10 tips for booking a VRBO or Airbnb summer vacation
The sun is shining, the kids are out of school, and you’re ready for some long-awaited rest and relaxation. Yup, it’s time for summer vacation.
Wherever you go, renting a hotel room is the most convenient option. You can check in any time you want, order room service 24 hours a day, and someone makes your bed each morning.
That may be your happy place, but if you’re looking for a more authentic experience, whether that’s at the beach or overseas, booking your accommodations through a third-party booking site, like VRBO or Airbnb, is the way to go.
These services allow you to rent a shared space or an entire apartment, condo, extra freedom they give you, these rentals are more relaxed–and they can translate to lower costs. They often come with fully-stocked kitchens, washers and dryers, and all the other conveniences of home. You will, however, have to turn down your own sheets before bed and supply the chocolate truffle for your pillow.
Airbnbs and VRBOs are generally operated by the property owner, although some use a management company to take care of the reservations, cleaning, and maintenance services. While a hotel generally comes with some standard expectations, the requirements, services, and rules of a VRBO or Airbnb vary from property to property. No need to worry, though. Here are some tips that will help ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay:
1. Know what you want
VRBO and Airbnb both have thousands and thousands of listings, and it can be a little overwhelming. You’ll find a property that meets your needs and requirements much more easily and quickly when you use the filters on each of the sites. Decide whether you want an entire home, a private room, or a shared space. Do you want three or four bedrooms, an ocean view, or a pool? Do you need a washer and dryer on site? The more detail you provide, the more you’ll be able to narrow down the field and find a property that’s a great match.
2. Read all the reviews
A lot of the detail can be skirted in the property description. “It’s a fabulous four bedroom, three bath townhome with an amazing view of the ocean.” Generally, reviews from past renters will give you the honest truth, and whether it was good or bad, they’re happy to share their experience. “The dishwasher didn’t drain properly; the air conditioning didn’t work; the bathroom could have been cleaner.”
While you may run into issues that need to be addressed while you’re there, learning that it took two days for the management company to fix the clogged garbage disposal, or the host never returned the renters’ calls is not what you want to hear. Take note of common issues that have been mentioned multiple times.
Keep in mind, though, that there are grumpy, picky-un renters and things do happen. But, overall, the vast majority of the reviews should be highly complementary.
3. Check out the pics
Photos of the rental property should be current, clear, of every room, and from multiple angles. If not, that’s a red flag. If there are five bedrooms, you should see all five. Does the listing indicate that the kitchen appliances have been recently upgraded? Make sure you can reasonably assume that’s true from the photos.
Check out the picture of your host, too. Is it a silhouette or an actual person? A silhouette may lower your comfort level. After all, everyone wants to be able to put a face with a name, or in this case, a property.
4. Scope out the neighborhood
If this is your first trip to a particular destination, you don’t want to take a chance on having to spend a week in a less than desirable location. It can, after all, make or break your entire vacation.
How close are you to your next-door neighbor? Is the property located next to a late-night karaoke bar or a makeshift petting zoo? “Centrally located” can mean different things to different people, as can words like amazing, great, wonderful, and awesome.
An easy way to evaluate the surrounding area and estimate travel time to some of the attractions you plan to visit is to use Google Maps. Enter the address or the vicinity and you’ll get a 360 degree, street level view of the property and everything around it.
5. Communicate with the host
With many third party sites like VRBO and Airbnb, conversations typically begin through email or text message. This is your chance to learn a little about the host. It’s also a way for them to learn about you, their potential renter. You can initially check availability for the property, but also use this time to tell them a little about yourself and ask questions. Offer information like whether you’re planning a business trip, a girls’ weekend, or a family vacation. Ask questions like, How far is the beach? Do we need to bring boogie boards or beach chairs? Do you supply sheets and towels? Can I bring my pet iguana?
Take into account how quickly your questions are answered and how courteous the reply. Some owners or hosts can be exceptionally accommodating, while others may stick to the standard. This is the point at which you can catch a glimpse of their commitment to customer service and their attention to detail.
6. Read the fine print
No one wants or even expects to have to cancel their vacation plans, but it happens. Make sure you’re clear about the cancellation policy because no one wants to give up their vacation and forfeit the cost of it, too.
Read the house rules, take note of the included amenities, the check-in and check-out times, if there are any noise restrictions, and any other particulars. Many times the less favorable details are buried in the fine print.
7. Beware of extra fees
Most people budget for their vacations and have a specific amount of money earmarked for the trip. That’s an ideal plan, but when your bill includes some unexpected fees, you’re caught in a pinch.
Some online rentals come with additional service fees, so make sure you know exactly how much your lodging will cost in advance. While they’re not always charged with every reservation, the most common surprise fees are for cleaning, extra guests, booking services, and taxes. You should be able to see the total cost of your stay including a breakdown of all fees before you book.
8. Ask your host for around-town tips
Vacations are the perfect time to try the local cuisine, visit the most interesting attractions, shop at the best boutiques, lounge at the least crowded beaches, hike the most challenging trails, or find the best fishing spot.
Hosts are typically residents of the community and have the inside scoop on what to do and when to do it. So, don’t be shy, just ask! They’ll be more than happy to share their best advice and recommendations.
9. Be an ideal guest
Remember that, with an Airbnb or a VRBO, you’re responsible for your own housekeeping. That’s cooking, cleaning, laundry, and dishes, among other things. If you’re staying for more than just a few days, it’s helpful to have a washer and dryer on site.
House rules vary from host to host, so make sure you read them as soon as you arrive. You’ll find a list that will include things like, be considerate of neighbors when it comes to noise, run the dishwasher before you leave, refrain from smoking inside the house, and report any accidental damage. Most hosts are reasonable with their rules. Simply treat the property like it was your own and all will be well.
On the flip side, if things are not what you expected or something is not working, let your host know as soon as possible. They’ll want the opportunity to make it right. After all, they want you to enjoy your time there and leave as a satisfied guest.
10. Write a review
Within 14 days of your departure, take a few minutes to write a review of your stay. Remember that this feedback, whether positive or negative, helps both the host and a prospective renter. Be polite, but also honest.
Was the property as described? Was it clean? Was the host friendly, responsive, or exceptionally accommodating? These are details that only a previous renter would know, so be sure to share it with the rest of the community.
Feedback goes both ways so you’ll also receive comments from your host about your stay. Were you easy to work with? Did you adhere to the house rules? Did you leave the property in order?
Other hosts are able to view these comments and use them to decide whether or not to rent to you in the future. So, be polite and courteous, skip the wild pool party, and take the trash with you on your way out. But, most importantly, take time to relax and enjoy your stay!