If traveling in a larger group or for a longer period of time, you may want to consider a vacation rental. They offer a unique way to experience the destination and can help cut travel costs. The following explains vacation rentals in more detail and gives tips on how to use them most effectively.
Vacation rentals are furnished houses or apartments rented out to vacationers on a temporary basis. They are typically privately owned vacation properties that are rented by the day, week or month.
The major advantages of vacation rentals, apart from saving money versus what a hotel would cost, are greater privacy, a more laid back, unique and homey atmosphere, the ability to bring pets, and amenities to include games, movies, electronic appliances, etc.
On the other hand, vacation rentals will not have housekeepers, maintenance staff and other services that hotels offer.
Finding a vacation rental
Some top sites to find vacation rentals include VacationRentals.com, HomeAway and Vacation Rental by Owner.
In addition, it is always a good idea to write to the community you are going to and ask for an information packet for both accommodations and other information about the area. They may contain a lot of great info that might not be online.
Contact a vacation rental company
In addition to checking online, it is a good idea to see what an agent can offer and get info from a live person. The agent can provide info on the right type of rental, the best time to travel and special deals.
Vacation rentals can also be found on Craigslist and other boards. However, you need to be cautious as there are some scams. For example, some people take advantage of travelers by offering what seems to be a great deal on a vacation rental. Posing as the vacation home owner, they ask tourists to send money upfront, but the tourist never hears from them again.
It is also a good idea to ask about zoning laws as some communities prohibit short term rentals.
Saving on vacation rentals
The following are some ways to get the best deals and make your stay as inexpensive and pleasant as possible.
Know what is included and where to go
Nothing can ruin a vacation more than unexpected fees and bills. Be sure you know ahead of time everything that is included in your stay. For example, you may be allowed to bring you dog, but pets may incur a daily fee. Is internet access free or do you have to pay for it? How about linins, soup, dishes, TVs, computers and appliances?
In addition, gather as much useful information on the area as possible to include the nearest grocery store, shopping and entertainment.
Choose the right size
The larger the home, the more you’ll pay, so don’t go any bigger than needed.
Do some research
Check out several locations and ask for informational brochures about each area. Check rates daily and be ready to jump on a good deal when you see it. In some cases, vacationing a few days before or after your intended dates will bring reduced rates.
Be flexible in your location
You may have dreamed of a beach house rental, but staying in the next town over can mean great savings. Popular tourist destinations always cost more. By staying in a nearby town, you can save money on rent and possibly check out fun attractions you would have never known existed.
Save on dining and laundry
Most vacation rentals come equipped with a fully-stocked kitchen and laundry room. Having a kitchen on hand allows you to cook meals and avoid so many restaurant visits. In addition, you can wash your clothes during your stay so you don’t have to come home to a huge mountain of laundry.
Ask about discounts
Many types of people are eligible for discounts. Military personnel and students may be able to score discounts. In addition, members of certain organizations, such as AAA and AARP, should ask about discounted rates. If you frequent the rental often, ask about free nights or other perks.
Travel at the right time
You will likely pay high rates for renting a beach home in the summer. However, by booking in spring or fall instead, you can save huge money – perhaps even 50 percent. In some cases, you may be able to score some huge deals on last-minute bookings, particularly in less-popular locales.
Understand the minimum requirements
What is the minimum stay? You may need to pay a deposit beforehand or be prepared to pay by credit card only. Not following the requirements can result in added fees. You may also be required to sign a contract. Before you leave, you may be required to clean the rental as well. Carefully review the contract and be sure to get all your questions answered before making a commitment.
In addition, be extremely wary of any requests to wire cash. Use a credit card for added protection. Compare the deal to others and be wary of super-low rates. If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.
Other hotel alternatives include trading homes at HomeExchange.com and peer-to-peer renting.