VRBO: A Great Place to Find a Cheap Place to Vacation

I was talking to a friend the other day and I mentioned I was using VRBO to book a vacation in October (heading down to the coast with the fam), and he had never heard of it. So I feel like it’s my civic duty to make sure I’ve at least mentioned this site on my blog. I’ve used it for four or five vacations now, and it’s always been a great experience.

What is it? It stands for Vacation Rental By Owner: a site where you can rent a house for a weekend or a week. It’s like AirBnB (which has gotten more publicity), but just for renting apartments or houses. No “rent a part of a house and have to share it with the owner.” Granted, AirBnB does has this feature as well, but I’ve been a happy VRBO customer, and I’ve really appreciated how easy it is to search a wide variety of of houses, and I haven’t seen a need to switch. (Though of course you could always search both sites and find the best deal. Never a bad idea.)

We first used VRBO for our trip to Quebec City, getting a condo right downtown for a week for really cheap. It was a great experience, so I turned to VRBO again for our family reunion, renting a house for 30 people for the Fourth of July weekend. This was a bit pricier, since it was for that many people and at a holiday, but it was still super easy and we got a fantastic house. Just what I was looking for.

I used VRBO to get an apartment 100 yards from Notre Dame, for three nights, for $600 during summer vacation last year. Hotel rooms were going for more than that, and this was much nicer, and much closer to all the action. And now we just reserved a house on an island on the coast of Maine for October: three nights for $450 total.

What I’m trying to say is that if you’re looking to stay someplace for a few nights, and you want more than just a cookie cutter hotel room, then you should really be looking at places other than hotels.com. You’ll save money and have a much bigger place to stay in. You help individual property owners instead of a faceless corporation.

When I’m just staying by myself, a hotel room is just fine. But if I want to enjoy a vacation with my family, it’s been so much nicer to have room to breathe. Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful when using the site:

  • There are a ton of different search parameters. Use them to your advantage. Put in the minimum number of bedrooms you want, and the max you’re willing to pay. Want to stay on the beach? Want internet? Bringing pets? You can get very specific.
  • Pay attention to the reviews. I have yet to stay someplace with no reviews. I realize that’s cutting out a good number of properties, but I’d like to have at least some assurance that the place I’m staying will work out. I’m not willing to bet my vacation on a good deal and a prayer that it actually turns out to be a good experience.
  • Be flexible on the exact location you’re looking for if you can. Narrowing things down too much can eliminate some really great properties.
  • You’ll be dealing with the individual property manager in the end, not VRBO. Be prepared for some back and forth emails and negotiations. You’ll probably have to pay for a deposit, and then pay the rest of what you owe at a later date. Typically they arrange a time for you to check in, or give you information on how to get into the house.
  • Pay attention to details like cleaning fees and deposits when you’re booking. That can affect the bottom line of what you pay.

Anyway. I’ve now plugged the site for free, but I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t been a happy customer. Give it a shot for your next vacation.

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