10 Things to Know When Renting a Vacation Home

By: Anna Fleet

Renting a vacation home can be a more affordable getaway for families. Why? For starters, you’ll get more amenities will a private house vs. a hotel room—including a full kitchen where you can prepare most of your meals, a place to park with no additional charge, and private bedrooms and extra space that you don’t have to pay extra for.

So whether your vacation home dreams include a beach view, cottage setting, urban, or cultural accommodations, here are ten things to know before charging you sign the rental agreement…


1. Start Looking Early

Many vacation homes can book up months prior, so once you have your dates you can start researching early on. Look for accommodations with positive traveler reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, many early birds can also snag a deal.

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2. Trust your Instincts

If something doesn’t sit right—you’re right to walk away. For instance, if you don’t hear back from the rental agent or owner after emailing and calling, chances are they will be just as speedy with service if something goes wrong during your visit. Take it as a sign and look elsewhere.

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3. Rent from the owner

I say that because owners know the most about the property they are renting so they can recommend nearby attractions, provide directions, and give you little tips that you can’t get via a rental agent. Also rentals via owner tend to be cheaper because they don’t carry a 10- to 20-percent commission.

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4. Nail down exact location

Owners will not be forthcoming with exact address up front for understandable security reasons. However before you rent ensure that the property you’re renting is beachfront and not beachside as far as relation to the attractions you desire.

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5. Get it in writing

If you’re renting overseas, you may have to rely on the internet for your booking. However, deposits and paperwork still apply even if you’re using a credit card or PayPal for bookings. Whatever you do always request an electronic copy of the receipt and avoid wire transfers, which are commonly scams.

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6. Ask about extras

Renting a home differs from booking a hotel in that you may need to bring your own towels, bedding, toiletries, hair dryers, etc.

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7. Know the cancellation rules

Even the most steadfast of vacation plans can be halted by an emergency illness, death, weather catastrophe, or work obligations. That’s why it’s important to know the cancellation policy and to purchase emergency travel insurance.

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8. Ask for a virtual tour

Even though you’re not physically able to see the property, you can always view it online. If the owner has no website, they can still snap photos to give you an idea of the type of accommodations as well as the location, amenities, and relation to the nearby sites.

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9. Is the home pet-friendly?

Many family vacations include the family dog or cat, and many private rental homes are happy to accommodate if you put down a pet deposit to cover any damages (you’ll get this back if the rental is left clean). This is also a good question if a family member has pet allergies—you don’t want to stay in a house that regularly accommodates cats if there is a cat hair allergy.

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10. Are there any hidden fees?

It’s wise to ask for a grand total, including all fees, before you make payment. This way, a hidden fee for house or pool cleaning, extra security deposits, or utilities doesn’t surprise you and ruin a perfectly good vacation.

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