What You Need to Know About Vacation Rentals before You Go

That time of year is finally here. You know what I'm talking about, the one or two weeks you get every year to escape from "real life" and just be you. Relax, eat and drink well, enjoy your family, catch up on some much needed sleep. But, before you pack up and head out, rethink the all-too-normal hotel stay. Believe it or not, you have options, one of which is the vacation rental.

Would not it be nice to leave your own home, arrive in your destination city and settle into a "home away from home" for your next vacation? That's what vacation rentals are all about. These are homes waiting to be rented by people on vacation. Each holiday rental owner will have different criteria in what type of renter they are looking for, each holiday rental house will vary in amenities, and each price will depend on the time of year and the length of stay. So, it sounds like a great idea, but how do you figure out how to make it all happen? Not a problem. Below you will find answers to frequently asked questions about vacation rentals.

What are the advantages of a vacation rental

Do you ever wish to have a vacation rental? your hotel room had just a little more personality? Yeah, I thought so. Well, renting someone else's home for your vacation might just be the thing you're looking for. These vacation rentals are more like living in your own home. They offer more privacy than hotel rooms and most rentals have a kitchen area for cooking, which in the end will save you money if you prepare some of your own meals.

You will enjoy several rooms, and maybe even different levels, instead of one big room where the whole family sleeps. Many owners will leave information on things to do and see in the local area. Vacation rentals are clean, friendly, comfortable and inviting.

Most of the vacation rentals tend to be cheaper on a per night basis than their hotel counterparts. By renting directly from the owner you will avoid taxes, tips and other extraneous charges. However, there is a wide variation between cost factors based on a number of factors

What are the disadvantages of a vacation rental?

Of course, there is always the other side of the coin. As vacation rentals are not usually monitored by a central management company, you'll only know what you're getting into when you actually arrive to your rental. Many owners require pre-payment, or at least a large deposit fee, before arriving. Therefore, if things are not the way you anticipated after arriving, or if you find your dwelling unacceptable and decide to head to a local hotel, you may lose any money you prepaid. This is also true for last minute cancellations. There is no refund. You always run the risk of getting less than you expected, but it's rare.

Most times, vacation rentals tend to be cheaper than an average hotel room per night. But not always, so make sure you are comfortable with the price you will be asked to pay.

Another disadvantage to vacation rentals is the lack of a managing member on site to deal with any problems that you may encounter with the home or during your stay in general.

What amenities are included in a vacation rental?

Since each rental is owned by a different owner, each will include different amenities. Some come with swimming pools, hot tubs, others with golf packages, and horse stable privileges.

Most vacation rentals come with the essentials: TV, equipped kitchen, towels, linen, and everyday appliances, but it never hurts to ask these questions when searching for the perfect place.

What types of rentals are available?

Pretty much any type of dwelling that you would like to live in during your vacation is available somewhere. From studios in downtown Manhattan to a villa in the south of Spain, you'll be able to find what you're looking for. The range of available options is both boggling. Additionally, every week, month and year there are new opportunities as owners put their homes up for only a few weeks or months of the year, the choices are constantly changing

Are vacation rentals available only in the US

Vacation rentals are available worldwide. They can be found in every state of the US and almost every country in the world. Do not be fooled by their different names, though. Vacation rentals are also known as holiday cottages, tourist rentals and holiday rentals. If you are looking for one in Europe, the Italians call them agritourism, while the French say gites. If you are in Germany you will be looking for a holiday home (yep, try to say three times fast with a bratwurst in your mouth!)

Regardless of what you call it, however, a vacation rental is a great option for those

How do I find a property?

There are several ways to go about finding the perfect vacation rental for your next trip. Check with your local travel agent to find someone in your area who specializes in finding owners and renters and getting them together. Another option is the yellow pages. Finally, there is a wealth of information on the Internet. Type in a search for "vacation rentals" and over 13,300,000 websites can be found just on http://www.google.com alone. Some websites only vacation rentals in the United States while others specialize in vacation rentals worldwide. There are some sites that will allow the potential renter to look for a residence by specific search criteria such as a particular destination, certain number of bedrooms and types of amenities that are included in the property.

Most of the vacation rental services on the Internet is only the "go-between" or the "classified" section of the newspaper. They take no responsibility for the truth or correctness of the ads that are listed on their sites. So, do your homework by making phone calls, speaking with the owner and asking specific questions.

If you do not feel comfortable with the whole renter / owner thing, there is another way to rent a vacation home. Some companies are strictly buying and renting homes to vacationers. They offer a bit more security so that you feel that you are getting what you bargained for (though nothing is ever 100% fool proof). Additionally, sometimes these agencies will give you cancellation insurance. In other words, if you cancel before arriving, they may be able to refund a portion of your deposit or payment instead of keeping it as most owners if a cancellation occurs. With some agencies you will find that you pay a higher price than going directly to an owner. This is how the agencies make their profits. There are always pros and cons to each scenario. Ensure you know what works best for you

How much should I expect to pay?

This is a tough question to answer. The amount you are paying will depend on what country or state you are visiting, the number of days you are staying, and the type of house you are renting. Some of the owners offer package deals including tickets or sightseeing events along with the rental, others include bonus days if you stay for a certain length of time. There are other owners who can offer free or add-on house cleaning services while staying at a great deal to make sure you have everything you need, even additional items such as a crib, highchair or wheelchair. Each holiday rental will be completely different from the next.

Do you have any hidden fees?

Hidden fees usually only emerge after you've arrived. These may include extras for telephone calls, house cleaning services, extra person charges, excess heat and air-conditioning bills, pet deposit, computer access … etc. Again, be extremely thorough when interviewing the owner of your prospective vacation rental. Ask about any "extra" fees, or if the house is "all-inclusive". Do you have free access to all the pantry and food items? How about the laundry supplies? All utilities? It never hurts to ask!

Vacation Rentals

In summary, cover all bases by asking lots of questions. Getting your agreement in writing is also a very smart idea. After these basics are out of the way you will be ready to take off for your home-away-from-home vacation rental. Try one this year and see for yourself that vacation rentals can be a fantastic way to truly enjoy the full enjoyment of your next vacation.