As you begin to plan a much-anticipated vacay, one of your first decisions will be where to stay. Should you reserve a hotel room or book a vacation rental? With the increased popularity of vacation rental booking services, like HomeAway, VRBO, and Airbnb, many travelers are opting for the extra space that rentals afford plus a kitchen to save money by cooking and eating in.
Vacation rentals have become a popular choice for multi-gen vacations too, enabling everyone in the family to stay in the same house. Vacation rentals seem like a good choice, and they can be. But before you book your trip, be aware of these downsides to booking vacation rentals. There might be more than you realize.
Vacation Rental Horror Stories
When we were researching for this piece, we were shocked by how many horror stories are out there from Airbnbs and VRBOs gone wrong. One time a girl woke up in her rented room to thousands of ants crawling all over her bed and belongings. When she confronted the owner of the rental, they simply gave her a bottle of ant spray and shrugged it off saying they had an ant problem.
We also came across a number of stories where homeowners were secretly videotaping their guests. Wait, what?? Yep. As creepy as it sounds, Airbnb guests have actually found hidden cameras inside smoke detectors, phone chargers, and even light bulbs. When did creepiness make its way into vacation stays?
The Bait and Switch
Vacation rental sites have made it super easy to search and book a rental that fits your family’s needs for your next trip. Select your desired location, type of house, and dates, and, voila, a curated list of available rentals appears in front of you with plenty of photos to look through so you know exactly where you’ll be staying. So what’s the problem? Sadly, bait-and-switch tactics run rampant in the vacation rental marketplace, and you might not end up with what you expect.
Some property managers have gotten hip to vacation rental sites. If they have multiple rentals to list, why pay to list all of them? Instead, they list the most beautiful property, show that it’s almost always available, then reel in potential guests. When the bookings start coming in, these scammer properties will redirect bookings to other properties not listed on the site. (Yes, another true story).
Vacation rentals have also been known to scam their guests with fake listings. The FTC has had to issue warnings to help spread awareness for fake vacation listings. While we’re glad the FTC has these scams under their radar, there isn’t a lot they can do for stranded travelers when their vacation rental turns out to be somebody else’s actual home.
Scams like these and more are far too common. Online scammers can take legitimate site listings, steal their details and photos, change the contact information, and trick people into booking a house or room that wasn’t theirs to stay in when they arrived. Don’t let this happen to you. The FTC suggests the following tips for how to avoid vacation rental scams:
- Don’t wire money or pay with a prepaid or gift card for a vacation rental. Once the scammer collects the money, it is almost impossible to get it back.
- Don’t be rushed into a decision. If you receive an email pressuring you to make a decision on the spot for a rental, ignore it and move on.
- Look out for super cheap rates for premium vacation properties. Below-market rent can be a sign of a scam. Do some extra research to confirm the deal is legitimate before jumping in.
- Get a copy of the contract before you send any deposit money. Check that the address of the property really exists. If the property is located in a resort, call the front desk and confirm the location of the property and other details on the contract.
Why You Should Choose a Hotel Instead
Insect infestations, hidden cameras, and rental scams have us second guessing booking a vacation rental next time. Here are a few more reasons why you should consider a hotel in lieu of an Airbnb or VRBO.
1. More Amenities and Better Customer Service
When you’ve got a problem in a hotel, getting it resolved can be as easy as making a call to the front desk. You don’t even need to be in the room. Plus, there’s someone who can help 24 hours a day. That’s not the case with most vacation rentals.
Need more towels, a razor, or a hair dryer? It’s the hotel to the rescue. Got the same problem in a vacation rental? Grab your keys, lace up your sneakers, and map out a route to the nearest store. You’re on your own to buy any items you forgot or that simply weren’t provided in the first place.
A friend of ours recently booked a VRBO in the Outer Banks for a long weekend getaway. When they arrived at the home, the beds had no sheets, the bathrooms had no towels or toilet paper, and the kitchen had no soap. They were left scrambling to nearby stores to pick up the necessary items because the owner would not provide them.
2. You’ll Get a Real Vacation
Booking a hotel room allows you to have a real vacation. A vacation from cooking, cleaning, laundry, bed-making, grocery shopping, everything you do at home that’s a real drag and the exact opposite of being on vacation. In a vacation rental, that stressed-out feeling might stay with you.
At Roomkey, we help you take a real vacation. We make it easy to book hotel rooms. We’re not about hidden fees, misleading sales gimmicks, or ploys to get you to book now. We provide you with clear information to help you make informed decisions, and ultimately, find and book the right hotel for you and your family. Get ready to have the real vacation you deserve.
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