Something was wrong, very wrong. The booking engine wouldn’t work. The cancellation policy was ridiculous, and I wasn’t hearing back from the site owners. Signs were pointing towards a bad experience, and my gut was telling me to pull out quickly.
This is the experience I had when I was booking one of many vacation rentals in Spain last year. I learned a lot of valuable lessons booking that two-week trip through southern Spain with my family, but most importantly, I learned to ask a lot of questions BEFORE I book anything, especially if the cancellation policy is strict. In the end we found the perfect apartment for us at a great price, but not until after a lot of stress and back and forth that could have been avoided.
Here is a list of questions that you should be asking yourself and your rental agent (or owner) before you book your next vacation rental. It is not a be all, end all list, but it will give you an idea of the major points you should have confirmed before you sign on that virtual (or physical) dotted line.
- How many people are allowed to stay in the property?
- Are you charged extra if you go over that number? Sometimes a per person fee is charged if you are over two or four occupants. In Europe, children do count.
- Are there enough beds for everyone in your party?
- What is the bed configuration in each room?
- What is the bathroom configuration (if stated as a 2 bathroom, is one of them outside- this generally happens in beach destinations)?
- What is the cancellation policy?
- Is a deposit required? How much? When will you get it back?
- Are utilities included in the price?
- What isn’t included in the price?
- What extra charges may be added to your bill?
- Is daily housekeeping included in the price?
- Is there an extra cleaning fee or cleaning deposit?
- Are linens included? Do you need to bring your own?
- Are toilet paper and paper towels provided?
- Is hand soap and dish soap provided?
- Are any toiletries available at the property?
- Is there a hair dryer?
- Is there Internet available? Wi-FI?
- Is there a fee for Internet?
- Is there a washer and dryer?
- If not, is there a clothesline?
- Is laundry detergent provided onsite?
- Is there a dishwasher?
- Is dishwasher detergent provided?
- Is there a dish rack?
- Are all silverware, dishware and cooking items available if there is a kitchen?
- Is there a blender/food processor/griddle (or anything else you require) provided for use?
- Are there a microwave and/or toaster?
- Is there a coffee pot and/or tea kettle?
- Is it close to where you want to be? Is it worth spending more to be closer?
- Are restaurants near by? If not, how far away are they?
- Is there a grocery store or market within walking distance?
- If you have kids, is there a playground close by?
- Where is the nearest public transportation?
- Is there parking?
- Is parking included in the price?
- Are there bikes available to use?
- If not, is there a bike rental agency close by (if you plan to bike)?
- If you are traveling with young children, do the bikes have child seats?
- Is there a pool?
- Is there a gate around the pool?
- Are pool items and toys available for use?
- Are pool towels included in the rental?
- Who is your contact? The owner or a rental property management firm?
- If you arrive and there is a problem with the rental, can you cancel your booking and get a full refund?
6 thoughts on “45 Questions to ask before you book vacation rentals”
Great post, very comprehensive list! I’ve definitely learned to read the fine print very carefully. One thing I’ve noticed on the washer/dryer issue is that in Europe (or at least in Spain) the site will list that the apartment has a dryer but when you arrive, the dryer is a drying rack. It isn’t uncommon in Europe but if you are hoping to get through a couple of loads of laundry in one day before moving on to your next location, it can be challenging using just a drying rack.
Nice list! I love AirBnB, but you’re right, the booking process can be frustrating. I wish it were easier, but dealing with regular homeowners instead of hoteliers naturally result in less efficiency, I guess.
I really wish vacation rentals would post most of these answers on their descriptions. I hate having to write emails to ask if they have a hair dryer. There is some consistency with rentals in the U.S….I would never think of asking if they have toilet paper or towels to use, but little things that I expect like sugar for coffee are sometimes missing. As you know, we’ve had up and down experiences with vacation rentals, and I’m pretty flexible until I am paying $300 or more a night!
Wow – this is a really extensive list. I haven’t stayed in many vacation rentals (I usually stay in hotels) but I’ll definitely keeps these items in mind Thanks!
Keryn, This is a great list! I love renting apartments or even houses when I’m on vacation. It gives you so much freedom, and when there are kids, it gives them room to relax, run around, and not be so cramped. Plus you can cook your own food some of the time, again great for kids. This summer we have booked a cottage in Brittany, France for a week. I’m so excited. I’ll have to start thinking of tips to link to you! Great idea!
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