Vacation home rentals are a popular type of family vacation: thanks to the internet, families can rent a place directly from its owners, see photos online, ask questions by email, etc.
Vacation home rentals are most common in beach areas and ski areas, but can be found just about everywhere and can even be a good option on Orlando when extended families want a large place to gather. Home rentals in Europe can be a practical choice for families, too (- see more, below.)
Advantages of Vacation Home Rentals Include:
- spacious homes can accommodate a reunion of family and friends
- convenience of kitchen and laundry, is great for families
- often homes have private pools, jacuzzis, large tv's, etc.
- price -- while higher than a hotel room- can be a good deal for families who can't fit into a single hotel room (compared to, say, the price of adjoining hotel rooms for a family with teens.) Price also gets attractive if shared among two families.
- friendly owners may give tips about what to enjoy in the area
- someone (could that be Mom?) will be probably spend time in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning up after meals.
- location of the vacation home may require a car rental.
- guests may need to pay a substantial deposit at the time a reservation is made.
- in some countries (Caribbean isles and Mexico, for instance), daily maid service may come with the vacation home; in others, not. Still, even in North America, service can probably be arranged for a fee.
- again depending on the country, smoking may be forbidden and can invoke a penalty.
And bad news for dog owners: even though more and more hotels welcome Fido these days, few vacation homes in North America allow pets.
1bbTypes of Vacation Homes for Rent
Vacation home rentals, and vocabulary, can vary greatly by country. In England, for example, guests will typically find listings for cottages, "garden houses", and apartments, whereas in France and Italy, you may find "farmhouses." In North American, a vacation home rental might be a private home, townhouse, condo, or a place in a gated resort community.
In the Caribbean and Mexico, "villas" are stand-alone dwellings, either on a private lot or as part of a resort complex or community with shared facilities such as pool and semi-private beach. In other contexts -- such as Disney Vacation Club Villas -- "villa" is a suite in a multi-unit building.
Some condos, while owned by a private individual, are in a hotel-like building or even an actual hotel. Booking may be processed through hotel reservations and guests may scarcely be aware that they're staying in someone's privately-owned unit. In other cases, condos are rented out privately by owners through sites like vrbo.com.
Finding a Vacation Home Rental
Dozens of websites provide this service. Vacation Rentals by Owner is a worldwide site where a few clicks connects you to real-life owners offering a "home away from home", with photos and comments from previous visitors.
Some owners don't want to deal directly with guests and prefer to pay a third-party management agency to handle bookings. Prices tend to be similar to direct rentals by owners (i.e., don't count on price being lower if you deal directly from owners.)
Hotpads.com is a website with a handy map-based search that shows exactly where vacation homes are located in a destination.
Airbandb is an interesting site that offers a variety of rentals including spare rooms or suites in owner's houses or apartments. Some owners also rent out their entire homes when they're away.
Caribbean and Mexico: Often, maid service is available or even included with a vacation home rental. Some villas come with staff; some places will arrange airport pick-up too. Vacation home rentals can be found in virtually all destinations. The Dominican Republic has a large inventory and some are at a good price point.
Florida: About.com's Guide for Florida Vacations covers Vacation Rental 101 for the Sunshine State. See also, for Florida's uber-destination, Orlando: Vacation Home Rental and Ownership, and a review of a 5-bedroom rental by our Theme Parks Guide (-- "Mouse House".)
New England: Vacation Rental in New England has resources for each state.
Europe: Tips for a Self-Catered Vacation describes how vacation home rentals work in Europe. ("Self-catered" is a broad term for lodgings where guests can do their own cooking, and where maid service isn't provided.) Also: Vacation Home Rentals or Self-Catering in the UK explains how to make yourself "at home" in Great Britain, and Self-Catering in the UK discusses pricing.
Buying a Vacation Home to Rent Out
Finally, if you're interesting in getting into the supply side of the market, our About.com Guide for Homebuying has tips.