At some point in the future, I hope to have the opportunity to travel around the world and visit many of the places you often see on the Travel Channel or The Amazing Race. I’d especially like to spend some time in Sicily where my great-grandparents were born and lived until they immigrated to America nearly a century ago. Unlike them, however, I will be traveling by air and not by sea. Although my trip is likely a ways off, I thought it would be helpful to others who may be planning a vacation overseas to put together a list of helpful tips for booking the right vacation rental.
In doing some research, I came across a great article by Lynn Martin, a writer who is spending her retirement traveling the world wit her husband, for Forbes magazine. Here is a quick summary of her tips:
Rent from a reputable source: Martin says she generally uses an international rental company to book apartments or houses abroad because they offer “recourses and resources for redress or relocation” in case there are any issues. Martin also says her and her husband have used sites such as HomeAway.com and VRBO.com and are comfortable with them. When researching places to stay on the internet, Martin favors owner-managed places because they have a “personal stake in making sure that we’re happy.”
Ponder location: Martin relies on Google Maps for views of the street and neighborhood which can reveal important details such as neighboring parks, markets, entertainment, or other businesses. Martin says she rarely stays near tourist attractions because those areas are often overcrowded and more expensive. One other important thing to consider, says Martin, is the transportation situation. Martin suggests using a map to find a vacation rental within comfortable walking distance to bus, tram, or subway stops.
Scrutinize interiors: Martin advises studying the photos provided in the listing with “minute care.” Also, be sure to read the list of amenities carefully to avoid paying surcharges on niceties not included in the rent.
Compare: Prices vary depending on destination, so Martin says it’s important to know your housing budget and to balance your itinerary accordingly. Martin advises looking at all the properties in your prices and range and make a decision based on the one that fulfills most of your needs. If you’re planning on staying a month of more, Martin says don’t be afraid to try to negotiate a better price.
Read between the lines: Martin suggests looking “to fellow travelers for hands-on advice” once you’ve found the location and amenities at a price you can afford. These folks will give you the inside scoop on the vacation rental – street noise, cleanliness, hidden extras – and help “guide you in the right direction.”
Communicate with the owner: Martin recommends using Skype to communicate with the owner rather than just e-mail and to ask a lot of questions. Phone “interviews” also enable guests to establish a rapport with the owner and get a feel for his/her friendliness. She also suggests purchasing vacation rental insurance for protection and paying a deposit to secure a rental.
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