Beach vacations: Getting the most from a rental home

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At many beach destinations, renting a home can be a convenient and cost effective lodging option. Singles, couples and families, as well as group travelers in any configuration, can rent anything from a condo all the way to a whole villa in many unique beach towns all over the country and beyond.

Whether it’s a seafarer’s cottage at Cape Cod, a Victorian beachfront home on the Jersey shore, a townhouse on a Pacific coast bluff or a sprawling villa on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, just to name a few, there are tasteful vacation homes available for rent that will fit just about any vacation budget and anyone’s taste.

There are some key factors you should consider in order to choose the very best  home at the best destination for you. Your first consideration will be how you’ll get there, and whether or not you will need a car hire to get around once you arrive. Book transportation and rent a car as soon as book your lodging to avoid traveling schedule conflicts. It’d be a shame to have to miss any of your scheduled stay because you can’t get a flight or bus ticket for when you need it.

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But maybe distance isn’t a deciding factor. Perhaps you want to experience a different culture or lifestyle on your trip, and you’re willing to pay to do so.  In that case, take advantage of the extensive information available online and use specific keywords that correspond directly with what you seek. For example, words like “rustic”, “elegant” and “ocean view” will directly inform your search results when looking for a beach abode.

Whether you book through a homeowner or through a realtor acting as the homeowner’s agent, booking early will usually afford you the best possible rates. Most will require a non-refundable deposit of at least 5o% with the remainder due upon arrival or before. There will usually be a cash security deposit also, rather than a mere credit card authorization hold which is the policy at most hotels now.  Having to leave a cash deposit can strain the budget, but then again, it’s nice to get the security back after the trip. It may even have slipped your mind over the course of the vacation, in which case it will almost feel like a windfall when it is returned to you. You should also find out if there is a cancellation policy before you make a deposit.

Have a few basic amenities in mind as you begin your search. Do you need off street parking? Would you like use of the backyard? A grill? A pet-friendly home? More than one bathroom? Having specific features to look for will help narrow down your search. Usually the closer to the beach, the higher the rent. Decide in advance how far away you’re willing to go- you don’t want to fall in love with a rental that’s too far away from the beach, especially if you’ll have little ones in tow.

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While you are there, especially if there inclement weather, take a little time to look around at the other rentals you considered, even if just from the outside and compare them to the one you’re in. Being able to ‘put a face to a name’ will make booking your return trip that much easier.  It’s fun to mix it up, but if you love the place you rented, and know you want to return the following year, you can reserve it when you are checking out- and even use the security deposit for a portion of the down payment. Having it booked will give you something to look forward to during those long winter months when it seems as if summer will never arrive.

Photo credits: Mirage floors  Örlygur Hnefill  josemanuelerre  chantel beam photography

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  1. Sun Bather

    Great article! I just booked a cottage on the bay in seaside park, nj and I can’t wait! The tips here were really helpful, thanks.

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