When Anisa and I were looking for accommodations in St. Martin, first we looked at hotels. Last year, we stayed at the Westin Dawn Beach. We had gotten a very good deal, and the hotel was worth what we paid. Unfortunately, we could not get that rate again. We expanded our search to other parts of the island. I had loved Orient Beach, so we looked at that area. That area is on the French side, and the options are generally smaller hotels.
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We could not find anything that jumped out at us, so Anisa expanded the search to include vacation rentals and looked on VRBO.com. She had previously used VRBO.com and had good experiences. There are many other sites like VRBO that you can also try to book a vacation rental like Airbnb, Flipkey, and Homeaway, etc. If you are feeling brave, you could even do a home exchange.
When adding vacation rentals into the mix of options, the choices can sometimes be overwhelming. Should you book a vacation rental or hotel? It can be difficult to come to a decision especially when multiple people need to all agree. The best way to handle this is to create a table with key information such as a link to the property, total cost, comments, etc. The example table provided is pretty comprehensive, so you can delete any columns that are not important to you and add columns for any other deal breakers for you. Once you complete the table, you will find the decision is much easier. For our trip, we found a few options and finally settled on a studio in Mont Vernon with gorgeous views of Orient Beach.
Overall it was a great experience, and the price was right. There are a few things though that are worth mentioning:
1) Many vacation rentals will require a security deposit and most will require payment in advance. As long as you don’t break anything, you will get the security deposit money back shortly after your trip is over. However, if you are watching your cash flow, you should keep that in mind.
2) The check-in process for a vacation rental can be quite different. We had to schedule a time to check in. Keep in mind that we had to pick up our rental car after landing and at some point, we wanted to pick up some groceries and wine. So, scheduling a time was a little bit of a hassle. It would have been worse had we not previously been to St. Martin. We decided to wait to go grocery shopping until after we unpacked, but still, there was still a bit of guessing as to what time we would get to Mont Vernon. Luckily, we managed to guess correctly. After a few minutes the owner’s agent arrived, she showed us to the room and told us a few things (including how to operate the washing machine – apparently I wasn’t paying attention – more on that later).
3) There wasn’t a front desk or any resources available for us if we had questions on what to do, where to eat, etc. This wasn’t a problem for us, but it could be for others. It is definitely something that you should consider.
4) Unlike in a hotel, there isn’t daily housekeeping. After the first day, we needed to wash towels. Unfortunately, I could not figure out how to operate the washing machine (the buttons were in French). Luckily, Anisa was able to facetime with her boyfriend, Russell, and he was able to tell us what to do.
5) We had difficulties getting the safe to work in our vacation rental. We had to contact the owner’s agent and set up a time the following day for her to come by to help us. Even after, we weren’t confident we would be able to open the safe after getting it to lock, so we just chose not to use it. In general, if something isn’t working in a vacation rental, it will take longer to get fixed than if you are in a hotel because there may not be maintenance on site.
6) Most vacation rentals will not have fitness center access, so you may need to make other arrangements. While we were in St. Martin, we took long walks on the beach in the morning to make sure we got some exercise.
7) We had a kitchen. Although we didn’t really cook anything, it was nice to have a full-size refrigerator to store our wine and cheese. Sometimes you will get lucky and have a vacation rental with an espresso machine so that you can make your own. We were also able to make ice and freeze water bottles which we took on our hike in St. Martin.
8) Check the sleeping accommodations in the vacation rental. Is it a single or double bed, a futon, or rollaway? Then decide is the sleeping arrangements will work for your party. If you stay at a hotel you can always ask for a different room, but at a vacation rental, you are stuck with what you booked.
9) While there was plenty of parking at the complex where we stayed, not all vacation rentals will have that. If you have a car, you should inquire to find out if there is a garage or parking lot close by. In some cities, parking can be expensive, so it’s something you need to factor in your travel budget.
One important thing to mention is that some cities have rules regarding short-term rentals. For example in New York City, short term rentals like Airbnb are not allowed unless the owner is also staying in the property. In some cases, the individual building may also have their own rules. Do you own due diligence before finalizing your accommodation.
I think vacation rentals are definitely a good option when traveling. Have you ever stayed in a vacation rental? Do you prefer vacation rentals or hotels? I would love to hear about your experience.
Expert Tips When Choosing Between Vacation Rentals or Hotels
- Create a table to compare different accommodation options and make the decision easier.
- It is important to keep in mind the differences in staying in a vacation rental versus staying in a hotel. As long as the differences will work with your plans, you can score a good deal and have a great vacation while staying in a rental – I know we did.
- If vacation rentals are new to you, these tips for using AirBnb for the first time might be helpful.
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