When I was growing up, vacation accommodations encompassed a handful of options: a hotel or motel, camping or staying at a friend or relative’s house.
Over the past decade or so, the concept of staying in someone’s home has exploded into one of the most successful aspects of the travel industry—vacation rentals. With the advent of the Internet, social media and an increasing number of vacation rental-related cable travel shows, one can find literally any type of vacation rental property. From a great place for a family reunion to offbeat rentals for kids, a romantic getaway for two, a ski holiday or the best places to tie the knot or spend your honeymoon, you can find something to suit your particular needs, desires and budget.
The benefits of choosing a vacation rental over a hotel room are numerous. First and foremost, industry experts say you can find a rental in popular destinations priced at 50 to 80 percent less per square foot than the average hotel room. Other benefits include the convenience of a kitchen for preparing and enjoying meals (and without the added expense of eating out your entire vacation), roomy bedrooms and bathrooms, a laundry room, large gathering spaces, a pool and/or hot tub and places that accept pets.
As you might imagine, there are a plethora of companies that specialize in providing you with those resources at the click of a button, each possessing their own distinctive areas of expertise.
Billed as the world’s leading vacation rental marketplace, HomeAway, founded 11 years ago, has a tagline that reads like one of singer Marvin Gaye’s greatest hits: “Let’s stay together.” The company features over 1 million listings in 190 countries, including some they refer to as their favorite “drool-worthy properties” in Barbados, South Africa, England, the Maldives and Thailand, just to name a few.
Whether looking to rent an apartment for one night, a houseboat for a week or a beach house for a month, Airbnb has something for you. Founded in 2008, the company has accommodation listings in more than 34,000 cities around the world and boasts more than 25,000,000 guest stays to date. The website even features their own special Airbnb picks, such as the “Best of Bali,” “Modern European villas,” “Boats on Land,” “Underground Homes” and “Horse Ranches,” among others.
Featuring close to 300,000 vacation homes located in over 11,000 cities around the world, FlipKey is the vacation rental entity of the TripAdvisor Media Group. Reportedly possessing the largest collection of authentic guest reviews and photos in the travel industry, they also offer over 5,000 daily special deals on their website.
Want to have someone do the search work for you? Then choose Tripping, billed as the world’s largest search engine for vacation rentals. The site, which features over 2.5 million rentals ranging in 100,000 destinations worldwide, helps vacation seekers save time and money by comparing properties from the world’s top rental sites. Their offerings range from tropical bungalows to modern city apartments, oceanfront mansions and everything in between.
For those who may be new to vacation rentals, here are a few vacation rental planning tips:
Do your homework
Check numerous sites to not only find the rental you desire, but also to compare prices to assure that you are paying what may be the standard industry price for the location and time of year you are traveling. Sites that offer traveler reviews (and social media links where you can read unfiltered reviews) can also provide you with more insight into what you may be getting.
Stay off the beaten path
Even though you may want to be right in the thick of things, you can save a lot of money by searching for a rental property a bit further from the center of town.
Get it in writing
Besides the usual check-in and checkout times, the number of guests allowed, where smoking is acceptable, etc., the rental agreement will provide you with more of the particulars of your rental, including any special house rules.
Ask lots of questions
Once you’ve narrowed down or selected your vacation rental, contact the property management company or individual homeowner to get the skivvy on anything that may not generally be mentioned on the website or rental agreement, such as the amount of parking available (and where), if the rental is wheelchair accessible, if it has a full oven with stovetop or just a microwave or hotplate, if there are any child/animal security gates, and so forth. You want to know anything that specifically pertains to your particular needs.
You may want to go the best beach in destination “X” in July, but that may also be the most expensive time of year. Consider making your trip during what is called the “Shoulder Season,” which varies, when the weather will be just as nice but there won’t be as many people and the prices will be a lot lower. On the other hand, if you want to get away at the last minute, instead of maybe searching for a specific location, check various sites for great last-minute deals. You just may find a location you never heard of that turns out to be the best vacation you ever had!
Lysa Allman is the publisher and editor of Amazing Escapades. offering “Adventures for the Mind, Bod and Belly” (www.amazingescapades.com). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.