Vacation rentals are often more memorable, and have way more character, than a cookie-cutter motel. That may or may not be a good thing.
If you're in need of a reminder that a vacation rental is not a hotel, here are ten reasons why. They come from SmartMoney magazine's new story, "10 Things Vacation-Rental Sites Won't Say." The list deals almost exclusively with official direct-from-owner vacation-rental sites like airbnb and vrbo.com, not the random, untrustworthy listings on places like Craigslist, where even experienced travel writers have gotten scammed.
What sorts of things will vacation-rental sites fail to tell you? For the most part, they're things that smart and experienced travelers are aware of. Things like:
"You'll need to play detective."
When it comes to sussing out the specifics of a given rental, be prepared to do some legwork. Read rental descriptions carefully; perks like complimentary beach tags and parking stickers (or lack thereof) may be hidden in a barrage of other details. And be prepared to pose some additional questions like: Can you use the pool? Should you bring sheets?
What exactly do you mean by "within walking distance," "pool access," or "kitchenette"?
Is the entire rental mine, or are renters on other parts of the property?
When can I expect my deposit back?
The SmartMoney piece also points out that some vacation rentals come with unexpected fees; a cleaning fee is fairly standard, while a per-person charge is unusual in North America, but commonplace in Europe.
Some travelers like to book vacation rentals at the last minute, and not only because that's when owners are most willing to lower the rental price or allow a stay of only a few nights even though there's normally a one-week minimum rental period. But last-minute rentals are hit-or-miss because some owners aren't good about checking e-mails and might not get rental requests until it's too late. Helpfully, Airbnb, for one, lists average response times for owners, cluing in travelers as to who they're most likely to hear back from in a jiffy.
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