Since you are planning a vacation, you’ve probably done a lot of research about the region and the type of activities and adventures it offers. But the important thing to remember is that a lot of time is spent at “home,” whether it’s a tent at a campground or a luxury villa. It’s sometimes difficult to remember that fact, particularly when so many attractions await! To help in your planning, here’s a checklist of things to look for when renting that can make the trip go smoothly. First, the mundane. These are the little things that can mean the difference between a good vacation rental and a GREAT vacation rental…
- Room to eat, a place to sit – nothing is worse than splitting a mountain chalet rental between two families and finding out the only dining table is a breakfast nook with four chairs. Or how about the owner who spends a million dollars to build a 6 BR 4 BA cabin in ski country, then figures a counter with a couple of stools is enough. Don’t take your dining table for granted! Make sure something is provided…and if it doesn’t look big enough, ask the owner if it expands. If you don’t see enough chairs, ask if there are others — perhaps at a desk, or even in a bedroom. But make sure everyone in your group can eat comfortably, all at the same time.
- Just sitting around, watching TV – are there enough seats in the general living area? Imagine an evening of lively conversation, yet there aren’t enough places for everyone to sit. If there aren’t enough comfy chairs or spaces on the couch, you can always pick up a couple of folding canvas camp-type chairs while you’re on your way. Or can you? If you’re headed somewhere without enough comfortable seats for conversation or TV-watching, you’re headed for hurt feelings and a less-than-memorable vacation.
- Linens provided? – yes? no? If you need to bring your own towels or other linens, make sure everybody in the party knows about it. If you rent a condo or home with a community pool, find out in advance what the towel policy is. Oftentimes the homeowner will not want you to use unit towels at the pool. Some pools require a deposit for towels; these are fine, just know what it is going in.
- Take out the trash! – there are a few (very few) rental units where you may have to take excess trash with you, and in some cases dispose of all trash yourself. If you’re flying, this doesn’t make good carry-on luggage for your trip home. Find out the trash policy.
- Paper goods & the little things – from coffee filters to toilet tissue, you’ll need certain paper items. The ones you use every day at home, you also need on vacation. Some landlords provide these, some don’t. Find out, and be prepared. While you’re at it, ask about salt, pepper, coffee, etc.
- Hot or cold? some vacation homeowners, particularly in northern states, have their hot water heaters on timers. I’ve been in rental houses where you couldn’t take a shower between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm as a cost saving measure. This is fine for a group of adults who plan to be out all day, but it can sure be a shock when a little tyke is tuckered out by noon and mom throws him in the shower.
- No key, no entry – sometimes you have to pick up a house key at a real estate office. Know what their hours are, and plan to be there when they are open. Some real estate or rental offices promise to “leave a key in an envelope out in the mailbox” for people who arrive after hours. That’s fine, unless someone forgets about you. I’ve shown up at rental offices and nobody ever expected me — a miscommunication between homeowner and rental property manager meant that I would’ve been out of luck if I showed up after hours looking for a key in an envelope. Similarly, sometimes you might have a condo rental or timeshare where you need to pick up a key at a large resort hotel desk. If you arrive at this desk at 7:00 PM on a friday night, you will wait a long, long time. Be aware of what is involved in getting the key. In a perfect world, landlords mail you the key in advance, but these are few and far between.
- Emergency number – go to your vacation rental with a 24-hour emergency contact number. I’ve walked into rentals and set off alarms — very loud alarms — it isn’t good. Know who to call to handle unforseen events.
- Plan B – be prepared to adapt to unforseen circumstances. Electricity that fails during a sudden storm. A refrigerator that suddenly fails, a child that develops a sudden fever, a dead battery in your car. Do a little due dilligence in advance…know where the local medical center is, a fast food restaurant, an auto service facility. Know where to buy a cooler and ice, basic items of clothing, that sort of thing. Have some solid indoor activities lined up in case the weather doesn’t cooperate. In short, have a backup plan.