Cheap Vacation? Give the Hotel the Heave Ho

"Vacation rentals are emerging as a popular accommodation choice for travelers in 2010, because of both their wealth of amenities and the great value they offer compared with other lodging options," said Hank Hudepohl, director of vacation rentals at TripAdvisor.

Tips on Renting a Vacation Home

To get the most out of your vacation, Hudepohl offers the following tips:

Book as early as you can, especially for peak seasons like the summer. Top properties tend to fill up quickly because they often have repeat visitors, positive word of mouth, and great reviews.

Read reviews of potential rental properties in your travel destination whenever possible, so you can learn about the experiences of other travelers.

It's often good policy to contact multiple vacation rental properties at your destination before you book so you can evaluate the pros and cons of each property.

Ask the owner or manager if linens are provided and about any extras you might need such as beach chairs, umbrellas, bikes, towels, cribs and beach toys. You may not have to pack as much as you think.

Ask the owner about things to do, see, and places to eat. Many owners and managers know the neighborhoods well and are happy to make recommendations, and this can help you enjoy your stay even more.

Don't be afraid to negotiate the nightly or weekly rate for the rental home, as owners and managers often have the authority to be flexible with their rates. This is especially true if properties still have availability late in the booking season.

The more the merrier really is the case with vacation rentals. In general, larger families and groups stand to save more by staying at a vacation rental property versus a hotel.

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