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Vacation Rentals: The Best Value in Travel

I’ve talked up vacation rentals quite a lot in the past. They’re an outstanding value, often providing more room and amenities for your travel dollars than a typical hotel. Rentals can be found in all corners of the globe, from ski destinations to world capitals, spring break beaches to secluded shores. They come in all shapes and sizes, from condo rentals to cozy cabins, sprawling chalets to city apartments.

Fully equipped kitchens allow you to cook some or all of your meals, thus saving money over pricey restaurants. Larger spaces enable groups to travel together and split the lodging costs, offering more affordable per-night rates overall than hotels. The trade-offs? No room service, no daily maid service, and no concierge (for the most part). However, after pricing out rentals versus hotels, you may find the savings from rentals are worth making your own bed on vacation.

Want to see just how much you can save with a vacation rental? Take a look at the following put-to-the-test experiments, where I compare rentals in five popular destinations to suite-style accommodations at local hotels.

Each trip is based on four adults traveling together in spring, splitting the cost four ways. The results (and some savings in particular) are eye-opening.

Hilton Head, South Carolina

I found a one-bedroom penthouse condo rental on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. For $123 per night, you get:

  • One bedroom with a king bed
  • Living room with a pull-out couch
  • Two bathrooms, one with a jetted tub
  • An outdoor pool, deck, and patio
  • Fully equipped kitchen
  • Washer and dryer
  • TV with DVD and VCR

The total cost for a five-night stay comes to $615 before taxes. Split four ways, the condo rental works out to $154 per person (or $31 per person per day). That’s quite a bargain.

I then priced a deluxe hotel room with two queen beds at the Hilton Oceanfront Resort, also on Hilton Head Island. For $229 per night, you get:

  • A private balcony
  • A mini-kitchen with microwave and refrigerator
  • High-speed Internet access
  • Television
  • Access to the resort’s pools, fitness center, private beach, and outdoor recreation facilities

The total price for the hotel room over five nights works out to $1,145, or $286 per person. Broken out per day, the per-person cost is approximately $57.

You decide: The hotel, in this case, costs $26 more per person, per day than the vacation rental, and comes with significantly fewer amenities. You’ll also have to account for having more restaurant meals, and paying for laundry. However, you will get daily cleaning service and access to the resort’s many facilities. Which would you choose? Let us know by leaving a comment below!


An apartment rental in Paris’ Latin Quarter includes:

  • Two bedrooms, each with a private bath
  • Kitchenette
  • High-speed Internet access
  • Cable television

The property is a five-minute walk from Notre Dame and features antique furnishings. It’s available for €1,050 per week (or $1,465, see for current exchange rates). Divided between four people, the cost works out to $366 per person, or $52 per person per day.

Compare this apartment to the Adagio City ApartHotel—Paris Opera. The suite-style room features:

  • One bedroom with two single beds
  • Living room with a double sofabed
  • Kitchen
  • One bathroom
  • High-speed Internet access
  • Cable television

The hotel room costs $2,904 for a one-week stay, or $726 per person. The per-person per-day charge works out to $104.

As a traveler who likes to have some downtime after exploring, I love that the apartment has two bedrooms—convenient if one wants to take a nap or rest while others may still have energy to burn. The apartment’s two bathrooms also add extra convenience. Given that the apartment is about half the price of the hotel, I’d go with the rental in this case. Leave a comment and let us know which one appeals more to you.


Rentals are ideal for family vacations, as you’ll have more space for the kids to relax, as well as extra amenities (such as a pool) to make downtime more entertaining. A resort condo rental, one mile from Disney World, rents for $109 per night and includes:

  • Three bedrooms
  • Screened-in balcony
  • Fully equipped kitchen
  • Use of the property’s pool and fitness center
  • Cable television
  • High-speed Internet access
  • On-site parking

The total cost for the condo rental for a four-night stay is $436, or $109 per person. The total per-person charge, per day, comes to $27.

Alternatively, the Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando International Drive offers suites from $99 per night. Each suite features:

  • A kitchenette
  • One king bed and one sofabed
  • Two television sets with cable programming

Guests also receive daily complimentary breakfast; use of hotel’s fitness center, pool, and whirlpool; and parking. The total cost for a four-night stay totals $396, or $99 per person. The per-person, per-day cost is $25.

In this case, the vacation rental costs $2 more per day than the suite-style hotel. Although the hotel does offer daily breakfast, I’m still a stickler for space. When comparing amenities side by side, I would pay the slightly more expensive price to get the three bedrooms, the full kitchen, and other perks—and enjoy my morning coffee in the enclosed balcony, even if I did have to pay for and brew it myself. Which one sounds better to you?

Breckenridge, Colorado

A condo rental in Breckenridge, Colorado, may be a popular choice for groups of skiers, be it families taking a few days on the slopes or friends taking some time off for a wintry getaway. The condo features:

  • Two bedrooms, each with a king bed
  • Two bathrooms
  • Living room with sleeper sofa
  • Full kitchen
  • Internet access
  • TV with VCR
  • Fireplace
  • Access to the property complex’s pool and hot tubs

It’s also a five-minute walk from both ski lifts and downtown attractions. The cost is $360 for a four-night stay, or $90 per person. The per-person, per-day cost is $23.

Or, there’s the Quality Inn & Suites Summit County in nearby Silverthorne. Rooms feature:

  • One king bed
  • One sofabed
  • Kitchenette with refrigerator and microwave
  • High-speed Internet access

Guests also receive daily continental breakfast, discounted ski tickets (in season), and use of the hotel’s heated pool, hot tubs, and fitness center. Total costs work out to $560 for a four-night stay, or $140 per person. Broken out per day, the per-person cost totals $35.

In this case, I would do a bit more legwork to determine the value of the discounted ski tickets from the hotel. If the savings were substantial, that and the daily breakfast might be enough to convince me to choose a hotel over the vacation rental in this case. If the savings were less than stellar, I’d go with the rental. What can I say? Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a fireplace for less are just too appealing.


A land of sprawling resorts, Cancun may not be the first place you think of when considering vacation rentals. However, I found a one-bedroom condo in the Hotel Zone featuring:

  • One bedroom with two double beds
  • Sleeper sofa
  • Full kitchen
  • Cable television
  • Internet access
  • Outdoor grill and patio
  • Pool

The condo is available for $49 per night, or $196 for a four-night stay. The cost works out to $49 per person, or an astonishingly low $12 per person per day.

By comparison, the Omni Cancun Hotel and Villas offers suites with one king or two double beds and a living room with sofa and cable television; some have balconies with ocean views. The hotel is on beachfront property with cabanas and also has three pools facing the ocean. The cost for a four-night stay at the Omni totals $1,116, which works out to $279 per person, or $70 per person per day.

In this case it’s a no-brainer: $12 per person per day makes for a very affordable vacation, and the condo comes with plenty of amenities for such a low price. I would book the vacation rental. Readers, what would you do?

Your Turn

For me, in most of these cases, it would be hard to pass up the vacation rental. As a traveler, I really enjoy the extra space, the ability to wake up and have coffee and breakfast while still in my pajamas, and the cost-saving possibility of cooking some meals at “home.” I also love the local feel vacation rentals provide, and the chance to stay in neighborhoods often not served by both major and smaller hotels. And as a frugal traveler, it’s hard for me to pass up the savings vacation rentals typically offer.

Do you agree? Disagree? Tell us about your vacation rental experiences by leaving a comment below!

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