The Ultimate Pros and Cons of Vacation Rentals

Vacation rentals have been around a long time, but in the last six or seven years, they’ve become a massive portion of accommodations throughout the world! If you’ve been following me for long, you know I am generally not a fan of vacation rentals (especially Air BnB!), but I’ve definitely had a couple of positive experiences with VRBO in recent years. To help you figure out if a vacation rental may be right for you, here’s a quick and honest list of the pros and cons!


Get the Whole Place to Yourself

If you don’t like noisy neighbors, this is just the place for you! With some exceptions (such as an apartment, condo, or room in someone else’s home), you generally get to rent the entire house and have it all to yourself. This is perfect for introverts who truly want to “get away” from everyone and everything on vacation.

Get the whole house!
Read on: How to Plan a Fixer Upper Getaway

Ultimate Privacy

Because you can get the whole place to yourself, this is the way to get absolute privacy while on vacation. No neighbors, no housekeepers, no one up in your business. Sleep in as long as you want. Stay up as late as you want. Cook your own food instead of going out to eat. Do what you want–it’s your vacation! This is the perfect solution for those who don’t mind doing their own cleaning in exchange for complete privacy.

Our neighbors on Maui were just the wildlife!
Keep reading: What to Know Before You Visit Maui

The Things People Leave Behind

People are a little more concerned about this these days, but in general, this is a significant “pro” on my list. Forgot your sunscreen? Someone left half a bottle-full behind. Got burned? Someone left a whole container of aloe vera. Ran out of conditioner? Someone left some behind for you!

Doing your own cooking? You’ll rarely have to buy your own oils, spices, or condiments because someone has probably left all that for you! It would be nice to know what would be available in advance, but just plan to take a look in the fridge and cabinets when you arrive, before you head to the store for supplies!

First things first: take a look at what others leave behind!
Read on: Your Ultimate Guide to Vacation Rentals

Can Be Less Expensive for Families than a Hotel or B&B

If you have a family who is big enough (or kids old enough) that you would need multiple hotel rooms to be practical, just renting a whole house could actually be the less expensive choice!

For multiple rooms, a vacation rental could be a batter bargain!
Get the whole story: Staying at the Mailander House from Fixer Upper


Guests Do Their Own Housekeeping

This is the deal-breaker for me. Call me Miss Priss, but it’s not a vacation if I have to make my own bed, do my own cleaning, and take out my own trash. I do those things at home! Additionally, many vacation rentals have oddly specific and strict cleaning rules.

For instance, you may need to put the trash and recycling in specific places to keep from attracting animals. You may get fined if you put recycling in the trash or vice versa—and rules for that vary by country, state, county, and city! Is there a dishwasher, or will you need to wash dishes by hand?

Vacation rentals are very popular on the Outer Banks!
More here: What to Know Before You Visit the Outer Banks

Last-minute Fees

One issue Steve and I have had with vacation rentals are the fees that pop up just before you confirm your booking. Sometimes these fees are required by the booking site, but other times it’s up to the property owner.

For instance, we had done hours of research and combed through hundreds of listings on Maui for our anniversary a few years ago. When we finally chose one, we got through the whole process of booking it, and only then were we notified that the owner required a $1,500 insurance fee to be reimbursed at an unspecified date after our trip was completed. That’s in addition to the deposit, booking fee, and cleaning fee! The insurance fee alone was more than the actual booking. Watch out for those surprise fees!

We found a MUCH better vacation rental on Maui with this view and no incredible insurance fee!
More here: Romantic Things to Do on Maui

No Standards

Because each property is owned by different people, there are no standards like you might find at hotels. Some properties require you to clean, others simply provide a cleaning service between guests. Wi-Fi may or may not be available. The level of security is not standardized. The whole process for checking in or out will be different wherever you stay. For me, this is incredibly stressful, but for others, they can just go with the flow!

You don’t always know what you’re getting until you get there. This vacation rental in Waco, TX, was a total hit, though!
Read next: Your Ultimate Guide to Accommodations

Not Always Cheaper than a Hotel

Steve and I once went on a trip with another couple who insisted on staying in a vacation rental because it would be cheaper. We went along with it because we assumed they had actually checked prices, but we were wrong. The nicest hotel, right in the thick of everything in downtown Monterey, would have been less expensive and in a far more convenient location. Plus, the four of us wouldn’t have had to share a bathroom or do our own housekeeping!

How much would you pay to stay in the tiny house from Fixer Upper?
Related: The Most Legendary Hotels in the World

Strict Time Restrictions

Unlike hotels, vacation rentals don’t have staff available 24/7, meaning that you have to be there to check in at a certain time, and you have to check out at a designated time, too. This is not always a deal-breaker, but it really limits your flexibility. Flight gets in early? You’ll be toting your stuff around all day until check-in time. Flight home leaving late? There’s nowhere to stash your stuff!

Thankfully, the owners of the George Washington Townhouse in Alexandria, VA, were flexible and let us check in early!
Read next: The World’s Best Hotel Luxuries


That’s up to you! Do you prefer vacation rentals to other accommodations like hotels or bed and breakfasts? I have to say, I think vacation rentals are best during the pandemic, if for no other reason than simply for the fact that there’s not daily housekeeping anywhere during the pandemic anyway!

Want more? Check out my Accommodations Page for everything you need and more!

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