Vacation Rentals: What You Need to Know

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Vacation Rental on the Beach (Photo: iStockPhoto/Joseph Brewster)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on May 26, 2009. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: hotel, Sarah Pascarella, vacation rental.

What's a Vacation Rental?

A vacation rental is a lodging option for travelers, and can consist of a variety of accommodations types: homes, apartments, condos, and the like. Typically, vacationers book a rental through an individual property owner or a property management company. Rentals are fully furnished, usually feature equipped kitchens, and may have extras such as a pool, a hot tub, a deck, etc. Vacation rentals are found everywhere in the world, from ski chalets to high-rise apartments, oceanfront bungalows to quiet country estates.

How Does a Vacation Rental Differ From a Hotel?

Because a vacation rental is a type of home that is being rented out, a vacation rental typically gives travelers a lot more space for their money. They are ideal for groups: one rental can accommodate everyone in a group under one roof and price, rather than the group having to reserve and pay for several hotel rooms.

Transactions are a little different from hotel bookings: Owners and managers will usually have a rental agreement, agreed upon and signed by the traveler, before money changes hands. A rental agreement will stipulate all terms of the rental, including length of the trip; price (per night, week, or month); security deposits; check-in and check-out procedures; policies for cleaning, pets, and the like; and other applicable requirements.

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What Are Some Advantages to Vacation Rentals?

Vacation rentals are an incredibly good value for your buck. In addition to the extra space, often with several bedrooms, living and dining areas, porches/decks, and pools, you'll also get fully equipped kitchen facilities. The option to cook your own meals offers savings over expensive restaurants. Rentals also are fully customizable with your group size and interests. If you're looking for a city condo, a house right on the ocean, a mountainside villa, or even something completely different, chances are you'll be able to find a vacation rental property that suits your needs and budget.

What Should I Watch Out For?

Make sure the property owner or manager is reputable and that the property is in the advertised condition. Be sure your rental agreement stipulates any areas of concerns, such as return of security deposits, any applicable fees, cleaning responsibilities, additional charges for extra guests, pet policies, etc. If you have any questions or concerns, address them in writing before putting down your deposit. You may also want to look into travel insurance to protect your vacation investment.

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