A pampered hotel stay is certainly nice, but living like a local can give you a unique perspective on a new city. If you look beyond hotels, you can find the right vacation rental and enjoy savings and perks like a full kitchen to cook in, a yard to run around in, and maybe even a private pool to swim in.
Is a rental right for you?
Financially, vacation homes make sense when you’re traveling in a group. They typically charge the same rate no matter how many occupants there are, whereas hotels like to bump up the price per person. Of course there is a trade-off—you can’t call the maid for more towels or ask the front desk to quiet down your neighbors.
Beware of scams.
These scammers are after an upfront payment or your personal information, going to great lengths to make rentals seem real like stealing photos of actual homes and giving you fake keys. Don’t pay upfront or through wire transfer and be leery of really low offers especially if you find them in the classifieds. Websites like VRBO.com and FlipKey.com can offer peace of mind. Just read disclaimers and customer reviews carefully.
Choose dates wisely.
Many rentals require you to book for a minimum number of nights. It could be difficult to find a 2-night only weekend rental during popular summer months. Some rentals will give you a discount when you rent by the week. Or, hold off on summer vacation till mid-August when peak season is over in most places.
Read the fine print.
Read your contract carefully. What are the requirements for getting your security deposit back and how soon will you receive it? Are your responsible for cleaning or is there a housekeeping service and who’s paying for it? Who can you contact during your stay if there is an urgent problem like clogged pipes or a broken AC?
Final Word: Using your credit card can be like having travel insurance, giving you protection when issues arise.Use PayPal or go through an online rental service. Some sites like airbnb.com will hold your payment in escrow until 24 hours after check-in, giving you enough time to do a walkthrough and report if anything was misrepresented.