But be cautious when using these sites to make reservations; you could get stuck with a vacation rental you don’t want.
While the Internet has broadened your lodging choices, make sure you know what you’re getting into. Many lodging websites require advance payment, and cancellation policies can be strict, so you need to make sure your plans are definite. If you’re not sure of your plans, you can buy travel insurance, but it only covers certain situations (having to finish a work project or deal with a sick dog doesn’t qualify).
The sites present various choices, provide plenty of pictures from every angle (including the toilet) and make it easy to book. They have similar procedures for searching and reserving, although some offer more options than others.
This popular platform for individuals to rent out all or part of their home first asks for your desired location and dates. Next, it asks for your price range and if you prefer the entire home or a room. Additional filters include pool, wireless internet and how many bedrooms, bathrooms and beds you need. Based on your selections, the site shows options that meet your requirements. Often the places listed are not necessarily in the town you chose as your destination but in the general area, so be careful to note the location.
Each listing includes the owner’s description of the dwelling. One of the best features of travel websites is the reviews section, which provides additional, or even contradictory, information to the host’s description. For example, you can find details that the owner might not divulge, such as the advertised ocean view is only visible from a corner of the bathroom. Conversely, the review can validate the owner’s “cozy, charming and quiet” description. Be cautious if there is only one review. This could mean that the rental just opened (in which case it’s hard to tell if it’s a decent place) or that guests are declining to review it because of unpleasant experiences.
The owner might provide a general description of the location—close to downtown, the ski area or beach—but it’s wise to confirm the distance. What if you’re considering walking downtown, and it turns out to be a 5-mile drive? “Close” is a relative term. Or it might only be a 10-minute walk to the city core, but your lodging is on a busy, noisy street. You can use Google Maps to see exactly where the property is.
The host can choose from several Airbnb cancellation policies, ranging from flexible (full refund one day prior to arrival, except fees) to moderate (full refund five days prior to arrival, except fees), strict (50 percent refund up until one week prior to arrival, except fees) to super strict (50 percent refund up until 30 days prior to arrival, except fees) and beyond for long-term rentals.
Make sure you check the cleaning fee. What may seem like a great bargain can be less so when adding on a $200 cleaning fee. Sometimes, by changing your dates by a day or two, you can get a better deal (Sunday through Thursday will likely be cheaper than busy weekend dates).
This site lets you choose hotels and resorts and works similarly to Airbnb, with the addition of a star-rating system, based on previous reviews (which can number in the hundreds). Besides choosing the amount you want to spend, you can filter for the star-level rating (two to four), whether breakfast is included and your preference for a particular chain hotel.
When you choose a hotel, you’ll get a list of the room types (two double beds, one king bed, etc.) and whether there is a cancellation fee. Even though the large print might say “no cancellation fee,” the small print gives you a date by which to cancel without penalty. Hotels have different cancellation policies for different rooms. When reserving, you must provide a credit card number to “hold your booking.”
This website offers lodging options similar to those on Booking.com (as well as flights and rental cars). However, Priceline’s claim to fame is its popular “Name Your Own Price” feature, in which you select where you want to stay and then propose a price. Priceline can cheaply sell airline seats, hotel rooms and cars that dealers don’t think they can. When booking a room, select the hotel star rating you’re seeking, name your price and enter your credit card number. Once you provide the information and click “Buy my hotel now,” the purchase automatically goes through, and only then do you find out where you’ll be staying. Your reservation is not refundable or changeable.
Priceline works particularly well when you’re booking at the last minute, and affordable options are few. You might not get the best place, but it’s better than paying through the nose.
Happy travel surfing!
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors