Why rent a hotel room when you can have a whole house or apartment? I have been using vacation rentals for over ten years. They are usually cheaper than a hotel and provide things that hotels don’t offer or offer at a higher price. A vacation rental gives you room to spread out and feel at home. You have a kitchen to cook in, if you like, and save the cost of eating out. If you travel with kids, they can have their own room and TV. Most vacation rentals also provide free internet service and use of a washer and dryer, so you can travel home with clean clothes, or extend your vacation for a longer period of time.
The downside of vacation rentals is that it is more time consuming than booking a hotel room. You must search through various housing options and then contact the owner to make arrangements. You also don’t have daily maid service.
If you try vacation rentals you open a world of possibilities. Below are examples of places I have rented:
1. A two bedroom apartment in San Francisco, near Golden Gate Park, with free parking garage: http://www.vrbo.com/276394
Cost of three nights in September 2012: $692 vs. Handlery Union Square Hotel (one hotel room) $632 plus parking of $20 to $34 per day with no in and out privileges.
2. A one bedroom apartment on the Thames in London. http://www.tripadvisor.com/VacationRentalReview-g186338-d3947350-Luxury_1_bed_by_the_river-London_England.html
Cost of three nights in September 2013, $650: $1,013 vs. Holiday Inn (one hotel room) $1,226
3. A one bedroom apartment in the Irish countryside:
Cost for a week in September 2012: $455 vs. Tudor Inn (one hotel room) $738
4. An Alaska house for two couples with a killer view: http://www.vrbo.com/108588
Cost of three nights in September 2012: $1,025 vs. Best Western (2 hotel rooms) $912
So, how do you book a vacation rental? You can start with a worldwide vacation rental web site such as www.vrbo.com, www.homeaway.com, or www.holidaylettings.co.uk. You can also search for a country specific web site. (Note that in Europe you need to search for “self catering”, while in Australia you search for “self contained”.) You can generally find links to apartments or vacation rentals on specific location web sites. Below are a few examples:
There are different types of vacation rentals:
1. Individually owned and operated: In this case you deal directly with the owner, usually via email. The owner may or may not accept credit cards. Most owners accept PayPal, so you may need to create a PayPal account. Be aware of cancellation policies.
a. You may or may not be asked to sign a rental agreement.
b. These units are sometimes the owners second home, in which case the property may contain the owner’s personal property.
c. Some units are simply rental income properties.
d. In a few instances you are renting the owners actual home and they move elsewhere during your stay.
2. Individually owned, but managed by a property manager: In this case you deal with a property management company.
3. Condominiums and timeshares, offered by the owner: These are specific units in a larger complex that are owned by an individual. These may be managed by the individual or a property manager.
4. Condominiums and timeshares, managed by a property manager: In some instances you will find a timeshare or a corporate rental property. In this case there may be multiple units available.
Length of rental varies. You need to review the information for each rental. Some rentals require a minimum number of days, but some will allow one night rentals. Before you send the inquiry check the availability calendar (if one is posted) to ensure your dates are open. Many of the web sites allow you to search based on your selected dates.
I generally submit inquiries, via email, on five to ten properties and then whittle the list down based on amenities, proximity to local activities and the owner’s terms and conditions. I sometimes ask for additional photos of the unit and sometimes make inquires about access to public transit. Each destination has it’s own little quirks. As example, I just rented a house on the Big Island of Hawaii and wanted to know if the house had a view of Maui, so I asked for additional photos. When I rented a three bedroom condo in Washington, DC for ourselves and our two granddaughters, I asked about access to the Metro line.
I ALWAYS purchase travel insurance, since cancellations generally require forfeiting some or all of the amount s paid to date. You can shop and compare travel insurance at www.insuremytrip.com.
I hope you will check out a vacation rental for your next stay out of town, or the next time friends or relatives come to visit.