Vacation rentals include all the comforts of home but in unique destinations and locales. And like your home, they offer more privacy and space than what you’d get at a hotel – in other words, you don’t have to worry about disturbing the folks in the room next to you if you’re kids are a little rowdy. On the flipside, you won’t hear other guests coming in and out of their rooms at all hours either. Oh, and if you don’t want to go out for dinner you don’t have to: most rentals come with a fully equipped kitchen.
If you’re thinking about nixing the hotel room in favor of a vacation rental home in Michigan, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Dos for Vacation Rentals in Michigan
Plan and reserve your spot early
Popular areas like next to the beach or right on the lake tend to be reserved throughout the summer. “It’s definitely best to plan pretty far in advance since a lot of cottages and condos get super booked up early,” explains April Carroll, the general manager of Visit Up North a property management company with over 170 different lodging options. “The busiest times are around holidays or special events.”
That’s not to say you can’t find a vacation rental on the spur of the moment, but your choices may be more limited. If you have a certain destination and time frame you’re working with, plan ahead and secure your spot as soon as you know when you’d like to go.
Review several websites before making your choice
Pure Michigan’s website includes listings for more than 2,000 different vacation rentals. And other popular rental sites have large inventories, too.
With so many rental properties available, it’s important to do your homework and look through a few before settling on your perfect spot. Most websites include several search categories to help you narrow down your picks – expect to find choices such as location, number of bedrooms, whether pets are welcome and more.
Keep in mind minimum stays
Unlike hotel rooms, vacation rentals often require minimum stays of at least two nights and for some up to 14. These minimum stays can fluctuate based on whether you’re visiting during peak or off-peak times. It takes a lot of work to clean an entire home to prepare for the next guest compared to one room in a hotel so single night occupancy tends to be the exception not the rule.
Don’ts for Vacation Rentals in Michigan
Use insecure payment methods
When possible use your credit card and secure websites to pay for your vacation rental versus cash or check. With a credit card you have more security and protection to fall back on in case there are any issues. Equally important, make sure the person you are paying is indeed the owner. “It is important to always reach the owner via the phone number on the rental listing to verify they are the same person you are communicating with via email,” says Jon Gray, the former chief revenue officer at HomeAway, the world’s leading vacation rental marketplace with more than one million listings. “If an owner asks you to mail cash or wire money consider it a red flag and move on to another rental.”
Make assumptions about the property
Sure, vacation rentals are like home but that doesn’t mean they come fully stocked with everything. Check with the owner beforehand on what is included in the rental – and what isn’t. You should also verify rental policies including check-in details, deposits, cancellation fees and additional fees. “Ask for all the details in advance via a rental agreement, such as check-in/check-out times and house rules, to avoid any last-minute surprises,” notes Gray. With vacation rentals, each one is its own business meaning the policies won’t necessarily be the same from one to another.
Forget your map
Depending on where you’re going your GPS or smartphone map functions may or may not work. Some of the appeal to staying at a cottage is to get away from the trappings of life and have a little peace and quiet. But to find your remote locale, you might be surprised that your GPS won’t help you find it! And even if you do have Wi-Fi in your rental it can be spotty. Make sure you get specific directions from the rental owner before traveling.
This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for 2017.