I get super excited whenever I can get a group of people (say 4 or more) together to plan a vacation. First, because more people generally equals more fun! Second, because you start to have better, more unique (and usually cheaper) lodging options. I love staying at actual houses or condos when I’m with a group instead of hotel rooms. Why stay in a hotel when you can find a house? You’ll get things like a pool/hot tub/kitchen/deck (and more) for the same price or less–plus you get it all to yourself!
When I’m looking for a vacation rental, I start by searching on the Internet. One of my favorite sites to use is Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO). I have been using this website for many years now with great results, although the navigation itself is pretty user unfriendly. The site has recently made some upgrades so you can filter your searches by arrival/departure dates, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, type of property, certain amenities, etc. However, there is no way to sort or limit the properties by price (definitely my biggest complaint). I find the user reviews of properties invaluable though. I do think VRBO offers the largest amount of quality rentals for the places I have wanted to visit.
HomeAway is my second favorite website to search for vacation lodging with two or more bedrooms. HomeAway has acquired MANY of the vacation rental home websites in recent years, including VRBO (and I’m thinking this is why VRBO has actually improved). HomeAway has a much cleaner, more user-friendly site with a more robust search (you can filter by price). They also have an app for the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Android. I have not used the Android version, but the iPad app is nice and handy but does have issues with crashing (often). They seem to have fewer listings than VRBO which is the ONLY reason why they are my second favorite. Other sites that are worth taking a look at are www.FlipKey.com and www.CyberRentals.com.
I have heard news reports of people getting scammed doing vacation rentals, but I say simply advise you to be careful and read the property reviews. HomeAway does talk about how they are a “trusted” site but also gives you tips on being safe about your rental. If you’re really nervous there are some Rental Guarantees you can purchase. I personally have never had any issues with any of my vacations. However, I am pretty diligent in my research and I ask lots of questions so I get a good feel for who I am dealing with.
To give you an idea of some of the great places I have found on these sites, check out a couple of my favorites:
One of my most memorable rentals was in Charleston, S.C. and I found it on VRBO. This house was beautiful and in a fantastic location, had charm and personality, and was pretty much perfect for 2 couples. We arrived to find fresh flowers and a welcome basket filled with goodies for our trip. We even had our own yard and deck area to hang out on. Charleston is not an inexpensive place to visit, but we were able to rent this house for less than we would have paid for a boring hotel room.
Another favorite house rental was in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands which I also found on VRBO. The house sat on a hill overlooking Magen’s Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The view was phenomenal and it even offered an outdoor shower which was attached to the bathroom and had a screen roof so you could see the stars This house was new to the rental market when we stayed there and the owner was very nice to work with and easy to get a hold of. The best part about this rental was the practically private beach that was just down the road. You won’t find those amenities at a hotel.
So, get a group together for a vacation! Even if you are not going far from home, you can plan a mini vacation at an awesome house or condo. You can find yourself a big house with a hot tub, or a pool table, or on the beach, or with an awesome view (or all of the above) whatever is important to you. I guarantee you will find yourself something fun and unique, and if you look hard and early enough you will probably end up spending less money.
Happy Vacation Rental Hunting!