During my time as a digital content producer for Lowe’s Home Improvement, I traveled to some really cool cities and had an amazing “local” experience – thanks to sites like VRBO and HomeAway. Here’s what I learned.
- Research the neighborhood BEFORE you book.
People are fantastic house flippers – which means you must look at more than the property itself. In some neighborhoods, one street made a WORLD of difference. Take Google Earth for a spin around the hood; ask friends; poll your social channels. It’s better to do the legwork on the front end instead of trying to get out of a bad situation at the last minute.
- Arrive early, if possible.
Many owners allow for early check-in if they can manage it. This gives you plenty of time to set up, buy groceries and get oriented.
- Most importantly . . . run the hot water.
If you don’t, your first shower – which is the one you’re most desperate for after a day of travel – could be lukewarm. And that’s a real buzzkill. Just turn on the hot water while you’re looking around. (Believe. I learned this lesson the hard way – more than once.)
- Inventory the property on arrival.
Typically, you wouldn’t think to check for an extra blanket until you wake up cold in the middle of the night. Do it when you arrive and save yourself the shock that there isn’t one. When you know early, you can contact the homeowner or property manager for additional supplies.
- Unpack right away.
If you’re staying more than a few days, settle in and make yourself at home. That’s why you chose a rental over a hotel, anyway, right?
- Mind your senses.
Sensitive to light and sound? An eye mask and good earplugs will save your sanity. Sensitive to smell? Carry some dryer sheets or room spray along with you to give the place your scent. You know how you like to live. Make accommodations for your preferences.
- Be willing to live a little differently.
Settle into the experience and know that it’s not going to be “just like home.” Simply set your mind to savor the unique aspects of each new property and make the most of it. You can do almost anything for two weeks – even if it means washing your own dishes in the sink. (Surprise!)
All told, I absolutely loved my rental experiences because I could live like a local. Plus, I could enjoy bonuses like having more space than a hotel room and buying my own groceries so I didn’t have to eat out every meal.
Just be sure to practice patience when you travel this way. Unlike hotels, every property, every owner and every management team differs. And they may not have any idea that their extra blankets walked away! So, when/if this happens, communicate openly and honestly about your accommodations, but mind your manners. Most people are more than happy to help you have a comfortable stay.