Tips on how to navigate book-your-own vacation accommodation

Sadly, you can’t trust the beautiful images the home owner sends you. You’ve got to dig deeper.

Have you ever rented a vacation property online? You can rent some really unique spaces, and staying in somebody else’s home allows you to live like locals, as opposed to vacationing in a (potentially) sterile hotel environment. It’s an intriguing prospect and yet many are wary, especially after hearing horror stories of homes not turning out as described. Here are my tips for how to best tell if the vacation property you rent is legit.

How to tell if your vacation rental is legit

You may think you’re getting this pool (and view) all to yourself. That may not be the case.

When your spidey senses start tingling….

With any online transaction, if you come across a red flag, you’ll want to heed that warning. Whenever your spidey sense starts to tingle, consider moving on. Try another site. Ask around. Here are a few red flags to be aware of:

Get third party references for vacation rentals

Just like when someone puts down a contact for a job reference, the person they refer isn’t likely to give a bad review. Putting your faith in third party references puts a lot of trust in the owners (who you don’t know). It’s unlikely the reference they’ve supplied is going to give anything less than a glowing recommendation.

How to spot fake travel reviews

Unfortunately, not all vacation rental sites have solid verification methods to filter out fake reviews. Glib comments (‘best place ever!’) should be treated as suspicious. Likewise, disregard reviews that are both overly effusive and raving bad. The truth often lies somewhere in-between. Legitimate reviews should be at least a couple of sentences long with personal stories about how the reviewer enjoyed the property.

Safest way to pay for vacation rentals

Always pay through secure methods. Credit cards give you the most security. Don’t pay by a method that isn’t endorsed by the site. Never send cash, cheques or instant money orders.

historic poland

Location is key, but if you’re in the city centre or an apartment, how noisy could it be?

How to find the best vacation home rental

So how can you find a vacation home that is all it claims to be? Doing your own research is paramount. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Word of mouth. Use your social media networks and crowd source to get recommendations from those you trust.
  2. Arrange for a FaceTime call with the owner, so you can be walked through the property and can verify if it looks just as described. Be sure to ask for some screen time of the outdoors as well. Something advertised as ‘steps away from the beach’ could turn out to be miles.
  3. Compare reviews on multiple sites. Simply Google the address or the name of the property and then compare reviews on multiple booking sites.
  4. Book on a site that offers both the owner and the renter to review each other.
  5. Use a site that offers 24/7 customer service. Some sites will immediately help you find alternative accommodation in the area and will cover those associated costs.
  6. Opt for the additional insurance or rental guarantee policy if offered.

Using technology to book travel isn’t going away. Millions of bookings happen everyday and it’s rare to hear of horrible experiences. When this happens, it makes the local (and sometimes national) news. Fortunately technology is evolving to ensure the authenticity of both parties.

Have you ever rented a vacation property from an owner online? What was your experience like?

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