Last updated: 04:00 PM ET, Mon May 04 2015

7 Tips For Renting A Vacation Home

Features & Advice | Tom Bastek | May 04, 2015

7 Tips For Renting A Vacation Home

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

If you are looking into renting a vacation home for either your small immediate family or a large group of extended family and friends, there are a few things you should plan for before getting started. The search engines at places like are great for narrowing down rental choices like how many bedrooms, pet friendliness, and ocean view, but they don’t tell the whole story. These tips and tricks can mean the difference between enjoying your beachside paradise and getting into arguments with security so often that they know you by name.

Check the Map

Ocean front is pretty much ocean front, but that isn’t necessarily the case with ocean view, water view, mountain view, ocean accessibility, etc. If being near a point of interest is important to you, Google Map it to find out where it truly is. Mountain view might be that you are looking at the mountain that you are on or 200 feet across from. Some people consider a 20-minute drive to the ocean “accessible” when most folks are looking for a walkable beach jaunt.

Ask Questions

Almost all rentals will have a cleaning crew that comes in at the end of your stay and “turns” the unit. Normally, there is a small list of tasks for the guest to perform to help smooth this process out. Tasks such as running the dishwasher and closing the windows are not uncommon. But if you are not interested in stripping the beds, washing the towels and linens, and remaking all beds and refolding all of the towels before you leave, then do your research. If you don’t see check out requirements on the listing, call or email and ask exactly what will be expected of you.

Have a Plan “B”

If you are renting a seven bedroom house but the property owners' association only gives you five parking passes, find out where you are going to have to park the extra vehicles. If you find out the coffee pot hasn’t been cleaned in ages, know where the nearest Starbucks is. Or better yet, where to get some vinegar and clean it on day one so you can have great coffee all week long at a quarter the price.

Use Technology

Many rental companies are starting to offer mobile apps, which are extremely helpful. Information on the app provides gate and door codes, property emergency contacts, check-in and check-out information, and even provides a way to ask questions regarding the property. Some apps are going to the next level and providing concierge services right through the phone for restaurant reservations, golf tee times, bicycle rentals, and more.

Bring or Buy Extra Everything

Without fail, there will not be enough dishwashing or laundry detergent when you need it. When you first arrive, before you do anything else, take an inventory on toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc. Even the items that the rental claims to provide will probably be in short supply, so make plans for that ahead of time.  Also, if you plan to eat out, you want to make sure that you have a cooler big enough to bring home the leftovers or a solution for consuming them before you fly home. 

Read the Fine Print

You may have heard of the hotel that charged an extra $500 for any bad online review that you post about your stay. Whether the hotel was “just joking” about the charge or not, this is a great learning experience. Make sure you know EXACTLY what you are signing up for. There may be additional pet fees, or a quiet time of 8pm that you just don’t want to worry about, or a separate charge for beach access, or you have to take your own garbage with you when leaving or face a fine. Make sure you go and read reviews about not just the home you are dealing with, but with the company that you are booking through.

Finally, Remember to Relax!

If you plan things out in advance, you can literally leave your worries behind you at the bottom of the mountain, at the bridge to the island or on the tarmac of the airport, because you will know that you have allowed for contingencies to everything. Which brings up the best piece of advice: Something will always undoubtedly not go as planned. So RELAX! If you have everything else taking care of and thought out, you will be able to devote time to the one or two things that didn’t work out perfectly and still enjoy a great vacation.


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.