Finding a terrific vacation rental property has never been simpler with the internet. Vacation property owners can post their homes online and you have a wide variety of choices at your fingertips. The hard part is finding the right home for that if right for your next trip. Here is what you should know about renting your next vacation home.
Going direct to the owner of the rental property can give you more choices and better prices, but that also means that you may be exposed to more risk should something to awry. Here are some things you need to consider :
1. Decide where you want to go
Do your research. Talk to work colleagues, watch travel shows, read guidebooks and drop by visitor bureaus and ask your friends for recommendations. There are half a million vacation rentals around the globe to choose from so the more you narrow your focus the better.
2. Make sure your timing is right
Start your research at least six month in advance. There are a peak tourist times for every destination such as the Songkran festival in Thailand (their version of April Fool's Day), Octoberfest in Germany, and the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Be in the know of the major tourist events at your destination as that could significantly change your experience. At popular tourist spots you may want to consider traveling in the off season to save costs and have a wider selection to choose from. Many owners will negotiate with you and knock 10 and even 50 percent off from the non-peak times so ask for a discount even if they are not advertised.
At the very least, give yourself at least a month to negotiate your best deal even during the off-season.
3. Be open to options
Look at rental listings from four or five sites to get a feel for your options at the destination you desire. See what is available, what you get for the price and the rental policies such as cancellation penalties and minimum night requirements. Look at what you are getting compared to what the nearby hotels offer and are charging, and weigh the options. Ask yourself if you are getting a good deal considering you won't be getting daily maid service, room service, an onsite restaurant and bar or other hotel amenities. Then decide what is best for you. A condo on the beach that is twice the size of a beachfront hotel for the same money, but when you realize you can't order a mai tai by the pool when you get there, you may have regrets.
4. Once you decide on your rental options, call them directly
Find out if your desired dates are free with a real person, despite the fact that the dates appear vacant on the website. Also, when you get a live person on the phone, ask more questions about the property that is not available on the website like what's located next to the property, what the layout of the property, can we get more photos, is it quite, how is it furnished and any other details you are curious about. You can weed out a lot of choices by email first. If you ask a question and don't get a response back for a couple of days, assume that that responsiveness is what you will get when you rent the property and look for another option.
5. Conduct your own research
Log into the Google and check out the address of the rental property on Google satellite. You may find that there are unpleasant natural barriers and although you may be a few yards in distance from the ocean you thought you could walk to, but find that you need to cross a busy highway with no cross walk and have to take an taxi. Also, by typing in the exact address of the property in Google, you can where the owner is listing his site and how he is describing it as well as see any negative reviews that may be posted on blogs or review sites.
6. Call our final choices again and ask more questions
Once you narrow down your list to a few contenders, call them live on the phone again. Tell them what your situation is, how many people in your party, how many kids you have, what ages there are, what you plan to do and anything else on your mind. The more questions you ask the less surprised you will be later. You will also pick up subtle things in the answers you receive like the tone of voice, confidence, and excitement that will help you to drill down to more detailed questions. In conversation you may find out that the property is located on a very busy street or in an unsafe neighborhood, for example.
Key Questions to ask are:
a. What is included in the price? Breakfast, linens, stereo?
b. Are there going to be any additional charges or fees?
c. Can you clarify what walking distance to shops, the pool, attractions mean?
d. Are there going to be other renters on the property or am I the only one there?
e. Is the rental unit safe for children and child proof?
f. Can I get my deposit back on checkout?
g. Can you clarify the sleeping arrangements?
h. Does the cost of the rental change by number of guests?
i. Is the kitchen stocked with appliances and dishes?
j. Where are the nearest shops, restaurants, attractions, malls, hospitals?
k. Is there air conditioning?
l. If there is a problem, who do I call and what is the response time?
7. Get references
Even though the reviews on websites may be biased or even written by the vacation rental owners it's in your best interest to check them out. Call them on the phone verses email as you will get a much better feel for the rental talking to someone rather than writing them. Plus you may get more information on things to see and do as well as potential red flags.
8. Bargain with the Price
Rental home owners are always willing to bargain if they can still make money on the rental. Even if its during a busy season, there may be a last minute cancellation and the owner would be happy to rent the property at a discount verses not renting it out at all. Especially if you have a couple of options at your disposal, it can't hurt to ask.
9. Look at the your payment options
If you don't like the payment options that are proposed for the property ask for an alternative. A credit card payment would be the easiest and give some protection to you if something should go wrong. If actual money exchanges hand before you arrive and something goes wrong. You may never get back your money even though you are entitled to it. Most foreign countries prefer a wire transfer and if you are not comfortable with that there are other options you can negotiate. Do not pay with Western Union or a money order as they do not offer a record of the transaction and are the choice of method for scam artists.
10. Carefully read your contract
Make sure you read the contract word for word. Mistakes happen and things that are discussed are forgotten so make sure everything that you wanted in your vacation rental is documented on the contract for your protection and clarification. Simple things like finding out breakfast is not included even thought that was discussed and was written on the website a couple of months ago could throw a damper on things.
11. Vacation Insurance
Because the cancellation policy on some vacation rentals, especially in foreign countries are very stiff you may want to consider vacation insurance. The cost of insurance is a percentage of the cost of your package so this may be especially important on large cost vacation splurges.
12. Look at the log when you check in
When you check in take a look at the comments from past guests, you may see some comments that you want to address with the owner immediately as well as give you some good suggestion and tips for your stay.
13. If you see any problems, contact the owner immediately
Big or small, if you seen any issues or problems with your rental call the owner immediately. If a chair is broken, or there is a stain on the rug, or a mirror is cracked, even if it's not going to ruin your trip you need to let them know not only to help make your stay more enjoyable, but to make sure that you won't be blamed or charged for these items.
These points should help make your vacation rental vacation as good an experience as possible. However, it is important to keep an open mind with realistic expectations. Even though you do all of the research mentioned above, you will still come across things that you did not expect like the color of the furniture, the ugly wall paper and so on. Assume the best intentions and don't let minor issues ruin what could be the best vacation you've ever had.