We love to travel and now that we have kids we haven’t let that slow us down. When we first discovered VRBO – which stands for “Vacation Rentals By Owners” – we were amazed at the huge savings renting a house or a condo provided versus staying in a hotel.
We also love that there is room to spread out as a family and we don’t always have to share a room with our kids. After all, it’s our vacation too! I like to wake up and lounge around in my pajamas for awhile without having to quickly get dressed so we can walk down to a hotel restaurant for breakfast. Not only does it save money to eat breakfast and lunch at the house, but I also find we can continue our healthy lifestyle much easier.
- Always read the reviews. Last fall, when planning our trip to St. Martin (using Airbnb) I asked if I could speak to a former house guest. The owner was happy to supply me with a reference. I talked to a lovely mom from Connecticut who not only had great things to say about the house but also gave me some ideas about what to do on the island. We went there with peace of mind that the house would be exactly like the online photos.
Pay directly through VRBO, Airbnb, etc. Sadly, there is fraud pretty much everywhere so this is a safer way to go.
- Consider paying the additional fee on VRBO that covers things like if there is a double booking. In our 10-plus years of using VRBO, we had one experience where a lady double booked our house. It all ended up OK and we had a great vacation at a different house, but it could have meant road tripping back home.
Try negotiating. Some homeowners are more willing to negotiate than others. For example, our experience is that many will offer one extra night for free or give a 20% discount. It’s worth asking right? Same goes for earlier or later check-in times.
- Ask if they have a concierge service. I don’t disagree that it is a nice hotel amenity to have especially in a foreign country or in a city you have never been to. One of the houses we rented in Mexico did and it was wonderful. They even arranged transportation to and from the airport for us.
Pay it forward. We always try to be great house guests and leave behind items like leftover olive oil, plastic beach toys etc. for future guests to enjoy.
Here are a couple of our cost-savings examples:
St. Martin, Jan. 8-22, 2016 (considered high season)
French Side. We spent one week in an Airbnb home with the most spectacular view I have ever experienced at a house. We could even see St. Bart’s from our massive deck. The house itself was beautiful, too. It included five bedrooms, 4 1/2 bathrooms, a weekly cleaning service, two rental cars, a fully-stocked kitchen/fridge, nice linens and beach towels and a large welcome fruit basket. To top off all of this, we had our own private infinity pool overlooking the spectacular view. Cost: $579 per night. If you split that between 2 families it’s under $300 per night. It was definitely five-star accommodations.
Westin at Dawn Beach. This was a three-bedroom condo on the top floor overlooking the beach. It had a fully equipped kitchen, heavenly bed and bath, a swim-up bar, beach chairs and full menu service on the beach. Cost: $1208 per night, which doesn’t include a $20 resort fee per room / per night and a service charge of 15% per room / per night. *Note you can rent this through VRBO as well. However, an Ocean View room is $3,200 per week & that’s only for 3 bedrooms. This includes four days of free Cabana use (See, it’s always worth asking!).
This professionally decorated VRBO house rental offered a mountain view and featured three bedrooms (sleeps six), two bathrooms, a fully-stocked kitchen, nice linens and more towels than you could use in a week. There was also an amazing private backyard with a heated in-ground pool, hammock, tiki bar, outdoor dining table and chairs, lounge area with a fire pit and two large sun decks for tanning. This is another 5-star accommodation.
Cost: $485 per night.
DoubleTree by Hilton Palm Springs
This “mountain view” room was 392 square feet and had two queen beds, one bathroom, a large pool, fitness center, golf course and three restaurants on site. Cost: $289 + $65 taxes & fees + $18 for self parking. (Per their website, a family of five exceeded the occupancy rule, therefore, we were required to get two rooms which raised the cost to $726 per night.)