Here are the top 12 things to keep in mind before booking your Vacation Rental.
Before going on any Vacation Rental site, it’s helpful to have a general idea of what you want before logging in. Most websites will first ask you the dates of travel and how many guests before connecting you to the available listings.
The photos are the first thing you see when checking out different listings, and if the host provides quality photos of the space, many of your questions should be answered from the get-go. From the photos you can see the floor plan, the number of rooms and types of beds, amenities, the level of cleanliness, outdoor spaces, and sometimes even photos of the neighborhood.
Reviews are the most important feature available on any site. It is important to read ALL the reviews to get a well-balanced understanding of other guests’ experiences with both the host as well as the space.
The reviews are given using a five-star rating system (Booking.com uses a ten-star rating system). When you click on the reviews, you can see the breakdown of ratings on various categories, a highlighted section on what the host is particularly good at, as well as other comments left by guests.
3. The Location
When deciding on the location of the vacation rental, there are a few things to consider. Which neighborhood best suits your needs? Is it close to the attractions you want to visit? Is there public transportation easily available? How easy is grocery store or restaurant access?
If you find an amazing, inexpensive place to stay but it is an hour to get to the city center it might not be as cheap when you calculate in transportation costs.
The amenities of a property can really make or break the space and are an important factor in making a final decision on where to stay.
Are you planning for a long term stay and need access to a washer or dryer?
Need high-speed internet access?
Are you planning on mostly eating out or is kitchen access mandatory? What is included in the kitchen? You don’t want to buy all the ingredients for a nice roast only to discover there is nothing to cook it in!
Another important amenity depends on the climate where you will be staying – will you need an air conditioner or central heating to help you sleep?
5. The Host
No matter which type of listing you are booking, it is important to read about the host – especially if you may be sharing the space with them or others! The host’s profile includes a blurb about the host’s background as well as their response rate and time.
The hosts also include what languages they speak — this is key information that will help the communication process. Before you decide on a place, make sure you are comfortable communicating in one of the host’s listed languages! While basic English is common in many places, it is never a guarantee.
6. Sleeping Arrangements
You will want to carefully read over the sleeping arrangement advertised in the listing. An apartment that says it sleeps five may be including couches, daybeds, or air mattresses in their count. If that works for you, great! But if you want to ensure everybody in your group will have an actual bed with a mattress, don’t glimpse over this category!
7. House Rules
Each listing comes with its own set of house rules specified by the host. Read the house rules carefully to ensure that what you want from the house will fit into the house rules. Things to consider include: Are there designated quiet hours? Is smoking allowed? Is it suitable for children? Are pets allowed? What is the fee for a lost key? Are unregistered guests allowed over?
8. Check-in and Checkout Policy
The check-in and checkout times should be clearly listed. For check-ins, there is a time range offered and sometimes hosts state they are willing to work with guests’ needs. If you find a place you love but the check-in or checkout time doesn’t work with your schedule, reach out to the host before immediately writing off the listing. Sometimes the hosts are able to at least hold your luggage for you which greatly eases navigating places.
9. Cancellation Policy
Most websites offer a full refund, including cleaning fees, on bookings that are canceled within 48 hours of being made. After those initial 48 hours, hosts are able to select which type of cancellation policy they want for their listing.
Flexible: For a full refund, the guest must cancel at least a full 24 hours before the check-in time.
Moderate: For a full refund, the guest must cancel at least 5 full days before the check-in time.
Strict: For a full refund, the guest must cancel within 48 hours of booking and at least 14 full days prior to check-in time.
It is important to keep in mind these cancellation times are based on the listing’s local time.
Airbnb, for instance, issues refunds immediately upon cancellation and their site states that the refunds usually arrive within 3-5 days. Again, double-check this information if you are not confident about your booking. A few countries will take up to 2 months for the refunds to arrive.
10. The Cost
On most booking sites, the first number you see is not the total price you will pay. Immediately under the price per night, you will also see a cleaning fee as well as a service fee.
To help their platform operation, Airbnb, for example, charges a service fee once a booking is confirmed, typically under 13% of the subtotal.
The cleaning fees can vary widely as hosts are able to set their own rates. Make sure to compare cleaning fees with others in the area to make sure you are paying a fair rate.
You will also want to keep your eyes out for extra guest fees. These fees will again vary by listing. Often, a base rate is set for two guests and then an additional fee is tacked on for any additional people. If you are traveling in a large group this is something you will want to be careful of!
Lastly, there could also be a conversion fee of around 3% that appears if you are paying in a currency different than the country you are visiting.
While there are many extra fees to look out for, Airbnb (and most other booking sites) will display these prices before any reservations are made.
Most booking sites offer two types of booking arrangements: instant or by request.
Bookings by request are the standard process on Airbnb. When you have found where you want to stay, you send a request to the host to make a reservation. The host will then have 24 hours to reply and either confirm or cancel your booking. VRBO, Booking.com and TripAdvisor allow instant bookings and many hosts use this method.
Instant bookings are also selectively available on Airbnb. When using Instant Book, the guests make their reservations and can then discuss check-in plans with the host at their convenience.
12. Unique/Quirky Listings
Last but not least, unique/quirky listings: Airbnb’s specialty! Airbnb offers more than your standard hotel or hostel might. There are treehouses available in Brazil, igloos in Finland, and even yurts in Mongolia displayed on the site. While these may not be the cheapest options around, sometimes it is about the special experience you get!