5 tips for choosing a great vacation home rental.

Over the summer, my family went on a five-week trip to Tokyo, Kyoto, Paris, and Barcelona. During these five weeks, we stayed in four hotels, two vacation rentals, and one guest house. For the most part, our rentals were totally fine. Parts of them were great. However, if we had it to do over again, I would’ve done it differently. Here are my top five tips for our next vacation home rental:

1. Figure out what is most important to you.

Before you even start your search, make a list of the qualities that are important to you. Are you looking for a sunny, light-filled space? Do you need peace and quiet? Are you envisioning evening dining al fresco on the patio? Whatever your fancy, jot it down. Then start to browse. This way, you can rule out properties that don’t fit the bill…and your final choice will make you very happy.

Make sure to ask tons of questions before you sign on the dotted line! And don’t be afraid to be as specific as possible.

2. Research neighborhoods.

A real, live person really helps here. Try to find someone to actually talk to. Ask Facebook friends, co-workers, your kids’ friends’ parents…everyone. When you finally connect with someone who knows the area, ask them to describe the neighborhoods you are considering in detail. Ask them to compare the neighborhoods to others (in the States) that you are familiar with. Ask them if they would be comfortable and happy in the neighborhoods you’re eyeing.

And then really listen.

3. Shop for your travel style.

Do you take taxis, or the metro? Will you cook in the house, or eat at restaurants? Are you going to hang out in the neighborhood, or go sightseeing across the city?

Make sure that your rental fits your needs.

4. Who will be around if you have questions once you’re there?

It’s almost inevitable that you’ll have questions once you arrive. How do you use the Japanese bathtub? Where is the laundry detergent for the washing machine? Are there any washcloths in the house?

Ask the owner/manager if there will be someone available to answer day-to-day questions, and what the procedure is for getting in touch with that person. Is it possible to speak to someone right away, or would you have to leave a message? Does the contact speak English? Is this person local? All good questions.

Another good question to ask: how do you feel about guest questions during a stay? The answer to this will likely give a feel for what to expect once you arrive.

5. Get recommendations ahead of time.

This will save you tons of time! If you have this information in advance, you will be able to make reservations, map out your routes, or simply get an idea of what to expect in the area.

While I’m so glad we stayed in a couple of vacation rentals, I definitely learned a lot from my experiences this time…and I know that our next rental will be even better.

What’s been your experience with vacation rentals? Do you have any great tips to share?



  1. The only thing I’d add is to try to find out the exact address – or absolute nearest intersection – before you seal the deal. I had a property owner extremely stretch the truth about proximity to local amenities and it ruined my planned vacation. Thanks for the tips! And happy birthday, Pixie!

  2. We’ve stayed in probably 25-30 vacation rentals and -along with all of the suggestions you’ve mentioned – I also pay close attention to the reviews. They can shed light on small details that can make or break a vacation rental.

    • Points Pixie says:

      Sheri – YES! I think sometimes people aren’t willing to be very critical if they’ve had a good-enough stay, but if you read between the lines you can learn a lot.

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