Friday, November 8, 2013

Are Vacation Rentals Right For You?

I love vacation rentals! I almost exclusively stay in them when I travel for more than a couple nights and people are often surprised to hear that. Folks either think it’s strange to stay in someone else’s house, or that they are only for family beach vacations. But there are many reasons, in my opinion, why you should consider a vacation rental for your next trip!

Yep! This is a vacation rental in Paris!

One of the primary reasons I love vacation rentals is that they tend to be more affordable then hotels. Most are small homes or apartments that are priced more like hostels. And in most cases, these accommodations are not the owner’s primary residence, so you don’t have to worry about finding personal belongings hiding in drawers.

This past September I stayed in a vacation rental in London for $155 a night which included a small kitchen, queen size bed, private bathroom, and a 24 hour doorman in a good area of town. For the same price I could’ve stayed in a budget hotel with shared bathroom and no kitchen in a slightly less desirable area. London is pricy to begin with, so you can imagine what kind of deals you can score in other cities.

 London flat rental in Bloomsbury
Learn more about my My top 10 Places to Visit  and Budget and Spending in London

In addition to lower rates, you also save money by having a kitchen. Granted you are on vacation so you probably don’t want to cook, and I agree, so I usually only have breakfast at home. I eat out the rest of the day and have some snacks, and a bottle of wine, handy to unwind after a busy day of sightseeing. If you are staying for a longer period of time, many rentals also have washers and dryers too.

Size and Experience

Vacation rentals tend to be more spacious then hotels. And if you’re anything like me, you hate being cramped with nowhere to put your stuff. I once stayed in a full size 1 bedroom flat with a living room, kitchen, and balcony in Paris. It felt great to have all that space especially in Europe where even nice hotels are tiny. If you are traveling with friends, it’s no fun to stay in a hotel where you can’t spend time together. Renting a home is an amazing option. Everyone can have their own room but still hang out together. And once you divide up the cost over several people, it can be extremely inexpensive.
Santa Barbara vacation rental - Long weekend with friends including a hot tub and bbq!
Santa Ynez vacation rental - Bachelorette party complete with pool and hot tub!

When I travel, I try my best to blend in with the locals. I know that’s sometimes that's hard to do when you are standing in line at the Louvre, but still, I try. I enjoy popping by the local grocery store to pick up food, setting up my little kitchen, and coming in and out of an apartment rather than a hotel. It really makes me feel like a local.

Flat in Paris - Read more about spending Thanksgiving in Paris

Still concerned?

I will admit that I won’t rent a place that doesn’t have at least a few reviews and I will only use reputable sites. I won’t risk my vacation and money on being the first guinea pig.
It can be a scary thing to send your money into the world and trust that there will be a place for you to stay when you get there. In all the years I have been renting, I have never had any trouble. As long as you are smart and safe, you won’t either. Here are some tips and advice for booking a vacation rental.

Tips and advice for booking a vacation rental

1. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If the rate is significantly lower then other rentals or the owner is willing to give you a ridiculous deal, it’s probably a scam.

2. Use the internet to your advantage and do a little cyber stalking on the owner. See where their Facebook or LinkedIn says they’re located, do they seem like “real” people? Google the phone number, what pops up? Google chunks of the rental description to make sure it was pulled off another listing.

3. Read the reviews carefully and look for clues. I almost rented a place with only one review that turned out to be a scam. You know what tipped me off? The one review was supposedly written by an American man but used words like “holiday” and “lovely.” What American dude do you know that talks like that?

4. Never ever wire money. The other thing that tipped me off was the owner asked for a bank transfer. Reputable owners will accept credit card or PayPal and will not ask for the entire amount up front. A deposit is ok and paying a certain percentage upfront is also ok.

5. Trust, safety, and security. Familiarize yourself with the protection that is offered by the company you are using. Many sites offer some type of insurance but from what I have read (not experienced personally) their liability is extremely limited. For example, you probably will not get your money back if you show up and the place is filthy, but you might if the home was blatantly misrepresented, like number of rooms differs from the ad, for example.

6. Pay attention to fees in addition to the nightly rate. Private owners will usually only charge a cleaning fee but rental companies may tack on booking fees, taxes, processing fees, pooling heating fees, or other nonrefundable fees. Always ask for the grand total.

Cape Cod vacation rental with private beach - Even Dino was allowed to come!
Here are a few reputable sites that I have used and you can trust.
Except for one minor incident with an unethical Airbnb host, I have had great success using vacation rentals all over the world and hopefully you do too! If you have any questions regarding any of the rentals pictures here please contact me.

And if you liked this post or want to share your thoughts, please leave a comment!


  1. I'd stay in a vacation rental even if they weren't cheaper than hotels - they're just so much more cozy :)

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  4. Hi,

    I really like your post!
    Today you'll find that going on vacation can get expensive with all the costs of hotels, but for a much affordable amount you can get apartment rentals that make vacationing more affordable. You may also look at luxury carrol gardens apartments if you are planning for vacations.

    It's definitely easy to see that an apartment rental is a great choice when you're longing for a relaxing vacation. So many benefits are available and with a apartment rental membership, you can save big time, allowing you to go on a nice vacation, even when your budget is a bit on the tight side.

    Thanks for being sharing...
    Keep it up!!

    Tom Smith

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