The car is packed, the kids are ready, and a seemingly endless summer stretches out before you. If you’re like the nearly 70 percent of U.S. travelers this summer, you’ve already booked a vacation rental, according to a recent TripAdvisor survey.
Rental properties – at the beach, along a river, lakeside, or even an urban destination – have emerged as a popular alternative to hotels, offering more space, full kitchens, backyards, barbecue grills and more.
But it pays to do your homework before you leave home and arrive at your vacation destination. Many of the worst vacation rental nightmares are often the result of a serious misrepresentation by scammers acting as landlords or property owners. In some cases, you could show up at an uninhabitable property infested with pests, broken toilets, or a property that’s already inhabited by someone else.
If feasible, visit your destination ahead of your vacation. If that’s not possible, work through reputable agencies. Find a travel agent who curates, manages or otherwise vets rental properties, giving you some assurance that you’re getting what’s been promised. If you’re using an online service, employ one that offers rental protections. Some of the major players are VRBO, HomeAway, FlipKey, and VacationRentals.com. Use a resource like SmartCheck from Whitepages to verify the names and addresses of your property’s landlord, as well as to access publically-available information like background reports.
And remember to rent with a credit card. Since you’re likely paying in full in advance, cash and checks, and even PayPal, make it harder to protect your vacation investment. It might not be 100 percent foolproof, but using a credit card provides you with a paper trail in case there are issues and you need to refund your money.
For your children’s safety (and yours), do a little research on your vacation spot. You’ve likely scoped out a destination that appeals to your family’s sense of vacation fun, but not every place is safe for kids. Just do a quick background check on things like crime rates in the area and be on the lookout for any signs of potential danger or trouble.
Also remember a few simple precautions, such as packing a medical kit to cover most small wounds and afflictions (Band-Aids, antibiotic cream, pain relievers), and consider equipping your kids with their own information cards. Should you get separated, these information cards could make all the difference for a happy reunion. Include important numbers, names, the address of where you’re staying, and anything else you deem important.
And remember: travelers and tourists are easy targets for scams. While most people you meet will be courteous and helpful, a quick scan of the “42 Most Common Tourist Scams in USA” from TravelScams.com might make you wary of fast-talking charming strangers with deals or advice.
Use these handy tips, don’t forget the sunscreen, and have a great summer vacation!
About the author
Rachel Flanagan manages corporate branding and recruiting at Whitepages, an identity verification provider and people search engine.
Whitepages was founded in 1997, and helps you contact, research and verify people in your world. More than 30 million people per month use its people search engine to get in touch with extended friends and family, research backgrounds and verify that people are who they say they are.