13 Questions to Ask Before Committing to a Vacation Rental

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Young woman relaxes in the swimming pool outside her vacation rental.

With websites like AirBNB boasting that you can find adventures and access unique homes, experiences, and places around the world, it’s no wonder that more people are choosing vacation rentals over hotels. But while these properties certainly come with their advantages, they also pose a few potential risks.

If you want to ensure your trip is all relaxation and no stress, you need to ask these questions before committing to a vacation rental:

What’s the Parking Like?

Depending on how many people you’re traveling with, you might need to bring more than one car. If so, you’ll want to know where and when you’re allowed to park your vehicles. Is there street parking, or is parking in a nearby lot? Is it free, or will you have to pay an additional fee to use it? Sometimes there may be an extra charge, but only for more than one vehicle.

How Many Sets of Keys are Given?

Again, if there are a lot of you traveling together (for example, different branches of one family, or several couples), you may need more than one set of keys to your vacation rental. This is something you’ll want to know about beforehand to ensure you can plan accordingly, or try to secure a few extra sets of keys at your own cost.

What Does It Mean by “Pet-Friendly” or “Child-Friendly”?

Your definition of pet or child-friendly might not be the same as that of the owner of the vacation rental. When they say child-friendly, they might just mean that they’re happy for children to stay there. But has it been child-proofed? Is there an unfenced pool around? Do you need to bring your own stair gate? Child-friendly may mean different things to different parents. Similarly, “pet-friendly” may mean that you can bring a small dog, but what about larger breeds? Are there plants harmful to pets around? Is the garden secure?

What are the Payment Terms?

Some vacation rentals will require the entire cost of the stay to be paid upfront at the time of booking, whereas others just require a deposit and are happy to accept payment later on. This varies depending on if you book directly, or even depending on where you book through, so double-check before committing to anything.

How Do I Pick Up the Keys, and Where From?

Unlike a hotel, which has a dedicated reception desk, a vacation rental won’t have a specific place to collect keys from. You might find that the property owners have a lockbox and give you the code for it, enabling you to collect the keys yourself at your own convenience. You may even find that the rental has a “smart lock” and all you have to do is download an app to gain access. Or, you might have to arrange to meet someone in person to collect the keys. Either way, you’re going to want to know before you arrive at the rental. You’ll also want to ask the hours for pickup and drop-off, and how you’ll be expected to return the keys at the end of your stay.

Is There a Fire Alarm and a Carbon Monoxide Detector?

Not the most exciting of questions, but definitely one of the most important ones when it comes to keeping yourself and your companions safe. If the vacation rental doesn’t have these installed, consider bringing your own portable alternatives.

What Equipment Does the Kitchen Contain?

Will you have access to a working oven? Is there just a microwave? If you’re not planning on eating out for every meal, these are things you’ll need to know before you arrive to make sure you’re prepared come dinner time.

What Other Amenities are Available at the Property?

Some properties come with a safe. Others have a hairdryer. Does the one you’re going to be renting have a dishwasher for you to use? What about crockery and cutlery? These are all things that a vacation rental might not necessarily have, but that you really should be aware of before you get there.

Who Do I Call in an Emergency?

Although it’s (hopefully) unlikely that you’ll encounter an emergency situation on your trip, it’s important to know who you’d need to call if you did. For example, if a pipe bursts, an appliance breaks, or you lock yourself out.

Do I Need to Bring My Own Sheets or Towels?

a stack of towels rests atop clean sheets in a vacation rental bedroom.

Not all vacation rentals will provide linens. It’s not necessarily common to not provide sheets or towels, but it’s definitely something that you don’t want to realize as you’re about to head to bed or for a shower. Knowing this beforehand means you can come prepared with your own.

What Supplies are Not Included With the Vacation Rental?

Some vacation rentals will supply complimentary toiletries like shampoo and shower gel. Others might include dish soap or laundry detergent. That’s not to say that all rentals will though, so you want to make sure you know what’s included in yours, and what you’ll need to bring yourself to ensure you’re not caught off-guard. After all, there are some vacation rentals out there that don’t even provide toilet paper!

Is Wi-Fi Available?

Some people will still want to work while on vacation. Others may just need internet access to entertain themselves and their children. In a world where the internet is almost everywhere, it could be a nasty surprise if you arrived and found out there was no internet access.

Is there a Grocery Store Within Walking Distance?

It’s likely that at some point during your stay, you’ll realize that you need something from the store, which is why knowing where the closest one is can make life that much easier for you. If you know that there isn’t one within walking distance, just make sure you triple-check you have everything before you arrive.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of things you need to ask before committing to a vacation rental, but it’s certainly a good place to start.

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