Advanced Vacation Rentals: 9 Things to Know
Renting a reliable vacation home isn't easy.
And not just because there are a seemingly endless number of rental resources to turn to -- everything from local sites that list a few condos to big listing services like HomeAway.com or VRBO.com.
For me, it's the politics.
This summer, for example, I told my mother that I planned to rent a condo on the beach. Within two days, my sister and brother had invited themselves over, boosting our numbers from five to more than 30.
A rental home can save you a lot of money when you're on vacation. But this one would almost certainly cost me a lot more.
There are an estimated 1 million vacation rentals in
Renting a home for 30 isn't like booking a hotel room, or even a vacation cottage for a family of five.
"The consistent challenge we hear from travelers is predictability," says TJ Mahony, the chief executive of FlipKey.com, a vacation rental site. "People tend to know what they are going to get from a hotel, but can have anxiety over the quality of a vacation rental."
I asked experts to identify the biggest challenges when renting a home. Here's what they told me:
1. Knowing what you want. Prioritize your rental. That's the advice of
2. Timing your purchase. If you're in town for a special event, like a sports tournament or festival, it's never too soon to book a vacation rental. "Vacation rentals are more scarce than hotels and great vacation properties are even scarcer," says Chris Brusznicki, the chief executive of GamedayHousing.com, a site that specializes in rentals for sports events. But if there's no reason to be in town, you can run down the clock. One terrific new site that allows you to bid on "last-minute" vacation rentals is a site called PackLate.
3. Finding out what you're renting. It probably goes without saying that you need to do your due diligence on a rental. "Do your homework," says
4. Finding out who you're renting from. "Research the owner, not just the home," says
5. Determining if the rental is part of an association or destination. That can make a big difference, according to
6. Becoming a power user. For example, VRBO.com allows you to filter search results by area, bedrooms and the number of people it can sleep. That helped
7. Avoiding group-think. Extended families like mine should be broken up into smaller housing units, such as adjoining condos, as opposed to fitting them into one house. It gives everyone more privacy and is easier on the finances, because you don't have to argue over the bill at the end. "Sometimes a big house works for some families," says
8. Reviewing the contract very carefully. You're not checking into a hotel; this is more like renting an apartment. Watch for contract language, such as cleaning options.
9. Staying flexible. Remember, you're renting an apartment or house -- not a room in a hotel. "Some things may go wrong," warns
Needless to say, tenting a vacation has its challenges. "The process for finding a vacation rental home is more involved and sometimes even difficult," says
I hope she's right. I'll let you know what happens this summer.
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(c) 2010 U.S. Christopher Elliott, The Travel Troubleshooter
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