If you’re ready to dip your toe in the waters of vacation rentals, read this article first. Renting your first apartment or home through Airbnb, Homeaway, Tripadvisor, or another rental match-making service can be both thrilling and slightly scary. You’re gaining the potential to live like a local, but giving up the security of having a hotel concierge with a front-desk to welcome you every time and someone to report to if things go wrong. Although you may give up some of the peace of mind that comes with a hotel stay, I think there are a lot of reasons why renting an apartment makes a lot of sense, not the least of them being the potential for a kitchen to cook in, more space, a washing machine, outdoor space, and a city-central location. If carefully selected, all of the preceding amenities can be had for a price below that of hotel room. Here are my tips for choosing a great Airbnb:
- Get a primo location and make sure it is in an area you feel comfortable. Although you won’t be able to zero in on the exact location, most rental marketplaces show you a pin on a map where you can enlarge to get the nearest street. I go on Google Earth and check out the area to make sure that I will feel safe and to see how close it is to eateries, main tourist attractions, etc. Taking the time to investigate a location can save you the anguish of showing up at your rental only to find it’s in a neighborhood where you don’t feel comfortable or one that is totally removed from everything. I also recommend staying in the city center if possible. It always adds to my vacation to walk out my door and gaze upon a world-famous church or other cultural landmark. Plus, I love being able to easily walk to places I want to visit.
- Make a detailed list of what you want and thoroughly investigate the amenities. Some rental marketplaces are better than others for this. I love Homeaway for its detailed list of amenities. Decide what is important to you and make sure your rental has it. If staying connected is important, check for wi-fi. Plan to wash your clothes? Make sure there is a washing machine, dryer/drying rack, iron, and detergent. Would you like to save money by cooking? See that there is a functional kitchen where you can cook the type of meals you hope—look to see if there are pots, silverware, pantry items, plates, coffee pot, toaster, microwave, etc. Make sure the bathroom has the amenities and space important to you. We like a balcony or terrace, so that is one amenity we always look for. As you can see from the picture, our apartment’s balcony in Florence gave us a lovely view of the Duomo and a perfect place to enjoy a glass of vino.
- Read the reviews. Look for superhosts if possible. It may seem unfair to those hosts just starting out, but I look for hosts who have plenty of experience and lots of great reviews. I don’t like to rent from people who have canceled on their renters before. I look for reviews that talk about how the apartment was just as advertised and those that remark about great communication. These are things that are important to me. When I show up, I want the host to be waiting for me and the place to be exactly as I expected so I look for reviews that indicate this will happen. If an amenity is especially important to me, like a functional kitchen or good wi-fi, I look for reviews that speak to that feature.
- Check to see if the price for the rental is in the same ballpark as comparables. You don’t want it too high, but one that is too low should raise red flags, too.
- Check for the price with the fees. Cleaning, service, and other fees can take a rental price from bargain to wallet buster.
- Avoid listings with pictures that are fuzzy or too artsy—for instance, focused on a vase of flowers instead of the entire living room. Look to see that there is a full picture of each room (like the one shown here). If something is stated on the amenity list, but doesn’t show in the pictures, you should question where it is. Which leads me to my last tip…
- Once you have narrowed down your potential rentals to just a few, email the host with a question. How quickly they reply and how they respond will give you insight into their interaction with you once you are their tenant. I look for prompt, clear, polite responses. If someone doesn’t get back with me in 24 hours, that’s not good enough for me. When hosts don’t respond promptly, it makes me feel that they might not respond promptly when I’m standing outside their door with all my bags having just flown across the ocean and am waiting for them to show up and give me a key.
With a little research and planning, you can choose a vacation rental that heightens your holiday experience. I hope you have a wonderful vacation and that the space you choose takes your trip to the next level of fun and enjoyment!
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