Ten Tips for Choosing a Vacation Rental

Even before my husband Luis and I were married, we’ve shared twenty years of travel experiences (fourteen with children) and one of our favorite ways to vacation is (almost) always in a vacation rental. Sometimes, we’ve rented with the “big ones” like Home Away, VRBO and AirBnB, other times it’s through a local property management company or even an agri-tourism agency.

We’ve rented guest homes all over the world, including Costa Rica, Tuscany, Paris, Hawaii, Seattle, Oregon Coast, Destin and the 30A beaches of Seaside in Florida, The Florida Keys, Orlando, New York City, and Coeur d’Alene Idaho for large family gathering for a wedding.

We’ve got favorite memories of the tiny apartment we rented in Paris and it’s bunk bed like loft and central location on the island in the Seine, Ile Saint Louis. In Champagne, France, my mom came to visit and we celebrated our sons first birthday.

In Costa Rica, howler monkeys came to visit our patio every morning. And in Tuscany, we spent days under the sun dreaming by the infinity pool overlooking the sunset and the vineyards.

You’ll absolutely love staying in vacation rentals when you travel with your family!

Here are our ten best tips when looking to book a vacation rental:

  1. Know that often the best places are off the beaten path, and you should spend some time calculating your driving distance to your desired destinations. Vacation rentals can be a bit out of the way of main attractions and more rural (which we’ve learned to love.) Make sure you check google maps and even Earth to see the surrounding areas.
  2. Evaluate the kitchen. This is our favorite reason to rent vacation homes. It’s the best idea for saving money on vacation through at home breakfast, packing picnics, getting started to your holidays at a leisurely pace. It’s in the kitchen where you’ll really set the tone of “wherever you are together is home.” Enjoy your favorite bottles of wine with a meal and not break the budget.
  3. Review the owners. You’ll want to know who you’re renting from. This is as important as looking at other guest reviews. Look at the owner’s recommendations. I also want to make sure they’re collecting taxes and doing things the right way, with integrity.
  4. Check the other guest reviews, and the comments from owners on the reviews. You’ll gain some real insight about the area and the place you’ll be renting, and make sure it’s right for your family.
  5. Check the amenities. What’s the location, what kind of coffee will you need?  Is there a blender if you make smoothies?  Is it kid friendly (especially important if there is a baby in the mix) and any thing else you might need to make the place feel like home.
  6. What are the laundry facilities like? Having a way to do laundry while you travel, especially with family, makes packing light, even for a trip to Europe, a reality.
  7.  Are there any family board games at the property? Might be a simple thing, but board games = memories made, and less time connected to devices.
  8. Check into the cleaning fees, check in and out times, and make sure you know what’s included- do they leave you toilet paper and paper towels, or do you need your own?
  9. What deposits need to be made in advance? You’ll usually need to leave at least 50% upfront, sometimes even more, to secure your rental. Check for any hidden fees and make sure you know any extras up front so you’ll be prepared.
  10. Don’t be afraid to negotiate the price, especially if you’re booking last minute. We’ve been able to both get and give great deals on vacation rentals as last minute travelers.

My friend Tamara, from We3Travel says,“make a requirements list and a wish list when searching for your perfect vacation rental.”

These sources can help you find and book an awesome vacation rental, perfect for your family.


We’ve used VRBO as a trusted source for years. The listing for our beach cottage vacation is there, and we’ve had great success renting homes and meeting some fantastic hosts from all over the globe.

Faith Stay:

We’re super excited for this new vacation rental platform, setting out to change the way Christians travel and engaging and connecting others. We’re super excited to be working with FaithStay, both as hosts, and also travelers. We’ll be with them in Nashville this summer on our way to cuing nationals.


A vacation rental management and booking company. They handle all my bookings and advertising on sites like Home Away and VRBO, and AirBnB. We pay them a commission and booking fee, but they make it so simple by handling the insurance and details.  (If you’re interested in hosting, check out this post!)


Airbnb came in a few years ago and changed the game- made it super easy for hosting and renting. With no fees to hosts- I was having super awesome results when we were the only property in our area— but things changed as more people hopped on the Airbnb party. You can rent just a room, a whole unit, or even just an air mattress on the floor (thus the name, Airbnb.)

If you want to try Airbnb and use THIS link, you and I will both receive a $40 travel credit! Awesome!

Smaller and local rental agencies:

Booking with smaller companies can give you incredible personal service and a real knowledge of the surrounding area.

Some of our favorites:

Newman Dailey:

One of our favorite spots in the entire world is the 30A/ Destin area in the panhandle of Florida. No one does a Destin vacation better than the team at Newman Dailey resort rentals. From lavish beach front estates to condos, town homes and everything in between. Their service, hospitality and selection is unmatched. Their service is probably part of the reason we love Destin so much.


My friends Casey & Arianne Jones, owners of BookIt2Gether, have a fantastic way to connect travelers with unique vacation rental destinations, and to help hosts market their properties.

Want to book a vacation rental in Italy?

Check out the agriturismos. 

Looking for a guest home in France?

Consider renting a gite rural.

Want to hear more? Check out my podcast interview on Vacation Mavens about using vacation rentals.

Do you have any tips for traveling with vacation rentals? What are some of your best experiences?



40 responses to “Ten Tips for Choosing a Vacation Rental”

  1. Rachel Lannister Avatar

    Thanks for the great read. In it you mentioned that you should check to see if the rental is family friendly, especially if you have a baby or toddler. My brother and his family are looking for a nice place to stay, where they can enjoy the outdoors together for a weekend. I’ll advise that they call up the rental owners, and ask them about how they are set up for children, so that my brother and his family can stay safe and fully enjoy the facilities.

  2. Gloria Durst Avatar

    I like how you say that you can check online for reviews left by guests when choosing a vacation rental. It would make sense to see how other people’s stays were and they could also give you tips on what to do while you are there. My sister is looking for a cottage rental on a lake for her honeymoon so she’ll have to follow your advice and read online reviews first.

  3. Dana H. Freeman Avatar

    Great tip about negotiating the price especially if it is close to the rental date.

    1. Jen Reyneri Avatar

      Thanks, Dana. Great to connect.

    2. Jen Reyneri Avatar

      Thanks, Dana! Happy travels!

  4. John Avatar

    I feel like your tip to check the other guest reviews would be essential. I wouldn’t want to book a vacation rental unless I’ve heard what the other previous guests had to say about it. I’d imagine it would also do a great deal in helping you understand what amenities or fees are also involved.

  5. Barbera Peters Avatar

    Thank you for the tip on reviewing the owners. It made so much sense when you mentioned the importance compared to customer reviews and the integrity of the owners. My husband and I are looking for a place to stay but felt nervous on how we should pick the place. Thanks for the advice. We will be sure to use it soon.

  6. Ashley Turns Avatar

    My husband and I are hoping to rent a vacation home for the week of our fifth wedding anniversary. So I like how you mention that we should see what type of products are included, like toilet paper or dish soap. I’ll definitely research what type of things we’ll need to buy along with our groceries before we make it to our vacation home.

  7. Sam Wilkins Avatar

    I love your tip about choosing a place outside of the main attraction areas for your vacation. My husband and I are looking to get away together during our winter break. Maybe we should rent a cabin or something to get us away from the busy city life.

  8. Alexandria Martinez Avatar

    My fiance and I are using VRBO for the first time and we wanted to know a little bit more about it. It makes us very trusting to hear that you have used it as a trusted source for years. This is very relieving. We are really happy about this.

  9. Marcus Avatar

    It really helped when you mentioned how you should look at what other guests have to say about the vacation rental you want to rent. I can see how anyone looking into this would want to compare several rental houses and find the one that has the best reputation and can provide the type of amenities they are looking for. Personally, I would want to take the time to find a vacation home that is close to where I want to be so my travel time is kept to a minimum and I can save time and money.

  10. Larry Weaver Avatar

    Checking to see if there are any family board games at the property is a great idea. My family is looking to find a home rental, and I would really like to get my kids away from screens during the vacation. Reviewing the owners is also something I’ll have to do before we decide on if we go or not.

  11. Vivian Black Avatar

    I like how you mentioned that it’s good to learn more about the place’s amenities and owner for you to have a better grasp on how the area is doing in terms of service, sanitation, and the other essential parts before renting the cabin. It surely is helpful since we are about to have a reservation made within next week for our annual ski trip. I’d be sure to triple check the options we’re looking into for the vacation rental. Thanks!

  12. Callum Palmer Avatar

    There are a lot of things you have to check on before choosing a vacation rental. Fortunately, your article does a fantastic job of going over some of the more important ones. I particularly like that you remind you readers to check on the amenities since the vacation rental should, ideally, have everything they need.

  13. Ridley Fitzgerald Avatar

    These are helpful tips for choosing a vacation rental. I like how you said that the best places are those farther away from the beaten path. We’re looking for a place to stay during our summer vacation, so I’ll remember to widen my search area!

  14. Sutton Turner Avatar

    I like how you said that the best places are off the beaten path. We are thinking of renting vacation lodging when we go on vacation this summer. I appreciate the tips for choosing a vacation rental property.

  15. Blue Sky Villa Avatar

    Lovely written article with a wealth of tips and info to help make the tough choices picking the best vacation rental possible.

  16. Hector Uba Avatar

    Thanks for the tips on what you should look for in a vacation rental; there were very helpful. I love that you talked about finding places that are off the beaten path because those are the ones that are usually hidden treasures. In my opinion, traveling and vacations is all about exploring and seeing new things, so you should be willing to do things you normally wouldn’t.

  17. Joy Butler Avatar

    I found it interesting when you said that we should check on the guest reviews. However, I believe that it would be best to make a background checking on the owners of the place. If you’re to ask me I’d prefer a family cabin in a safe and secured area.

  18. Kit Hannigan Avatar

    I really like your tip about checking if the vacation home is kid friendly; especially if you have a baby along with you. We are planning to spend the holidays up north since there are major renovations going on at home. We have a toddler with us, so this tip will definitely help us find the best vacation home rental for us. Thanks!

  19. Tatiana Wilson Avatar

    Thank you for the advice about checking the reviews of the previous renters of the house to get some insight about the place and know if it suits me. If that is the case, then I will be sure to mention this to my parents since they will be the ones looking for a rental home for the family trip. They can be a bit meticulous, so they need to read every review available to them to make sure that they are choosing the best place for their needs.

  20. Duncan Lance Avatar

    I do like the questions you ask about which deposits you need to make in advance. After all, if you’re planning to stay at the rental you’ll want to make sure that all the payments are taken care of in advance. That way you don’t have to worry about anything while you’re relaxing on vacation.

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  23. Carly Mckeen Avatar

    Thank you for stating that you should check the amenities. when looking for a vacation rental. My family and I are going to the beach this summer and need a vacation rental. I will definitely keep all of your great tips and information in mind when looking for a beach house to rent.

  24. Daphne Gilpin Avatar

    I’m happy you shared the idea to check guest reviews so we can get insight about the vacation rental and the area it’s in. Work has been really stressful for my husband and I, and we both really like the idea of getting away for the holiday by renting a vacation home. Thanks for sharing this article and teaching me what steps to take when choosing a rental home!

  25. Faylinn Byrne Avatar

    Your advice about making sure that you check and review the owners for your vacation rental was really important and it made me think a lot. My family and I are thinking about spending some time away from school and work by renting a home together, and we are weighing our options. I will need to share this article with all of them so we can make a good decision.

  26. Alex Hales Avatar
    Alex Hales

    There are many things which you need to look while choosing vacation rentals but the most important things which lies importance in itself is reviews of that place which you are choosing as it tells pros and cons of that place which is very important to know moreover you also need to look nearby amenities which are its near of vacation rental homes in Dallas Texas.

  27. Tyson Coolidge Avatar

    I like what you said about making sure that the kitchen for your vacation rental meets your needs. My wife has been telling me about how she wants to get away from the world for a weekend. We’ll be sure to look into our options for cabins with good kitchens that can help us with this.

  28. Jesse Ford Avatar

    I like how you mentioned to calculate your driving distance to your desired destination. My wife and I are thinking about renting home accommodations when we go on vacation because we want to feel comfortable with a larger space than a hotel room. It seems like a good investment to look at areas where the locations we want to go to are nearby our rental.

  29. Charlotte Fleet Avatar

    I really liked your tip about how important it is to know how far away the potential vacation rental is away from things we hope to enjoy throughout our vacation. My family has been hoping to take a family trip to somewhere warm for a while now since we haven’t been on one since I graduated high school. I will have to talk to my family about where we want to go and to definitely pay attention to vacation rentals close to the beach since that is definitely the main thing we want to enjoy while there!

  30. Shaylee Packer Avatar

    I didn’t realize that the best places were off the beaten path. Usually, I would think that they would be right in the middle of things. I will have to keep this in mind the next time we schedule a vacation.

  31. Victoria Addington Avatar

    Thanks for the tips you provided on choosing vacation beach homes. Since we’ll be spending our weekend at the Isle of Palms, I am hoping to provide the whole family unforgettable beach experience. It’s good that you included checking into the cleaning fees, the amenities, and the kitchen. When I start looking for one, I’ll consider all of your advice.

  32. Ellie Davis Avatar

    My husband and I are thinking about taking our vacation together, and we are looking for advice about how to plan it properly. I liked that you mentioned you need to evaluate the kitchen of a vacation rental property before choosing it for your vacation. I will let him read your article to choose the right place for our vacation.

  33. Afton Jackson Avatar

    I loved your tip about evaluating the kitchen when choosing a vacation rental. My kids love me for all the special meals I make for them whenever occasions happen, and for me to make a great meal, I need a great kitchen. I always worry about being separated from my kitchen since I customized it to be suited for my purposes, so I’ll make sure I follow your tips and check the kitchen and any other utilities when browsing vacation rentals.

  34. Rocio Espinosa Avatar

    I loved your tip on why to evaluate the kitchen to choose a vacation rental. My family and I always try to save money on meals when we travel, and having a fully equipped kitchen is a great help.

  35. Alice Carroll Avatar

    It’s helpful that you mentioned that reading customer reviews will help a lot in choosing the right vacation rental for me. I plan to have a staycation with my boyfriend later this year since we haven’t been on dates much these past few months. Getting to stay indoors while still having a fun vacation time will be a lot safer amidst the pandemic.

  36. Adam Golightly Avatar

    My brother has been thinking about taking a vacation from his work because he would really like to relax and take a break. He would really like to rent a home from a professional to help them relax more. I liked what you said about how he should check the cleaning fees, in and its times, deposits, and guest reviews from other families.

  37. Princess Avatar

    Well I have to say that’s a very well put article! I have a lots of new knowledge because of this. As I’ve reading this, there’s this site Aisling Baile reminds me with my great experience with them. They are so willing to help me with my commodities and very approachable for my inquiries. Hope you have your great vacations too!

  38. Olivia Smart Avatar

    Thank you for explaining that you should check other guests’ reviews. I’ve been wondering how I should further narrow down our options for a corporate vacation rental. I’ll have to check this out so that we can find the best place for everyone to stay.