VRBO Rental 2013 San Fransisco

Airbnbs and other vacation rentals have become very popular in the last few years. Mostly as a way to save costs, but also sometimes as a more convenient option for young families and larger families. One thing to remember is that not all vacation rentals are created equal. Pictures, descriptions, and reviews can vary. Here are the factors I look at when choosing a vacation rental.

The first thing I look at with any accommodation is location. Where do I want to be? More importantly how much do I want to pay to be there? Some locations are cost prohibitive. That’s when I pinpoint where I’d like to be and look out from there also keeping in mind possible transportation costs. I mostly choose locations within walking distance of where I want to be. I also make sure there are many restaurants and other attractions close by. The filter application on any website helps tremendously weeding out various locations or pinpointing your preferred location.

The second factor is Cost. I’ve found you want to be in the median price range for any rental. If the price is too low I can almost guarantee you will not be happy. Look at the cost per person, especially when booking large rentals.   Look for hidden costs like service fees, booking fees, and high house cleaning fees. I lean toward rentals that require a deposit then balance due 30 days or more before you travel.

Pictures and presentation play a huge role in my attraction to any property. Airbnb takes professional pictures in many cities. Many self-taken photos are dark and don’t give potential renters a feel for the flow of the rental. I often check multiple rental sites, often times the same rental is listed on multiple sites, many times with the different pictures and pricing.  I personally look for bright pictures that show as much of the room as possible and give me a decent idea of the flow of the rental.

Read all reviews and take them very seriously.  I do take into consideration if complaints are relevant to me. I also take into account if and how the owner responds to a negative review. New rentals are a bit tricky. However, if they are in your preferred location and the pictures look good. Contact the owner to see if you can get a discount. New rentals are often discounted too so they can get bookings under their belt. We stayed in an Airbnb in San Fransisco on Lombard Street for half off what the rental was listed at a year later because it was a new listing.

Like hotels, there are certainly preferred amenities. These depend on the location. I once had a client insist on an indoor pool for her hotel in Paris in November. I tried to explain that European hotel in the City rarely have pools. Needless to say, she did not go because she was so hung up on having a pool. Understand your destination and compare that to your preferences. Pools and views are good for tropical locals but space and accessibility are more important in Europe. Most people require a kitchen, a room, and a pullout couch of some sort to accommodate as many people as possible.

Other Factors and Tricks –  I personally have never shared a room or house when renting so I cannot speak to this as part of the selection process. I have stayed in an Airbnb with a private entrance. Try various rental sites. Prices may vary for the same rental on a different site. Popular sites are Airbnb.com FlipKey.com and VRBO.com / HomeAway.com (Vacation Rental By Owner). Save rentals and narrow it down to 2 or 3. After a while, they all start to blur together. It helps me to save two or three, step back and return the following day to review. I also obviously decide with my husband’s input. One final note about vacation rentals is they are often not regulated so you can be subject to prejudice and other unfair treatment. Two sites that cater to the black community is Innclusive.com and  Niorbnb.com

Mera lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband Bryan and their two children. She's always looking for experiences for her family and values any memory making opportunities. She grew up in the Caribbean as a Methodist Missionary's daughter and is active in her community and church as a Rotarian and church Mission Chair. The family squeezes as many trips foreign and domestic into their year and lives a frugal lifestyle to make that happen. In 2011 Mera quit her administrative job in local government and has been raising money for family vacations ever since then.