Customize your experience by selecting your role:
Owner, Property Manager, or Traveler
The best way to search for available properties to try HomeAway.com, VacationRentals.com, or VRBO.com. You can search for properties directly on each homepage by typing in your destination, dates, and number of beds. From there you will be able to inquire on properties and book them after contacting the property's owner or manager.
This site, on the other hand, is discuss everything related to the vacation rental experience from before you go to after you leave. If you want talk about your process or what you're looking for with other people, this is your place.
Please let me know if you have any further questions!
Salmygal: first, let me say, I'm not affiliated with the site or any owner. I have used vrbo on four different vacations, 3 in Mexico and one in Napa, CA. I absolutely love this site. In MX, we rented condos directly on the Ixtapa beach. The condos were exactly as pictured (actually even better). The house we rented in Napa was great and again just as pictured. It was super easy working with the owners. I think one just needs to be careful, read reviews, study photos carefully, ask the owners to clarify questions, etc. Just click on the area and town and start looking. Look for the type of place you like. These rentals are great options for my husband and I because we like to be able to shop local food markets when we travel and cook (a little:-). We particularly like renting these condos when we travel with other couples. Our upcoming trip to Ixtapa, MX for three couples sharing a condo will cost each couple $700 for the week for a beautiful on the beach condo with private baths for each couple and a beautiful kitchen! Good luck and I hope this helps.
Much of what you are looking for is in the individual property listing. To find out if a property you are interested in is available, click on the availability calender at the listing. Unfortunately, not all owners update their calenders, which means you then have to resort to emailing the owner or calling. I confess, I rent from owners who do not update their calenders as a last resort, since all too often I simply wind up chasing my tail and wasting my time trying to get in touch with them. More often than not, I will get no reply from someone with an unused calender, perhaps because those dates are already booked.
Most of the owners I've rented from have been very professional. We've been vacationing this way for the past 12 years, and always look for a VR first above any other kind of lodging. It's a fabulous way to travel.
I started using VRBO.com after accidentally reading a review on TripAdvisor.com that enlightened me to the benefits of renting a vacation home as opposed to shelling out big bucks for a hotel. This is definitely the way to go. We began with a trip to Kauai in 2008 and I advocate using VRBO.com whenever possible. I have had great success with my rentals and have enjoyed contact with the owners. No problems were encountered and you can find a rental that suits your specific needs. The rental properties we've stayed at have always been clean and well maintained. Sometimes the owners have not been able to meet our requests due to the timeline of a vacation and we have used hotels instead. With enough advance notice, owners can put you into a perfect "home away from home." We recently stayed in Wapiti, WY and our owner turned on the porch light for us, if we hadn't returned by nightfall. It felt like coming "home" every night and we appreciated his kind gesture. There is usually a deposit and a cleaning fee for each rental. Some owners require that your flight be confirmed before asking for a deposit and issuing a confirmation. And even though we paid to stay in some of these places, the owners that we've been able to personally interact with, feel more like friends and we want to return. Start out with your destination, pick your date, decide on your needs (simple to lavish), number of beds required, compare costs and rental plans for your vacation budget, and plan out your activities using your rental as a base. Check the photos. Use TripAdvisor.com for additional reviews and email others who have used the property. You are in charge of designing your own vacation. That's the beauty of it. Enjoy!