Escapes

Q:

What Should I Know About Vacation Rental Websites?

Vacation rental sites allow travelers to search properties by date, city, proximity to attractions, and amenities.     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A:Budget-friendly prices, and the freedom and comfort of staying at a home-away-from-home have made vacation rentals popular alternatives to hotels. Property owners list their homes on sites such as Home Away and the associated VacationRentals.comVRBO, and Flipkey, the latter of which is owned by TripAdvisor and has all the connections to attractions that alliance implies.

Of recent, the most popular site has been AirBnB. Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia started the company in 2007 renting out air mattresses in their apartment—giving travelers a place to sleep and letting the creative duo cover their pricey San Francisco rent.  

All aforementioned sites allow travelers to matchmake with searches by date, city, proximity to attractions, and amenities. AirBnB has elbowed to the front of the pack with listings for unusual types of dwellings, from yurts (Mongolian huts) to Airstreams. The site also lists several hundred castles and treehouses. (Who hasn’t had a Swiss Family Robinson longing to spend the night in a treehouse?) Plus, rentals through these sites are guaranteed; whereas, Craigslist finds that often appear to be gems won’t be.

Tips for success:

  • Consider reviews by previous renters, who will rate their experience with the owner as well as the property.
  • Before contacting the owner, read the property description carefully. Owners of popular properties often include keys to weed out inattentive renters—such as telling travelers to mention the color blue in their email.
  • Reach out to the owner to inquire about availability and ask questions.
  • Confirm the rental with a deposit via credit card or PayPal (not cash).
  • Arrange for key pick up, which may mean gathering it from a property management office, receiving it via mail, or meeting the owner in person. 
  • Be a good guest. This isn’t the time to party like a rock star—but if you do, clean up after yourself.

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