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Vacation rentals vs hotels, which is better?

When planning a vacation, you can automatically think of taking your family (or just yourself) and checking into a large hotel. With so many plane + hotel + car rental packages, it's easy to get carried away with this thought frame. And in the long run, you can often get the best vacation deals by going this way. Still, there are other accommodation options that you might want to explore.

Vacation rentals, for example, offer many amenities that most hotels do not offer. Usually owned by ordinary people (renting a vacation home means helping a "mom and pop" business instead of a large corporate hotel), vacation rentals tend to give you a full kitchen and several rooms. They are available wherever you may also want to stay. You can find condos or houses (with individual houses you get the ultimate in privacy for your vacation) in any part of the world.

If you prefer to be surrounded by the hubbub, you can find rentals in the middle of the action (maybe a condo on the Las Vegas Strip or a cabin with ski-in comfort to tickle your fancy), but you can also find rentals that offer peace and tranquility. Many of these homes are set back from the busy streets and arteries where hotels dominate (instead of a condo adjacent to Vegas casinos, you might prefer a home a few blocks away with a fenced yard and a private pool).

What about families traveling with pets? Is a hotel or vacation rental more likely to accommodate them? Well, I don't know about you, but I haven't seen too many hotels that even appreciate well-behaved dogs waltzing in their halls (even on a leash). On the flip side, vacation rentals are often the way to go for pet owners, as many accept dogs and cats (with an additional deposit). However, be sure to check the local pet policy beforehand, as each owner sets their own rules.

The last thing I want to mention is the general vibe of vacation rentals compared to hotels. With hotels (especially big chains), you get … pretty much the same thing, no matter which part of the world you visit. This may be good for those who don't like change, but if you want to stay in a place that embraces the culture of the area, you're more likely to find it in a vacation rental. Many homeowners stay in their properties for a few weeks, so homes often feel like homes. They are more comfortable and friendlier than the sharpness of most hotel rooms.

Lest you think you have a hotel rental promotion program (alas, I don't have one either), I have to admit that there are some drawbacks to vacation rentals. First of all, finding the right place can involve more internet research than simply booking through a website that offers travel deals. Second, because vacation rentals are usually private, they can be missed with service. Not all rental owners have their own website, and it may take a while for the owners to get back to you if they're not using a management company. Third, most vacation rentals do not come with housekeeping service. The premises will be clean upon arrival (in fact, you will often be charged a cleaning fee), but don't expect someone to change your sheets every day. Finally, rentals tend to be more expensive than hotels. You usually get more square footage for your money (multiple bedrooms, full kitchen, separate living and dining areas, etc.), but you pay for it. This is why rentals are popular with families and friends who can share the costs.

As you can see, there are pros and cons for hotels and vacation rentals. I myself am a big fan of rentals (among the other reasons listed here, I really like supporting "mom and pop" companies instead of faceless hotel chains), but each has its advantages according to your preferences. Make sure to look around before deciding where you want to spend your vacation.