Tips for Finding Vacation Rentals

By Tammie Jo , last updated January 9, 2012

Whether your vacation plans will find you lounging on a sunny seaside, swooshing down the slopes or enjoying the vineyard view from a medieval Italian village, finding the right vacation rental can make or break the entire event. A property that turns out to be less than it was advertised for is not only disappointing, but it can also be costly or even dangerous. By following a few basic tips, you can make sure to find the vacation rental that meets all of your needs and the only surprises during your vacation will be the kind you enjoy experiencing.

Start Searching Early

Don’t wait until your vacation is right around the corner to start searching through rental properties. Even if you’re traveling during the low season, if you wait too long you may find that the available properties are few or undesirable. Plan your search according to the popularity of the destination. For instance, if you’re traveling to Cancun during the spring break season, start shopping for lodging six to twelve months in advance. If you’re traveling to Cancun during the off season, a few weeks in advance may be all that’s needed.

Set Your Budget

Searching for a vacation rental before you’ve set a realistic budget is a waste of time and effort. Even worse, window shopping outside of your budget can set you up for being disappointed with the rental you ultimately choose, and you don’t want to spend your vacation thinking about the great condo down the street that you couldn’t afford. Being honest about your budget from the beginning will help you find a rental faster and prevent any lingering “rental envy” once you reach your destination.

List Your Requirements

There are some things you can’t compromise on when choosing a vacation rental. The number of bedrooms, wheelchair accessibility, or location may be your personal sticking point. Make a list of your “must-haves” before you start shopping for a rental property. Being clear about your needs will save time when you speak to a rental agent or search properties online.

Along with the amenities you must have, there are also those you would like to have. Depending on your budget, niceties like an outdoor grill, swimming pool or fitness room may be out of your reach. Compromising on location may mean more bang for your buck, but if being too far from the beach or town center will lessen your vacation experience, the additional features may not be worth it in the long run.

Read the Fine Print

Did you know that not all vacation rentals provide basic items like linens or dishes? Failing to read the details of a rental contract can result in unexpected costs and inconveniences. Be sure you understand the check-in and check-out policy, the security deposit and methods of accepted payment, extra fees for pets or additional guests and the cancellation policy before signing a contract. If you’re booking the property long-distance, ask for a variety of photos; any reputable rental agency or private owner will be happy to provide them.

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