Removing a hotel stay from your next vacation plan may be the financially sensible thing to do, especially in an economy in which hotel room prices and other lodging charges are going up by the day. But do your homework to ensure that the alternative lodging method you are using, be it a vacation rental, a hostel, or swapped home, does not end up costing you more than you would have paid at the hotel.
To save money on your vacation rental, enlist local help, do your homework, and don't go solo. Here are some tips to save on a vacation rental home.
To Share is to Save
My grandmother used to say that it is always best to share, and I would add that it is even better to share costs, not just positive elements like income. If possible, don't go solo while searching for a vacation rental. Enlist the help of other people to whom you are close and who also have vacation plans in the same destination.
By renting one house and splitting the overall cost, your personal financial expense would be lower and you then can use that extra cash to enjoy your vacation more, participate in group activities or sign up for that excursion you so dreamed of all year long. To save on vacation home rental expenses, you can plan the trip with family members, close friends, your fraternity buddies and, why not, your favorite neighbor.
Enlist Local Help
Get assistance from a local, especially someone familiar with the intricacies of the local rental search and who is proficient in local real estate legislation. A real estate broker or lawyer would perfectly fit the profile, and I think it is always useful to pick a professional than rely on someone whose credentials cannot be verified.
The hire costs are worth it, trust me; the last thing you want is to land on foreign soil and have nowhere to stay because the individual you were dealing with has been too flexible with the truth and is nowhere to be found. You also should contact the local U.S. Embassy in your destination country to learn more about local conditions as well as pitfalls and scams not to fall for.
Do Your Homework
Besides government websites, such as the local U.S. Embassy, I use a wide assortment of websites to seek vacation rentals. The advantage here is that you get to visualize what you think you want; refine your criteria, depending on things like price, location and availability; and determine the best offer for you.
Sites such as HomeAway.com are great resources to check out, but read and understand the fine print before signing any document or signing up for anything. Hire a lawyer or someone experienced in the local housing sector if real estate legal terminology is not your strong suit.
Understand the Terms and Conditions
Before, during and after the vacation rental search, try to clarify important things like payment, financial guarantee and minimum-stay clauses. Hold this discussion preferably with the owner or the brokerage managing the villa on the owner's behalf. The goal here is to be on the same page, financially speaking, so that nobody is surprised at the last minute.
Clarify things like how much the guarantee is, whether you would remit one half of rent at the beginning of the period and the other half at the end, how much the application process will cost, and whether extra services like security are included in the rent amount.
Take Care of Everyday Life Yourself
Believe it or not, things like food, drinks, laundry and toiletries could end up costing way more that you would imagine. This is especially true if you land in a country with different cultural and culinary tastes, so your cuisine becomes "exotic." Your tastes may cost a lot because the ingredients are sold at exclusive grocery stores that locals rarely frequent. But you can save money on your vacation rental by methodically reading about the destination country well in advance, identify grocery stores near the rented house, and figure out the cheapest way to do laundry, which may not always be easy, considering that water is a rare, precious commodity in some parts of the globe.
Consider Home Swapping
You may end up paying little or nothing at all if you are lucky to find someone with whom you can swap your house. For example, you're headed to Chile and a U.S. citizen working in that country is traveling to America around the same time. You can sign a home-exchange agreement whereby you use the expatriate's mansion while she resides at your home.
Use sites like Homeexchangeplace.com, HomeExchange.com and LoveHomeSwap.com, my three favorites, to see a complete list of swap candidates in your residence area or in the destination area as well as the terms and conditions pertaining to the offer.
Make Sure the Rental Is Legal
The last thing you want is to spend cash on attorney fees or pay regulatory fines because you are occupying a home or apartment whose (alleged) owner has run afoul of the law. For example, if there are zoning restrictions in an area, and the owner wants to tempt fate and thus builds on that land, authorities could impose a series of hefty fines, initiate litigation and even seize the property and you certainly wouldn't want to be inside when they do. To prevent that adverse scenario, seek the help of a professional and, if needed, get a second opinion before paying rent or remitting the guarantee.
There are various ways to save money on your vacation rental, depending on the country you are headed to, local real estate legislation, the law of supply and demand, and your own financial budget. The most effective cost-saving tips pertain to things like group booking, home swapping, attention to detail, and familiarity with local zoning laws and real estate legislation.