More space means more fun for your family vacation! Find the perfect vacation house rental with some help from PBS travel expert and mom Colleen Kelly.
family staying in log cabin
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Cramming the whole family into small hotel rooms doesn’t exactly spell “awesome vacation.” That’s why I love home rentals for longer trips. And I’m not alone— 67 percent of travelers say they’ll rent a vacation home this year, according to a TripAdvisor survey. But finding the right one often takes some legwork. Here are my secrets:

Prioritize Your Needs

It’s a great value to rent a house versus a single hotel room, but keep in mind that a house won’t have all the amenities resorts do. You might need to choose between—and pay a premium for—pluses such as a central location, a pool, or prime beach access. (You might also need to book up to a year in advance for the best houses during busy weeks.)

Do Your Homework

A major fear when renting a home is arriving to discover it’s nothing like what was advertised. To avoid this, I look up the same house on multiple rental sites—they’re usually listed on several, and sometimes with slightly different descriptions and photos. Next, I check it out on Google Street View and compare it with the photos on the listings. You can see only the outside, but it’s still a pretty good way to gauge whether the photos are misrepresenting the property.

Consider New Listings 

Looking for homes with lots of good reviews is a no-brainer, but it might also make you miss out on options that are new to the market. And these can be some of the best! You often pay a little less because the homes aren’t in demand with veteran renters yet. Plus, if the house is new, some of the fixtures and furnishings might be too. The key is to connect with the owner. If a place looks fantastic online, and the owner is very excited and responsive, take the chance!

Protect Yourself

Always get a formal lease agreement that lays out all the terms of the rental, which protects both you and the owner should something happen. Read the fine print—especially the cancellation policy, which tends to be stricter than at hotels—and bring a copy with you on your trip. Note that it’s normal to have to pay up front, but you can ask the landlord to accept a 50 percent deposit, with the rest due shortly before you arrive.

Get More From Colleen! Check local listings for her show, "Family Travel with Colleen Kelly," on PBS. Or visit her online at or on Twitter @familytravelCK.

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