6 Tips for Choosing a Vacation Rental

Need an easy getaway? Domestic CEO shares 6 tips to help you find the perfect vacation rental home for your family’s next trip.

Amanda Thomas
6-minute read
Episode #154

Last week, I talked about how to determine if a vacation rental is a good deal for your next trip. As I mentioned in that episode, in many cases, staying in a rental home can save you money and offer conveniences that a hotel room can’t provide.

But once you’ve decided that you do want to go the vacation rental route, how do you pick the right one among all those listings? Here are 6 things to keep in mind while searching the rental websites to help choose the appropriate property for your needs - and to make sure there are no hidden costs or surprises when you arrive.

Use Reputable Websites

An online search is the easiest and most popular way to start browsing vacation rental listings. But the biggest challenge with searching online is that on some sites, it can be difficult to determine if the house that’s listed is actually the real rental house!

I have heard horror stories of people booking a home, then showing up and finding that the home doesn’t actually exist. Or worse, they show up and the house is occupied by people who had no idea their house was listed on a site. These scams don't happen very often, but they do occur frequently enough that you need to have your guard up.

The scams seems to happen most often on Craigslist - probably because it is simple and free to post on the site. So if you do find a vacation rental on Craigslist, make sure to do some extra checking to make sure the property is actually a vacation rental. Ideally, the listing will direct you to a booking website where there are reviews for the property. But if not, doing some digging on the internet and with county record offices can help you determine if the person you are communicating with is actually the home owner.

I suggest you start your search on reputable websites like AirBNB.com, VRBO.com, HomeAway.com, and Flipkey.com. These sites allow homeowners and managers to provide details and photos about their rental homes, and have verifications in place so you can check that the rental is legit.

Always Search Using Your Dates

When searching for a vacation rental, always include specific dates. If you search for properties on the booking websites without including the dates of your trip, you are going to be shown all the properties that are listed in your search area - maybe hundreds, or even thousands, of listings!

This might sound like it would give you a great selection to choose from, and you might even start looking at properties and get your heart set on a few really good options...until you find out that those properties are already booked during your dates.

So even if you aren’t 100% sure of the dates of your trip, enter in the general dates you think you’ll be traveling. If you are planning a week-long vacation for which you’ll arrive at the destination on Friday, try searching Friday to Friday, Saturday to Saturday, and even Sunday to Sunday.

You may find that your dream spot is available starting on Saturday or Sunday, because another group may be checking out the day before. If you are able to get your ideal home by adjusting your trip by a day or 2, it may make all the difference in your vacation.