Traveling with a family of six, it almost always makes more sense to rent a house than to stay in hotels. We love being able to cook meals at home and have space to spread out. Especially in the pandemic where we're not comfortable going into hotels or restaurants, vacation rental homes are a great option. Even before the pandemic, we had used these sites for many years for our summer Narragansett rentals, as well as for our trip to Quebec City last year.
We’ve had good luck with both AirBnB and VRBO in the past, and generally use whichever site has the house that is the best fit for our trip. There tends to be a lot of overlap between the two sites, but it’s not 100% so it’s worth checking both.
Here's how we approach looking for a vacation rental:
- First, I look at location. I prefer to search in the “map view”, and zoom out to a pretty wide circle around the general area we’re headed to. It’s a good way to see the variation in price across different towns/neighborhoods, and get a sense of what’s available. For our winter getaway during the pandemic, an in-town location wasn't important to us, but we wanted a large yard for the kids to play in when they finished school each afternoon.
- Next, I set our number of guests and minimum number of bedrooms. We can get away with three bedrooms for a weekend trip, but prefer a minimum of four bedrooms for longer trips, especially when we’ll be working/learning remotely.
- Some house listings include floor plans, which is helpful for getting a sense of layout. The house we rented in the Berkshires had two bedrooms downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs, which is not our ideal configuration with four kids, but it was helpful knowing that ahead of time so we could start managing expectations with the kids about who would sleep where!
- I always filter down to houses that have good reviews (4.5 or 5 stars) from prior renters. Reading the comments/reviews is super helpful. The house we rented in the Berkshires had a few reviews from other families who had visited during the quarantine and it was reassuring to read their comments about the strong WiFi and Covid safety protocols.
- Laundry. Always make sure there is laundry! We somehow overlooked this key detail when we rented on the Cape last summer and will never make that mistake again!
- Always check the cancellation policy - I’ve been surprised at how different the cancellation policies are for different houses. Some of them have no cancellation flexibility, and others offer cancellation up to the week of your trip.