Look for a vacation rental online
There are many websites that offer vacation rentals at a variety of prices and sizes. Check out Airbnb, Booking.com, VRBO and HomeAway. There are even specialized sites like LocoGringo, which offers villas to rent on the Mayan Riviera in Mexico. Do research online to find companies that offer vacation rentals in your destination.
Learn the location
Of course, you want to stay in the perfect location. A safe place near the attractions you want to visit is ideal. Don't know your town? Look at tourist sites and guidebooks for where you’re going and find out the best parts of town for tourists. Where most of the attractions and hotels are is usually going to be an excellent spot to vacation, but residential parts of town are also good choices. If the area has a metro system, check how close the rental is to a station so you can easily get around. Google Maps can show you a street view of almost any address in the world, so plug in the rental’s address and "walk" down the street to explore the neighborhood.
Read all the reviews
TripAdvisor has a wealth of reviews for cities, attractions and hotels, which can educate you on the best attractions and parts of town to stay in. Read the reviews on the vacation rental website to see what people have said about the rental home, the management and the location. Remember, people are more likely to post negative reviews than positive ones, but you can get a lot by reading what past renters have to say about the property.
Look at the cost in your country’s currency
If you’re looking at a vacation rental in England, the rental cost will likely be quoted in British pounds. Since you’re probably paying in US dollars, convert the currency using a site like XE Currency Converter. Some sites will allow you to pay in US dollars, and some will charge you the cost in the foreign currency, which your bank will charge a fee to convert.
Analyze the photos and website
When you find a rental that meets your price, location and preferences, double check all the specifications and amenities that the website says the property offers. Analyze photos of the actual property and determine how many bedrooms and beds it really has—sometimes a website will call a living room with a pull-out couch a bedroom. If you need a tub and not just a shower, check out the photos. Try to get a feel for the space and look at the square footage to make sure it meets your needs. Just because a website has lovely pictures and says it sleeps six, doesn't mean it’s actually only two bedrooms with pull-out couches and 800 square feet.
If you have questions about the location, amenities, costs or anything else, email the owner. Often, websites will include the owner’s email address for just this purpose. They expect to get questions, so feel free to ask. Does the property have parking? An extra pull-out bed? Can you bring your dog? Does the building have elevators or just stairs? It doesn’t hurt to ask. You don't want to assume something that’s a given in the US will be included in a foreign property.
When you’ve settled on the right vacation rental property for you, book it! You may have to pay all up front or half now and half later, depending on the rental terms. How do you know if it's a good deal? Look up hotels in the area to see what their average cost per night is and compare it to the cost per night and per person or couple at the rental property. Often the vacation rental cost is the same or less but you get so much more!
This is a guest post by Alice from Baton Rouge, LA.
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