asked questions and to provide information about the local area.
  • Want to keep your group together in one rental unit rather than spread across two or more hotel rooms.
  • Have children or pets and like the idea of a larger private yard for them to play in. Ask if the vacation rental is "pet-friendly" and whether or not it is suitable for children.

Benefits of Vacation Rentals

  • Vacation homes and cottages are unique! Unlike hotel rooms which are generally pretty standard, vacation rentals often reflect the personalities of their owners and are also located in unique settings. They're one-of-a-kind rather than standardized with the same decor and amenities. This can be both good and bad: the owners of the vacation home may provide little extras you wouldn't normally find in a hotel room, like binoculars or picnic baskets or use of a private BBQ. On the other hand, you can't be certain what you'll find when you arrive -- since each home is so individualistic, it's much more of an adventure.
  • More amenities. It's not unusual to find vacation rentals with DVD players and stocked with small libraries of movies and books for use during your stay. Kitchens stocked with pots, pans, dishes and cutlery are also common, and some places may even have luxury amenities like hot tubs, boats, docks, and bicycles for guest use.
  • Save money. The initial cost of a vacation home might seem higher than a similar-quality hotel room, but for families, couples or friends traveling together, sharing a single vacation home often ends up being cheaper than booking several hotel rooms. Plus many vacation rentals have kitchens where you can cook your own meals, eliminating the need to eat out at restaurants.
  • More space to spread out. Vacation rentals often offer much more space than a standard hotel room. They have kitchens, living areas, dining areas (no more eating meals sitting on the hotel room bed, with a plate on your lap!), sometimes even private yards where you can spread out and have a picnic, a BBQ, play games, or just relax.
  • Privacy. Stand-alone vacation homes and cottages have the extra benefit of quiet and privacy. No need to listen to other guests wandering up and down the hallways, open & closing doors, flushing toilets at 2am, or idling their cars just outside your hotel room window!
  • Easier for couples and groups. Traveling in pairs or groups can be a little more challenging if you're trying to book hotel rooms next to each other to make planning & organizing easier. With a vacation rental everyone stays together. It's easy to gather everyone together for a BBQ or a day trip.


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    • profile image

      TheDisneyVacation 7 years ago

      Having a Laundry place was more than enough reason to get a vacation home renting=)

    • profile image

      Self catering cottages 7 years ago

      People need to understand why excessively vacationers are turning to options of renting out homes rather than booking hotel rooms. A problem of hotel rooms is if you are traveling in times of heavy tourist traffic, than there are very skinny chances of you to get a good hotel room. To avoid the frustrations why not simply buy a vacation home, or rent it out. I mean vacationing is all about relaxed and enjoyable experience. Isn't it?

    • CondoWorld profile image

      CondoWorld 7 years ago

      Excellent job pointing out all the benefits of staying in a vacation rental, but as you pointed out they are not for everyone. Some people will just do better with hotels, but it doesn’t hurt to at least try a vacation rental once even if it is just for a weekend.