THE BLOG

First Time Renting a Vacation Home? 5 Things You Should Know

12/20/2013 02:50 pm ET | Updated Feb 19, 2014

Whether you're looking to escape the craze of the holidays or are planning ahead for next summer, if you're renting a vacation home for the first time, you might be a bit apprehensive about what to expect and how to plan. Should you bring sheets? Do you need kitchen utensils and gadgets to cook family meals? You've heard stories of people getting scammed, so how do you make sure a property is "as advertised"?

To alleviate any worries you might have, I've compiled a list of 5 key things to keep in mind when renting your first vacation home. In addition to reading the property description on the vacation rental website carefully, keep in mind that most vacation home rentals come equipped with the basics -- so leave the blender at home! You'll also want to carefully read reviews from previous renters, and don't be shy about asking the homeowner questions if you aren't sure about anything.

Here are 5 key things you'll want to know before your first vacation home rental experience:

1. Start Planning Early -- If you want to rent a home next summer in the Hamptons, book ahead! Many summer homes in the most popular beachside locations book up to a year in advance. So, select your dates and start your search early to score the best properties.

2. Stay Away From Scams -- It 's best to stay away from properties on Craigslist and to a rent home directly from a vacation home rental website. Check out the property on Google Maps to confirm the location, and make a phone call directly to the homeowner. Don't be afraid to ask for references and contact previous renters to make sure they were pleased with their stay.

3. Don't Pack Everything But the Kitchen Sink -- Before you shove half the contents from your actual home into your car, you should take a look at what the property has to offer in its detailed description and also know that most vacation home rentals come equipped with the basics like cleaning supplies, and kitchen utensils, serve ware, and appliances. Winter rentals often offer snowshoes and sleds for outdoor activities -- while beach rentals for the summer often supply beach chairs and towels as well.

4. Save Big vs. a Hotel Room -- In a study conducted by Hotels.com, the average prices of hotels in North America was up 3 percent in 2013 and was expected to continue to rise. Luckily, travelers can put some extra cash in their pocket because vacationers can save an average of 15-50 percent by renting a vacation home.

5. Take Advantage of All the Amenities of Home -- Hate waking up at 6:00 a.m. to reserve a chair at the pool? Travelers can filter rental homes by their desired features like a pool, a hot tub, a grill or even a movie theatre! Homes may also have board games, free wireless Internet, flat screen TVs, and foosball tables. Kids won't be whining, "I'm bored" during the vacation -- and you don't need to pack the entire toy chest.

Is there anything you learned when booking your first vacation home rental?