10 Road-Tested Tips For Vacation Rentals This Year

Multi-Generational Travel, Planning Tips

Vacation Homes Are Great For Multigenerational Trips. Use These Vacation Rental Tips To Find Family Reunion Vacation Rentals And Avoid Key Mistakes

Vacation home rentals are appealing for family reunions, multigenerational trips and beach vacations. Popular destinations include Panama City Beach, Hilton Head, Virginia Beach, Myrtle Beach, Kiawah Island, Palm Springs and North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Cities, lake locations, mountain resorts and areas around national parks are other sought-after vacation rental spots. 

To ensure everyone will enjoy your multigenerational reunion, plan your vacation together. Make sure each vacation destination you’re considering offers activities and attractions that appeal to all ages and interests. You’ll want to allow plenty of time for everyone to explore and have fun, both together and apart. 

Once you’ve decided on the ideal destination, it’s time to move on to selecting your accommodations. Renting a vacation home offers significant benefits. Popular vacation rentals often have plenty of space for families to spread out, multiple bedrooms, kitchen facilities, and high-speed Internet. Vacation homes can offer added privacy and cost savings when compared to hotels. Some vacation rentals are loaded with attractive features like massive outdoor decks, hot tubs and private pools. 

Here are ten expert tips to help you find the perfect rental property for your multigenerational vacation and avoid common mistakes. 

Make A List Of Required Vacation Home Features

Start your vacation home rental search early, as many popular vacation rentals are booked months in advance for peak seasons. To find the perfect vacation rental, make a list of the features that are important to you and your crew. These can include factors such as the number of bedrooms, number of beds in each room, living room space, and proximity to the beach or lake. Seek out vacation rentals with excellent kitchen facilities so you can save money by preparing your own meals. 

Use The Best Vacation Rental Sites

Vacation rental scams have become more prevalent in recent years. Rent only from local property management companies with a strong vacation rental track record and reliable travel sites. These include platforms such as Airbnb, Vrbo, Vacasa, Homes & Villas by Marriott International, Booking.com and others. Certain travel advisors can help you find vacation home rentals using their reservation systems. 

Some well-regarded property management companies may list their vacation homes on Airbnb or Vrbo while offering lower rental rates on their own booking platform. Direct bookings may also eliminate some fees and provide additional perks. It’s important to check prices on all sites before booking, as significant savings may be possible. The innovative HiChee website can help you quickly compare each vacation rental home’s prices across multiple booking platforms to find the cheapest option.

Vacation home rentals are particularly popular at beach locales, such as North Carolina's Outer Banks and charming seaside communities in the Florida Panhandle. Photo Credit: Nancy Schretter

Vacation home rentals are particularly popular at beach locales, such as North Carolina’s Outer Banks and charming seaside communities in the Florida Panhandle.
Photo Credit: Nancy Schretter

Research The Location Of Each House

Location is an important factor in choosing a vacation home, particularly for family reunions and multigenerational vacations. Map each home’s location via Google Maps, paying close attention to the vacation rental’s proximity to key attractions. Check the street view on Google Maps and compare it to photos shown in the property listing. 

Family vacationers look forward to the peaceful enjoyment of their rental property, but that may be hampered if major roads or construction sites are nearby. Ask your host or rental agency if nearby homes, condominiums or buildings are under construction or being repaired. 

Understand What Is Included In Your Vacation Rental

Vacation rentals vary significantly. Read through each listing carefully and understand what each home offers. Sometimes rentals exclude items such as linens, towels, and access to many resort facilities. Read each property description carefully and ask the rental agency or host about exclusions and added fees. In addition, find out if a property manager or local representative will be nearby to take care of any problems that may arise. 

While some rental agencies and hosts hold firm on arrival and departure times, others are more flexible during shoulder seasons and other periods when vacation homes are not heavily rented. Arriving a few hours early or leaving later can be an attractive amenity, so contact your host or rental agency before booking to determine their flexibility. Some rental agencies and hosts charge an additional fee for early arrivals or late departures, while others offer this on a complimentary basis. During slower periods, free nights or last-minute discounts may also be possible. 

Read Recent Vacation Home Reviews 

Vacation rental listings are primarily advertising tools utilized to market the property. Recent renter reviews and opinions can provide a more accurate picture. Study the online reviews for each vacation rental home you are considering on sites like Airbnb, Vrbo, TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Google and other sites. The HiChee website consolidates each vacation home’s reviews from multiple platforms on one page.

Try to choose vacation rentals with a significant number of verified reviews, and recent reviews are best. Look for consistency and repeating common trends and themes throughout the reviews. Check to see if recent guests’ property descriptions match the rental listing, whether renters’ expectations were met, and if any problems that came up were handled satisfactorily.

Secluded mountain spots with scenic vistas are sought after choices for vacation rentals. Photo Credit: Nancy Schretter

Secluded mountain spots with scenic vistas are sought after choices for vacation rentals. Photo Credit: Nancy Schretter

Rely On More Than Rental Property Photos

While pictures are often helpful in evaluating vacation rental properties, sometimes they can be deceiving. Vacation rental owners and property managers often hire professional photographers to stage and take pictures of their properties. Photos may use wide-angle lenses to make the house look bigger, or pictures may be taken from certain angles to omit aspects of the home. Ask property managers or owners about specific features of interest, and check vacation rental reviews for pictures taken by recent guests. 

Confirm Any Additional Fees For Vacation Rentals

Vacation rental fees are a hot topic this year. Some online vacation rental booking platforms omit added fees until the final screen, so it’s difficult to see the total cost of your stay until the last minute. Additional charges can add hundreds of dollars to the price of your vacation rental. These costs may include reservation fees, cleaning charges, pet fees, linen rental charges, damage waiver deposits, and resort amenity fees. Clearly understand how much taxes and fees will add to the cost of each vacation property before making your final selection. 

Carefully Review Vacation Rental Contracts  

Vacation rental agreements are important, and it’s essential to thoroughly read your contract before signing. Note the rental deposit and cancellation policies for any property you’re considering and clearly understand the situations in which the property manager or owner can keep your funds. If cancellation becomes necessary, determine whether you will be receiving a cash refund or a credit for future use. If so, learn if there are black-out dates for rescheduling your trip. In addition, ask about damage and security deposits and determine when these would be returned. For your protection, receiving clear answers to these questions in writing is essential.

It’s also important to pay close attention to the rules, restrictions, and payment methods stipulated in the contract. Credit cards offer the best protection against fraud and wrongful charges. Never wire money to a vacation rental owner or property management company. Wiring money is a common component of many vacation rental scams. If paying for your vacation rental by credit card is not possible, use PayPal or something similar. 

Check your vacation rental when you arrive and take time-stamped pictures. Photo Credit: Nancy Schretter

Check your vacation rental when you arrive and take time-stamped pictures. Photo Credit: Nancy Schretter

Inspect Your Vacation Home Rental Upon Arrival 

Walk through your vacation rental when you arrive and look for anything that is damaged or broken. Take time-stamped pictures or videos on your cell phone to prove any damage was done before you arrived, and contact the rental agency or property owner. If problems are evident with heating or air conditioning units, toilets, showers, kitchen facilities, or pest issues, let your property manager or owner know immediately. Do a similar walk-through process at time of departure, and take photos to document the property’s condition to avoid any unwarranted fees.

Consider Purchasing Travel Insurance

Travel insurance can ease some of the financial risks of travel and vacation home rentals. Trip insurance can provide coverage for travel cancellation, illnesses and injuries, trip interruption and other issues. Some companies sell travel insurance policies specifically designed for vacation home rentals. These often offer coverage for damage in addition to the usual travel insurance protections. 

Purchasing travel insurance within 15 days of your first vacation payment can provide coverage for pre-existing health conditions, so timing can be crucial. If you choose to buy travel insurance, check with trip insurance companies to understand what’s covered and ensure your policy includes all key vacation costs. The most complete trip insurance coverage is available under “Cancel for Any Reason” policies. These policies are more expensive but can provide coverage if vacationers decide not to travel due to weather concerns, virus fears and other reasons typically not covered by other plans. 

By Nancy Schretter, Contributing Editor

Header Photo Credit: Nancy Schretter

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