Vacation House: How to Find the Perfect VRBO

Last week, a group of friends started murmurs of a couples’ trip to New Orleans.  The second the text notification frenzy began, I shot a look at my husband that said, “Get on the VRBO house research.”   You see, Dave is a VRBO wizard.  He has held the reigns of our vacation rentals our entire marriage and has never disappointed.  After blindly following him on one adventure after another over the past decade, I finally asked him about his process, so here you have it, from the vacation-house-whisperer himself.

First off, let me preface this by saying we love house rentals for vacation if we’re going somewhere with anyone other than the two of us.  If it’s just a romantic getaway for two, than a hotel is the way to go.  But if you are traveling with a group, you can’t beat a house rental for the price, convenience, and fun factor. That said, there are a million rentals out there, so how do you choose?

  1.   Know what amenities are important to your group and prioritize accordingly.  Every summer we rent a house in Michigan with family.  When Dave started looking for the house, he prioritized the things that mattered to our group: a fully stocked kitchen, a pool, and one bathroom per room. Narrowing down exactly what your group needs to be comfortable is key to finding the right house.  If your group cooks a ton, the kitchen matters.  If you’re going to head into town for dinner each night, it doesn’t.  If you want a pool, you’ll probably find a better deal on a house that is far from a beach.  If you’re beach people, you may need to get a house that’s a bit smaller.  At the end of the day, you’re going to have to make concessions somewhere, so knowing what matters most to your fellow travelers will make all the difference in the world.  And VRBO makes this super easy with filters that include everything from pets allowed to a patio to a crib.
    Saugatuck Southwest House: Our most recent vacation house in Fennville, MI had the most amazing outdoor pool and backyard for a completely secluded experience, perfect for vacationing with lots of kids.

  2.  Know your group’s vibe.  Every travel group is different.  If your group likes to hang at the house a lot, then the layout of the house, the style of decor, and the size of the lot will be important to you, since you’ll be spending a lot of time in the house.  If your group is constantly on the go during the day and bar hopping at night, then proximity to those activities probably means more than the house itself.  We have out of state friends we consider our travel soul mates and have started an annual(ish) weekend in wine country [see original post here].  Since our daytime vibe is busy at wine tours starting at 10am, and our evening/nighttime vibe is relaxed in the house, we usually opt for places that have killer views, great outdoor eating areas, and hot tubs.
  3.  Location. Location. Location.  This is where you kind of need to figure out the transportation style of the city you’re visiting.  If I’m going to NOLA, I want to be able to walk everywhere, so proximity to Bourbon Street would be important.  If I’m going to Sonoma, I know that I’m hiring a driver, so I can stay in a more remote area tucked into the mountains.  And the VRBO filters can help you narrow things down, whether you are looking for a house within walking distance to the beach, or a quick Uber ride to bars and restaurants, or set in a rural community.
    Fitch Mountain Lookout: Our most recent vacay house in Healdsburg, CA, was an adorable house tucked right into and overlooking a mountain range.

  4. Charm matters.  I like the feel of my vacation house to represent the vibe of the town I’m visiting, which is perhaps Dave’s greatest strength in finding the hidden gems.  The whole point of going on vacation in the first place is to go somewhere that’s different from home, so I want to stay in a place that feels like vacation.  I want my Michigan house to have a grand pool oasis, since I don’t have that in Chicago.  I want my California house to have amazing scenic views that I don’t get in the flat Midwest.  I want my New Orleans house to ooze that French Quarter architectural charm that feels like a different century.  It may be home for a weekend, but it shouldn’t feel just like the home you came from.
    Sansu Guest House: Our first wine country weekend house in Glen Ellen, CA was the most charming house owned by a couple of international art dealers. It included multiple acres of hiking land, a full on museum of curiosities and art, and a rooftop garden.

    Happy vacation-house hunting!  I’ll be sure to update on our progress finding the perfect house for NOLA!

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