Smart Spending: Vacation rentals

SummerTemperatures are rising, the school year is ending and vacations are on the brain.

If you and your family want to go away for more than a few days, renting a beach house or lakeside cabin can cost about half as much as a hotel stay. That means more cash to spend having fun.

Rentals are being reserved at a faster clip than just a year ago, but it’s not too late to plan this summer’s family getaway.

“There’s plenty of time,” says Maria Kirk, the owner of, a company that matches the owners of 1,400 properties in seven Eastern states with renters.

“If they’re really picky, they need to get started now,” she says. “If they want a deal, they may want to wait because there’s always going to be something available. It may not be their dream place, but there’s always going to be something available.”

Here are some tips on finding an inexpensive summer rental.

? BE FLEXIBLE ON LOCATION: As it gets closer to your vacation date, you may have to make some compromises if you want to get a deal, says Alexis de Belly, vice president of U.S. brands for Homeaway, which lists about 400,000 rental properties around the globe.

“If you can book at the beginning or end of the season, typically you’ll find more availability at better prices,” he says.

Meanwhile, consider putting a few miles between your rental and your vacation activities. Opting for a rental a few miles away from the hottest spots can cut costs.

“If you look a little further away from the main attraction, the prices go down quite dramatically,” he says.
? IF WEEK STILL TOO PRICEY, THEN DAYS: Thanks to the recession, homeowners who once rented properties only for full weeks are increasingly willing to book shorter stays, even just even a couple days. The reason? Money for a four-day rental is better than none at all if the alternative is leaving the property vacant. But renter beware: Not everyone will be receptive to an offer for a partial-week rental.

? NEGOTIATE: Just as some property owners are more willing to rent for less than a week, many are negotiating on prices or are offering deals. A listing on for a two-bedroom, two-bath condo in the Florida Keys offers $500 off a summer rental, which typically costs $1,650 a week. A three-bedroom condo in Myrtle Beach, S.C. offers golf discounts at nearby courses.

Several coastal rentals in California are going for half price. And, for those seeking a little extra in a vacation, weeklong stays at a four-bedroom waterfront home in Southampton, N.Y., through July were 30 percent off this week: just $4,900.

But more modest offers ? a free bottle of champagne, say ? are most common.
“It doesn’t hurt to ask,” says Kirk.

? DIAL FOR HELP: There are scores of private companies that can help you connect with rentals, and many local tourism boards websites will show or link to what’s available in a community.

But old-fashioned telephone research sometimes can get you into the ideal property, says Jon Jarosh, a spokesman for the Door County Visitor Bureau in Wisconsin, a popular vacation spot. Workers in the county’s information center know their community and can explain what properties might work best based on a vacationer’s needs.

? KEEP CHECKING: The direct-rental business is still growing, which means more properties become available every month. It’s also worth checking for last-minute cancellations.

“I think there’s a perception that if you didn’t have your reservations (in advance) it was really hard to find a place up here,” Jarosh says. “But there’s now more inventory available now than there was 10 or 15 years ago.”

Source: The Associated Press