Photo credit: HomeAway

Photo credit: HomeAway

When planning a family vacation, where you rest and recharge each night is a critical part of the overall getaway. Whether you’re traveling with teens or planning a multigenerational family trip, having more space is always better than squeezing everyone into a tiny hotel room. However, renting a house or condo carries the risk that the place that appeared so pretty online is completely different in reality. That’s why my family turned to HomeAway.com when we were SponsoredReviewlooking for a vacation rental for our family vacation. HomeAway is massive in terms of vacation rental options. The company has just hit 1 million rental properties–everything from country estates to city condos. To celebrate, the company is giving away a $10,000 vacation rental. HomeAway has many sites, including Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO), which rents this Live Luxe property in Los Angeles.

Photo credit: Desiree Miller/Family Fun TravelingMom

Photo credit: Desiree Miller/Family Fun TravelingMom

We decided on a home in Destin, Florida, for our getaway. We needed lots of room for three generations of family and wanted to be sure we were close enough to walk to the beach any time we wanted. A pool at the home was also preferred. We found a home that offered all of that and, worked out so well, we’ll likely make this our annual place to stay for family get-togethers at the beach. Booking with HomeAway Since my family has used HomeAway to book a family vacation, here are my tips for knowing that you’re getting the right property at the right value:

  • Before you go online, decide where you want to go and how much you want to spend.
  • Input that into your HomeAway search to see which listings fit your criteria.
  • Before you book, READ THE REVIEWS! Other travelers will let you know if it’s fabulous or a flop. On HomeAway, owners cannot hide negative reviews or opt out of the review system. Owners have the opportunity to respond to reviews. If the review is negative and the owner’s response is rude, keep looking.
  • Once you narrow down your search, email the owners directly to confirm dates and negotiate the rate.
  • Once you agree on a price and date, sign a rental agreement. If the property owner doesn’t offer a written agreement, keep looking. Read the agreement carefully before you sign; the fine print varies from home to home. It’s better to know the house rules–like cancellation policies or age restrictions–before you sign the contract and send your money.
  • Photo credit: HomeAway

    Photo credit: HomeAway

    Pay by credit card or eCheck through HomeAway. Do not send cash, a check made out to cash, or an instant money transfer. Those payments are popular with criminals and are not protected by HomeAway’s guarantee against Internet fraud for payments up to $10,000.

  • Buy HomeAway’s Carefree Rental Guarantee insurance. That way, if the property doesn’t meet all of your expectations, you may be able to get your money back.

Negotiate with Owners Don’t be shy about trying to negotiate a better rate when you email or call the owner to work out final details. The owners want to know that you’ll take care of the property and treat it as your own. If you can show them you will care for their property as if it was your own, they might be willing to rent to you for less money rather than hold out for someone who might pay a little more but care a lot less. (Trust me, I used to own three vacation rental properties and used online sites to rent them out…we are just as worried about who is renting our property as you are about knowing the property you rent is up to your standards). You want your trip to be fun. Taking these steps will help…and could also save you some money. Have you stayed at a HomeAway property? What was your experience? Note to readers: I was paid for promotion of HomeAway through my partnership with TravelingMom.com. As always, my opinion remains my own.