With our family of six, we’ve found it increasingly hard to find and afford travel accommodations. We can manage with a 2-bedroom suite hotel room (with an air mattress and a decent couch), but we’ve found those hard to come by. The alternative is getting two hotel rooms, which adds up quickly for all but the shortest trips.
For our vacation this summer, we rented a 3-bedroom house that is a similar size to our own, for far less per night than the cost of two hotel rooms. We found it on VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals by Owner), one of several websites that list vacation rental homes. Last summer, we rented a delightful farmhouse in upstate New York for a similar bargain price from Flipkey.com (an affiliate of tripadvisor). Other sites that have the same type of listings are HomeAway.com and AirBnB.com. Different areas of the country sometimes favor one site over the others, so it’s always good to try them all to see where you get the best variety for your vacation destination.
Each of the sites has reviews from previous visitors. This can be helpful, although, as in many cases where leaving a review online is an option, people who had a bad experience are far more likely to leave a review than those who had a good experience, so they may be a little skewed to the negative. The home we stayed in recently didn’t have any reviews listed, but that didn’t really affect my selection. I could tell by the photographs that the house would work for us and appeared clean and well-cared for.
There are a few things to consider when renting a home. Check the amenities carefully. If your kids are going to revolt without cable TV, make sure that’s included. In our case, wifi was essential for the kids and central A/C for me. If something isn’t listed, send the owner an email and ask.
Another thing to consider is additional costs. Most home rentals include a cleaning charge, which is usually a flat fee. Make sure you factor that in when evaluating whether or not it’s cheaper to stay in a house or a hotel. Also, most home rentals include a security deposit which is refunded to you after your stay. Check the amount of the deposit and how quickly it gets returned.
We have found that even when the cost per night plus the cleaning fee adds up to a similar price of a hotel room, we end up saving money by staying in a house because we don’t have to eat out for every meal. It’s also nice to have a gathering place if you are visiting friends or family nearby. Our recent rental had a beautiful backyard with a deck and a hot tub. We were able to host other visiting family members and keep the fridge stocked with drinks and snacks for everyone. (Not to mention, the kids had a place to run around outside.)
We will most likely check home rental websites first whenever we travel now, before trying hotels. It has been a great experience for our family. The only downside I’ve found is that I still have to do the dishes!