If you’re tired of the sibling squabbles, sleepless nights, and cabin fever associated with staying in a cramped hotel room, consider a new kind of vacation. A vacation home provides you with all the comforts of home; more space to spread out, a larger kitchen to cook in, separate bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, and perhaps a yard for the kids. Staying in a vacation home also gives you the feeling of actually living in your chosen destination rather than just visiting it.
Staying in a vacation home doesn’t necessarily cost more than staying in a hotel. You’ll most likely find that the vacation home’s cost is competitive, perhaps even significantly cheaper. If you’re interested in renting a vacation home, here are some steps to follow.
1. Start early. Six months to a year ahead is ideal, but for really popular destinations you may want to book even further out. There are only a set amount of homes in each area and the best ones rent quickly. Many popular destinations have families that return year after year.
2. Determine your needs. Things to think about: the number of bedrooms you’ll need, cost per night you’re willing to spend, where you’d like to be located (center of the action versus tucked away), and what amenities you can’t do without (washer/dryer, microwave, DVD player, multiple TV’s, grill etc.).
3. Find available homes. Do a Google search on “your destination + vacation rentals” to find rental companies. Also look at chamber of commerce websites, travel brochures, and guidebooks. Realtors in popular areas often provide vacation rental listings on their websites. You should be able to read a brief description of each property and see photos. If you’re interested, the company can frequently email additional photos.
4. Consider an independent rental. Websites like VRBO.com (Vacation Rental By Owner) offer thousands of listings for areas all over the world. Most include detailed descriptions of the houses or apartments available, plus photos and an availability calendar.
5. Get it in writing. Whether you go through an individual or rental company, get a written contract stating when you’ll arrive, what the terms of the deposit are, and what will be provided to you.
6. Make a deposit. You’ll usually be asked to put down a few hundred dollars at the start. Request a receipt and note any additional responsibilities you have to fulfill, such as when the balance is due.
7. Pay the balance of your rental. A few weeks before you arrive, you’ll usually be asked to send in the balance of your rental. Send it in early and call to be sure they received it.
8. Re-read your contract. Note any additional responsibilities you have, such as picking up the key or coordinating with trash pickup or cleaning services. Also check if linens are provided, sometimes you’re expected to bring your own.
9. Obtain your key. Information on how to do so will be provided in your contract, the key may be left in the door for you or you may need to stop by the rental office to get it. If you do go to the rental office, get a map of the area and ask questions (such as which grocery store or pizza place is best).Rental agencies often have useful travel and dining guides as well.
10. Enjoy yourself. Don’t forget to schedule in time for just hanging out in your borrowed home. If you enjoyed your experience, talk to the rental company about returning next year.