Vacation Rentals 101: Tips for Booking Your Honeymoon Sans Hotel

A private getaway can be just as romantic as a five-star suite.

Photography by: Courtesy of Airbnb

As the editor who reads through all of Martha Stewart Weddings' Honeymoon Diary submissions, I can confidently report that more and more couples are forgoing hotels and booking apartments through peer-to-peer websites like Airbnb. The cost-cutting benefit is obvious—in addition to cheaper room rates, making your own breakfast sure beats the $30 room service omelet—but there are more reasons to consider a rental beyond just saving money. You get total privacy, amenities like free WiFi and washer/dryers, and just more of a sense of freedom. But how do you go about finding the right rental? Here are a few tips to consider.

Look for properties that are listed by management companies.

Sites like FlipKey, HomeAway, and VRBO list rentals that are run by both individual owners and professional property management companies. If it's a company, it's usually safe to assume that they'll be more reliable and quicker to respond should any problems arise after you arrive (say, a leak or your key doesn't work). On Airbnb, your best bet is seek out listings with the Superhost badge, which means the owners receive five-star reviews 80% of the time, have a high and quick response rate, rarely cancel reservations, and have hosted at least 10 stays in the last year.

Research, research, research.

Searching for the right rental requires a lot of due diligence. Always read reviews, and focus on sites that only publish opinions from guests who have actually stayed at the property. (Both Airbnb and HomeAway do this.) Other signs of a solid listing: quality photographs (bonus points if they're professional) and a fast response time (which many sites display). And don't be afraid to pick up the phone and get any lingering questions answered if email just isn't cutting it.

Protect yourself.

You've likely had a friend or two experience a rental nightmare—maybe they were scammed out of their money or the property didn't look anything like the photos. Or (gasp!), they arrived and the owners weren't even expecting them. The easiest way to protect yourself is to pay through a secure system (that means never send a check or wire money). Also, make sure to read over the contract closely—which should include information about cancellation policies, damage, and security deposits—before you sign it. And finally, you may want to buy travel insurance, though check first to see if your credit card includes coverage for vacation rentals.

Use a reputable rental company.

Peer-to-peer sites like Airbnb are great—but this is your honeymoon, and you don't want to leave anything to chance. Luckily, there are companies out there that specialize in world-class villas and apartments. They heavily vet properties, provide 24-hour concierge service, and include perks like stocking the fridge with your favorites in advance (and even hiring a personal chef to whip up your meals). I'll be putting together a list of our favorites, but a good place to start is a new website called UltraVilla, which brings together trustworthy agencies from around the world and provides a direct link to their experts. Note that these types of properties may cost as much or even more than a hotel—but you'll get a five-star experience.


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