Vacation rentals are a great way to enjoy a relaxing vacation, but there are things you should know before you make that reservation. There are a few pitfalls to renting a vacation cabin, and you need to know what to look for and what questions to ask.
Renting a vacation home can be a bit confusing. There are many resorts and rental companies vying for your attention, and many different options.
Who are you renting from?
Vacation rentals are offered by resorts, rental companies, and directly by private owners. The resorts and rental companies may own the properties they rent, or more commonly, they may act as property managers for private owners. Because most vacation rentals are privately owned, you may find a lot of variation in decor and amenities even in properties offered by the same rental company.
What kind of rentals are available?
The lingo used to describe vacation rentals can be vague and confusing, so let's try to clear things up a bit:
Cabins: This usually means log cabins or similar building design. They can be very simple rustic homes, or dazzling modern luxury structures with large windows and airy spaces.
Cottages: This term can mean just about anything, but it usually refers to a smaller house of conventional wood frame construction.
Chalets: This is a form of architecture associated with alpine communities. It may have A frame construction, overhanging eaves, or similar details.
Condominiums: These are similar to apartments, the distinguishing feature being that the units share at least one wall with another unit. Condominiums may be in high rise structures or in simple townhouse style units. Some companies refer to these as villas, which only adds to the confusion.
Most rental companies post their policies online. It makes for pretty dull reading, but you might just save yourself some problems if you take a close look so that you know what you're getting into. Here are a few things you should ask about if you're at all unsure:
Cancellation Policy: In most cases, cancellations can be made 30 days (sometimes less) prior to your arrival date, though there may be a cancellation fee. If you have to cancel after that, or if you must cut your stay short for any reason, don't expect a refund.Some rental companies offer vacation insurance to protect you against financial loss from those unexpected vacation killers. You can also obtain vacation insurance on your own if you like.
Substitution Policy: Sometimes the cabin you reserved becomes unavailable. It may have been sold, or in need of repairs. You should be offered another cabin or issued a refund if this happens.
Minimum Stay: Most companies require a 2 day minimum stay, which may be longer during peak seasons and depending on the size of the rental.
Pet Friendly: Many companies offer a selection of pet-friendly cabins. There may be limits on the size and number of pets allowed, and they may charge extra fees or deposits.
Extra Fees: These can really add up at some places. There may be reservation fees, cleaning fees, hot tub fees and pet fees. Be sure to ask about any hidden fees before you reserve.
Road Conditions: Many mountain cabins are located on twisty narrow roads; some may be on unpaved gravel roads. Make sure you find out what the roads are like before you reserve, especially during the winter months. If there's snow or ice, some roads may be impassible without 4 wheel drive. And if you can manage to arrive before dark, so much the better.
Sleeping Arrangements: These can include sleeper sofas, futons, bunk beds, lofts, and the like. If privacy and comfort are prime concerns for you, be sure to get the facts first.
Discounts or Specials: It's always worth asking about these, especially during the off seasons. Some companies also offer discount tickets to attractions, or special package deals.
Handicap Friendly: This usually means the vacation rental has some features that are handicap friendly, not necessarily that the place is totally handicap-accessible. Ask for specifics.
Responsibility for Damages: It should come as no surprise that you'll be held responsible for any damaged items in the rental. Just make sure you don't get blamed for something you didn't do. Make a thorough inspection when you arrive and report any problems immediately.