Deciding on the best vacation rental may be one of the most time-consuming tasks that you will do this year. You only have to take a look at some travel forums to be inundated with horror stories of holidays gone wrong. AirBnB has taken some real flak in the last couple of years, with accounts of false advertising, abusive hosts, scams and even imprisonment! So how do you make the best choice of where to stay whilst also eliminating some of the stress?
Where do I start looking?
AirBnB, for all it’s sins, is the obvious choice. VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) is another popular choice. TripAdvisor is also a heavyweight on the vacation rental scene, with it accounting for more than 70% of all holiday rental traffic. HomeSuite has rentals for longer stays and 9flats also has plenty of options.
Try to be as clear as possible in your search. The filters are there for a reason. So if you want a pool or a beach view, then make sure you include it in your search. Make sure that your rental has WiFi and accepts pets, if necessary. If you are travelling with babies or young children, it is worth trying to find out if the home has facilities, such as high chairs, sleeping cots or even strollers. Most importantly, be extremely specific with dates, even if you don’t have any particular time in mind. This will help you narrow down potential choices.
If you don’t know the area in which the rental is located, do some research online first. Check out TripAdvisor or even Google to see if the area is safe, has amenities and is quiet (if that’s what you want).
Make sure that you read all the reviews on your potential rentals. Try not to become too fixated on the worst reviews, but select a few of the 1* commentaries and see if there is any common theme that you have to look out for. Remember, these are all entirely subjective and what might bother one holidaymaker isn’t so important for you. If there are no reviews at all, try to avoid this listing and if they have only 5* reviews, proceed with caution. Many rentals pay friends and family to leave 5* reviews to boost their profile, so look for something a little more balanced.
Before you book
Make sure that you read all the terms and conditions extremely carefully and try to engage the owner in a conversation clarifying all of the points. Ensure that this is in writing rather than by phone so that you have a record if anything goes wrong. Some people choose to have a contract drawn up first, but don’t be surprised if many rentals don’t provide this service. When it comes time to make the payment, make sure that you pay with a credit card. Credit cards offer the most protection against fraud and if you find yourself in difficulties, you should be able to claim any lost money back. If you have to pay with cash, and try not to, get a receipt from the landlord. Most sites, including TripAdvisor, have a safe pay option when you pay through their site. Finally, your quote should include all taxes, deposits, booking and admin fees, cleaning fees and any refundable damage deposits.
Last but not least
Always buy travel insurance. If you run into any problems, there is nothing worse than having to pay through your nose for additional expenses.