Vacation Home Rental and Budget Travel

A vacation home rental near Hot Springs, Ark.
(c)Mark D. Kahler

A vacation home rental can be a real budget saver.

Homeowners through the years have invested in vacation rental properties that they rented to travelers. But these days, the practice of renting a primary residence or exchanging homes has become quite common. Web sites such as Airbnb and VRBO.com have made these transactions easier.

Many travelers start their planning with a hotel search or perhaps consult Priceline in search of a bargain hotel room.

This was my situation as I searched out a place to stay on a long-weekend Spring Break trip to Hot Springs, Ark. At the time of the trip, relatively few low priced rooms came up in search due to the busy season. Those that were within budget were not exactly favorites of online hotel reviewers.

If you're not interested in camping, what is your next move?

That was the situation during one moment in time. Your search for Hot Springs accommodations is likely to turn out more favorably.

An interesting alternative to the hotel search popped up from a realtor in Hot Springs Village. Vacation home rental was offered at $75 USD/night. That was less than all but a few of the available hotel rooms.

The total cost for two nights was just less than $190 by the time taxes and a mandatory $25 cleaning fee were added.

 

How It Works

 

We never saw the office personnel. You pay online and they send a confirmation email. It contains information specific to the property and directions on obtaining the key after hours.

There are a few considerations that would not be part of a traditional hotel reservation. The realty charged $5 for each key not returned.

When we departed early on a Saturday morning (office closed), we simply slid the keys into a security box.

 

Advantages

 

The cost was at least $15/night cheaper than any available hotel with at least two stars in its rating.

With a visit to the grocery store, we could prepare an inexpensive dinner or breakfast in a fully stocked kitchen. That allowed further savings.

If you have a family with you that would require two hotel rooms, this becomes a big bargain. The house had two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The rate was quoted for two people. Additional adult guests each are charged a modest $5/night. Pets and smoking are not permitted.

The location of the townhouse was on a quiet golf course. There was little traffic or noise. Although the house had a television, the outside world seemed far away--a feeling that isn't always easy achieve in a busy hotel.

 

Disadvantages

 

Hot Springs Village is a residential area offering nearby golf, fishing, hiking and other amenities. It is nestled in the wooded hills north of Hot Springs. About 17 miles north to be exact.

A winding road (under construction at the time of our stay) leads into city, with its National Park attractions, restaurants and other amenities. The trip took at least 30 minutes each way.

If you're not good with local directions or lack transportation, this house rental would not have been a practical solution.

The $25 cleaning fee required some attitude adjustment for a budget traveler. Remember: unlike a hotel, the owner has to pay someone to drive to the location and clean following each stay. The cost is justified, but we really didn't make $25 worth of mess.

 

Final Thoughts

 

If you find yourself in a disadvantage with respect to hotel reservations, do a search for local realty companies near the destination offering short term vacation rentals.

Check the terms carefully. In fact, it pays to make a quick phone call and talk to someone about the available properties.

Many short term rentals will require a minimum number of nights, especially during busy times. Check to see if you want to spend the required time. Ask about travel times to the places you want to visit. If the answer comes in miles or kilometers, ask for a time estimate as well.

The agent can tip you off to the nicest remaining properties--something you might not be able to discern from only the online pictures of the house or condominium.