16 Tips for Vacation Rental Home Guests
Over the last decade, tens of millions of people have had uneventful, enjoyable stays in vacation rental units. But let’s be honest – every type of travel carries some risk. While Airbnb, VRBO and others have taken steps to improve platform security and to address concerns, there are actions you can take to better ensure a safe, comfortable trip. We’ve assembled 16 vacation home rental safety tips to help.
1. Pay attention to the property descriptions.
Read them carefully to ensure that you understand the facilities and amenities of the unit, and the features you will and won’t be getting. While many listings on platforms such as Airbnb or VRBO will let you know if there are smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, they may not tell you if the backdoor has a working deadbolt or if the room that your children will sleep in has a lock on the window. If in doubt, these are things you should contact the property manager about ahead of time.
2. Read the reviews
Read as many as possible. They will help identify recurring themes, issues or problems as other guests see them.
3. Make sure the property fits the description.
Ask for more pictures beforehand if you have doubts. Note if the reviews say anything about the property descriptions not matching photos.
4. Get to know your host.
Ask a few questions in an email exchange. Check them out on social media if possible.
5. Look out for payment scams.
While Airbnb and VRBO use reviews and complaints to police hosts and offerings, there are still plenty of examples of scams and stolen money. See this blog on risks of Airbnb travelers for more details. In any event, never bypass the built-in platform payment solution.
6. Check to see if the property or host has been blacklisted.
Sites like AirbnbHell & Sitejabber feature stories of Airbnb rentals gone terribly wrong.
7. Check the location and neighborhood appearance on Google Earth or Google street view.
Does it look like a neighborhood you would feel safe in?
8. Bring your own first aid kit if possible.
Your unit may not have one.
9. Check the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors when you arrive.
While you are at it, look for cameras disguised in light fixtures or as smoke alarms, motion detectors or clock radios.
10. Know where the exits are.
Rehearse what you and your traveling companions would do to escape a fire.
11. Let friends or family know where you are staying.
Many of us have Find My Friends or similar location sharing apps on our phones. This may not be enough. For extra precaution let loved ones know where you are staying.
12. Research the city.
Where are the safest places to stay, and what areas are best avoided? How do you get in touch with the local police or fire station if there is an emergency? Where is the nearest walk-in clinic or hospital? If you ‘d like your host to provide these go ahead and ask them.
13. Often times it’s not the place. It’s the people.
No two people are made the same. You may have had a great experience with one host and not so great with another. Communicate with your host to get a feel for them before you arrive. If you detect any interaction concerns with your host, don’t buy. Move on.
14. Rent out the whole house or apartment.
Staying with strangers may sound adventurous but you don’t know what you’re going to get. Even if your housemates are honest and well-meaning, they may come and go and be active at hours that don’t agree with your schedule. If you want to avoid this, check with the owner to make sure no one else is going to be there with you.
15. Women often travel alone, but additional precautions will make your stay safer and more enjoyable.
First, buy the entire unit to avoid unknown housemates. If you can’t or don’t want to do that, ensure the door to your room securely locks and perform a camera check shortly after arrival. Check that the bathroom locks securely. Follow your intuition. If something does not feel right, it might not be right.
16. Have an open mind.
Whether you elect to buy the entire unit or an individual room, the point of a vacation rental experience is often the conviviality, feeling of exploration, and interaction with fellow travelers and neighbors. It’s a mindset adjustment that can pay off with all-new experiences.
Over the last decade, the growth and availability of the vacation rental marketplace have opened a whole new range of stay options for travelers. With a little research, advance planning, and common sense, you can be assured of a safe, enjoyable stay.
Still have questions?
- Check out what AirBnB and VRBO have to say on the topics: