Are you tired of cramming your entire family or group into a tiny hotel room? Do additional amenities like a full-size kitchen, humongous decks, incredible views, private hot tub, pool table, theater room, or even an indoor pool sound great? It’s time for a luxury vacation rental with tons of rooms and incredible amenities.
Although you might think a luxurious vacation rental is going to cost you a fortune, that is not always the case. Oftentimes, a vacation rental can actually cost less than a hotel room! The advice below, which was written by an industry insider, can help you get the best possible deal on a vacation rental for your upcoming trip:
- Be willing to shift your dates by a day or two and get a much better dealProperty managers and property owners alike HATE the unbooked nights between reservations – these unbooked nights are called “gaps.” If you are retired or have a job with some flexibility, you can dramatically reduce the cost of your upcoming trip with a simple phone call. Call or email the property owner/manager and ask if they have any gaps between reservations that you can fill at a discounted price. Oftentimes, this simple trick can save you 25% or more.
- Wait until the last minute to book a property during low and mid seasonsThe majority of travelers are excited about their upcoming vacation and want to book a property well in advance. While people love the certainty of a confirmed reservation, travelers who wait until one to two weeks prior to arrival can oftentimes find exceptional deals. Many companies discount last-minute inventory by as much as 40% and waiting can save you big money! However, this plan can backfire on you during peak seasons. For example, if you wait until the last minute to book a property for Christmas, you will likely pay a premium price, have fewer choices, and not get exactly what you and your group are looking for.
- Book early for high seasons and holidaysIf you are planning to visit during the summer, major holidays or other peak times, we recommend booking well in advance. During these seasons, there is high demand for rentals and the best deals are typically found six to nine months in advance. Once the good deals book up, you can expect the remaining inventory to command a premium rate. If you wait until the last minute, you may be forced to simultaneously pay a higher rate and compromise on amenities, location, and even the size of the unit.
- Compare the total price for the reservation NOT the nightly rateIn contrast to hotels and other traditional lodging choices, there are additional fees associated with renting a vacation rental that you should be aware of. With nearly all rentals, you can expect to pay lodging taxes, a damage deposit or non-refundable damage fee, and a cleaning fee (sometimes disguised as a “reservation fee”). On a short weekend trip at an economy rental, these fees can be close to 50% of the total. When comparing properties, make sure to factor the additional fees in.
- Compare prices, but do it the smart wayIn popular markets, there are tens-of-thousands of vacation properties and finding the perfect one at the right price can be quite a challenge! We recommend using the following major listing sites VRBO.com, VacationRentals.com, Dwellable & HomeAway.com that have thousands of properties listed. If you have used any of these sites before, you know that one of the big drawbacks is many owners and property managers do not keep rates and availability up to date. We have an insider tip to get rid of those properties – only search for the properties that allow you to book it right there on those sites. Since these properties can be immediately booked, the availability and rates are almost always accurate. In addition, if you find the perfect place, you can immediately book it using a major credit card instead of having to email back and forth and mail in a check.
While the list above will help you get the best deal price-wise on a vacation rental, we recommend using a healthy dose of common sense and balanced approach as you start the booking process. The following bonus tips will help ensure the property you are booking is right for you:
- If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably isDid you find an incredible 7 bedroom mountaintop cabin with awesome views for only $90 a night on CraigsList? RUN! While we would all like to get a mansion for the price of a small condo, the unfortunate reality is it won’t happen. It is important to be aware that there are some scam artists in the vacation rental market niche and use common sense when booking a property.
- Don’t pay with cashier’s checks or via wire transferWhen you pay via wire transfer or cashier’s check, there is no recourse if the vacation rental ends up being a scam. We recommend booking your property using a major credit card from a reputable and established property management firm. If you choose to rent from an individual, pay through a listing site (i.e. VRBO, HomeAway, FlipKey, etc.) using your credit card.
- Avoid surprises by knowing who you are renting fromIn the Smoky Mountains region alone, there are approximately 20,000 overnight vacation rentals managed by thousands of individual owners and hundreds of property management companies. The vacation rental experience is vastly different from one property to the next. Renting from a property manager with a 24/7 staff and on-the-ground office is a completely different experience than renting from an out-of-town individual cabin owner. While you may get a slightly better price from an individual, the service level can be wildly unpredictable. Prior to renting from an individual, thoroughly investigate how they handle maintenance issues and whether they will try to move you to another property in the event your property becomes uninhabitable due to a maintenance issue. You don’t want your dream vacation to turn into a nightmare if your out-of-town host is unresponsive or can’t solve your issues!
Now it’s time to utilize all of these tips and tricks to go find the best possible deal on a vacation rental for your upcoming trip!