If you are looking for an alternative to staying in a hotel, an option to consider is a vacation rental. These are generally furnished apartments, condos, or houses and can be found in many locations throughout the U.S. and abroad. They are usually privately owned and include a kitchen (which oftentimes is fully stocked with pans, dishes, etc.), living room, and one to several bedrooms, bathrooms and more. They can range from economical to luxurious (many are quite affordable), and may be comparable in price to a hotel room. You can find waterfront properties with private beaches, pools, golf courses, and many other amenities.
For those traveling as a family, vacation rentals can be a good option. The kids can have their own bedroom and bathroom, and you can save money on food expenses (and eat healthier) by not having to eat out every meal. Family friendly properties may have games, water toys, beach towels, and more available for your use.
If you are traveling as a group, there are larger homes available to accommodate more people. Many offer six plus bedrooms with close to the same number of bathrooms. If you share the costs, these can become an affordable option, and many of the homes can be quite extravagant.
Vacation rentals usually offer nightly, weekly, or monthly rates. You can search properties by the location and the number of guests (or bedrooms) that you desire.
Most properties list the amenities, the nightly/weekly rates, the per night minimum, the number of people it sleeps, and a yearly calendar showing dates of availability. The “suitability” section lists whether pets or smoking are allowed, if there is wheelchair access, or if it is suitable for children.
There are photographs of the property and the contact information of the owner.
Before booking a rental, do some research to make sure it is a suitable location and is in good shape. Check the reviews from people who have stayed at the property. These can give you insight into the condition/location of the property, what it has to offer, and how easy the owner is to work with. You may also find that there are some added perks such as beach chairs, towels, snorkel equipment, grills, and more that you would be able to use.
Vacation rentals oftentimes require a deposit and a final payment just before your departure date. Many of the nicer properties get booked up several months in advance, so it is best to start planning early.
Before booking a property, be aware of any added fees and what the cancellation policy is. Travel during the off-peak season will usually result in a lower rate — which may be quite substantial. For example, you may find a beautiful ski lodge that rents out for less than half the cost during the summer months.
Vacation rentals come in many “shapes and sizes”. They may be waterfront beach houses, mountain cottages or ski lodges, yurts, rentals in resort areas, apartments, condos, and more. You can also find rentals that are geared toward families with children, and some offer rooms that are decorated just for kids.
Be Aware Of:
- Know what your accommodations look like on the inside and out
- Find out what is included in the cost. Some owners may charge a hefty fee for cleaning services.
- Is the location close to sights you plan to visit?
- Ask the owner to email you additional pictures of the property and the exact address so you can check it out on Google maps. Enter the address and click on “street view”, which will allow you to actually see the property and what the area looks like around it. This is helpful in knowing how close the property is to a beach, town, restaurants, etc.
- Be aware that since you are staying at an individual’s property, you also run the risk of getting charged for items that end up missing or broken, even if you were not responsible.
- You also run the risk of arriving and not being able to get in the property for one reason or another. It may have been double booked, the property is in foreclosure or bankruptcy, the owner did not leave the key, etc.
- The property could end up being in a bad area, look outdated and worn on the inside, does not have the view you thought you were getting, or it is not as advertised.
- For waterfront property, check on the size of the body of water. If it is on a lake and you want to go boating, check if motorboats are allowed (and the size of motor). Some lakes may allow only non-motorized boats or none at all. If the property is on the ocean, find out if the beach is conducive to swimming.
- Ask what the view will be from the property you plan to stay at. For example, if it is a condo, the entire group of condos may be called “waterfront” property, but the one you are interested in may not have a view of the water at all. It may be a “garden view”, “street view”, or “golf course view”.
- Check to see if the property has air conditioning. Many may not, and in the summer months, it could get pretty warm.
- Ask what floor it is on and if there is an elevator. Some condo units may be four or five stories high, but there may not be an elevator.
- Find out if you can park close to the entrance and if there is a fee for parking.
Vacation Rental Insurance Protection:
To reduce your financial risk, you may want to look into purchasing vacation rental insurance.
If you are concerned about ending up with accommodations you may not like, many of the sites listed below offer travel insurance that will cover you for losses you may incur on your vacation rental. For example, if you find that the accommodations are not according to the description, if you have to cancel your stay, or if you damage the property, you can get reimbursed for those expenses. The cost of the insurance is based on the total amount you will be paying for the vacation rental. It typically ends up being around 10% or so of the total cost of the rental.
Vacation Rentals in the U.S. and Abroad:
- Vacation Home Rentals
- Mountain Lodging – Most rentals are in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean
- Home Away
- Trip Advisor
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