Booking a Vacation Rental: What You Need to Know
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The trend toward staying in vacation rentals feels like a very 21st-century behavior — but like a lot of things, the truth is that it is not necessarily more common of late. It’s just much easier thanks to the Internet.
We have some great resources on the wherefore (Vacation Rentals: Right for You?) and the where (Finding a Vacation Rental) of booking vacation rentals. Together these articles outline some of the reasons you might want to find a vacation home and how to go about it. It is critical to remember you are not paying for a hotel room from a worldwide chain with established policies, more or less consistent quality control and another room down the hall if your own room is a dud.
Instead, you are going to be renting a house from an individual, with all of the personal quirks and potential conflict that might go with it. Even if you go through an agency, in the end the owner’s expectations and proclivities are just as important as yours, and you want to be aware of this fact from the get-go.
In the absence of some of the amenities hotels can offer (on-site restaurants and small convenience stores, room service, a stock of toiletries behind the front desk, and even shuttles to airports and attractions), you will want to get a handle on the following issues and questions when you chose a vacation rental. Read on for essential tips for renting a vacation home.
Be Not Afraid
Before I start, and lest the following scare anyone off a vacation rental, I should say that under the right conditions, a vacation rental can offer an experience like no other. Very few hotels offer doorstep access to tide pools, a garage full of bikes, an unobstructed view of both the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, a direct view of a major sporting event, or a surf break out front — but I have enjoyed all of these at vacation rentals, including some on work trips!
Things to Know, Questions to Ask
Rather than rehash the specifics of any problems I’ve encountered, following is my catalog of questions to ask or investigate based on the various experiences of fellow travelers, which will help you anticipate almost all the issues you might encounter with a vacation rental.
Upon Arrival: Do the “Rental Car Damage” Review
When you arrive, the first thing you’ll want to do is walk the property to try to find anything that is broken, and then get that information to the owner or agency right away. Think about it in the same way as you would a walk around your rental car before you drive away; do this as soon as you arrive and before you start using things (the equivalent of “still in the rental car lot” for a car rental).
Good Traveler = Good Neighbor
Part of the point of getting a vacation rental is to get out of the zoned hotel locations and into the neighborhood among the people who live there. Go outside, show your face, introduce yourself, play on the basketball court, use the bikes, even connect to the Internet from the porch. You never know, you might run into your grade school teacher.