One of our biggest challenges for family travel involves the complication of finding a place for all us to sleep at the end of a fun filled vacation day.With at least two kids that are bigger than I am, and two more that are rapidly catching up, we can no longer all cram into a single hotel room. It certainly doesn’t make for a happy and memorable vacation when we all wake up the next morning irritated from being piled on top of each other.
Booking two hotel rooms is a possibility, but it’s not the best option. The best option, by far, is booking a vacation rental home. With a home rental, we can get twice the space at half the cost, and even make choices for amenities like a large kitchen or backyard play area that make our vacation feel more like home. We all breathe a little easier with some space to call our own, but we also make better memories when we stay in a vacation rental. The layout of a ‘home away from home’ easily beckons us to cook a healthy meal in the kitchen and then gather around the table for a board game before bed.
So, booking a vacation rental is, by far, the better choice, but it’s not quite the same process as booking a hotel. There are a few extra steps and a few tips we have learned to get the best home rental whenever we travel.
Six Steps for Booking a Vacation Home
1. Choose a reputable company who can protect your investment and make the process easier. Sure, you can browse Craigslist and take a chance on renting a vacation home from a guy named Leon, but is it really worth it? Just say no and instead choose a rental company that offers some form of protection for your transaction. When looking for a vacation rental near Disneyland, we chose Homeaway because they offered the largest selection and a secure payment system where the owner of the property never needed to see our credit card information. The search system easily allowed us to search for the size and amenities that would fit our needs, and simply contact the owners through a secured email system that protected both parties.
2.Start your search earlier than normal. Vacation rentals offer unique amenities that can be tailored to your family’s needs. This makes them ideal, but it also means that the perfect property can be in high demand, and once it’s booked, you are out of luck. Start looking for a property as soon as possible so you can have the best choice that fits your family.
3.Browse properties by your needs, and don’t forget to read the entire listing. Looking for a perfect vacation property has all the appeal of shopping for a dream home, with none of the inconvenience of putting everything into boxes and moving. This is the perfect chance to enjoy a gourmet kitchen, or backyard pool, or that extra bedroom for the kids. Reading the entire listing will also help you to learn about the little extras that make the rental more memorable. At one vacation home, we found bicycles and sleds in the garage just waiting for a family to come along and play. Those little details made it easy to book that home for our family.
4.Contact several properties at once. Sort your favorite properties into a short list and make contact with the owners to see if the dates can be booked. Your first choice may already be booked or have owner blackout dates, so it’s best to have a backup property (or two) in mind.
5.Make it personal. Even though you are using a rental service, the transaction is still one family renting from another. Keep in mind that while you might be taking a chance that the property will be exactly how it appears in photos; the owner is also taking a chance that you won’t show up and trash their property. When you make contact, let the owner know a little about you and your family and how you can see that their house will fit your needs. There’s no need to go into your kids’ ages and birthdates, but let the owner know that the playset in the backyard will be perfect for the little ones, or you can’t wait to cook a big meal in the gourmet kitchen. Those little personal exchanges endear the owner to you and make it easier for them to accept your rental request.
6.Get a phone number, and use it. Calling the owner before you arrive assures that you have all the details settled, but also gives an extra layer of protection to make sure that you are renting from a real person and it will be a good fit. Calling will allow you to ask any questions you might have, and let the owner share any info that will help make your visit memorable. This is a great time to ask if there are any extra charges that haven’t been discussed and if there is anything unique to the property that you might need to know. You will also need to have this phone number should anything go wrong while you are staying at the property. If the owner is not in charge of repairs, be sure to get the number of the person you can contact should the plumbing overflow in the middle of your stay.