9 reasons to go the vacation home rental route the next time you travel

Home Away from Home (Really!)

by Christine Karpinski

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Picture yourself and your family doing all the vacation-y things that make you happy. Now, instead of returning at night to a cramped, impersonal hotel room, envision yourself coming home to a home. That's right. More and more people are eschewing hotels in favor of vacation rental homes. For most people, especially families with children, staying in a vacation home is better in every way.

You may have assumed that it cost too much or maybe didn't understand the logistics of finding the right place to stay. But the Internet has changed everything. Not only is it increasingly easy to find the perfect home, it's often less expensive than getting a hotel room!

Figures back up that assertion. For instance, HomeAway recently did a side-by-side comparison of two lodging options in Orlando, Florida: a 228-square-foot King Room at the Radisson Worldgate Resort (a popular three-star hotel) and a 1,700-square-foot private home with three bedrooms. For a party of one to two adults staying seven nights, the hotel room was slightly less expensive: $1003 vs. $1050 for the vacation rental house. But when you add more guests, the rental home becomes far more reasonable by comparison. While its price stays the same no matter how many people stay there, the hotel's price skyrockets: $1,746 for three to four occupants and $2,619 for five to six occupants.

Price isn't everything, of course. There are many other reasons to choose a vacation rental house (or condo or chalet or cabin or villa or farmhouse) over a hotel. Here are a few examples:

  • There are plenty of vacation homes to choose from. More and more people are realizing their dream of owning a second home and renting it out when they're not using it. That's good news for travelers like you. In fact, there's a vacation home within a two-hour drive of most metropolitan areas in the U.S. There are plenty of others in Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central and South America as well.

    You can find exactly what you're looking for no matter where your vacation takes you. Even if you have to go to a small town for, say, a relative's wedding, there's probably a vacation home in the vicinity.
  • The rental process is getting easier and more convenient. Admittedly, it's not quite as simple to rent a vacation home as it is to book a hotel room. You still have to deal directly with the homeowner. Still, it's pretty easy. Homeowners are becoming more consumer-friendly in their business practices. Despite popular misconception, you don't always have to commit to a week. Many homeowners will let you rent by the weekend or even on a nightly basis, particularly during the off-season. And while some of them still expect you to send them a personal check, many others accept credit cards or PayPal.
  • Vacation homes are more spacious and comfortable. You know that crowded, slightly stir-crazy feeling you get in a hotel room? It doesn't happen in a vacation home. In fact, I've found that people who stay in private homes don't feel so compelled to wear themselves out cramming in every touristy activity in town.
  • You can live like a local. When you stay in someone's home, you get a more authentic experience. One big reason vacation home renters get to "live like locals" is that most homeowners love to provide their guests with helpful hints. They'll point you to the best restaurants in town, the best hiking trails, and the best bike rental places.
  • You can cook and do laundry. If you're on a budget, both of these factors can be huge benefits.
  • If the weather's bad, there's more to do indoors. Most vacation rental homeowners provide DVDs (along with the electronic equipment to view them on), board games, playing cards, and other family-friendly diversions. Also, more than half of all rental properties now have Internet access. If it pours down rain during your vacation, you'll appreciate these kinds of thoughtful extras.
  • Vacation homes provide more privacy for Mom and Dad. Let's say you want to have some, ahem, adult time while you're on vacation. There's nothing better than being able to put the kids in a separate bedroom down the hall.
  • You might even be able to bring Fido or Fluffy. Many vacation property owners will accept pets, which makes their homes especially attractive to families who can't bear to part with their four-footed friends for a week.

Once you go the vacation home route, you probably won't go back to hotels. Yes, it takes a little effort on your part and you may have to contact several different owners before you find the right home, but the results are definitely worth it. Start planning your next vacation right now. When you're relaxing in a comfortable home in a few months, you'll be glad you made the effort.

Christine Karpinski is the author of How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner: The Complete Guide to Buy, Manage, Furnish, Rent, Maintain and Advertise Your Vacation Rental Investment and Profit from Your Vacation Home Dream: The Complete Guide to a Savvy Financial and Emotional Investment. Her books, combined with her seminars, media appearances, and Web site (HowToRentByOwner.com), have helped thousands of people purchase and manage their vacation homes. Today she serves as director of OwnerCommunity for HomeAway, Inc. (HomeAway.com), the worldwide leader for vacation rentals on the Internet. Each year, more than 50 million travelers visit the HomeAway global marketplace that is comprised of more than 130,000 vacation rental homes across 100 countries.

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