Home away from home

Everyone likes to travel, but trying to get the most out of our weekend is really important. Cost of travel is usually the main concern for everyone involved. There are many sites that offer discount airfare and hotels but I’d like to suggest something that has worked well for me and my friends. Instead of staying at a hotel, consider staying at a vacation rental. Technology has made the process much easier, and has opened up the availability. Here are some tips that have worked for us:

  1. If you are traveling with 3 or more people, vacation rentals are the way to go. Most rentals do not increase the cost if you add people, and if they do it is usually minimal. Hotels can add charges per night based on two or more people and may require additional rooms for more than 4 people.
  2. You do not have to rent only for a week or more at a time; many will rent for less than a week. The listings include a calendar that shows the cost per-night, peak season and availability. Check to see if the place has reservations around your date. If not, the owner may be willing to take a reservation for less than a week. We have had great luck with this in the past, and it never hurts to ask. Also, if you’re arriving late or need a late check-out, let the owners know early and it is usually not an issue if they don’t have anyone else coming that day. Even if they do, they can be very accommodating and may work with you. We have had great luck with this including a check-out at 9:00pm one night at no extra charge. This gave us another full day to sight-see and then take showers before the long 10 hour flight home.
  3. There is more space to spread out in an apartment versus a hotel. The apartments have a living area and some come with balconies too. Not to mention multiple bedrooms and bathrooms to share based on your budget. There is also the benefit of multiple televisions and sometimes even stereo systems and small home theaters. If you are looking for a pool, gym, laundry facility etc. hunt around. Many apartments come with access to these amenities and many homes have them included.
  4. Wi-Fi is included at no extra charge for everyone who stays. Again this can be a savings as many hotels charge a fee for Wi-Fi and some are charging by device. We have had full computer systems in several of the units we have rented which is nice, too. Make sure your vacation rental is connected.
  5. Vacation rentals come with kitchens so you can cook a few meals at home to save money. Even if you can eat one meal a day at home, it can save $30-$40 a person and more during a getaway. We have always tried to eat breakfast in the rental before heading out, and have cooked full meals in the kitchens which were especially nice. If you like to cookout, many come with the use of a grill, too, which can be fun.
  6. Location, location, location! The ability to stay in the heart of the action is an advantage too. Many hotels are popular and expensive in the desired areas and vacation rentals offer a great and affordable option. Figure out which areas you would like to visit and search for vacation rentals nearby. Most listings provide a physical address that you can check on Google maps for an exact location. Look for the proximity to public transportation if you are relying on that to get around. If you have a rental car, see about parking. Most have it at no additional cost. Also if you are into restaurants, bars, nightlife etc. check the proximity to these things, too. We usually research the desirable areas and then narrow our selections down from there.
  7. There are options available at many price ranges. Be sure to check multiple listings and compare prices and location to make sure you are getting a good deal. Airbnb, HomeAway and Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) are great options that offer protection for the renter and the owner. We have used all of these and have not had any issues. For the more adventuresome, Craigslist offers some great deals on vacation rentals direct from the owner. These are usually a bit cheaper because there is not a middleman. I would suggest that you only consider vacation rentals that have pictures. The better owners will post not only external pictures but also of every room including the bedrooms bathrooms and any amenities. They will include pictures of the size of the bed in the bedrooms, so you know that if they say there is a queen-size bed it is a queen-size bed. If the owner does not have, or is not willing to provide pictures, that could be a red flag. Also, if the owner asks for full payment upfront or an unreasonable deposit to hold your reservation, I would be leery.

As I have said, vacation rentals have been very good to me and I swear by them when I travel overseas. They provide a significant savings and have been very nice places in great locations. Be sure to make a list of what you require to help with your search. Also, the owners are wealth of information on the “local’s” point of view on where to eat and where to go. Many are also able to give you economical airport transfer advice and some will even pick you up for a small fee. We have had great luck with vacation rentals, so the next time you are looking for a way to save money on your next vacation, try a rental over a hotel.

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