We've traveled using vacation rentals for years. It actually started when a friend of Mike's invited us to Deep Creek, Maryland for a weekend couples trip in 2006. I'd never stayed at a rental and was immediately intrigued because around that time I'd caught the travel bug (a symptom of meeting my now husband) and it seemed like a fun way to have a home away from home which was both economical and experiential. Here are a few things I like to look for when planning a vacation rental getaway:
Before I fall in love with a place from the pictures or amenities I look at the reviews. Not just how many stars but I read a sample of reviews. The reviews often tell you more than just feedback about the house. You'll find information about the surrounding area, distance from activities or even owner/management response time. Even the bad reviews are helpful. Reviews are opinions based on our lens. So what may bother someone may not bother another. For instance, I could care less about the quality of the washing machine because I don't plan on doing laundry on vacation. So read through a few reviews before moving on to the fun stuff!
When scrolling through accommodation options I can almost tell from the first photo if it is a place I can see myself, friends or family enjoying. I like to look at the common spaces first. I close my eyes to see if I can envision laughter in that space. I then move to bathrooms, then bedrooms. Are the linens white? If yes, that usually indicates that bleach is involved which to me is a plus! Is the décor dated? Remember, this is a getaway not a visit to grandma's house. Does the space have a freshness to it? We all know that angles and lighting can make photos deceiving but if you look through you can usually weed out the imposters.
Often times when I rent with my girlfriends it is more of a retreat so there are times that we don't even leave the house. When booking vacation rentals I try to look for homes that offer some of the amenities that we wouldn't normally experience at our home. For me those extra comforts are:
Unique entertaining space
This can get a little tricky because some rentals inflate their natural bed count with the use of pull-out sofas, bunks, futons etc. Those could help or hurt depending on what type of trip you're planning. Traveling with a bunch of littles? Bunks are fine. Taking a couples trip? You'll want to confirm that each couple has their own private bed and bath if possible. So I like to read through the description provided which will usually outline the amount of rooms, bed size and bathroom configuration. After I check through that I try to follow the story of the photos to see exactly where things are and if the description matches. If you still have lingering questions don't hesitate to contact the owner/management team for clarity.
If you're traveling for a holiday with family think about bringing family pictures for the living room space to make it feel a bit more like home.
Hosting a group? Consider a cute party favor or welcome basket for each guest or room.
Traveling within driving distance? Shop at home and bring your food/drinks with you. I can't be the only one that knows their local grocery store like the back of their hand. Shopping at home will save you time, money and allow for more time to spend with family.
Take it a step further and cook before you leave. Cook, throw it in the freezer then leave it in the fridge to defrost.
Order out the first night. Who wants to travel then cook/warm.
Traveling international? A lot of vacation rentals offer additional services including private transportation, chefs etc.
Book with sites that offer terms you understand. I prefer to book with www.vrbo.com if I can't book directly with the management company. For instance when I rent in Hilton Head I book directly with the incomparable https://www.beverlyserral.com/ I love her places because I love to entertain and the properties she manages come with everything you need!
As always, if you have any questions don't hesitate to reach out. Happy Planning!