The Complete Guide to Vacation Rentals – in 2021

The Still Water Mountain Retreat is a large cabin built by the family that has run it for generations. The pond, the home, and the surrounding area make it a gorgeous mountain escape for a family to enjoy.

The vacation rental industry has gone through the roof in recent years, and it shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the Vacation Rental segment’s revenue is projected to reach $9.5 billion by the end of 2020. For the following five years, the expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) will be 15.8%, which will result in a projected revenue of $19.9 billion by 2025. And with over 32.5 million vacation rental users in the United States, the average revenue per user (ARPU) is expected to amount to $293.87.

To put it simply, travel is on the rise, regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, as is the travelers’ interest in experiencing high-quality home-like vacations. In general, people are looking to book longer trips, spend more money, and travel to more diverse destinations within the United States.

So, suppose you’re looking to rent cabins, beach houses, condos, oceanfront vacation rentals, or other types of vacation homes but don’t know how to go about it. In that case, this complete guide to vacation rentals will provide you with a host of useful information on how to make the best decision and guarantee that you find a vacation residence without regretting it later.

Why Booking Vacation Rentals Is a Smart Choice

When compared to booking a hotel room, travelers will usually have more available options with vacation homes. When they pick a hotel, they are more restricted in terms of the exact location or may need to make a compromise when it comes to the amenities they receive. But since there are more available options when it comes to vacation rentals, guests can better plan their ideal getaway by choosing a home that has what they need and is positioned as close as possible to their desired location.

A private rental home also provides more privacy than a hotel or rental beach condo. Those looking for an ocean-front vacation rental, like Myrtle Beach, Key West, Panama City Beach, or other such beach rentals can book a house that has its own private beach access and/or private pool. Those looking for a winter adventure can choose cabin rentals that are close to a ski-in and ski-out, or cabin rentals that are close to a mountain lake, like South Lake Tahoe, for example, or a national park. The point is that booking vacation rentals can often provide more benefits than other alternatives.

Surf Club is the perfect destination for those who are looking for a quiet, unspoiled oasis away from the hustle and bustle of some of the more crowded, more built-up beach destinations.

Privacy and Cost Benefits

Vacation rentals tend to provide more privacy than suites or hotels. They are also a better option for families since parents can put their kids to bed, then spend their time together without worrying that they will disturb their sleeping children. If they want more privacy, they can book multiple hotel rooms, but this is often costly. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on hotel rooms, booking a vacation home that often costs a third of the price will make more financial sense. On average, vacation rentals offer more space, making the cost per night much lower.


Gain a More Homely Experience

Vacation rentals provide all the amenities of a standard home because they are someone’s home. They are typically stocked with everything you need at no extra cost. The kitchen will typically have all the cookware, utensils, and dishes you need, while the rest of the home may also have books, DVDs, and board games. You will no longer need to pay extra for movies or entertainment.

Also, many vacation rentals will be equipped with washers and dryers, where guests can do their laundry without having to pay additional hotel fees for this service. Some homes will also have their own private pools, hot tubs, and seating areas, which are perfect for relaxing with friends and loved ones. Generally speaking, travelers will feel more at home in a vacation rental, also making them feel more like part of the local community during their stay.


Added Security

When guests choose a rental home, they don’t need to worry about any staff coming inside the space. Only the guests will have access to the passcode and they don’t need to worry if they lose the key. In addition, travelers will have on-site parking, either in an attached garage or driveway.

In the event that something breaks, vacation rental property managers will have local service companies on call 24/7. These are trusted professionals who specialize in cleaning and maintenance, allowing their guests to be as happy and comfortable as possible.


Healthier Eating

You’ll often come across hotel rooms and suites that have kitchen areas but lack and real eating space. This forces guests to dine out, which involves more expenses and may not always be a convenient solution financially speaking. Vacation rentals, on the other hand, will provide ample space to create home-cooked meals. This doesn’t mean that dining out isn’t an option, but vacation rental guests can always choose the healthier and more cost-effective option of preparing their own meals. In doing so, they are also encouraged to visit the local farmers market, where they can purchase fresh produce and support the local economy.


Vacation Rentals During COVID-19

Traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic will pose additional challenges to travelers, at least until there is a vaccine, and life can slowly return to normal. Many large hotel chains have enacted various procedural changes and more thorough cleaning policies to mitigate the situation. But while, in the past, some travelers valued services such as room service, on-demand housekeeping, or other staff-based services, travelers are now seeing them more like liabilities. On the other hand, vacation rentals appeal to those that value privacy, as well as a residential-like and do-it-yourself experience.

This Luxury 2BR Loft w/ Roof Deck near Grove St. PATH boasts a spotless living room and pristine gourmet kitchen. It is an ideal retreat for couples, a family, or friends. It’s a few steps from PATH trains that will have you on the streets of NYC in minutes.

The Health Risks of Travel Lodging During COVID-19

As most experts have said about the current pandemic, the biggest risk of contamination whenever people leave their homes is the direct contact with others. When traveling, the risk is even higher, as you will encounter people whose backgrounds and infections status are unknown to you. It’s a pretty well-known fact that there are a lot of people who get infected with the coronavirus, don’t show any symptoms, but still can transmit the illness. It is, therefore, safe to assume that anyone you encounter could be a potential carrier.

In general, travelers should be less worried about common areas, pools, beach chairs, and other such amenities found in hotels and beach house rentals, and other vacation homes, than they should be about crowded places. Taking a swim in a chlorinated pool at a private rental house, or a bike ride around the countryside will pose minimum to no risks. Governmental studies have shown that among the biggest risks of getting coronavirus to happen in bars and restaurants. When it comes to dining in a vacation rental home, you have the option of preparing your own food, which is both safer and more cost-effective than eating out.

That said, when you choose where to stay during your travels, the main thing you will want to consider is the likelihood that you will encounter other people, the number and the length of these encounters. It’s also a good idea to avoid regions that show high rates of overall infection. The Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Resource Center will provide you with up-to-date infections numbers and various other COVID-19 updates.

Whether you choose a hotel or vacation rental, it’s always a good idea to pay close attention to high-touch areas that may facilitate virus transmission. These may include things such as phones, TV remotes, light switches, sinks, faucets, toilet handles, or doorknobs. Also, consider flat surfaces such as bedside tables. All of these areas would benefit from extra cleaning that you can do yourself when you check-in. If you’re going to use kitchen items, it’s also advisable that you run them through the dishwasher. Some useful advice is to air out the house rental when you check-in, just as a precaution to ensure that no virus particles remain suspended in the air.

And while there is no denying the fact that professional hotels are working diligently to keep their rooms clean and sterilized, vacation rentals have a huge advantage in that the guest is generally the only one that’s occupying the property. Staying in a vacation rental, particularly one that allows a no-contact check-in, such as through a lockbox, is almost always the safest option, given the probability that there will be fewer person-to-person encounters.

Useful Travel Tips for Vacation House Rentals

As with many other endeavors, being organized and planning ahead will provide you with many benefits. When it comes to renting a vacation home, being well-prepared will mean that you will have no unpleasant surprises as well as a better vacation experience overall. To that end, here are several useful tips to ensure that everything will go without a hitch.


Start Searching Early

In order to avoid the stress and added costs that will often go with renting a vacation home last minute, particularly if it’s during peak season, it’s always a good idea to research and plan your trip and lodgings at least several months in advance. While this may seem a bit excessive, it’s always a good idea to keep in mind that good vacation rentals will usually book quickly. This can also allow you to take advantage of cancellation policies, in the event that your plans need to change.

If you’re not sure about where to start, the first goal should be to nail down a specific destination and the approximate period you want to vacation. Once you’ve made this decision, a real estate agent specializing in that area can help find a suitable vacation rental. Do make sure that you contact a popular brokerage agency or an individual agent that’s well-known and respected in that specific area.

A better alternative is to check out vacation rental listing sites and other such rental websites that specialize in short-term rentals. For instance, A Greater Town is an excellent resource as it has plenty of vacation rentals listed across the entirety of the United States.

Consult Multiple Sources

It’s nearly as important to consult multiple sources when you are hunting for vacation homes. When you’re shopping around and contacting more people, you will be in a better position to learn more about the area you’re visiting, and you stand a higher chance of finding a better deal. If you also live relatively close to your vacation destination, it doesn’t hurt to go to that area and drive around the neighborhood to see whether there are any homes that are advertising for the season.

While this strategy may be more labor-intensive and time-consuming and may not always be possible, it’s often a cheaper alternative as there will be no brokerage fee involved. It’s important to keep in mind that, even if the owner is sometimes responsible for paying the fee, the cost will usually be factored into the home’s rental price.


Read the Contract in Its Entirety

In many cases, people are so happy that they were able to land the vacation home they wanted that they fail to read the fine print of the contract. However, this legal document should not be skimmed over. It’s meant to explain all of the expenses the renter will have to pay in the event of various events or circumstances.  It will outline the payment schedule and the liability in the event of damages or if additional cleaning is required after the renter leaves.

To that end, you will need to make sure that you understand who will be responsible for paying for the following:

  • Utility bills
  • Phone service
  • Cable
  • Internet
  • Cleaning and housekeeping
  • Propane or gas, if outdoor grilling is an option

It’s also important to keep in mind that heating and/or air conditioning costs at a vacation rental can be quite sizable. Therefore, you will need to make sure that you factor these costs into your budget if the owner or property manager has not already added them into the rent price. You should also be aware of the owner’s policies regarding pets and subleasing.

It’s always a good idea to get a full checklist of what’s included in the rental price. If, for example, the grill is not part of the deal, you will need to factor that cost into the overall budget. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to have your contract looked over by a licensed, professional, and trusted real estate attorney before signing it. This procedure should be done in the event that there are any unclear parts in the contract. While it’s true that attorneys can be expensive, spending a couple of hundreds of dollars on them, just so that you know what you’re signing, can give you the necessary peace of mind that will allow you to fully enjoy your vacation.



Almost every part of the vacation rental price is negotiable, allowing you to get a better rental deal. This can include everything from the amount of the deposit to the weekly or monthly rent. If the person renting the home is unwilling to lower the price on any of these items, they may be inclined to add a few extra days at a slightly lower price. If the property isn’t booked, you can use it to your advantage as a leverage point when negotiating.


Don’t Forget About the Deposit

Some seasonal vacation rentals may require a sizable upfront security deposit. Don’t forget to take that into consideration when you are making your budget. Likewise, be mindful of the process by which that deposit will be returned to you. Make sure that you understand all the conditions that need to be met for you to get your deposit back. These may include things such as home cleanliness and all rental payments are made. This will help prevent any potential arguments at the end of the rental agreement period.



Housekeeping is another issue that you need to take into consideration. Some rentals will include a cleaning service that will come on the last day of your stay, and the cost will be billed to you. Others, however, may have cleaners that will come by periodically. You need to find out what type of housekeeping service they provide and who will be responsible for the bill. You should also find out in what condition the property needs to be in for you to get your full deposit refunded.


Photograph The Home On The First Day

To make sure that any existing damage is documented and you won’t get blamed for anything that you haven’t done, it’s advisable that you photograph and/or record the house during the property tour on the day you arrive. Make sure that you also note any problem areas. You should also do the same thing on your last day. In the event that there are any disputes later on, this type of documentation will prove to be immensely useful to show to a mediator or judge. It may even convince the owner not to take any legal action to begin with.


Get The Owner’s Contact Number

Another useful tip that some people forget about is to get the phone number of the property manager, owner, or landlord. They get so excited about being there that they simply forget to do so. But in the event that there is a problem such as a burst pipe or electricity loss, you’ll be glad to have someone to contact.


Make a Walk-Through Before Checking Out

Just before checking out, walk through the property, preferably with the owner or landlord. Ensure that they find no problems with the overall condition of the house. This will help prevent any unpleasant surprises or unexpected bills down the line. This will also buy you some time to fix a problem if one is uncovered.



Renting a vacation home from vacation rental sites doesn’t have to be a stressful affair. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, it’s also a far safer alternative. By making use of some careful planning and by keeping an eye on the COVID-19 updates and travel tips, you will ensure that you’ll be booking a vacation rental that you can afford. And with one of the world’s largest vacation rental websites like A Greater Town, you will be sure to find a dream home, be it cabins, beach houses, condos, or whatever else you want, where you can spend a wonderful time with friends and family.

Picture of Drew Knapp

Drew Knapp

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