Vacation Properties 101 – Guest Post

Souke Inlet home: Vancouver Island

Souke Inlet home: Vancouver Island

Recently my cousin and I were e-talking about vacations and she asked me if I had ever used VBRO.  I haven’t and in fact, I knew very little about it so she told me all about renting a vacation home.  It all sounds pretty cool and I asked her if she’d be willing to write a guest post so I could better share the information.  So here it is…by Pamela O’Neall…Vacation Properties 101

You’ve dreamt of your destination. Your budget is lining up and the days are marked off on the calendar but you’re still looking for the perfect place to stay…

Time for a Change

Ten years ago I found myself searching for other travel options for a 25th anniversary trip. We’d been to several all-inclusives, many nice hotels, B & B’s, condos and even a couple of guest ranches. However, my husband and I found our desires were changing. We now preferred a place to move into and call home, a place we could enjoy some privacy and freedom and all within proximity to plenty of things to do.

I don’t recall how I got turned onto VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner), but as a first time user I found it a bit overwhelming. There were A LOT of homes to choose from and I spent hours scouring the site. Although a bit nervous, eventually I was able to locate and secure a property in good shape. We booked our first property on the Southern Oregon coastline. After flying in we enjoyed a beautiful ride to and along the coastline to our destination. We were awestruck when we arrived. Not only were we right on the beach and water, but the home was lovely. We were hooked! Once unpacked, you’re unpacked for the duration, moving right into the closets and dressers. You have a real kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom, deck(s), hot tub, washer/dryer, etc; a complete home and all the privacy you desire.

Since Oregon my husband and I have rented homes in Montana, Vancouver Island BC, Florida, North Carolina (twice), South Dakota, Maine and Illinois (twice). We still also travel to the Caribbean from time to time and still utilize nice hotel rooms and B & B’s as needed for domestic travels.

Siesta Key, Florida: home with inclosed pool

Siesta Key, Florida: home with inclosed pool

Getting Started

So, how does one get started? First, determine your destination most anywhere worldwide. It’s also helpful to have actual travel dates but it’s not necessary. Once you have this information simply go to or and start shopping for properties. Although both of these sites operate independently they are largely one organization. Occasionally property owners will list a property on one site and not the other. My preference has been to go to VRBO first but I do also shop Home Away. Airbnb is the newest Internet shopping site for properties and although I’ve not utilized the site, my son and his wife secured properties in Puerto Rico for their vacation with good results. You can also rent privately owned single rooms rooms on Airbnb which is something you can’t find on the other two.

The sites give you an opportunity to plug in your destination; your travel dates if you have them and the ability to create filters. I highly suggest you use the filtering process. It will save you the agony of finding what appears to be the perfect home only to find out it does not meet a specific need you have. A specific need might be a certain amount of bathrooms, near or on the water or open to pets. You can also filter on how much you want to spend a night or week. There’s no need to tantalize your taste buds on a fine executive home if you can’t afford it. I’ve found you can get a nice property for anywhere between $185 – $250 a night. But, keep in mind it depends on what area of the country you’re traveling to and what expectations you have for the property.

Properties in upstate NY are going to run higher than properties in South Dakota. Also, properties close to a high tourist area are going to run higher. When we were in Maine, we selected a home about 30 minutes away from Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park because prices went up sharply the closer you got to that area. We were able to secure a great little coastal “cabin” right on the water that was reasonably priced, quiet and away from all the traffic. It was still amongst the gorgeous scenery and close to all the activities. Be alert and be savvy while shopping for properties when making these decisions.

Take your time with sourcing properties. I’ve taken as much as 3 weeks to secure just the perfect spot. I take into consideration “the overall look” of the property, the furnishings, kitchen layout, appliances, location and proximity to activities, bedroom/bathroom combos, and privacy. I’ve also found there are good options for pet owners but certainly fewer options than homes that don’t allow pets.

Executive level home resort core: Galena, Illinois

Executive level home: Galena Territories, Illinois

E-mail the Owner

When you think you’ve found the right property, e-mail the owner and ask questions. Some properties share a lot of details; other properties only share the basics. E-mailing the owner will leave no questions to chance and you’ll feel confident about your choice. Plus it gives you an opportunity to get to know the owner ahead of your stay. We’ve found homeowners very accommodating in taking care of their renters. We had a homeowner pick up first morning breakfast items for us, another made a plate of homemade muffins and yet another brought in a fresh load of firewood because the current pile was a little damp.

Once you’ve made a decision VRBO or HomeAway makes it easy to reserve and pay. If you’re several months out, be prepared to pay half the cost up front to secure the property. Typically 30 days out from your arrival date you’ll get another invoice for the balance, plus any security deposit, cleaning fee, pet fee, etc.


I always choose to purchase cancellation insurance. A weeks worth of property rental is something I don’t want to lose should I have an emergency and need to cancel. What you pay for the coverage is based off the cost of your property so it will vary. You can get a quote before determining whether you want to purchase or not. There is also property damage insurance to cover any damage during your stay. It could be anything from a decorative item to a cabinet door falls off, or a tear occurs in a fine leather couch. I’ve found I don’t need to purchase this because my homeowners policy provides the coverage I need. You’ll want to check with your carrier to see if you have the same benefit.

Blowing Rock Area: North Carolina home

Blowing Rock Area: North Carolina home

The Choice Is Simple

For my husband and I the choice is simple, we now source and rent a property for most all of our vacations. We will soon be enjoying yet another home with our adult kids and grandkids. Whether you’re staying a weekend, a week or even a month, why not secure an entire house to enjoy with all the space, freedom and privacy it allows. Whether it’s 500 square feet or 5,000 square feet you can find a home just for you, for two couples or even an entire family. Happy hunting!

Pamela O’Neall

Pamela and her husband Marty have traveled throughout much of the U.S., enjoy the Caribbean when they can and have traveled to South America (specifically the Amazon) 10 times as Mission Trip leaders. Pam and her husband own and operate a family farm and she is also the owner and designer of P J’s Potting Shed. FB: PJ’s Potting Shed

Here are links to the three sites referenced by Pamela:

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