When I travel, whether it be a quick overnight stay, or an extended vacation, I like to look for options beyond a hotel room. I like being able to spread out in a space, and have a chair or sofa to sit on versus a bed. For longer stays I like the convenience of having a kitchen so I’m not having to go out for every meal. Over the past few years I’ve discovered vacation rentals. I have found these to be great alternatives to the standard issue hotel room. Overall the price is probably a little more expensive, but if you take some time to research and look early enough, you can sometimes get a deal. If you’re traveling with a group and are splitting accommodation costs it could make a home rental even more economical.
Overall, I’ve been lucky in my vacation home selections. I always read the reviews. If a place doesn’t have any reviews, chances are I won’t be staying there. If the reviews are negative I try to pick out what the person had a problem with during their stay. If it has to do with safety, cleanliness, or lack of directions, I’ll probably balk at staying at that location. If it has to do with something like the room was smaller than what they wanted, or there weren’t enough towels for how they like to use them, I can look over that stuff a little more. I always take reviews with a grain of salt – is the ‘problem’ really something that would effect my stay?
I have found 2 sites which have an abundant selection of vacation rentals, both of them spanning world-wide. Those sites are VRBO and Airbnb. When you have some time check them out! Both sites are easy to navigate and set filters for your search. I have used both sites to book rentals through. My personal preference is for Airbnb. It seems like a much more professional site. I feel like I can learn more about the property and the owner than I can on VRBO. The thing I really like about Airbnb is the reviews feature. Not only can you leave a review for the place you stayed, but the owner can also review you as a guest. This is great because when I go to rent a new place, the owner can look at my reviews and see what kind of a guest I was in the past. I always leave behind a thank you card, and I try to find something that represents Iowa and leave that behind too. It is important to remember that even though you are paying to stay at their place while you’re on vacation, it is still their property so you need to be respectful of it.
One thing to watch when searching on Airbnb – make sure your room selection matches what you’re looking for! If you search for a location and dates without changing any other filters, you’ll automatically be shown the 3 types of room settings: Private House/Apt, Private Room, and Shared Room. The Private and Shared Rooms are generally cheaper, but read through the descriptions to get an understanding of what your private space will be versus the public, or shared, space. I have only ever stayed in a private house/apt, but would be open to the Private Room if the owner had good reviews. I think it could be a great way to meet new people and learn more about the local area you are visiting.
Here are a couple of the places I have stayed over the years:
Destin, FL. This condo was on the top floor, 18th story over-looking the gulf. It was a stunning, beautiful, immaculate place to stay. The furnishings were perfect – even included a couple beach chairs and umbrella. The decorations were very tastefully done. The building was in a gated community, but the owner provided all the needed information to access it easily. Here is the link if you’d like to see the owner’s new pictures and learn more about pricing: Destin Vacation Rental
This next rental was near Holland, MI. My interactions with the owner were very cheerful. She responded to all my questions very quickly. The apartment is attached to the back of her house, but is a totally separate unit. It was one of the coziest and cleanest places I’ve ever stayed. She even had fresh lilacs in a vase when I got there. She has a beautiful patio that is a shared space, but if she sees you out there she stays inside and tilts her blinds so you don’t feel like you’re being watched. This is definitely a place I would stay again and recommend to anyone traveling to the area. Holland Vacation Rental. (The picture at the top of this post is also from this rental).
The last 2 places I don’t really have decent pictures of the inside, or the ownership has changed so I’m not sure if the pictures would still match.
Sioux Falls, SD rental – I stayed one night here with some family. The owner, Chris, was great to work with in the reservation process. He greeted us at the house and showed us around. Very friendly and the house was exactly what we needed for a single night. My only regret was not remembering my swimsuit therefore not being able to enjoy the hot tub.
Yankton, SD rental – I spent a weekend here with my girlfriends. I know that this rental has changed ownership since I was there, so hopefully it is still up to the amazing quality it was when I stayed there. We had a great time hanging out in the house and even made use of the fire pit. The views are amazing and there is plenty of space inside.
Clearwater, FL rental – Unfortunately this property is no longer listed. I was able to snag a beautiful cottage just steps from the beach for only $110/night! The space was tight and the place could have used some updating and thicker walls as there were several units in the building, but for the price and location it was a great place to crash at night.
Hopefully if you weren’t aware of these types of sites before this post has helped you realize a whole new way to travel! Spend some time searching the sites and seeing what is out there. It really is a fun way to relax on vacation!