Ready to Rent Your Ideal Beach Vacation Property?

If you've ever considered renting a condo or house for your beach vacation rather than staying in a hotel, congratulations! By choosing the right rental, you can save a lot of money, enjoy much more space, and find the perfect location to meet the needs of everyone in your vacation party. But how do you go about finding the right place?

Decide What Accommodations are Best for Your Group

First, decide whether renting a property rather than staying in a hotel is really best for your group. If one of your vacation goals is a break from cooking, or if you love returning to a spotlessly clean and made-up bedroom each day, you might be happier in a hotel room. There is something to be said for letting others do the mundane daily chores. Hotels are usually centrally located, and often have amenities such as swimming pools and exercise rooms for your enjoyment.

But if you are traveling with a large group that includes babies, small children, teenagers, and/or seniors, hotel rooms have severe limitations. There is no space to put the baby down for a nap without darkening and silencing the entire room. Teenagers may want to monopolize the TV and computer. Older folks may be on a different sleep schedule from the rest of the group. And the expense of multiple hotel rooms or suites can be staggering. A full condo or house makes much more sense in these cases!

With a rental property, you get space. Multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, a full kitchen and often a dining room, one or more living spaces, and often outdoor areas as well, such as decks, balconies, and fenced yards. The privacy a beach rental affords you is tremendous, as is the feeling of being able to spread out and get comfortable. When you're trying to meet the needs of a group, a beach rental property is unbeatable!

Rent from a Source You Can Trust

So now that you are convinced this is what you want, the second consideration is whether to rent directly from a homeowner or to go through a management company. A direct rental will most likely save you a bit of money, but presents several challenges. You have to be able to trust the individual you are renting from. And if something goes wrong during your stay -- as things are likely to do! -- you may not be able to get a service person out quickly, especially if you feel you should negotiate with the owner about who is paying for the repair. With the best will in the world, owners may not be able to respond quickly (they are usually gone from the area, which is why they are able to rent their property!), and you do not want your vacation marred by a broken air conditioner, downed Internet service, or leaky plumbing. Most vacationers choose the convenience of a property management company simply to know that someone will answer the phone and provide a solution when a problem arises.

In choosing a vacation rental management company, look for several things:

  • Customer reviews and recommendations. Find out what other vacationers think of the service provided by the company. A reputable management company will post reviews -- positive and negative -- right on the site. Often they are available for individual properties, too. Read the reviews with an eye not only to the problems of the property, but how the management company handled them
  • Payment and cancellation policies. Vacation properties are often booked well in advance, so they may have restrictive policies for cancelling or changing dates. All or most of the payment is usually due before the date of arrival. Make sure you know exactly what the rules are in advance.
  • Availability of travel or vacation insurance. Many property management companies offer policies that cover you in the event of the unforeseen, from illnesses to airline strikes to weather emergencies. Your vacation can be a significant financial investment, and purchasing insurance can be a very inexpensive way to buy peace of mind.
  • Appearance and functionality of the website. This may sound trivial, but a reputable, dependable management company should have a website with a 100% secure and efficient check-out process, a reasonable search function, high-quality photographs that show the interior of each property as well as the exterior, and clear descriptions of all of the features of each condo or house. Some even provide the Google Earth view of each property, so you can see the surrounding area.
  • Helpful, efficient telephone staff. If the person who answers the phone isn't friendly and upbeat when you're inquiring about renting a property, you can imagine what he or she will be like when you call to report a clogged toilet.

Choose Your Favorite Vacation Rental

Once you have found a company you are pleased with, you're ready for the fun part: choosing a property! Most vacation rental property management sites arrange properties by location (city as well as view), type (condo or house), and size (many houses are available for groups of 20 or more . . . and at the other end of the spectrum, studio condos are perfect for a couples getaway!). Some also offer pet-friendly properties.

Whatever your rental needs, in choosing a property, look for certain key perks that will really enhance your vacation experience:

  • A fully stocked kitchen. This does not mean food; that you will be picking up yourself on your way into town! It means a kitchen that has the full complement of cookware, dishes, glasses, utensils, flatware, and serving pieces needed to prepare and serve everyone in your group. Nothing is more disheartening than arriving at a rental with a bag of groceries and a carful of hungry kids, only to find that you have no colander to drain the macaroni, no sharp knives to cut the steaks, and no pitcher for the juice. (Better hope there's a corkscrew for the wine you're going to want immediately after discovering all this!)
  • A washer and dryer in the rental, not merely in the complex. When you're at the beach, if you aren't going through half a dozen towels a day and getting your clothes muddy, sandy, wet, and dirty, you aren't trying hard enough! An in-house washer and dryer are absolutely invaluable for those multiple trips to the beach each day.
  • Internet service. It's fun to plan for a vacation by looking at brochures and reading about the area, but once you're there, nothing beats the convenience of a quick glance at websites for hours of operation, menus, and driving directions. You'll want Internet service -- preferably wireless! -- at your rental.
  • Linens and towels. Opinions vary about whether it's preferable to bring your own or have them provided at the rental, but if you're traveling by air, the only good option is to have them waiting for you at your rental property. Don't be afraid to ask about the availability of extra pillows and blankets, too. Many vacation rentals have nicely stocked linen closets.

With a little planning, your vacation rental can not only meet the needs of everyone in your group -- it can fulfill your dreams of the perfect beach experience!