If you've never rented a vacation rental or villa before, the task may seem a bit daunting. But if you're comfortable with renting a hotel, then you'll have no problem finding vacation rentals to fit your needs. The process is similar, though there are a couple key differences.
Understand Your Own Needs. Vacation rentals are highly-personalized forms of lodging. You can get a home, condo or villa suited to your wants and needs. Think about what you want to do while on vacation, the kind of transportation you'll require, as well as considerations such as the needs of children, food you enjoy, and what you require to be comfortable. Does everyone need their own bedroom? How many baths would you like? Would you like to be within walking distance of entertainment options, or are you okay with a drive? If so, how long of a drive? You can get accommodations that aren't just nice -- they'll be virtually tailored to your specifications.
Rent with a Reliable Property Manager or Owner. This isn't much different from a hotel or resort. Most people tend to pick accommodations based on the reputation or reliability of the chain or owner. Vacation rentals aren't any different. For example, you'll want to use a trustworthy website like Perfect Places that lists tens of thousands of properties, so you can easily compare your choices. Look for lots of photos. If reviews are available, read them over. But beware single reviews that are either too glowing or too critical. Those could be one-off experiences. Be sure to check out the owner's website too. Make sure the property is in good shape. Some renters go as far as to verify the property isn't in foreclosure.
Ask Questions. Even if there are a dozen fair and balanced reviews and the property looks good, you should always contact the property owner or manager with questions. This is a natural advantage that vacation rentals have over hotels or resorts -- you can get a first-hand description of the property from a person who understands it fully. The specific type of questions to ask depends on what your vacation plans and needs are, but there are a few basics to keep in mind. First, verify that the person you're talking to has actually stayed on the property or has seen it first-hand. If not, then as for someone who has or find another rental. Ask to see a contract early in the process and read it carefully. Renting a vacation home is more like renting an apartment. Most contracts are relatively short and easy to understand.
Finding the perfect vacation rental takes a little longer than simply booking a hotel, but not much longer than booking a resort (travelers usually have to do more due diligence with resorts). The process can take as little as an hour or two, or as long as a couple of days. But you have more options, pay less if you're traveling with more than two people, and have a truly unique and personal place to stay.