One look at this Costa Rican sky and you’re swept away to sparkling waters, a quiet beach and puffs of clouds swirling into dusty peach perfection.
It’s enough to make you want to jump on a plane this very minute, isn’t it? But something – or maybe someone – is stopping you.
The Internet, that endless, shifting black book of people and products spoils consumers into believing that next best thing is just a click away. The sheer volume of information available, from user reviews to news stories, can be daunting especially when it comes to the deep virtual landscape of vacation homes.
If you’re a first-time renter, eliminate the stress of finding that dream getaway by following these four steps:
1. Narrow down your search to two, at most three, vacation spots. I always start with a search of cheap airfare tracking sites like Airfarewatchdog.com and farecast.live.com. Proceed with VacationHomeRentals.com, where properties are listed by state, international destinations and Last Minute Deals.
2. Once you’ve found potential hot spots, contact owners and – if you’re extra curious – past renters (whose e-mail addresses are linked to their user reviews) with questions about the property. Ask questions, even if that information is already provided on the listing. It never hurts to be armed with all the answers up front because the information could be out of date depending on how often the landlord tends to the post. i.e. Does the rental charge including cleaning services? Is there a grocery store nearby? Are there cribs, strollers and other family necessities provided?
3. Stack your favorites against each other (You can add your favorites to a folder after registering on the site.) Based on the answers provided by the owners, decide what property best suits your situation in terms of cost, convenience and time. That Florida vacation home may be a great deal at $750 a week, but if it’s too 4,000 square feet too big for your family of three and too far away from Disney World, where you’ll be spending most of your time, maybe a vacation condo closer to the park would make more sense.
4. Be flexible. Even if you’ve been wise enough to do all the research up-front, the final factor is your gut. Keep the planning as production-free as possible. Because that is the whole point of going on vacation.