Vacation rentals have been gaining traction since the 1960s, but the internet era's sharing economy radically changed the way people approach booking alternative accommodations. Even still, there are plenty of vacationers who have yet to give holiday rentals a whirl.
That's probably because booking a home can be a little more labor-intensive than booking a hotel room, with (most likely) additional quirks along the way. However, the freedom and financial benefits are worth the extra elbow grease. If the goal is to reunite old friends under one roof, give your extended family a place to spread out, pull off a special event, guarantee seclusion and privacy, or all of the above, a rental home may be your best bet. Here's how to get into the vacation rental mindset, courtesy of the editors at Fathom for Paisly by JetBlue.
1. Name Your Desires
Location. Big kitchen. Private pool. Spacious layout. Before you begin your search, be clear about what you want and need from your home base. Some occasions call for good, clean basics. Others call for a one-of-a-kind locale. Figure out exactly what you need, and you'll be set up for success when you minimize your pain points and troubleshoot challenges in advance. Let's say you are traveling with your in-laws and want to be close — but not too close: One way to accommodate multiple families or extended families is to book adjoining condos or multi unit properties. It gives everyone privacy and space they need. If you're short on time but want to get in on the action, look for a place located close to the stadium/town/festival you're planning to attend. Have kids? Look for rentals that cater to them so that you don't have to schlep all of your own high chairs, baby beds, books, and swim toys. Be prepared to pay more for the things that are most important to you.
2. Be Proactive
The process for renting a home can be more involved than booking a hotel room because, at the very least, you'll have a little back and forth with the owner/manager of a property to vet each other and get a sense of any quirks. Do your due diligence: Sometimes a property has its own website as well as a listing on a booking site, and it's a good idea to check both to see if there are any differences that might make a difference to you. Don't forget to look at online reviews and match photos to make sure everything lines up. Being proactive means you also want to ...
3. Book in Advance
An especially good idea when there is a special event or holiday or sporting event happening in your destination of choice. (This is a good rule of thumb for booking hotel rooms, too.) Review the cancelation policy and/or confirm any details you might be confused about before you book — and get in touch with the booking company, the owner, or the property manager if anything isn't clear or if you have questions or concerns that haven't been addressed by the info listed. (And don't forget to read the fine print!)Vacation rentals often allow for a grace period, and it helps if you have already established a good rapport with the person managing the rental.
4. Maximize Your Local Connection
You can dig up a real treasure trove of information when you are in touch with the person who owns or takes care of the condo/house/bungalow you just booked. Ask your new friend to share all their good intel! Get the lay of the land, learn about secret swim spots, find out about mom-and-pop restaurants, the best footpaths to the beach, the tastiest stalls at the farmer's market, the ideal times to snag dinner reservations, etc. Consider the local connection a major plus: This is where staying in a home can give you an insider perspective you will not get from staying at a 700-room hotel.
5. Be a Good Guest
Check in and check out according to the homeowner's guidelines. Be specific and communicative with feedback and areas of improvement. Give honest and non-judgemental reviews that can help future guests. (You can glean a lot from a thorough review.)
Before You Go
So now that you've found the perfect rental, here's a quick checklist to make your stay extra perfect:
- Pack the items that will make your vacation house feel like your home: your favorite snacks, tea bags, house slippers, candles.
- Confirm that the accessories and amenities mentioned in the listing are actually on the premises: pool toys, baby gear, bicycles, strong WiFi, you name it.
- Queue up additional services: private chef dinners, at-home massages, airport transfers.
- Share the contact and any pertinent info with guests in advance and add the property manager's phone number and email to your contacts.
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