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VOL. 130 | NO. 17 | Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Lance Wiedower

When Vacation Rentals Make More Sense


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With just one child, my wife and I don’t find ourselves stressing out about the need for a large hotel room suite or adjoining rooms so our family has enough room to spread around. 

But with the need for privacy or an opportunity to sleep in – our son wakes earlier than my wife and he likes to watch TV – we find sleeping in one hotel room is increasingly tough on our travels.

We are big fans of house and apartment rentals, which really help on that privacy front by often giving us a rental unit with two bedrooms at the same cost of a hotel room.

Solo, business or couple travelers might find the idea of staying in a house when traveling to be odd. Why leave home to stay in another home, one that doesn’t come with its own maid?

But squeezing a family of three or four into a hotel room with two beds is no picnic, especially once everyone gets a little older and comes with a lot of stuff. Add a fifth person sleeping on a hideaway bed and it just gets downright crowded.

I’ve used VRBO.com for years. I’ve found an apartment in Paris, several in New York City and a few beach houses along the way. Airbnb, HomeAway, FlipKey and HouseTrip are other popular sites.

Benefits to renting:

Bedroom options: We’ve rented apartments in Paris and New York that were one-bedroom studios, meaning our son had to sleep on the couch. But I’ve also rented a three-bedroom brownstone in Brooklyn for a trip with friends. All those beds meant more people could sleep at the same address.

Price: That Brooklyn brownstone slept five people and cost $300 a night. It’s hard to get a tiny hotel room with one bed in Manhattan for that price. And when we went to Paris a couple of years ago, we found a great fourth-floor walkup in the Latin Quarter for $170 per night. That was a steal for the location.

Amenities: When I travel I prefer to eat out. But with a child having a refrigerator is important. Having a kitchen with a sink and microwave is even better. And having a washer and dryer in that Paris apartment was huge to help us make it three weeks in Europe.

There are downsides to renting apartments and houses, one of which is not having a daily maid service. I also don’t like the requirement to pay in full before arrival, usually by check and often without full refund.

There are scam concerns, but I believe all of these companies do a great job vetting property owners. I’ve booked through VRBO at least seven times, and in every instance had a great experience. But that might be partially because I’m very focused on picking properties with lots of reviews and that are older listings. A new listing might turn out to be great, but if it’s on there with no reviews – and better yet, no or few pictures – then I’m moving on to the next listing.

Lance Wiedower’s column appears every other Tuesday in The Daily News and The Memphis News. For more travel inspiration, read his blog at tripsbylance.com or follow him on Twitter at @tripsbylance.

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