Hotel rooms can be both a huge expense and too small for many families. What if there were a way to get an actual condo, not just a room, for as low as $249/week? With flexibility and the right timing your family could be living large for pennies. Travel Hack Traveling Mom Dia Adams shares her top tips for how to save on vacation rentals.
Vacation Rentals 101: Should You or Shouldn’t You?
We here at Traveling Mom are big fans of living like a local when we travel. However, it’s hard to live locally from a 300 square foot hotel room that’s costing $300 a night. I’m here to show you a better way: vacation rentals. For less – sometimes much less – than a hotel room you can have a kitchen, living room, and that all important closing bedroom door.
Now vacation rentals aren’t for everyone. A major drawback is that most are non-refundable so your plans need to be firm. I definitely suggest travel insurance if you’re going the vacation rental route. You’ll also be disappointed if you expect five star service on vacation. Vacation rentals usually have mid-week housekeeping and if you’re lucky daily trash removal. If you need turn-down service vacation rentals are NOT for you! Here’s a great pro and con list you can use to help you figure out if a vacation rental will work for you.
Vacation Rentals 201: My Go-To
My favorite source by for vacation rentals is Endless Vacation Rentals (EVR). Wyndham owns both EVR and RCI, the largest holder of timeshare exchanges in the world. I have bought numerous weeks through them including the Canary Islands and Costa del Sol in Spain, Ireland, Williamsburg VA, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Guatemala, St. Maarten, and New Orleans, to name a few.
The process through EVR is very straight forward: you see a week that works for you and you buy it. Easy peasy! Currently on the site I see weeks in Orlando for $400 in a 2 bedroom and coastal Italy for a jaw dropping $260. I also see a unit in a castle in Ireland. It’s a little more expensive, about $1,000 a week, but it’s a CASTLE. Speaking of castles, we rented a week in one near Salzburg, Austria a couple of summers ago and had an absolute blast. The cost for a large one bedroom unit? $600/week.
When I search units, I always compare their ratings on TripAdvisor so I have an idea what I’m getting. Do keep in mind these are apartment, not hotel, rentals, so people sometimes leave unfair ratings based on things like “no maid service”. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.
The Key to Scoring a Great Deal?
Endless Vacation Rentals has a constantly changing inventory and frequent specials. Timeshare inventory is placed in real time, meaning the entire world sees that apartment over Christmas week in Maui at the same time you do. Therefore, timeshare rental is not for you if you’re not comfortable booking the moment seeing something you like. If you need to gather your thoughts, call a bunch of family members, check the calendar ten times, consult your horoscope, etc. before booking, someone with less, ahem, baggage is going to steal that deal right out from under you. However, if you can pull the trigger quickly you can score a scorcher: in August we spent a week in a huge two bedroom ocean view unit in Hawaii for $279/week- booked five minutes after I saw it.
Vacation Rentals 301: Last Minute Steals
SkyAuction takes the EVR model to the next level by adding in a splash of eBay. The weeks that EVR is afraid it can’t sell it turns over to Skyauction to liquidate at an extreme discount. You’ll usually see tons of great locations within 30 days of arrival and a smattering of destinations all year round. Be sure to check Skyauction if you’re visiting any where off season or a place on this list:
The Canary Islands
You’ll find the above are full of timeshare rentals and will always have inventory. Now don’t get too excited when you see $1 listed as an auction price: in the fine print you’ll see a service fee of $229 and up and a $20 Skyauction fee. Even so: $249/week for a condo? Crazy!
Additional Tip for How to Save on Vacation Rentals
A note about EVR and Skyauction: From time to time I’ll get a question from a reader worried about a negative review. Every time I’ve investigated, the reviewer has been upset because they either:
a) didn’t get a refund on a non-refundable purchase or
b) didn’t like the “service” at their turn-key apartment rental.
I don’t view those reviews as negatives against the companies, I view those as people who weren’t completely clear about what they were purchasing. I’ve had more than 10 transactions go off without a hitch and have been recommending both companies for over a decade.
Are you a vacation rental fan? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.