The rise of Airbnb and similar booking sites has expanded the reach of vacation rentals. While hotels are convenient, they can feel sterile and unimaginative. When you stay at someone else’s home you feel more comfortable. This is a place they take care of, and they’re opening it up to you. But as with any trip, there are a few tried and true vacation rental tips you want to follow to ensure your trip is relaxing and enjoyable.
#1 — Research the location
The first step to any successful vacation is knowing where you’re going. You should not book a trip until you research the place where you are planning to travel. Once you are educated you not only have affirmation, you begin to feel that wonderful excitement of getting away. The purpose of vacation starts to unfold.
The proximity of the hotel is often key in relation to the activities you are planning. While some people don’t mind driving to certain tourist attractions, others want to avoid putting their kids in cars over and over again and dealing with traffic.
With that in mind, look to see where your potential rental is located. Is it far from places you want to visit? Is it within walking distance? Consider how far you’re willing to travel to certain attractions before booking.
#2 — Ask questions
This is by far one of the best vacation rental tips out there. When pursuing options, don’t just
rely on the images and written information. If there’s something you don’t see on the main page, write to them and ask. Read through the entire page first and compose a thorough email with questions from A to Z. Don't assume anything unless it is clearly described.
Do you want to bring your pet along and there’s nothing noted about pets? Ask the owner. Do you have a toddler and don’t want to haul the baby gate with you? Ask if they provide one.
Homeowners can’t read your mind. They may not have a similar lifestyle so it’s important to get all your questions asked before booking. To prepare, come up with a few to have at the ready. If any place you’re looking at doesn’t check a certain box, remove it from the running.
#3 — Discuss the lease agreement
Properties you find through a realtor or in other special cases often require a lease agreement. If the owner is represented by a realtor this process will exclude interaction with the owner. All financial transactions will be dealt with at the time the lease is presented.
When you receive the lease agreement, I highly suggest you consult with a lawyer in advance of signing. It’s far better to read through agreements and contracts with a fine-tooth comb as it will protect you and the homeowner.
If there’s something in the lease agreement that you don’t understand, ask. Either your lawyer or the homeowner. Be sure to ask for a copy for your records on the off chance anything arises after your stay.
#4 — Read recent reviews
Images tell a story. Reviews tell another one entirely. When deciding on a place, check the latest reviews. And I mean latest. Don’t read reviews from two years ago. Look at any from the past 3-9 months.
When reading reviews, don’t focus so much on the mundane comments like, “the decor was pretty.” Instead, focus on the comments that talk about the safety of the place. Or the cleanliness.
If you read something in a review that sets off a red flag, you can do one of two things. You can reach out to the owner and ask how they have improved since this review. Or you can take the place out of the running.
#5 — Remember this is not a hotel
There’s a whole other set of vacation rental tips when booking hotels, which is why this tip bears repeating. Your summer rental is NOT a hotel. It is someone else’s home. It is a place they may either live in for the better part of the year or vacation to. Either way, it’s important to remember this going in.
Hotels offer daily room service. They’ll turn down your bed if asked. They bring fresh towels upon request. They provide housekeeping service. Don’t plan on any of this when you rent a home. Most homeowners will state that upon arrival there will be fresh towels and bedding. But if you want fresh ones, you’ll need to clean them yourself.
Demanding daily service isn’t going to get you anywhere. Neither is asking for clean towels every day. If there’s anything you need, be courteous. And again, before booking, ask the homeowner what their policies are if you don’t see them written on the main page.
Ask the homeowner about what items are available in key rooms like the kitchen, bath, playroom, and pool. Most homeowners will pack up certain items for safekeeping. Knowing this will give you ideas as to what you need to bring with you.
#6 — Know the amenities
Another thing you need to know before booking is the amenities. Not every rental is the same and so it’s important to know what you want from a place where you’re considering a vacation.
Do all the rooms need AC? Check to see if they do. How do you get on the Wi-Fi? Is there a communal swimming pool? A fitness center? Access to laundry? How about garbage and recycling; what do you do with it?
Again, most hotels offer these common amenities but not all vacation rentals will. Make sure you know what you want and that any potential place on your list has them all.
Request a list of all services companies from the owner. This can include:
Also, don’t be afraid to ask about the frequency of maintenance on these services.
#7 — Follow the rules
When it comes to vacation rental tips, this rule should go without saying. But we’re including it anyway. Oftentimes, homeowners will leave a set of rules and policies at the rental. Some may even email them to you earlier once the booking is complete and the deposit has been paid.
Read through these rules carefully. These aren’t the Terms & Conditions you skip through when signing up for something. These rules should be read and followed to the letter. Imagine if someone came into your home and disregarded your rules. How would you feel? Please make sure you’re following the rules of the homeowner.
When going over them if there’s something that isn’t clear, reach out to the owner. Trust me, they would rather get questions from you than come back and see their home destroyed.
#8 — Report issues immediately
What do you do if you’re in a hotel and a light bulb burns out? You call the front desk and they send someone up to fix it. If the toilet is broken or there’s a hole in a sheet, you call the front desk.
When you’re staying at a rental, don’t let issues go until your trip is over. Something like a light bulb being burned out is an easy fix. You may need to ask the owner if they keep any spare bulbs around. But for larger issues make sure to contact the owner immediately.
What are some major issues? If an appliance breaks. If the plumbing or electricity acts up. If a door breaks or window cracks. These things happen. Don’t wait until you’re safely back home to let the owner know. By waiting you could be causing more damage and incurring expenses for yourself when you learn they have deducted the money from the security deposit.
#9 — Pay your security deposit
The security deposit is super important for any tenant. No matter your length of stay, this step is one of the last you’ll do prior to arriving. It’s requested before you pay the full fee for the property. This is to secure the dates you selected and to start the needle moving in the next direction.
Often, after the security deposit is paid, you and the homeowner will start to handle more of the paperwork side of things. This is where you can request service companies, get more information about what items are available in the rooms, and so on. This is also when the lease agreement comes more into play.
Your deposit is calculated on a fixed percentage of the rent. The deposit will be returned after a review of the home following your departure. Any damages will be deducted from your deposit.
#10 — Remember this is a partnership
No matter how experienced a traveller you are, these tips are the make or break for a successful, stress free vacation. Do your research, ask questions, and follow the rules. Remember that the homeowners can rate you as well so be respectful, clean up after yourself, and make this a partnership worth repeating.
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And we want to know: Have you ever had a bad renting experience? Do you have any vacation rental tips that you swear by? Share them with us in the comments below.