7 Secrets to Booking a Great Vacation Rental

booking a vacation rental - Oshkosh home by Twelve Springs

The number of vacationers that are now choosing to stay in a vacation rental has doubled since 2008. With this number rising, some vacationers are navigating sites like Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO for the first time. Such listing sites are full of vacation rentals.

But how do you choose a good one?

How do you weed through them all to find the perfect vacation rental for your family vacation?

Here are 7 tips for booking a great vacation rental.

1| Choose a vacation rental that caters to your party’s needs.

booking a vacation rental - oshkosh home by twelve springs

First and foremost, book a vacation rental that will suit everyone in your party.

If you’re traveling with small children, choosing a rental that comes equipped with a high chair or booster seat and a crib is a must. You may even want to consider the livability of the home, choosing one that has an open floor plan and not too many breakable objects or heavy bookcases.

If you’re traveling with teens, there are vacation rentals that feature game rooms with pool and ping pong tables; even play stations and board games.

If you’re traveling with colleagues from work be sure that there are enough bedrooms and bathrooms so everyone can have their own space.

If you’re planning a week away with girlfriends, you may want to choose a place that’s near shopping centers, day spas, or the downtown district.

In short, make sure the vacation rental you choose has adequate amenities for everyone in your party.


2| Choose a vacation rental that’s not someone’s actual home.

booking a vacation rental - eileen home by twelve springs

In other words, book a vacation rental that’s meant to be used exclusively by vacationers. This can be tricky, but usually the giveaway is in the photos on the listing.

If the pictures include the home owners’ personal items or their kids’ personal items, then it’s safe to say that the owners use the home more often than vacationers do.

This can truly make a difference in your vacation experience. A home that’s used exclusively by vacationers will give you and your family the luxury of enjoying a home away from home together. This way you won’t feel like an intruder amidst the awkward presence of someone else’s photos of their last family reunion or their great Aunt Mildred.

Sometimes the homeowner mentions this in the listing description, but to be safe you may want to ask about the usage of the home when you inquire on the property’s availability.


3| Choose a vacation rental with a responsive property manager.

booking a vacation rental - eileen home by twelve springs 2

Usually the home’s listing will specify whether you will be corresponding with the owner or the property manager. If the property manager takes awhile to respond to your initial inquiry, that’s a good indication of what to expect during your stay.

The property manager is typically the one who will book the home for you, send you any necessary information related to your stay and address any issues related to the home that come up during your stay.

The property manager is also typically the person you can ask for local recommendations of places to eat or things to do in the area. Read the reviews carefully to see how responsive the property manager has been for past guests’ issues.

4| Choose a vacation rental with complimentary wi-fi.

booking a vacation rental - helena home by twelve springs

If wi-fi isn’t included in the nightly rental rate, but instead is additional or not present in the home at all, it certainly makes you wonder if that vacation home owner is living in the 21st century.

If they don’t keep up with the times, it would also be questionable as to how well they keep up the interior of the home. Before you book, double check that wi-fi isn’t something you have to pay for once you’re staying in the home.

Also, in case you will heavily rely on the internet during your time there (for Skype, live streaming, work, etc.) be sure to inquire about the strength of the internet connection.

5| Choose a vacation rental that includes a washer and dryer.

booking a vacation rental - maverick home by twelve springs

The perk of booking a vacation rental is that a washer and dryer is included. Some may even provide their guests with laundry detergent and dryer sheets in the home’s laundry area.

The convenience of laundering your clothes on the property is a nice reason to pack less. It’s also a nice amenity to have if your vacation involves spending every day in the sand at the beach. If you have small children, having a washer and dryer on the property will save you the hassle of packing food-stained clothes.

Plus, coming home with clean clothes in your suitcase helps take the stress out of the days immediately following your homecoming.

6| Choose a vacation rental with a driveway.

booking a vacation rental - oshkosh home by twelve springs 2

This will allow you to easily park your car without worrying about street parking regulations and possible ticketing.

If you don’t plan on renting a car, you will want to inquire about walking distances from the home and public transportation options so there are no last-minute surprises.

7| Understand the fees and fine print.

booking a vacation rental - fine print

Once you find the perfect vacation home for your trip, the last thing to do before you book is to understand all the fees that are included. Be sure to ask if there’s a deposit, when it’s returned to you and under what circumstances it would not be reimbursed to you. Don’t forget to ask what the cancellation policy is in case your vacation plans change.

In order to protect yourself from a scam, never agree to wire transfers or to pay cash when you arrive on site. A wire transfer is an easy way for a stranger to take advantage of unknowing renters and paying in full beforehand ensures that there are no double bookings of the property. These are red flags for a vacation rental scam. In addition, a vacation rental that operates under a trusted source will have a short-term rental permit attached to it.

7 Secrets to Booking a Great Vacation Rental

Photos from Twelve Springs and Unsplash.

Author: Andrea

Originally from Oklahoma, Andrea has traveled to 30 countries on 4 different continents and is now, along with her husband and daughter, happy to call the OC her home. Together they enjoy being outdoors, exploring new local places, and finding fun things to do as a family in Orange County.