Before rushing out and renting a house or villa, first consider how much work you’re willing to do while on holiday. After all, staying in a house, instead of a hotel, means housekeeping. Unless your chosen place has staff, you’ll be making beds, shopping for groceries, cooking meals, and washing dishes. You’ll also have to forgo hotel-like amenities. Forget room service: you’ll probably have to supply your own soap, and in some cases you might have to pay for heating, electricity (A/C in tropical climates), gas, and telephone.
Here are a few other things to consider:
Verify the location. If you’re renting a car, you’ll need to know about distances and road conditions. If not, you’ll have to ask about public transit. Remember that most spots have a minimum seven-day rental requirement, so be sure there’s enough in the area to occupy you for a week.
Look at the big picture. Since pictures aren’t always worth a thousand words, ask what’s outside the frame. That bucolic cottage may just have a power plant in the backyard. It’s also helpful to see a layout of the property, particularly in shared facilities since common areas can compromise your privacy. Ideally, you should have someone you know and trust visit the property and inspect it, or at least look at it from the outside so you won’t end up renting near train tracks or a chemical plant.
How many bedrooms? If you’re travelling as a group, ask about the number of bedrooms (as opposed to the number of people the house sleeps) and the beds themselves. A second room with bunks may be great for kids but not for another couple. If you have babies on board, ask about hazards like open stairwells and unscreened fireplaces.
Amenities? Get detailed info on amenities that matter to you. Know how the kitchen is outfitted. Ditto the bathroom: there may be a bidet but no bathtub. Opting for a pool? Confirm the size (you can’t swim laps in a plunge pool!) and whether it will be filled during your stay. Popping for a TV? Ask what channels it receives.
Know who’s in charge. Clarify who you can contact if problems arise. Inquire about how close to the property support people live, how they can be reached and — above all — how well they speak your language. In an emergency, you don’t want to play charades to get your point across.