(BPT) - After a bitter winter, summer is finally within sight and many Americans are getting into full vacation planning mode. If you’re planning a family getaway or a trip with a large group of friends, it’s a great opportunity to explore staying at a vacation rental. These are often an affordable alternative to booking multiple hotel rooms for larger groups, and access to the additional space and kitchen facilities can be very advantageous.
Follow these tips to find the best deals and locations:
* Start early: Many travelers begin planning their summer vacations right after the new year – but it’s not too late now. For the largest selection of rental homes, start several months before you plan to travel and look for early booking discounts.
* Location, location, location: Book properties further away from popular tourist attractions. Proximity typically comes with a price, so look for places that are away from the tourist hot spots. Cities like Orlando can be quite affordable when staying just a stone’s throw away from the major theme parks and can more than make up for the distance in pricing.
* Consider an off-the-beaten-path destination: You can find plenty of destinations that offer great activities and cost significantly less if you don’t limit your search to major cities and beach locales. Deep in the Ozarks, Branson, Mo. becomes a summer playground with a plethora of outdoor adventures, as well as over 100 live entertainment options. Outside of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Ariz. is much more than just a golfer’s paradise, offering a vibrant nightlife scene and plenty of shopping in a historic downtown.
Tips for the stay:
* Obtain a list of all amenities included in your rental from the property owner or manager prior to your stay. You’ll want to know if you should plan to bring extra towels, a specialty cooking utensil or beach chairs for example. Owners should have a detailed list what’s on hand and the quantity of items that they provide such as hand soap and toilet paper.
* Vacation rentals located in condo communities often have planned daily activities for guests of all ages. These may include family movie nights, scavenger hunts, cooking classes, water aerobics and guest social functions. Obtain a schedule in advance of your stay to plan out your vacation time wisely and take advantage of free entertainment.
While the hope is that you’re out enjoying the scenery and local attractions while you’re using a vacation rental, you’ll also want to be entertained while in the property. Pack your favorite movies, games and even toys if you’re traveling with children to make it as much like home as possible while also enjoying the comforts of someone else’s home.
For the latest vacation rental deals in the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America, check out these offerings from Hotels.com.