Home Away From Home - Finding The Perfect Rental
Tired of cramming your family
into a single hotel room, or longing for more space to relax and
spread out while on vacation? As nice as hotels are, they sometimes
aren’t big enough—especially if you brought the kids along or plan
to settle in for a week or more. When staying at a hotel, there’s
also the hassle and expense of eating out for every meal. Wouldn’t
it be nice to have a kitchen right there and not have to dress to go
out and eat? Instead of checking into a hotel, consider renting a
house, apartment, condominium, cabin, or cottage on your next
vacation—they tend to be more spacious and have amenities that are
more like home.
A vacation rental is a relatively hassle-free
getaway option. Renting a vacation home can be cheaper than a hotel,
and can even give you a taste of local culture as you stay among the
residents. Better yet, there are a lot of rental properties that are
close to attractions—including beaches, lakes, theme parks, and ski
slopes—so you can maximize your recreation and relaxation
Finding a Good Rental Rate: Try the
As great as vacation rentals may be, finding a
good price has become more difficult than in the past. For several
years now, my family and I have enjoyed renting vacation homes. In
the past, we had rented the same beach cottage on Cape Cod for one
week every summer. Unfortunately, last summer, the owner informed us
that he was upping the rental rate from $1200 to $1700!
talked to one Cape Cod real estate agent who told me that rental
rates are going up because the number of summer homes keeps
dwindling as more people are buying second homes. All these new
buyers tend to live in the houses themselves, reducing the number of
available summer rentals.
Sadly, because Cape Cod has become
increasingly overcrowded and overpriced, it was time for us to move
on. Thus, last October, I began my search to find the perfect
vacation rental. In the past, the only options to find a rental were
to use realtors, ads in newspapers and magazines, or referrals from
friends and family. However, the Internet has become a great tool
for finding a vacation rental as well as an inexpensive way for
owners to highlight their rental properties.
I ended up
finding the perfect rental in Maine through A1vacations.com, which
advertises and promotes vacation rental homes for homeowners and
rental agents online. Currently, A1vacations lists 1800 properties
in its database, and it has a nifty search function that lets you
narrow down your choices by location, price, number of bedrooms and
bathrooms, type of view, disability access, and more. The rental
property we found was a spacious three-year-old contemporary home,
with great views and all the modern amenities you would want. And
for only $850 a week, it was even less than our previous Cape Cod
Renting Is Worldwide
accommodations isn’t just for this side of the pond. Even staying at
a moderately priced hotel in Europe can be expensive, especially if
you bring your kids along. Many European hotels only allow three to
a room. For the average family of four, that means renting two hotel
rooms—a budget buster for most families.
writer, Durant Imboden, renting apartments in Europe is the only way
to go. He says, “It’s usually cheaper—or at least you get a lot more
for your money—and you can enjoy a taste of what it’s like to live
in the place you’re visiting.” This past year, he and his family
rented a three-bedroom apartment in Venice. Imboden says, “It cost
less than a double room in a three-star hotel.” He adds, “It came
with a private courtyard, a washing machine, and a modern kitchen
that was big enough for the whole family to eat in. It was quite
literally a home away from home for the two weeks that we stayed
However, if you plan to rent in Europe, Imboden
recommends that you also do some homework before you go. He says,
“websites of local tourist offices in Europe often have rental
listings, and you can find web links to agencies that handle
apartment, chalet, and villa rentals at sites like Europe for
He adds, “Be sure to compare prices. Local
rental agencies in Europe are often cheaper than U.S. agencies,
which tend to focus on upscale properties.” For example, he
mentions, “British rental agencies frequently offer good deals,
especially in popular vacation areas like Tuscany, the Algarve, and
the South of France.”
Imboden has written extensively about
Europe and has one of the best Internet sites on Europe at About.com’s Europe for
Things To Consider
you go. Because rental homes are individually owned and decorated,
they can be unpredictable and are often not up to hotel standards.
Using the Web can save you from getting a sub-par rental. In my
case, the Web allowed me to view many homes, amenities, and
surroundings within a few clicks.
Ask some additional
questions. Traditional realtors or brokers often provide photos and
an outline of rental properties. What these photos and outlines
usually will not show is the rental property’s immediate
surroundings. The place itself may look quaint, but you may also get
more or less than you expected. You’ll need to find out about the
neighborhood and ask questions like the following: Is the property
on a busy street or a quiet road? If there is a beach nearby, how
close is it?
Keep in mind that rental rates vary by season.
You can usually save money if you take your vacation before Memorial
Day or after Labor Day. Beach locations usually have high seasons
between June and Labor Day, and spring and fall are usually slow
seasons across the board. On the flip side, remember that at
mountain destinations, summer rentals aren’t quite as expensive as
Other Questions To Ask Before You
To avoid any unwelcome surprises (and perhaps
discover some nice ones), ask the rental agency or owner of the
property the following questions:
By taking the time to do your own thorough research,
you will ultimately save yourself and your family from a vacation
- Is there a minimum stay requirement? If so, what is it?
- Are there any extra charges, if so what are they?
- How much is the security deposit, and when will I get it back?
- What is the cancellation policy?
- What amenities does the property have? (Usually, linens,
kitchen utensils, dishes, and coffee makers are included. Ask
about TV, radio, kitchen appliances, and telephone service.)
- What are the sleeping arrangements? (Ask how many beds per
room and what sizes the beds are.)
- How many bathrooms are there, and do they have tubs or only
- Is there a washer and dryer?
- Is there air conditioning or central heating?
- Is there a special hot water heater? Is it automatic? Will I
have access to temperature controls?
- Is maid service provided, and how often?
- Is there a cleaning fee? If so, how much?
- Must I supply my own cleaning products?
- Where can I buy basic provisions?
- How will I get the key to the property?
- How do I return the key?
- What do I do in an emergency?
- Who do I call if something breaks down?
- What if I simply hate the property? Can I exchange it?
- How do I get to my vacation home from the airport or train
station? (Many agencies and owners supply maps and detailed
directions, but ask for them anyway.)
- Will someone meet me at the airport or station, or at the
- Do I need a rental car? Where can I park a car if I bring
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