How to Choose your Vacation Rental
Sometimes the biggest challenge we face when planning a vacation (outside of choosing a location) is where to stay once you arrive. With a variety of different ways to book and places to stay, the choices can quickly become overwhelming when you don’t know what to look for. Here we detail the FIVE things you can do to help you narrow down your options!
Pick a location: Are you a beach family? Does hiking in the mountains sound amazing? Or would you prefer to sip wine in the heart of wine country? Would you prefer to be in close proximity to the beach but would rather be on a lake?
Determine a budget: This will help you greatly narrow down your options. When you’re searching the options, set the value of your vacation rental budget to help clear out those not within your budget making it easier to choose between rentals.
Determine dates: If you’re unsure or still flexible, check rate/calendar schedules or ask a property manager/owner about their seasons. Sometimes peak or off-peak weeks can affect the cost – you can come a week later and save 25% automatically sometimes!
Determine if a hotel or a vacation rental condominium is best for you: If you want a hotel room, sometimes it can save you money. Typically they come with 2 beds, a mini-fridge, and a bathroom with at least a shower. Keep in mind that you can usually get a spacious, multi-room condo for the price of a hotel. If you want a condo it can basically be your home away from home. There is typically is a full-size kitchen, with your basic cooking essentials. Not to mention a blender to make some frozen tropical libations, bedrooms where you can get a little solitude after days at the beach, and of course an amazing view from your balcony!
If a Vacation Rental is your choice: Decide if it’s important to you to book through a property management company. The benefit is that they can help assist, normally much quicker than an Owner. If something drastic happens, they normally have inventory on-hand and are able to move you to if your space becomes uninhabitable or unavailable, whereas a single owner doesn’t have that flexibility. Property Management companies normally have special discount partners with local vendors/restaurants/services that an Owner can’t really set up due to lack of numbers. They also normally have robust teams to answer any question you have from real estate to the best seafood spots.
Determine Necessary Amenities: Are you hoping to have pool or beach access? Kid activities or sports areas? Or are you traveling with the elderly and need a walk-in shower or tub? Do you need a full kitchen or a washer-dryer? What about wifi? If you have kids and other family traveling, is multi-room the best option?
Now we narrow the search: Searching for the perfect place can be stressful and rewarding at the same time. It is much easier to start your search small and expand from there, instead of narrowing down 1000 options. Sites like VRBO, Homeaway, Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Flipkey, Expedia, etc. can be good but very overwhelming. They also oftentimes have additional service fees that charge you as a guest an extra 7-20%. This could mean paying an extra $500 when you could have booked direct and saved that money for dinner and activities! The benefits of these sites are the many options they show, but as they grow, so do their stricter policies and open market system. Changes are coming soon where a guest will not be able to see the company or the Owner whom they are booking with. Some sites are already doing this, restricting Property Management or owner info, so it makes it hard to really form a connection with the PM/Owner. You’ll still be able to send them an email but the days of being able to call and work first-hand with the company/Owner are diminishing, unfortunately.
So, what do you do? How can you talk to the person who is really managing and renting that property to gain all the useful knowledge you need to make the most educated decision for your family?
- Use sites like Emerald Coast Vacation Rentals By Owner. No charges to guests and the booking process happen through the Property Management/Owner. You’ll see the contact phone number and either an email or inquire now button. The key takeaway here is if you can’t see the contact info, you are most likely on a site that is trying to run reservations through their system. You may or may not be able to speak directly with the PM/OWR meaning you may be paying that pesky 7-20% service fee to book on their site.
- Did you have a great experience the last time you visited the area? What about your family or next-door neighbor? Who did they book through? If they don’t remember but they remember the name of the property, do a quick google search to try to find the direct rental unit (instead of major listing sites which charge the big fees). Word of mouth business is both best for the company and consumers. You can get a first-hand experience account from someone you already trust. When you go on vacation, remember to write down the name of the company so you don’t forget!
- Take home the free goodies. GBR provides free goodies as a welcome gift for each guest. From cooler bags, cups, koozies, and more, you’ll be able to enjoy the gift (and it’s normally a GREAT way to not forget the company you booked through!)
- Reach out to the local information centers like Visit South Walton. They should carry brochures and also have a list of PM’s in the area they could refer you to.
- Get involved with vacation rental Facebook groups like Destin Florida Vacation Rentals. It’s an open communication forum where guests can list what they are looking for and PM/OWRs can respond with availability. Remember, the more detailed you are, the more direct options you’ll find. Sit and wait for the magic to happen. Scroll through past posts and you may find a PM/OWRS post on a special or something that would perfectly fit your needs!
- Last but not least, in your search: stay organized. We would suggest a little schoolbook-style notebook. Write the unit, the listing site you saw it on, and the price. Record any major communications you need to remember, including if and when you called/emailed them so you know if it is a dead-end lead.
There are benefits to booking direct on our website with Gibson Beach Rentals – Often times we offer Flash Sales and Year Round Specials (including a repeat guest discount). Take advantage of these sales and links in your search so you can find the perfect vacation rental that will allow you and your family to make memories that will last a lifetime!