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Why (and How) You Should Rent a Vacation House

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Gone are the days when finding a place to stay during a family vacation meant choosing the best of two unpleasant hotel rooms. Luckily, the option to rent fully furnished apartments or homes has become popular and easier in recent years.

If you've resigned yourself to hotel accommodations, here are a few reasons to reconsider (and some helpful tips to get started):

1. Saving money.

Whether you're thinking of booking a hotel room or renting a house or apartment, beware of hidden fees that don't show up in the initial listing price. However, home rentals tend to be less expensive over a longer period of time, because owners often set weekly or monthly rental rates, which work in your favor. If you have a large group of people, the cost per person can be much more favorable with a home rental.

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2. Space for more people—and all their stuff!

Is it just us, or does it feel like hotel rooms get smaller as vacation days go by? In general, hotel rooms consist of two beds and a lonely little bathroom. But there is a lot more space—and flexibility—with a rental. Look for something with a playroom or backyard, so the kids have more room to run around. Find something with lots of seating so all the adults have somewhere to kick back as well.

3. Built-in amenities.

Though you need to read property descriptions carefully, many come with amenities you'd never find in hotel rooms, such as a well-stocked DVD collections or board games. Some may also have access to a community pool or fitness room, while others may have these features right in the backyard. Little extras can go a long way for those days when your family needs some downtime, the weather isn't cooperating or relaxation is on the agenda.

4. Hosts offer local insight and a personal touch

Certainly the front desk staff at a hotel can offer suggestions on where to go and what to do, but there are some outstanding hosts who are practically personal concierges by leaving behind write-ups with tips on local favorites, guidebooks for the surrounding area, take-out menus and other specific considerations that can enhance your vacation. Before you leave home, take the time to communicate with your hosts, and they'll probably be more than happy to answer any lingering questions about the destination.

5. Accommodations can be memorable too

You'll spend at least a third of your vacation in your accommodation (you have to sleep, eventually), so make it a memorable one. Start digging through apartment and home listings, and you may be surprised to discover treehouses, yurts, castles and other unique lodging options. By utilizing a rental service, you can make your accommodation just as interesting and memorable as the attractions you'll visit on your vacation.

Are you ready to choose the perfect rental home or apartment? Consider the following tips:

1. Plan in advance

Like most things related to vacation planning, the early bird gets the worm. In this case, you get more options. This is especially important if you have your eye on a popular destination, especially during high season or during a busy sporting event, convention or festival.

2. Use a legitimate listing service

There are a number of companies offering detailed listings with good amenity filters on their websites and support if something unexpected arises. Use a company like AirBnB, VRBO, HomeAway, Wimdu or Roomarama for your search, and stay away from something like Craigslist. This is the business vacation rental companies are in, so use their refined search options and read up on policies that hold both renters and those renting accountable.

3. Let filters guide your search

When you book a room at the Hampton Inn or Best Western, you know in advance what you can expect to find, but every vacation rental is different. Use a website's filters to narrow down your price range and desired size, but then go even further to find the perfect match for your needs. Looking for something with a pool? Want to bring your dog along? Need a place that is wheelchair accessible? These are the types of filter options you'll find across quality listing sites.

4. Scrutinize accommodation listings

Using a verified vacation rental listing company is the first big step to finding quality accommodations, but once you've narrowed down your search, take a close look at the listing. Many of these sites note whether users are active or verified, both of which are ideal indicators of good hosts. Look for high-quality photos that match a rental's description. Read reviews left by others who have stayed in the rental. If you have questions, don't be afraid to get in touch with a renter and ask. These are real people who have a stake in making sure their listing and your needs match well.

RELATED: 12 Ways to Feel Less Bad About Your Staycation

5. Leave a rating when you leave

Just as you will take the time to read reviews prior to travelling, other travelers will want to learn about your experience with a particular property listing and owner. Be honest and thoughtful, and make sure your review reflects your experience with the accommodation, not other unrelated factors such as attractions that were closed or poor weather.

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