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Family Travel: Vacation Rental Tips and Recommendations

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Are family travel and volunteering two things that interest your family, either together or separately? If so, you've come to the right place.

Mom It Forward is thrilled to support Passports with Purpose—a great organization with a unique fundraiser, where every $10 donation equals an entry for a chance to win one of many travel-related prizes. The best part is that 100% of the funds raised go to help families in Honduras through Sustainable Harvest International.

As part of this year's fundraiser and in support of Passports with Purpose, Mom It Forward is partnering with HomeAway to offer a $1,000 gift certificate good toward a HomeAway vacation rental (click here to learn how to enter for a chance to win the $1,000 giveaway).

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As the mom of a family that travels frequently, I know how important it is to choose the perfect lodging option for your family travel. Where your family stays while on vacation can significantly add to or detract from the overall experience. So, before you head over and donate to help families in Honduras and for your chance to win $1,000 good toward any HomeAway vacation rental, let's answer the question: "Why HomeAway?"

Why HomeAway Vacation Rentals Are the Perfect Lodging Choice for Family Travel

Not only do HomeAway rentals offer twice the space at half the cost of a hotel room, they also come with a host of budget-friendly amenities. Kitchens make it easy to prepare food rather than eating out every meal, while access to washers and dryers allow families to pack less and avoid paying hefty bag-check fees. Many feature added perks, including private pools, hot tubs, game rooms and gathering spaces for everyone to come together and form special memories throughout their stay. For these reasons, it’s no surprise that 85% of those who stay in a vacation rental plan to do it again on their next family trip or group getaway. If you're looking for a great vacation rental option, HomeAway is a great option, especially since it's the world's leading online vacation rental marketplace with more than one million listings. HomeAway is also a free resource for travelers, connecting them with vacation rentals in 190 countries. From condos to yachts to yurts, there is something for everyone and every budget.

Read to enter for a chance to win $1,000 good toward your next family travel? Click here for details on how to enter.

Vacation Rental Tips & Recommendations

Both newcomers or veterans should follow these tips for an ideal experience each and every time:

  • Only book with a reputable site that has a substantial inventory. The more homes to choose from, the better your chances will be in finding a property that meets your specific needs and budget (e.g., size, proximity to a particular destination, amenities like swimming pools, child or pet-friendly requirements, etc).
  • Read the reviews. Reviews are a great way to get a better idea of what the property is really like. As with all reviews, keep in mind they can be very personal based on travelers’ various discerning tastes, so be sure to check out the individual posts (especially the most recent) in addition to just the rating score.
  • Talk to the homeowner. Ask a lot of questions so you know what to expect upon arrival, as well as to build trust between you and the homeowner – trust that you’re getting what you paid for and that they’re renting to someone who will respect their property. Homeowners typically have a wealth of local knowledge and can also provide the kinds of helpful tips and recommendations you can’t find in guidebook.
  • Get the name of an on-site contact. Before leaving for your trip, get the name of a local contact or property manager to help you should any issues arise.
  • Get all rental rules in writing. By asking for all rules in advance, including check-in/out times, cancellations, etc, you can help avoid any last-minute surprises.
  • Call first before paying. Always call ahead to confirm the details of your reservation and payment before making the purchase.
  • If possible, pay online by credit card or via secure services like PayPal. It’s the safest option to protect your travel investment. If an owner requires you to mail cash, consider it a red flag and move on to another rental.

How To Get a Good Deal on a Vacation Rental for Your Family Travel

  • Book rentals as early as possible. Like with most things, the best-priced rentals tend to go first. The average booking window is about 90 days, but the sooner you can get started, the more options you’ll have.
  • Be flexible with your dates. If you can fill open dates for an owner, they might be more willing to work with you on negotiating a better rate. Also, if you you’re able, consider traveling before or after peak season (e.g., June and July for summer destinations, and December and January for winter retreats), when there are some major deals to be had.
  • Book properties farther away from popular tourist attractions. Proximity typically comes with a price, so look for places that are further from the tourist hot spots. Homes that are just a stone’s throw away from the main attractions can more than make up for the distance in pricing and often, authenticity, too.
  • Consider a lesser-known destination. There are lots of great off-the-beaten-path destinations that still are great vacation spots and often cost less because there is less demand.
  • Check for last-minute deals if you haven’t already booked. Sometimes cancellations occur and owners are willing to offer deals to secure bookings. Use the “Special Deals & Offers” filter to easily find those properties that have cut their prices.

Things to Keep in Mind When Booking a Vacation Rental

  • Every vacation home is different. Avoid assumptions and make sure to ask the owner about anything that’s important to you (e.g., if it’s pet-friendly, wheelchair accessible, has a highchair or gates around the pool if you have kids, etc) to see if it’s included in the rental.
  • Cancellation policies are different than hotels. Because rentals are typically reserved much farther in advance, the cancellation policies are typically further out as well. Be sure to ask about the policy when booking so you know exactly when your payment is no longer refundable.
  • Payment structure is different. Vacation rentals typically require a deposit to hold the reservation. It’s also common to have a payment schedule for paying off the balance – usually all must be paid before you arrive at the home.
  • Owners are a great resource. Owners often have a wealth of local knowledge and can be great tour guides, providing the kinds of local tips and recommendations you can’t find in a guidebook. In your conversations, ask what they love most about the area and why they purchased a home there – their recommendations could become the most memorable part of your trip!
  • The average weekly price is $1,500. Prices vary, of course, depending on the location and time of year (e.g., July is typically the most expensive month to visit beach destinations) but the average price for a two-bedroom/two-bath home on HomeAway.com is around $1,500 per week.

Looking to book family travel in the near future? Click here to learn how to enter for a chance to win $1,000 toward your next HomeAway vacation rental.

What is your favorite family travel tip?

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Jen Tilley

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