Skip the hotel, options for savings, adventure

Booking a weekend away or a family vacation involves all sorts of challenges.

You may need to take time off from work. You have to come to consensus about where you’re going and what you’ll be doing once you get there. You need to determine just how you will travel. Will you fly? Take a train? Drive your own car? Rent one?

Finally comes the decision of where to stay. Hotels rank as the most traditional route, but more options increasingly flood the market thanks to the internet and you just might discover you love having more options and, in the end, have more money in your pocket.

Clueless where to begin? Check out three online platforms helping travelers enjoy a home away from home.


We rented our first Airbnb over Labor Day weekend and I’m kind of in love with the entire website. It’s simple to navigate. You can choose to rent an entire home or apartment or simply a room in your destination city. There are plenty of reviews from other travelers. I loved how you could text back and forth with the owner to ask questions or express needs. We ran out of toilet paper and the owner quickly hurried over with the goods before there was an emergency.

I’m not sure I’m ready to share a bathroom with a host or other guests (old travel habits die hard), so I’d probably only rent a property where you had access to the entire home or apartment. You can easily set filters to only view properties in your price range and the amenities you can’t live without. WiFi is a must for me. I’ll definitely be using Airbnb again.


Vacation Rental By Owner or VRBO is another fantastic platform where travelers can search for a home or apartment to rent near their vacation destination. Again, you can set your filters to search for properties only in your price range and with the desired numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms. You can select the amenities that are non-negotiable and, like Airbnb, choose a property that is smoke-free or pet friendly.

With both websites, you can reach out to the property owner to see if they have flexibility, special rates or coupons available. You might be turned away, but I’ve had success in asking for a discount to be able to stick to our budget. The worst a property owner could tell you is no and at that point you move along to find another dream vacation rental.

rental companies

While a bit trickier to find, you can also discover your very own home away from home via local rental companies. The best way to find local rental companies is to ask those in your online and offline network who have taken a vacation where you plan on visiting. At a bare minimum you could do an internet search with the nearest city and vacation rentals or cabins (add luxury to the search to find a more upscale property). These websites might be a bit more difficult to navigate so you may need to make a phone call to guarantee you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

Basic strategies

It could pay to play the waiting game. If you’re able to book at the last minute, it might be a good idea to wait until closer to your travel dates. Companies or owners would rather fill the home than let it sit vacant and that could lead to reduced rates for you. If you choose this strategy, line up more than one rental in case your first choice falls through or gets snapped up.

Look at the photos carefully. Click through each and every photo of the rental, carefully checking for potential problems. If you know the street address, do a Google street view search to check out the neighborhood, too.

Read every review you can get your hands on. Granted, every traveler comes from their own set of experiences and expectations and some people will never be happy, but consistent themes arise in a good set of reviews. Those little stars matter.

Know what fees and extra charges you’ll have to pay for, too. You need to know whether your stay includes a damage deposit, charge for linens or cleaning fee. Many times, the price listed on the initial page doesn’t include taxes or service fees, too. Don’t be shocked by the extras.

Make good use of the entire facility. If your rental has a kitchen, avoid the temptation to dine out each night and actually use it to prepare your meals. If you have access to a washer and dryer, go home with suitcases filled with clean laundry. Get the most for your money.

Renting a home or apartment can help your vacation feel more like a true relaxing break and less like a trip. With more room than a hotel to spread out, you and your family can spend treasured time together while surrounded by the comforts of home.