When planning a vacation, you’ll be faced with an array of lodging options: hotels, motels, campers and RVs, tents, and home rentals. While these are all excellent options, my personal favorite is the short-term vacation rental.
A vacation rental is typically a fully furnished home, condo, or apartment. The experience of staying in a rental is similar to staying at a hotel, with the added benefits that it’s much larger, more private, and usually offers a more comfortable, relaxing “homey” feel. It may even supply travel supplies.
Although vacation rentals are widely available, the tricky part is finding the best price. However, there are ways to seek out and acquire a great vacation rental home at a great price.
5 Ways to Save Money on a Short-Term Vacation Home Rental
1. Send for an Informational Packet
Every community makes vacation and relocation packets available upon request. Are you interested in going to Daytona Beach for a week? Then contact the Daytona Beach Tourism Board and ask for information to be mailed to you. The package will include information about hotels, vacation rentals, restaurants, things to do, and coupons for use during your stay.
These packets provide a valuable planning resource, and can help you save money on vacation. You may also find information on peak seasons and when to get the best deals on cheap accommodations and lodging, including vacation rentals. You’ll likely be able to find cheap entertainment options as well.
2. Find a Vacation Rental Management Company
By searching online, you can find several vacation property management companies to contact by email or phone. These companies often have an inside track for special deals, availability, and locations. Whether you want a small cabin in the woods or a cottage on the beach, working with these companies costs you nothing and they can help you narrow down your search according to price range.
In addition, working with an actual human being offers a nice change of pace, especially when they can provide inside information about your vacation destination.
3. Ask Around
If you plan to visit a location near your family, but don’t want to stay at their home, why not ask them or their neighbors for recommendations? Someone may have a house available to rent or know someone through the grapevine who owns a vacation rental. You might even receive a friend or family discount, especially if you schedule your vacation during the off-season.
You can use Craigslist to search for a vacation rental. You can find listings for almost every major populated area in the United States, so finding a rental close to your vacation destination shouldn’t be too difficult.
Look in the “vacation rentals” and “sublets/temporary” sections in the real estate category. From there you can search for any number of parameters you desire, including number of bedrooms and bathrooms, information about nearby attractions, and the weekly or monthly rate. Other options you can try out to get a vacation home include Airbnb and Home Exchange.
However, as with many online listing services, there are dangers, and Craigslist scams do exist. For example, I thought I found a great vacation rental in Florida using Craigslist. When I arrived, I discovered it was a bait-and-switch deal – the price advertised and confirmed with me over the phone turned out to be different upon arrival. Not good! But thankfully, I still had my “ace-in-the-hole” method to find a vacation rental in a pinch.
5. Do a Drive-By
This is my absolute favorite way to get the best deal. It doesn’t always work, however, especially during peak season at popular vacation spots. But if you can visit several places before booking, you can get the lowest price, as long as you approach it in the right way.
After getting burned on the Craigslist listing, we took to the surrounding area in search of another place to stay. We pulled into multiple condominium buildings with signs advertising vacation rentals and told the on-site managers our story. Then, we asked for the best price for a two-week rental.
After checking out a few places, we stopped at one last condo building right on the ocean. We didn’t really think we could afford it, but decided to ask anyway. Well, due to a last-minute cancellation, we were offered an oceanfront, three-bedroom condo for less than half the normal rental rate! The management had the authority (as most of them do) to rent out the unit at whatever price they wanted, and in this case, they decided to slash the price in order to fill the unit.
It was our lucky day, but not by accident. If we hadn’t checked out several places and asked for their best rates, we never would have found this option.
I have used this method several times and it always works in my favor. But like I mentioned earlier, this approach could backfire if you attempt it during peak vacation season. In this case, you can use some of the best travel apps for your smartphone to save money.
You can always rent a hotel room using a comparison shopping website or rent a condo from a manager who doesn’t care about helping you out. But putting yourself right in front of them and asking for their best price can really make all the difference.
Whether it’s a tropical paradise like Aruba, a party spot like New Orleans, or a family friendly destination like Washington D.C., if you plan to return to the same vacation site next year, take some time to look for vacation rentals. Keep a list of locations you like, with contact information for the on-site managers. You can also find rental listings in free papers and on bulletin boards in grocery stores. The small amount of time it takes to do a bit of research now might mean finding your ideal vacation rental next year.
How do you find the best deals on vacation rentals? Are there any websites you use to find great vacation rentals?