Finding the perfect vacation rental can be time consuming. You can get lost in the many, many options that are available. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of horror stories from travellers about how their vacations were ruined by a bad rental. If you do your research and protect yourself, you should be ok.
Where to look for a rental?
VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), Airbnb, and Tripadvisor account for about 70% of all vacation rental traffic. But there’s also Homesuite (for long-term stays), Roomorama, Wimdu (mostly for Europe), and 9flats.
Use the filters to narrow down your search. Do you want a pool? How many bedrooms? Wifi? Do they allow pets? Beach access? Ocean view? And definitely use the date range you want, even if it’s just an estimate. There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect rental, only to discover it’s not available on the dates you want.
Do a bit of research on the area you want to stay in if you are unfamiliar with the city. I find the Tripadvisor forums to be very helpful for this aspect. Use the map aspect available in most rental sites to see exactly where it’s located.
Check the reviews
Reviews of each rental are key. I weed out a few of the worst and best reviews and concentrate on the rest; that will give you a nice cross-section. Someone is always going to hate a rental for a minor reason and someone else will give unwarrantedly glowing reviews. I am wary if there are no reviews at all and tend to avoid those listings.
When you’ve chosen the perfect place, get a contract that spells everything out and review it before you spend your hard-earned cash. Use a credit card if you can, they offer the most protection against fraud and liability; Paypal is good too, but do research any fees you may incur. Avoid paying for a rental with cash or money orders as that is the easiest way to get scammed. If you must use this method, get a receipt. Many sites have a protected pay system that safeguard your payments.
Always ask for a complete quote including taxes, booking fees, cleaning fees, and refundable damage deposits.
If your travel takes you out of the country, get travel medical insurance; it’s inexpensive and easy to get. Nothing will ruin a vacation faster than a trip to the hospital.
Be prepared, then prepare to enjoy your rental.