Vacation apartment rentals are an increasingly popular option when traveling abroad for more than a few days. A vacation rental apartment is an apartment that is available for short term rental to tourists, businessmen, students, and anybody else who might want to find accommodation for any length of time from a few days to a few months. Vacation rentals can be cheaper than an equivalent hotel, and they also offer the added advantages of letting you get closer to the culture, affording you a greater degree of privacy, as well as ^providing kitchen and cooking facilities. Although vacation rentals have numerous advantages, they also have a few drawbacks, so it’s important to do your homework before deciding on the perfect vacation rental.

More often than not, you’ll be seeking a vacation rental in a city or country that you are unfamiliar with. So when planning your visit these cities you’ll need to pay special attention to things like the location of the apartment, payment arrangements, and ease of assistance in the event of any problem.

  • Location – As always where real estate is concerned, location is a key factor. Where vacation rentals are concerned it is even more important because, during a short stay, you’ll want to be sure that you don’t use up too much time getting to and from your destination every day. Location and price will be a trade-off because the most centrally located apartments will generally cost more than a similar apartment located closer to the center. So the first step in finding a vacation rental is finding the most desirable area. If money is no object, this is easy, if you’re a tourist, then you’ll just pick the tourist center in whichever town you’re going too. If you’re studying or working, then you’ll pick a location with easy access to your school or office.
  • Transportation – If you don’t have unlimited funds then you might want to consider an apartment that is close enough to public transportation that you can get where you need to go without spending too much time traveling. This generally means that the apartment should be situated close to a metro or bus line. In some cases, you’ll need to pay attention to ensure that the metro is not running directly under your building and that a tram or train line doesn’t run right next to your bedroom window.
  • Apartment Facilities – If you are planning a trip to another city or country and you won’t be able to see an apartment before reserving it, then it’s important to see a few photos of it before you commit. Be careful here because photos can be deceiving. You should be sure to ask for information on surface area (square meters, square feet) and the amenities included in the apartment. Don’t be shy here. While some owners may advertise “Sleeps Four”, the apartment may only have a double bed plus a sofa bed, so it’s important to know exactly what kind of sleeping space is available. A “fully equipped kitchen” could mean enough to please a gourmet cook, and it could also mean that you arrive and find that the apartment is equipped with one tiny pot and a cheap pan that is not even good for frying bacon. So be sure that the amenities you find most important will meet your needs. If you will be using the internet every day and want to do so from the comfort of your bed, then be sure to ask if the wi-fi works in the bedroom. If in doubt ask the owner for some references whom you can talk to concerning the rental. Unsatisfactory amenities are the number one cause of renter displeasure in vacation rentals
  • Payment – Most vacation rentals require some form of a deposit to guarantee your reservation. While the amount may vary, it’s important to request some form of contract or confirmation before you send any money. It’s even more important to use a form of payment that offers some form of recourse. Cash transfer services should be avoided if possible, as they are favorites of scammers and fraudsters. Credit card payment is better because in the event of fraud, depending on the country of your bank, you may be protected against loss. PayPal and bank transfer can also be used, but in the event of any problem, it will be much harder to get your money refunded. Once you arrive the balance will generally be due when you are getting the keys. If you are traveling to a country with a different currency, you must be sure to take enough cash with you to pay the amount that is due on the first day. Don’t forget that the total amount due may be more than your daily ATM limit. It’s also not at all uncommon for banks to block large ATM transactions in foreign countries, or for ATM cards not to work at all in some machines. Lastly, before paying any money, be sure they get a complete, written accounting of all money that will be paid: total rental amount, total deposit amount, and total amount due after deposit; as well as the conditions, method of payment, and timetable for getting your deposit returned.
  • Assistance – If you’re visiting a new location and think you might need assistance in learning how to do essential day to day tasks (buying metro tickets, doing laundry, etc), it would be nice to have somebody to talk to that can explain these things. In a hotel, you can always ask the reception, but if you’re in a foreign country and you’ve rented an apartment, you’ll have nobody to talk to if the owner can’t help you out. So if you think you might need some assistance it’s best to rent from an owner or agency with whom you can establish enough of a rapport that you’ll be able to ask them for help if something comes up.

Vacation rental apartments can make your trip a delightful one or a living nightmare, so it’s important to follow these essential steps to help ensure that you’re getting what you bargained for.