If you love to travel then you’re going to love these tips for finding the best vacation rental homes. And while HomeAway is sponsoring this post and compensating me for the content, I love using HomeAway.com and their parent sites, so all of the content is 100% honest and my own.
Once upon a time, I actually had serious thoughts about becoming a travel agent. I know it’s strange, but I seriously LOVE planning vacations. Sometimes I actually think that we go on so many vacations just so I can go through the process of planning them. I’m strange like that. One of the first things I do when I’m planning out a vacation is find somewhere to stay. While hotels or bed and breakfasts are nice while you’re traveling with just one or two people, I think most of us travel more often with our family or a bigger group of people. And for those kinds of vacations, I personally love to rent a vacation home through HomeAway.com or one of its partner sites (VRBO.com, VacationRentals.com). And here’s why:
- Your own kitchen, place to store food – it’s amazing how much money this can save you! And even if you don’t want to actually cook any food during your stay, it’s still nice to have a full size refrigerator to store leftovers or water bottles or whatever.
- More bang for your buck – If you’re traveling with a bigger group or a family and want to have separate rooms, hotels can get pricey incredibly fast. HomeAway vacation rentals let you rent an entire space for a fraction of the cost you’d pay for a hotel room.
- A big gathering space – Okay, it’s no secret that I like to play games and have fun with my family and friends. It’s really hard to do anything in a hotel room but just imagine the awesome games of reverse charades or take a hint you could play in a large family room. And bonus, a lot of houses actually come with entertainment like a pool table, foosball table, or hot tub. If you’re not a game person, it’s still nice to have somewhere that everyone can watch a movie or talk without having having to sit on top of each other. This fits perfectly with the way modern families are redefining family vacations and turning vacations into a memorable bonding experiences.
Okay, so now that you’re convinced that vacation rentals are far superior to hotels, how do you go about finding the best vacation rental for your group? These are my fail-proof tips for making sure you get a house that is awesome and perfect for your group!
How to Find the Best Vacation Rental Homes
1 – Set your budget.
Do this first before you get sucked into the oh my goodness that house has a heated pool or that house can hold a billion people. You may want to check out some of the house options on HomeAway.com to help you set a realistic budget, but figure out what your budget is before you really get into your search. l
Your budget is going to help you filter down the choices. And I’ll give you a word of advice, unless you’re planning to spend a ton of time in the house, stick to the lower price range. We rented a house on VRBO.com (part of the HomeAway family) in the Bahamas for a family vacation a few years ago that was perfect. Gorgeous pool, huge bedrooms, beautiful kitchen, and a price tag to match. It was completely worth it because we had a bunch of kids with us that needed to take naps, meaning we spent quite a bit of time in the house and the pool.
But on the flip side, when we booked our house for our Color Run girls weekend in Nashville, we picked an older and not so nice house because we knew we would just be sleeping there and spending most of our time in the city or running in tutus.
2 – Figure out your sleeping arrangements.
After your budget, write down how many people will be staying in the house and what kind of accommodations they’ll need. Just because you have ten people in your group doesn’t necessarily mean that you need five bedrooms with a queen or king-sized bed each. Write down who is in your group and how the sleeping arrangements will work. For example, when we went to Las Vegas last fall, our group was technically ten adults. But of those ten adults, there were three married couples who needed queen or king beds, one grandpa who needed his own bed, and then four other adults who couldn’t share a room (men and women).
It was interesting to say the least finding a place for the group, but we did it. And figuring out what exactly we were looking for in terms of beds before we started looking really helped. You’ll find as you’re searching HomeAway.com and its partner sites that tons of vacation rentals offer less traditional sleeping options like pull out couches, cots, bunkbeds, and more to increase the sleeping numbers without adding actual bedrooms.
3 – Pick your ideal location.
With major cities like Tampa, there are about a million different areas you could stay in. Figure out which location you want to be in or at least how far away from the main attractions you want to be to help narrow down your search. For our Tampa trip, we knew we wanted to be within a 15 minute drive of the Lowry Park Zoo, so that gave us a certain perimeter to stick with when we were searching for houses. I’m a nerd and like to actually create a Google Map of my favorite houses and attractions to see which houses are in the best location for our activities. The red pins are house options and the blue are attractions we planned to go to. I told you I like the process of vacation planning.
4 – Start your search early.
The first thing I do when planning a vacation is search for our house because the best houses and the best deals tend to fill up quickly, especially if you’re traveling during any sort of peak season or holiday. Other things you’re planning (activities, meals, plane tickets, etc.) won’t likely sell out but that perfect house will. HomeAway is the world’s leading online vacation rental marketplace with over 190 million rentals listed worldwide, but I’m telling you, your perfect house will still sell out. So search early.
5 – Create your favorites list then narrow it down.
With so many options, it’s hard to remember which ones you’ve looked at and which ones you loved. I love using the little favorites feature on HomeAway and VRBO.com. As you find houses that might work and that you like, click the little heart by the listing to add it to your favorites list. Go through the full list of options, favorite the ones you are interested in, and then come back and look at the favorites in more detail. Everyone knows it’s easier to make a choice when you’re only choosing between 10 options and not 100.
6 – Read the reviews.
You read the reviews before you eat at restaurants, pick up a book, or make a big purchase. This is an investment of your money as well, so definitely read through any reviews that have been left on the listing. The majority of the time they’ll be mostly positive but if you see a number of reviews mention a problem like no hot water or bugs in the kitchen, I’d probably move on to the next listing.
7 – Ask questions.
This is one of my most important tips and one that most people don’t do. Once you’ve nailed down a handful of favorites, send messages to the owners and ask questions about the little details you want to know more of. If the listing doesn’t have the actual sleeping arrangements spelled out, send a message and ask to know more about the floor plan. Or ask if there is an additional cost to use the pool or hot tub in the winter. There’s a reason that there’s a send a message feature on HomeAway, so use it.
8 – Go with your gut then enjoy.
It’s inevitable. Even after going through the steps above you’re probably going to have a couple of houses that look like great options. At that point, just go with your gut and pick one. They’re probably all good choices and going to be a great home base for your trip.
I hope these tips helped you find an awesome vacation rental. What tips would you add to my list?
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of HomeAway.