How to Find Your Perfect Vacation Rental Online

By Jenn Rose Smith

Call it a quirk, but I love searching short term rental properties online. If you ask me, sites like HomeAway have been the best thing to happen to travel since the commercial flight. Why stay in a boring old franchised hotel chain when you can post up in an actual home? Even better, if you know how to search for them, you can end up finding fantastic properties that are experiences in and of themselves. Our entire team is headed to Italy this Friday for a week in Tuscany, and we’ve teamed up with HomeAway to take our trip to the next level by staying in a couple of dream Italian villas while we’re there. Half the fun of planning our trip was searching through all of the incredible properties available through their site! I’ve included four of our favorites below (along with four of my tried and true tips for finding your perfect vacation rental). It was clearly a tough decision, but can you guess which one we’ll be checking into this Friday?

featured image from architectural digest

Don’t underestimate the importance of location.

Your vacation time is valuable, and you don’t want to end up spending all of it sitting in traffic. Whenever possible, look for rentals that are within walking distance to the activities and areas you want to explore. The shorter the trip, the more important location is. We’ll only be spending a few days in Florence, so we’re looking for a villa with a super convenient location like this one which is only 8 miles away from town.

Look for architecture distinct to the region.

After I’ve pinpointed a location zone, architecture is my most important element for any vacation rental search. Historic homes are fun and can add a layer of authenticity to travel. I look for properties that are good examples of regional historic architecture — a rococo apartment in Paris, a mid century modern home in Palm Springs… you get the idea. For our Tuscany trip, we were dying to find a historically styled villa with plenty of great texture like this one near the border of Tuscany and Umbria.

Scope out the kitchen and bathrooms.

Always make sure to get a good look at the photos of the bathroom situation in any vacation rental. Nothing kills relaxation like a gross bathroom, or not enough bathrooms for your group. Look for updated fixtures and make sure there are enough bathrooms to comfortably accommodate everyone you’re traveling with. If you’re planning on doing any cooking while you’re there, the same goes for the kitchen. Look for updated spaces with lots of light. We fell in love with this black and brass stove and farm style kitchen sink at this villa near Florence.

Look for good outdoor areas.

Especially if you’re going to a region known for spectacular weather (like Palm Springs, San Diego, or – ahem- Tuscany) you’ll want to make sure you find a property with plenty of outdoor hang-out spots like this gorgeous apartment in Lucca, Italy.

*this post was created in partnership with HomeAway.