4 Ways to Rent a Vacation Home on a Budget

By Holly Giles | Florida

As an Amazon Associate, I may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from Amazon.com

How do I find the perfect vacation rental?

You can rent a vacation home perfect for your family in a few steps. Spending time doing research for what fits your family best will help you have a great vacation. Start by listing what your family needs to rent a vacation home.

  • How many bedrooms do you require?
  • How many bathrooms will work?
  • What amenities do you want, such as a pool or game room?

When we travel with the whole clan, it is nine of us. That is a big group to find beds and room for us to enjoy a few days together in our chosen location. Even though we may choose a house that sleeps ten, that doesn’t mean there is a bed for everyone. Digging into the amenities and description of a rental house is essential so there are no assumptions that cause a problem when someone doesn’t have anywhere to sleep.

What is the best vacation rental home website?

Where do you want to go on your family vacation? Once you know your destination, search a familiar home rental website like Airbnb or VRBO. Houfy is also a great option to rent directly from an owner. These websites allow you to filter your options by bedroom, bathroom, and amenities. Do you prefer a whole home in a neighborhood or a condominium?

Use the filters to bring your search down to the exact criteria you seek. From here, you can determine the cost of all the items you are looking for during your vacation. Remember that prices fluctuate with the seasons. Seasons are different across the country.

  • Look within a 20-mile radius of your destination. Homes can be cheaper and have more to offer further away from a city.

Airbnb has a better filter system and search criteria than VRBO.

  • Travel during the week to save on your vacation rental. Many homes will price the weekends higher than during weekdays. If your schedule allows, book weekdays to save money.

I like using Airbnb, and my sister-in-law likes VRBO. If you rent a house often, you prefer what you are used to. Most of the time, you will find the same properties listed on both platforms. VRBO has been around longer, and those families traveling for years have found they want to stick with them. I believe their customer service and issue resolution systems are similar. It boils down to loyalty or navigation of their websites.

Which is less expensive, AirBnB or VRBO?

Airbnb has fewer fees at the time of this posting. Platforms change constantly. Choose the site that you like best regarding selection, navigation, and what you are looking for in a vacation rental. No matter which booking platform you use, protecting your investment in your vacation is essential.

Travel insurance is an extra cost but significant if something arises. Some platforms offer insurance; however, I would check with your credit card company on how to best protect your payment. Travel insurance for “any reason” can help you if an emergency or something happens outside basic travel insurance’s limits.

Each platform has nightly rates, cleaning fees, and other fees that an owner can add. For instance, heating a pool can be an extra charge if available. Cleaning fees are usually what an owner is charged by their cleaning team. Often guests may not realize the costs involved in renting out a home as an owner.

Owners are charged a percentage by the platform of their nightly rate, cleaning fee, and any other fees they have in their listing. All of this factors in how nightly rates are set for each rental home.

Is a vacation rental cheaper than a hotel?

When traveling as a family with several children, there are items to weigh on keeping on budget with a vacation. Staying at a resort has conveniences that a rental vacation home will not have. However, this is a price to pay for convenience. Before booking a resort-style vacation in a condominium or theme park resort, check into all the fees that will be tacked onto your final bill. This is just an example of expenses added to the initial cost of your per-night stay at a resort-type accommodation.

  • resort fees
  • parking
  • linen rental
  • cost of food and meals within a resort
  • pool fees or key cost

When you rent a single-family home as a vacation rental, many items will be included with your nightly rate. Our rental, for example, has a private pool which is a plus for families. We provide towels and floats for the pool. Our rental is also not far from Florida beaches. Beach chairs, umbrellas, and beach towels are supplied too. These extras alone can add up when they have to be rented from resort-style rentals.

Traveling with small children and infants requires extra supplies like a crib, high chair, or other needs. Many short-term rental homes provide these as a complimentary service to their guests because it makes them more desirable and is helpful to guests.

In my experience, renting a whole home has allowed our entire family to enjoy more trips together. Planning our budget, meals, and sightseeing in advance with allowance for last-minute changes gives us the opportunity to enjoy our trip.

Traveling on a budget

It is possible to have a wonderful family vacation on a budget. Start with your accommodations, determine wants versus needs, and how you can accomplish both in a rental home. Look outside your travel destination for less expensive homes. Travel during the week to save on weekend rates and take advantage of longer stay discounts. Read the fine print on resort-style rentals for all the added fees that may affect your budget.

Make a few concessions on your extras so you have money to spend on entertainment or visiting theme parks on your vacation. Cooking meals at your vacation rental can save hundreds of dollars. Planning when you will eat out and cooking the remainder of the time is a big budget saver that can add an extra night or more sightseeing money to your travel budget.

I like to make a meal plan for our trips. I create grocery lists and stick to my budget—most of the time, we plan on eating breakfast and supper at our vacation rental. Eating out once a day works well, and choosing lunch can help with the food budget.

Less stress more fun

Planning ahead for your family when you rent a vacation rental will help you have less stress during your vacation. Having fun with your family and making memories is essential to planning a vacation.

If you plan a trip to Florida, stay with us at River City’s Retreat. We are tucked in a quiet, historic little town, but close to all attractions people enjoy in Florida.





About the Author

Holly Giles is a wife, mother, and storyteller. As an author and Florida Master Naturalist, she writes about heritage homemaking skills, motherhood, and why Florida offers the best hidden natural gems to explore as a family.