- Do your research. Find out how it works and if it is for you. Note that “homes” are not necessarily houses. They can be villas, apartments, estate homes, condos, chateaux, castles, etc. Go to message boards and see what people are posting. Learning from fellow travelers’ experiences, rather than “trial and error” is always better! Read the fine print—all of it. Know what you’re agreeing to.
- Use a reputable organization. There are many good companies. An online search will reveal many choices. Two of my favorites are www.flipkey.com and www.athomeabroadinc.com. These have been in business a long time and offer photos, detailed descriptions, and more. There is another option you may want to consider: a VROB (vacation rental by owner). Prices are often negotiable, especially off season or within three or four weeks of travel and perks can be negotiated. Be sure to do thorough research if dealing with a VROB, www.vrob.com.
In a nutshell, the best thing about staying at a vacation home rather than a hotel or motel, is that it is more comfortable. There are bedrooms, laundry facilities, and kitchens. It can also be more affordable for a large family because you’re not renting multiple rooms or having to eat out most meals. It is nice in the evenings that everyone can have their own space and do their own thing after spending so much time together during the day. This keeps squabbles to a minimum. Many like it because they feel like they’re living like locals rather than tourists. The biggest things I’ve noticed when traveling outside of the U.S. is the “just a short walk” confusion. I’ve been told too many times to count that a place is “just a short walk” from here only to find out that their idea of a short walk is 2.3 miles! So be sure if you want to be near the ski slopes or the beach or whatever that the place really is “just a short walk!” Also, our idea of amenities is vastly different from other places. There may be a television but it is not plasma or HD. There may not be WiFi or a DVD player or even a dishwasher!