So you’ve decided to rent a house or apartment for your next trip or family vacation. Great! But where do you begin? The increasing popularity of vacation rentals has led to an explosion of resources on the Web, which can be more overwhelming than useful. With hundreds of thousands of properties listed online and in real estate offices all over the world, how can you find the one that’s right for you?
To make the process easier, we’ve pulled together our most useful tips and Web resources for finding and getting a great deal on your next vacation rental. We’ll tell you where to begin your search, when to reserve your property and what questions to ask the homeowner before your stay. Start here and you’ll be well on your way to finding the house, bungalow or oceanfront villa of your dreams.
Related:Is a Vacation Rental Right for You?
Start by visiting the many useful vacation rental sites on the Web (we’ve listed a few of our favorites below). They are well organized and will help you narrow down the areas that appeal to you most and what you can expect to find there. Many sites will allow you to save your favorite properties to a wish list for easy comparison, and to communicate directly with homeowners, who are usually eager to share first-hand knowledge of the areas where they have properties.
Your best bet is to compare rates, amenities, views and conditions before entering into a rental agreement. Keep in mind that certain sites are simply a forum for owners to list their properties, while other sites serve as rental agents and take a more active role in the process. You may pay slightly more when booking through an agent site, but they may also be more willing to step in if something goes wrong with your rental.
While there are many worldwide sites for vacation rentals, don’t forget about smaller sites that offer rentals specific to your destination; often you’ll find properties listed there that you wouldn’t find on the bigger sites. Local real estate offices can also be a great resource, especially if you live within driving distance of your destination and would like to tour properties in person with a real estate agent. To find local realtors, try contacting the Chamber of Commerce for your destination city (if you can’t find the number by searching the Web, contact the state tourism office). Keep in mind, however, that the agent’s commission may inflate the price of your rental, and you’ll probably be giving up your chance to bargain with the property owner directly.
Related:Ditch the Hotel: 10 Cheaper Ways to Stay
Many people begin planning their summer vacations right after New Year’s. Also, in many popular vacation destinations you’ll find loyalists — people who rent the same house for the same block of time year after year. For the largest selection, start early and ask about early booking discounts. Sometimes you’ll find that in exchange for the security of having their property rented, an owner and agent will offer a discount, sometimes as much as 10 percent.
Know What You Want
Need to bring Fido? Make sure pets are allowed. Have small children? Ask about baby gates for the stairs. Vacationing with an older family member who isn’t very mobile? Try to find a property without many steps. Plan on having cookouts? Ask if the grill is in good shape. Get the details in writing and bring them with you to be sure everything is as promised. Also, be sure you have the name and phone number of someone you can call if anything goes wrong during your stay.
Wait It Out
In the most popular vacation destinations, supply outweighs demand. For this reason, the closer the high season gets, the more agents and owners are scrambling to fill houses. If you are flexible about your dates and amenities, you can find significant savings on your vacation rental by searching at the last minute. Just don’t get your heart set on a particular property and remember that this is a game of risk vs. reward.
Read the Fine Print
Before making a rental commitment, be sure you understand what it involves. Start looking as far in advance of departure as possible so that you can absorb all the nitty-gritty about terms and rules, physical layout, furnishings, cleaning and repair services (if any), local transportation, proximity to services that you need, financial arrangements and obligations, deposits, liability and property insurance, and whatever other details come to mind. Minimize your risk of unpleasant surprises when you arrive and when it’s far too late to back out.
Many vacation rental sites now offer reviews and feedback from past guests; read these carefully and reach out to the homeowner about any questions that might arise.
Keep in mind that renting a house or apartment is not like booking a hotel room — it’s a binding contract between you and the homeowner. In the event you need to cancel, you may have to do so within a week or even 30 days for a full refund.
Finally, keep in mind that some cities — including New York — have laws against locals renting out their own homes for fewer than 30 days. For more on this, see Airbnb and Beyond: Tips for Safe, Legal Vacation Rentals.
There are a number of helpful websites to consult when looking for your vacation rental. Many sites are just listing agents and do not vouch for the properties, so check what kind of support, if any, you can expect from the site if things don’t go as planned. Below is just a sample of the resources available.
The Apartment Service
At Home Abroad, Inc.
BeachSummerRentals.com: Beach towns in the U.S., Caribbean, Mexico and Central America
Caribbean Way: Upscale properties in the Caribbean and other tropical locations
ClassicVacationRental.com: Italy, France and England
Domus International: Rome, Italy
Hosted Villas: Various European countries as well as Argentina, Mexico and more
Nice Pebbles: Nice, France
RentVillas.com: Europe and Caribbean
ResorTime.com: U.S., Canada, Mexico and Caribbean
Summer in Italy: Italy
Villa in Umbria: Umbria, Italy
Wyndham Vacation Rentals: U.S., Canada and Europe
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Vacation Rental Tips: What You Need to Know
— written by Genevieve S. Brown; updated by Vicki Flores and Sarah Schlichter
Editor’s Note:IndependentTraveler.com is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, Inc., which also owns FlipKey, Holiday Lettings and VacationHomeRentals.com.
Renting a summer beach house is a tradition as old as time—maybe because beach house rentals offer the extra space and amenities you want during your weeklong departure from the real world.
Family Destinations For A Summer Beach House
If you’ve started planning your summer vacation, it’s good to know that finding family rentals on TripAdvisor is as easy as key lime pie, with more than 835,000 properties available worldwide in all different shapes, sizes, and prices. Benefit from the free laundry, a full kitchen for cooking meals, and extras like a pool or private outdoor area—overlooking the ocean, perhaps?
Choosing the perfect family beach house isn’t only about the accommodations, though. You want to visit the right destination. Maybe you go to the same tried-and-true shores every year (hello, Myrtle Beach), or maybe you’re considering somewhere new this season (the Oregon Coast gets our vote). Either way, staying in a TripAdvisor family rental can mean saving money for what matters most: the experience. You can sleep easy that your booking is in safe hands with our Payment Protection.
To celebrate summer beach house season, we’ve rounded up 15 stellar family destinations—some warm-weather staples, others less obvious—with great rentals available on TripAdvisor and tons of family- and kid-friendly activities you can book right on TripAdvisor.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
“Not your run-of-the-mill beach town. It’s several steps above other beach towns that have dozens of souvenir shops, tattoo parlors, junk food places, etc. There are extremely beautiful neighborhoods here with fantastic homes.” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
Sun, sand, and surf. What more could you want from a family beach vacation? Rehoboth Beach is renowned for its prime dolphin watching, which allows kids to see the ocean’s smartest creatures up close as they glide alongside your pontoon boat. Rehoboth Beach’s “Funland” boasts amusement rides, mini golf, arcades, and more. The beach itself is free to the public, and the top-rated boardwalk has restaurants, shops, live music, and great family-friendly nightlife.
See all summer beach house rentals in Rehoboth Beach!
Outer Banks, North Carolina
“We went to celebrate my husband’s birthday and were extremely pleased. The cottage is wonderful and very clean plus the views are beautiful. The kitchen is fully stocked to meet any cooking needs. Our favorite part was all the wild horses on the property.” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
Booking a summer beach house on the Outer Banks is a safe bet for a great family getaway. The only question is where to make your home base. More than 10 different islands make up OBX—but don’t fret, each one has stunning beach homes for rent, plus thrilling activities and attractions. There’s Jockey’s Ridge (the East Coast’s highest sand dune) in Nags Head, the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (America’s tallest brick lighthouse) in Buxton, and incredible historical reenactments at Roanoke Island Festival Park in Manteo. The Outer Banks is also known for world-class golfing, fishing, and picturesque scenery at every turn.
See all summer beach house rentals on the Outer Banks!
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach is one of America’s premier family vacation destinations, and for good reason. Book a summer beach house to save money on the front end and spend that extra cash on memorable experiences your kids will love. Ride on the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel, catch a baseball game at TicketReturn.com field, or compete in mini golf at one of 40 different courses. If it’s amusement you seek, look no further than the shops, restaurants, putt-putt, and paddle boats at Broadway at the Beach. One TripAdvisor reviewer states: “[It has] something for everyone. There are jewelry stores, t-shirt shops, candle shops, fudge makers, and the list goes on. The kids can play in the amusement park or feed the fish in the [nearby] pond. Broadway also has a movie theater and aquarium. You could really spend all day there and everyone would come away with something different.”
See all summer beach house rentals in Myrtle Beach!
Lincoln City, Oregon
“Cheerful, cozy, and dog-friendly. We rented three houses all right next to each other for a family reunion. It was perfect!” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
If you haven’t been introduced to the Oregon Coast yet, Lincoln City makes a worthy first impression. Considered “seven miles of smiles,” the shoreline of Lincoln City provides an ideal setting for both lazy beach days and active outdoor adventures. There are summer beach houses right on the ocean or cabins farther into the woods. If you have little ones in tow, Drift Creek Falls is a stroller-accessible trail with breathtaking views—without the daunting terrain. Artsy types will embrace the glass-blowing scene that’s…blown up… in recent years, while shopaholics can hit the outlet mall for some retail therapy. At the end of the day, though, this scenic small town is all about beachfront relaxation.
See all summer beach house rentals in Lincoln City!
“For us location is everything and this apartment was perfect. Fantastic views of the ocean! Literally a stone’s throw to the beach and right next to the shops and restaurants of Carlsbad.” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
Carlsbad State Beach consistently makes TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice list for best beaches in the United States. But the family-friendly appeal here extends beyond the sand. Spend the day at LEGOLAND California, the Sea Life Aquarium, or the Museum of Making Music, before retreating to the comforts of your summer beach house rental for an inexpensive home-cooked dinner. If you’re the point-and-shoot type, the Carlsbad Flower Fields will make for a colorful photo memory.
See all summer beach house rentals in Carlsbad!
Virginia Beach, Virginia
“[The beach house] worked out great with our family with three teenagers. Each had their own bedroom…much better than being cramped into a hotel room!” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
What’s the perfect complement to a world-class beach? A world-class boardwalk. Virginia Beach has one of America’s best. The three-mile stretch has a carnival-like atmosphere, with rides, arcade games, live music venues, restaurants, gift shops, and more—all just steps from your summer beach house rental. And when it comes to daytime excursions like a dolphin-watching kayak tour or indoor skydiving experience, you won’t find better options.
See all summer beach house rentals in Virginia Beach!
“I’ve been coming here since I was a kid. I’ve been to the beaches of the Caribbean and Europe, and Ogunquit is still one of my favorites!” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
If you’re heading to New England this summer, Ogunquit is a great family-friendly destination to rent a beach house. Classic cottages mix with modern condos, all close enough to both the water and downtown. The allure of Ogunquit Beach starts with the Ogunquit River, a 10-mile waterway skinny enough in some places to swim across to the rocky shores on the other side. There’s phenomenal terrain for crabbing and collecting sea shells, or tossing a line to see what bites. On the southern end where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, kids can build sand castles, boogie-board, bodysurf, or venture out to the huge sandbars during low tide. And the ice cream shacks here are legendary, from Sweet Pea’s to Rococo Ice Cream to Abbott’s Creamery.
See all summer beach house rentals in Ogunquit!
Cocoa Beach, Florida
“The condo is very nice and well stocked. It had beach chairs, an umbrella, beach towels and sand toys for the kids. There is even a pack-and-play if you have a young child. The owners are very friendly.” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
It’s only fitting that Cocoa Beach, home to world-famous Ron Jon Surf Shop, is a mecca for water sports. Families will enjoy sailing, jet-skiing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, and skim-boarding, to name a few. But more leisurely pursuits exist, too, like kayaking or canoeing (often alongside dolphins and manatees). Only an hours’ drive from the theme parks of Orlando, a house rental in Cocoa Beach gives you the best of both worlds: relaxation under the sun or a day filled with adrenaline-pumping rides. You’ll be happy to have a spacious home to retreat to after a day’s adventures.
See all family vacation rentals in Cocoa Beach!
Galveston Island, Texas
“This house was in a perfect location. Just minutes from The Strand, restaurants, shopping and activities but you feel secluded!” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
This Texas island may be known for spring break, but it’s also a vacation hotspot for many families come summertime. Aside from the 30 miles of pristine beach, Galveston Island boasts a wealth of kid-approved cultural and historical institutions. There’s the Lone Star Flight Museum, Texas Seaport Museum, and Railroad Museum, the tropical rainforest replica at Moody Gardens, plus dozens of different art galleries. Rent a Galveston Island beach house with an outdoor patio and enjoy your morning coffee as the sun rises, or al fresco dining under a vivid sunset.
See all summer beach house rentals on Galveston Island!
Orange Beach, Alabama
“I cannot say enough about the wonderful experience my daughter and I had at [our rental]! From the very start, owner Rhonda was as sweet and accommodating as she could possibly be, always getting back to me quickly.”
A great family beach destination, Orange Beach offers offer wonderful dining experiences, dolphin-sighting cruises, championship golf courses, fishing charters, and nature hikes. Choose from over 1,000 family rentals on TripAdvisor—even one that’s been featured on HGTV. There are numerous options for nightlife, from family entertainment to rocking roadhouses. Enjoy your pick of plays, free concerts, dancing, or just listening to any number of musical stylings at a local venue.
See all family vacation rentals in Orange Beach!
Siesta Key, Florida
“We especially loved the screened-in breezy lanai and comfy lounge furniture…added to the relaxation!” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
There are great family rental destinations all over Florida, but only one sports the best beach in America. Siesta Key, with its stunning traveler-favorite Siesta Beach, gets our vote for your summer getaway because of its serene beauty, powdery sand, clear blue waters, and local attractions for all ages. On the water, families can enjoy scuba, snorkeling, jet-skiing, kayaking, fishing, or whale/dolphin-watching tours. On land, there’s Segway rentals and leisurely bike tours.
See all summer beach house rentals in Siesta Key!
Huntington Beach, California
“Felt like we were at home because it was so comfortable. I woke every morning looking out the bedroom window to see the sun rising through the tropical trees and over the pool. Every night we watched the sunset from the back porch or at the beach.” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
Huntington Beach, the Surf Capital of the USA, is Southern California at its finest. The town offers 10 miles of uninterrupted coastline to stake your claim on the sand. The skill level of local surfers could keep you entertained for hours—that is, if you’re not already a spectator of the competitive volleyball game happening right near your beach chairs. The Huntington Beach Pier and downtown area have shops, bars, and restaurants all portraying that classic SoCal style. Many eateries have rooftop seating overlooking the beach or the locals skateboarding the streets below. Renting a house in Huntington Beach also means you’re nearby other popular beaches like Laguna and Newport. Book a private tour with the whole family and experience the best of all three of these California staples.
See all summer beach house rentals in Huntington Beach!
Hilton Head, South Carolina
“Out of this world! This vacation home was absolutely fantastic. We went with our extended family and the home has something for everyone. The pool, hot tub, and deck gave us tons of space to enjoy the weather and each other. The inside of the house was pristine and it looked like it was newly decorated. We felt like we were in an upscale resort.” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
Athletic families can keep their games sharp in Hilton Head, with options ranging from tennis, volleyball, and polo to championship golf courses considered some of the best in America. (Of course, that’s only if you can pry yourself away from the pillow-soft sandy beaches surrounded by lush greenery.) With more than 2,000 available family rentals from TripAdvisor, you’re sure to find the perfect summer beach house that won’t break the bank. Spend your day strolling the Sea Pines Forest Preserve or Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, casting a line on a fishing charter, or laughing aboard the Black Dagger Pirate Ship complete with pirate gear, face paint, and hidden treasure—a true kid-favorite.
See all summer beach house rentals in Hilton Head!
“Was with my husband and two grandchildren ages 13 and 17. All loved the condo. Great location. Great views. Totally stocked kitchen. Storage room with some beach toys for the kids. Right in the heart of Destin, everything was close.” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
Destin ranks as one of the more popular vacation rental destinations each summer, and we know why. The charming small beach town combines world-class sands with kid-friendly attractions. Stay for a week and experience all the fun: Big Kahuna’s Waterpark, The Track Family Recreation Center, and the Gulfarium, where children can witness bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, otters, penguins, and turtles up close. With warm waters and stunning beach houses for rent, Destin is a top-notch summer vacation.
See all family beach house rentals in Destin!
“Upon arrival, [the homeowner] greeted us and provided so many wonderful suggestions on activities and restaurants in the area. The bottle of wine on ice was an extra special touch and very appreciated!” — TripAdvisor Reviewer
While the Hotel Del Coronado might be the most iconic sight in Coronado, you don’t need to stay there to soak it in. Rent an affordable beach house instead; you can still walk around the hotel’s grounds between building sandcastles and dipping your toes in the water. The ultra family-friendly Coronado Beach is great for kids, and Orange Avenue is full of shops, restaurants, galleries, and theaters. Catch a show at Lamb’s Players Theatre or the award-winning Coronado Playhouse.
See all family beach house rentals in Coronado!
Tags: Beach HousesGood For FamiliesSummerUSA