Booking Vacation Rentals: 5 Common Mistakes

I feel like I’m constantly searching for and booking vacation rentals for my family. Whether for a quick ski weekend away or a multi-family week at the beach overseas, we’ve always got a trip planned and therefor I’ve always got a vacation rental inquiry in the works.

It’s no secret that for family travelers vacation rentals are WAY better than hotels. With a house or condo, you have more room to spread out, kids sleep in their own rooms, you have access to a kitchen so you can prepare meals and you’re generally in more “local” locations so you can really experience and get to know the local side of your destination.

Booking vacation rentals

I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at researching, vetting and booking vacation rentals from various sites like VRBO, Home Away and Airbnb. Unlike booking a hotel room, where you generally know what to expect based on price point and brand, booking a vacation rental for your family trip can be a little more nuanced.

While I do this a lot and feel like I have it down to a science, I recently had a negative experience with a Home Away rental we booked for a multi-family ski weekend in Colorado.

And that whole experience got me thinking, what mistakes did we make to allow this to happen? Well after learning the hard way, I thought I’d share so you don’t make the same mistakes.

booking vacation rentals

If you’re booking vacation rentals for your next family getaway, here are 5 common mistakes you’ll definitely want to avoid.

#1 Compare

Be sure to scope out other rentals in the area. If you’re looking at something that is way less than what looks to be like the going market rate you might want to reconsider.

In our case, the condo we booked was definitely priced lower than other options that seemed to be similar in the area. That should have been a red flag. Take the time to look at comparable units to get a feel for market pricing.

#2 Use Reviews

One of the best things about vacation rental sites, is the honest feedback and reviews people leave. Be sure to read these reviews and consider them carefully.

If a vacation rental has NO reviews, I’d suggest not booking it. Unless you’ve seen the unit first hand, you need to rely on what past travelers have to say about their experience. Stay away from vacation rentals with zero reviews.

#3 Communicate

Even if everything looks good at first glance, be sure to email or call the owner and ask a few questions before booking a vacation rental. 

You’ll get a feel immediately about the home and the owners or management company based on their response time, quality of answers and overall tone. Ask questions like how to access nearby attractions, what happens if there is a problem while you’re on site, and what specifically is covered in the rental and is it all currently in working order to start the conversation.

#4 Read the Contract

While most people gloss over contracts, when booking a vacation rental it’s important to read through the contract carefully. If you arrive and something was misrepresented during the booking process, you’re credit card company will require documentation in a contract in order to reverse or stop payment.

If it’s critical for you to have a clean, working, heated pool, for example, be sure you have this in writing in the contract ahead of time.

#5 Have a Back-up plan

So this one I learned the hard way. If there are problems – like big problems for which you’d like to get out of the contract or get money back – consider leaving and not staying at the vacation rental.

If you actually spend the night at the vacation rental you won’t be able to claim back money from your credit card company because you technically “accepted the service for which you paid.”  So especially if you’ll be traveling with kids and far from home, spend a few minutes looking into nearby hotels or other accommodations you could use as an emergency back-up plan.

Do you have experience booking vacation rentals for your family? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for ensuring a positive experience when booking a vacation rental! Leave me a comment below.
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