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Vacation Home Rental Tips

Updated on July 8, 2015

Tips for Renting a Vacation Home

Renting a vacation home can be a great option for your next trip. We've used this option a few times during our travels and I'll give you some advantages and disadvantages to consider, as well as my tips on making your next vacation rental successful if you decide it's a good option for you. Note that this lens is dedicated to comparing and contrasting renting a house or condo vs. staying at a hotel.

Renting a Vacation Home - Is It Right for Me?

Renting a private vacation home or condo is not for everyone. The first step is taking an honest look at your goals for the vacation and your own preferences while traveling. Consider these questions when determining the suitability of this option:

  • I like having daily maid service every day OR I'm fine with regular cleanings every few days but I don't need new sheets and towels every day
  • I like being able to pick up the phone any time to call the front desk to have a question or needed taken care of OR I never call the front desk anyway and I like figuring things out myself, even while on vacation
  • I want to just "get away" while on vacation and see the major tourist sites OR I want to "live like a local" and become more immersed in the culture
  • I like the convenience of an onsite restaurant and room service OR I'm fine with cooking a few meals myself and I want to explore the local restaurants
  • I don't plan on spending much time in my room so the size is not important OR I'd like to spread out a little and need more space for myself and my family
  • I am moving frequently and will stay 3 days or less at any one location OR I am staying at each location for several days at a time
  • I want to stay at a major hotel chain that I know and trust OR I am willing to do a little research and deal directly with a private owner to secure my lodgings

If, after reading through the questions, the first answer seems more like you, then you should stick with hotels for your next trip. If, however, you find that the second answer more accurately describes you, then you should definitely consider a private vacation rental for your next vacation.

I should also mention that in many resort areas, there is a new hybrid option that caters to the traditional hotel crowd. These properties are known as "hotel residences." In these developments, each unit is owned by a private individual, but they are built and marketed like a traditional hotel. This means they most or all of the traditional hotel amenities, like swimming pools, concierge service, on-site restaurants, bath gift sets and massages at the spa, etc. This can be a great option if you are looking to indulge a little but want more space than a traditional hotel room offers.

Hotel or Private Rental?

Which is a Better Option for a Vacation

The Big Advantage to Private Rentals - Cost Savings

The number one benefit of a vacation condo rental instead of staying at a hotel is cost. In reality, renting a home or condominium may not be cheaper than a hotel, depending on how much room you need. If you are traveling with the family and would need multiple hotel rooms, then a home or condo can be a great alternative. Even if you would only need a single hotel room, a condo or private home may prove cheaper when you consider your expenses. A private is almost guaranteed to be significantly larger than a hotel room, and will likely offer a full kitchen including pans, gadgets, and kitchen timer favors, living room, possibly even laundry facilities and multiple bathrooms. Just by staying in a private rental and making your own breakfast and keeping your snacks in the fridge, you can save a lot of money. Another time a private rental is a good option is when you are staying for an extended period of time. While you can sometimes negotiate a better rate with a hotel for a longer stay, most private renters are happy to work with you to make your extended stay affordable. After all, it's easier for them to have a single renter too.

Researching Your Rental

The biggest disadvantage to renting direct is you are going to have to spend some time researching properties yourself and contacting individual owners to inquire about rates, availability, location, amenities, etc. Think of each individual rental owner as a separate small business. Just like in the regular business world, not all businesses are run the same. Some are efficient, courteous, helpful and trustworthy, while others may be nonresponsive or downright incompetent. Once you've decided what location you are going to visit, where you stay will probably have the biggest impact on how much you enjoy your vacation, so choose carefully.

The best place to find a vacation rental is from friends or family. So if you know someone who has already been to your destination, ask them first. You may find that one of your neighbors owns a vacation home in the area, or your sister's family went last year and loved it. Talking to someone firsthand that has been to your actual vacation rental can go a long way towards helping you get a true picture of what to expect.

The second best and much more common way to find a vacation rental is on the Internet at sites like VRBO. There are several websites that are dedicated to listing properties from all over the world. Here you can find anything from a studio apartment in New York to a beachfront bungalow in the Indian Ocean. The great part about these websites is they let you narrow your search by size, price, availability, etc., so you can find a few that may work for you out of the thousands available.

Whenever we are looking for a private vacation rental, we first always narrow our search to a neighborhood or development that meets our requirements. Just like a regular home or hotel, location is of primary importance when choosing where to stay, so make sure you know where the places you are considering are located. For example, you might be looking for a unit in London. Well, London is a big city, so you might find a house within the city that is 45 minutes or more away from the tourist areas you want to visit. Similarly, beach wedding and rental locations often have vastly different prices depending on just how close they are to the water. A beachfront villa where you can see and hear the ocean is going to cost more than a house that is three blocks inland.

Vacation Home Beach Rental Video

Questions to Ask Before Renting

Before committing to a rental, there are several questions you should ask.

  • Payment method. Many private renters will only take a cash or check, whereas credit cards are more common with rental agencies.
  • Extra charges. Ask what you will be responsible to pay in addition to rent. Examples would be maid service, local taxes, daily resort fees, etc. These are generally 100% covered and included, but not always, so be safe and ask.
  • Terms, particularly cancellation policy. The refund policy for cancellations is typically much more strict for a private rental, requiring cancellation as much as 6 months in advance to avoid any fees or penalties. Make sure you have this in writing.
  • Emergency contact information. If something goes wrong, who do you call, and what is the expected response time? Find out if there is a local handyman or POC that can get an issue resolved if an unforeseen circumstance occurs.
  • Recent photos. The owner should be able to provide you with at least 10 photos of the property, and more for a larger house. Make sure they can provide pictures of the main living areas at a minimum.
  • Size and configuration. Double-check exact number of bathrooms, bedrooms, beds, kitchen, etc.
  • Amenities. Confirm whether the unit has a kitchen, and whether it is fully equipped or not (knives, pots, pans, coffee maker, etc.). Inquire as to whether there are a washer and dryer in the unit, if there is air conditioning and/or heat. Ask about any extras that make the unit special. This could be anything from upgraded furniture to a jacuzzi tub in the master bathroom to free use of a car. The amenities can vary wildly between units and owners.
  • References. Ask for names and phone numbers or email addresses of previous renters. Any owner should be able to provide you with this information to help confirm the listing is legitimate.
  • Restrictions. Find out what restrictions there are, if any. The most common examples would be kids, pets, and smoking. If you are bringing children, find out if the unit and property are "family friendly."
  • Independent reviews from previous renters. This can be a great way to get the unvarnished truth about a property. Many third party rental websites have a "guestbook" feature which allows renters to provide feedback on their experience. Another great resource is trip advisor. Do a search on trip advisor for the name of the development and include the unit number of the property you are considering. For example, here is a review on trip advisor for Villa La Estancia #1403. These kinds of reviews not only help you confirm your area/development selection, but also the particular unit you are considering. Remember, each unit is individually owned so the furnishings, amenities, and location can all vary between units.

Accommodation Preference

Where Will You Stay on Your Next Vacation?

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    • profile image

      VillaDejaBlue 6 years ago

      nice lens

    • JK Sterling profile image

      Jim Sterling 6 years ago from Franklin, Tennessee

      Nice lens, thank you.

    • profile image

      dessertlover 6 years ago

      We've done several rentals through over the years and always had good luck. Great info here.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

      This is a very helpful guide to private vacation rentals and the kinds of things you need to think about before you go. I think you've shown that if you research a private rental well you have a good chance of creating the perfect vacation experience.

    • profile image

      London_apartments 7 years ago

      Excellent information! I wrote something similar on my blog but yours is more in depth

      Great research

      London Hideaways Blog

    • profile image

      mikipool 8 years ago

      Hi there...nice lense...feel free to visit mine too...we are on the same topic;)

    • profile image

      qlcoach 8 years ago

      Nicely crafted and beautifully present lens. Thanks for all the great information about renting a vacation home. Met you on Lensroll. Hope you will visit my new lens about emotional healing. Gary Eby, author and therapist.