Overall, when planning a COVID safe home rental vacation, there are three things you need to be aware of. First, plan a trip based on nature. Beaches, lakes, mountains and national parks all work really well because you are able to spend time outdoors, oftentimes without needing a mask because you are distant from other people. Second, book a house within distance of your desired activity without use of a car. We found that we had better experiences when we were able to go into our backyard and go paddle boarding, walk a block to the beach, swim in our private pool or bike along a boardwalk. The less we drove our car to do what we wanted to do during the trip, the more enjoyable the trip was. Third, you need to rent a location with a kitchen. The key difference between having a hotel room and a house is the ability to cook all your own meals – no need to step foot inside a restaurant. Using these tips, you should be able to have an amazing COVID-safe vacation.
After you have determined where you want to go on your trip, you need to narrow down your search. If you wanted to go to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, is there a specific area you want — Duck, Corolla, Kitty Hawk, etc. To save time do not look at houses that will drag you away from your original goal. Next, and this may sound obvious, but it is important, you want to narrow down your search to the minimum number of bedrooms you want, type of property you want, price and finally, its key features (near the beach, pool). I have had numerous occasions where I will find an amazing house, look through the pictures and love it only to realize that either it does not have enough bedrooms for our group size or that the price displayed is the “average” price and the price of our particular nights are far higher. When you have finally found a house you may like, make sure to bookmark the page.
On the listing you should watch out for a few key things. First, probably the most influential part of the decision to rent a house falls on the property pictures. I understand that this will not be the most precise science, but I have generally found that the higher the resolution of the photos the more accurate the property will be when you arrive. Pictures with less resolution will likely be an older house and more outdated than ones shot in 4k. As much as the investigation into the pictures of the house will be helpful in understanding what you’re getting yourself into, do not trust the pictures too much; I learned this the hard way. I booked a property with amazing photos of the property’s view but when I showed up, the property was filthy with random pieces of furniture everywhere. We ended up wearing shoes inside in order to prevent our feet from turning black on the bottom due to all the dirt. Make sure to read the reviews and do your due diligence. In other words, don’t judge a book by the cover.
Now that you know how to find the right house on a booking site, the next question is what site should I use? Sometimes properties will be listed on multiple booking websites but more times than not, properties are only listed under one. I have found that different sites are better for different purposes. For example, it is going to be easiest to find a property on Airbnb but I find that Airbnb’s are more of a gamble then lets say VRBO from my experience. This is because I have found that people are more likely to list their primary residence on Airbnb for the weeks they are not there in order to make extra income. I find it weird to have family pictures all around the house. Rather, I have generally found that VRBO properties are more likely to be a person’s second home which is more likely to be decorated as such. Remember that pretty much anyone can post a listing on Airbnb and similar sites. On sites such as Marriott Homes and Villas, the properties are much more refined and are held to a higher standard because they must be reviewed by the listing site. Of course with that extra tad of quality comes a heftier price tag. For me, I always like to search around on multiple sites and pick my top 2-3 properties from each and compare and narrow them down to my favorite. Generally, my favorite sites for bargain hunting are probably VRBO and Airbnb. However, my favorite sites for guaranteeing that I will have an incredible property include Marriott’s Homes and Villas, Vacasa and Airbnb Plus, which are Airbnb’s best properties that are pre-inspected by the platform. These three booking platforms have a higher price and higher delivered quality.
Once you find the property you want to book, make sure to search up the same house on different listing sites for a better price. For example I have found the same house on Airbnb was a couple hundred dollars cheaper on VRBO. I would contact the owner just to test their responsiveness, in case anything comes up during the stay, and to answer any questions you may have. Ask if linens and towels are included among other things and what the cancellation policy is.
Finally, the last thing you want to do before booking a property is to make sure you are getting the lowest price possible. While contacting the owner, ask if they can lower their prices, even if not by a lot. After all, it never hurts to ask. Sometimes I have found that owners will direct you to book the property off of the site such as Airbnb, so the owner doesn’t have to pay fees and you will pay less. This is a win-win for the owner and the renter but not the booking site. If you choose to book your property outside of a booking site, make sure that you understand the risks associated with that. If you book on Airbnb and the property is nonexistent when you arrive, then Airbnb will refund your money, but if you book directly with the owner and there is no property, it’s your responsibility and loss. I have not had a bad experience booking directly with an owner, but please understand the risks before doing so.
Overall, in the era of COVID-19 travel, vacation homes play a key role. Whether booking though any site, please make sure you do your due diligence to make sure you have the best possible stay. There are many options for rentals and each have their own pros and cons, so find the one that best fits your family’s needs. However, vacation rentals, unlike hotels, are one of a kind so make sure you book your property before it is too late.
Good luck finding the perfect vacation rental and have an unbelievably fun trip!
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