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30 2014

When to Save Money with a Vacation Rental

Photo provided by Management

As someone who has rented many a vacation villa, cottage, and apartment—from Italy to Spain to Paris to the Caribbean to Hawaii—I am here to tell you that it’s a great way for a family or group to stretch their vacation dollar. You get more space and privacy than at a hotel, you get a living room to stretch out in and a kitchen so you can save on meals and snacks, and you get to live like a local.  There are differences that you might consider a downside, depending on what you want from the experience: Some hotel-style creature comforts are usually missing, and you might do more cooking and cleaning than you bargained for. Then again, you might get cool extras such as a fireplace, bikes, a billiard table, or even toys for your kids to play with. In my experience, here’s when a vacation rental makes the most sense:


You’re a family with children.

Families bound for big cities in particular should consider renting an apartment. City hotel rooms, especially in Europe, tend to be tiny—there’s barely any floor space for kids to kick around in—and tend not to provide a refrigerator, a microwave, a washer/dryer, or other amenities that families need. Rental apartments offer these, of course, as well as a door between the living area and the bedrooms—so kids can nap or hit the sack early without parents having to sit around in the dark for hours. As for escapes from the city, vacation rental can also be a key way to reduce the cost of a family beach vacation.


You’ve got a group.

A rental can lower your costs drastically, versus staying in a hotel. Typically, the bigger the house, the lower the price per person, and the more you’ll save—as long as you can fill the house. Therefore, when your destination is a pricey one—say, a popular beach town in peak season, or your dream villa in Tuscany—two or three families might rent together and split the cost. If your group is comprised of couples, consider whether you need a private bathroom for each bedroom.


Your stay is a week or longer.

Most rentals have a one-week minimum, especially during peak vacation periods such as school breaks or holidays. Sometimes, especially in Europe, the rental is specifically from Saturday to Saturday.  In low season there’s room for negotiation, so if you need more schedule flexibility, ask whether such restrictions can be waived.


You don’t mind a few household chores on vacation.

When my family rents a house, our first activity after arrival is not plopping down by the pool with margaritas. It’s driving to the nearest Costco to buy groceries as well as whatever kitchen, bathroom, or cleaning supplies are missing from the house. When there’s no hotel infrastructure—no housekeeper, no room service, no front desk, no maintenance crew—it means you’re the one taking out the garbage, wrestling with unfamiliar appliances, trying to get them fixed if they break, etc. That said, some rental properties offer a housekeeper, cook, or other staff at extra cost. Another option to consider: Some large resorts include a smattering of private villas, so you have the hotel’s staff and infrastructure at your disposal but also the space and privacy you crave.


Have you ever opted for a vacation rental?  What were the pros and cons—and did you save money?

Categories: Travel Inspiration, Wendy Perrin

6 thoughts on “When to Save Money with a Vacation Rental

  1. Most people might not associate Galapagos as a low cost destination for families, but this last spring i took my family of 5 to this destination and based myself from a 4 bedroom villa. it was owned by a naturalist guide and was located on the main island of Santa Cruz. We visited nearby islands on a day boat, snorkeled in many spots ( a real highlight having your young snorkel with sea lions and sea turtles) and we were also able to do many of the tours that many visitors can’t do when based from a boat due to the highly restricted allotted times one can visit the islands when based from a cruise boat, such as mountain treks, visiting local farms, coffeee plantations and mingle with the local culture. my family was able to be in the Galapagos for 10 days for 1/4th the cost of what a typical one week cruise would cost or 1/3 of what a local hotel. So what Wendy writes was very true for my family and completely doable.

  2. Thanks for article .This type rental not properly available in india? Money saving for middle class travellors is important. Any tourist company if tapped this class great. Good security,non cheating tradition may win the hearts…!

  3. One of our favorite travel tactics. Vax rentals almost always save money but often have more space, better amenities, and are in better locations (like our apts in Rome and Venice).

  4. Have these exact same qualifiers for so many trips (minus the kids).. longer stay, bigger group typically means a vacation rental is more bang for the buck. A week is sort of the magic number, esp. if even just 2 families are splitting the cost. Done this several times at WDW, always works well.

    Pro: if it’s somewhere new, you get to shop, cook, live more like a local. Con: that often means you have to have a car, more of your vacation time fending for yourself vs. the service you’d get at a hotel. FWIW.

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