Booking International Vacation Rentals – Tips for Staying Like a Local

By Kate Ruddell | Apr 24, 2019, 14:11 PM

Short-term vacation home rentals have drastically increased in popularity over the past few years, and InvitedHome expects the market to reach $170 billion by the end of 2019. So, what is drawing so many people to home rentals instead of the traditional hotel stay?

To start, when you’re traveling with multiple family members or a big group, it can be a hassle to book a block of hotel rooms to accommodate everyone. Then, there’s Airbnb’s report that over 80 percent of millennials seek out authentic experiences and that “living like a local” is very important when they book travel. By staying local, you feel more in the mix of the local culture.

Cost saving is another factor that influences vacation rental decisions. While costs vary based on your destination choice, vacation rentals can cost less than a hotel room when averaging out the cost for each person in your group per night. Even if the rate per night is the same or more than a hotel, you can save additional money by opting to use the kitchen in your rental property rather than dining out.

Overall, a vacation rental allows much more room and flexibility for your group, and while rentals are already popular for domestic trips, they can also be a smart option for international travel.

How to Book a Vacation Rental

The top vacation rental websites are Airbnb, VBRO, and HomeAway. They all have similar platforms. Select your travel dates and party size for your trip. Each property will show their rates, pictures, and reviews. I highly recommend reading at least five reviews to learn more about the property. If there are any issues in a review, the platforms allow the host to respond and resolve those issues publicly. The most common complaint is noise from either the neighborhood or others in the building (if the rental is an apartment). If peace and quiet are important to you—do not skip this step.

What happens after you’ve found the perfect vacation rental? Send a message to the host. Introduce yourself and tell them about your intentions for the stay. Are you hosting a party? Is it a family vacation? Be as transparent with your plans as possible to avoid any conflict. Some properties forbid hosting events of any type. Messaging the host also allows you to ask any questions about checking in, cleaning, or local recommendations. I’ve always had flexible hosts who are willing to let me in whenever I arrive, rather than having to wait for a specific hotel check-in time.

After asking questions and introducing yourself, your host will open the availability on their calendar for you to book. You must book quickly after this happens or else someone else may snag your coveted trip dates! Once your reservation is booked, you can sit back, relax, and start planning the rest of your trip. Keep in mind that you are billed once the reservation is booked. The money stays on the platform and the host receives it 24 hours after you check in. Pay attention to the cancellation policy, as they differ for every host (hint: travel insurance might be able to help). For safety reasons, the address isn’t revealed until you pay.

Don’t Forget

There are several things you may want to include in your checklist if you are staying at a vacation rental to take full advantage of the space:

  • Laundry detergent – if you are traveling with children or for a longer amount of time, having access to a washer and dryer is amazing. Most Airbnbs do not include detergent, so be sure to pack detergent or pick some up at a local market. If you are traveling to another country, ask for information on how to use the washer and dryer. They vary from country to country, along with the language of the instructions.
  • Grocery shopping – Utilize your kitchen and refrigerator in your vacation rental by stocking up on snacks, meals, and beverages. Even the littlest things such as deli meat and chips for the beach can greatly cut down on expenses.
  • Amenities – While having a kitchen is great, there are a few amenities that vacation rentals lack. Do not forget your hair dryer or shampoo. You may get free Wi-Fi and parking, but you won’t get turndown service. If you are debating if a vacation rental is right for you, make a pros and cons list including amenities to determine the best fit for your vacation.

Cities that Airbnb and Other Vacation Rentals are Unavailable

Not everyone is excited about vacation rentals as many people argue that tourists are invading and completely taking over local cities. Hotels in the U.S. have a specific “bed tax” that goes back to the city. Vacation rentals do not charge the same tax, which has caused a headache for lawmakers and residents alike. Due to these issues, make sure you do your research before booking a deal in U.S. cities such as New York, NY or Charleston, SC or international cities such as Paris, France or Reykjavík, Iceland as they may be at a higher risk to get cancelled.

Personal Experiences with Airbnb In Different Countries

I loved my experience in Paris, France, at an Airbnb. We booked it through the website and the owner left a key box for us out front. The only thing I wish I would have paid more attention to would be the images online. The apartment had two bedrooms, but I didn’t notice that one of the “bedrooms” was an office turned into a bedroom. As a result, the walls of the “bedroom” were windows and completely transparent.

In Budapest, I booked a vacation rental through VBRO. Like Airbnb, the host unlocked the property for us, which happened to be next to the most popular bar in the city. I then learned that the entire apartment complex was full of short-term rentals. The combination of the vacation atmosphere and lively bar life proved to be very noisy until 5 am each night. The owner was kind enough to leave us earplugs, which helped tremendously.

In Philadelphia, PA, I rented a room with a friend for the weekend and the host stayed in the apartment with us. It may seem odd to stay with a stranger on vacation, but the host was amazing and even cooked us breakfast each morning.

When it comes to vacation rentals, there is an underlying understanding that you are staying in someone else’s home as a guest, so you want to treat it with care. I’ve been lucky enough to have wonderful vacation rental experiences around the world and I would highly recommend vacation rentals for your future travels. 


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