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North American Vacation Rentals

Pauline Kenny

For many years, vacation rentals have been available in "holiday" locations in the US: Hawaii, Florida, east coast shoreline towns, areas that we call "cottage country". But, because of the internet, vacation rentals are now available in areas throughout the US. Many of the websites devoted to listing vacation rentals by owner have most of their listings in the US.

This is changing the way Americans vacation in their own country. Now you can go to Hawaii and rent a cottage for a few weeks. You don't have to stay in expensive hotels and eat every meal in a restaurant. You can find that cottage in the wilderness of Colorado. You don't have to rely on camping for the whole vacation.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), the last 10 years have seen the simple vacation rentals or cottage rentals become more like luxury B&B's, giving you more comfort, but driving up the price. The real estate boom in many vacation areas has also contributed to the high prices. You will pay more per person for a vacation rental in the US, than one in Europe. While it is nice to have a good quality vacation rental, I am sorry to see the simple, inexpensive beach cottages being replaced by luxury homes.

Cottage Motels

I am not sure what to call these, but you will find them in rural locations throughout the US and we have stayed in many (e.g. the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, the Northern California coast, the mountains in Idaho, outside of small towns in Arkansas). These are regular motels, but instead of rooms, they have cottages with kitchens. We find them in our AAA books - look for listings that offer kitchens or kitchenettes.


In ski towns and beach towns there are usually condominiums (condos) for rent. Larger cities may have agencies that specialize in renting furnished apartments (usually for business travelers). Any of these options will let you do a longer, more comfortable trip in the US.

People buy condos to use as holiday homes and the condo association manages them and rents them out when not used by the owners.


Timeshares is another American vacation home concept, and one I have never fully understood, but it seems to be very popular. You pay an amount to have a partial ownership of a condo in a resort and you use it a couple of weeks per year. I guess it is like having a pre-paid vacation rental, but it seems to lack flexibility. I know you can trade your timeshare weeks with other locations, but you are still locked into the timeshare locations. But, I have had no experience with timeshares, except for being constantly annoyed by the timeshare salespeople when in Hawaii.

What to Expect in North American Vacation Rentals

We have been staying in vacation rentals in Hawaii for the last 20 years. We have tried them in New York City, Santa Fe, Los Angeles, and Northern California.

Vacation rentals in the US do not use the same Saturday to Saturday system that they use in most countries in Europe. Frequently you can book the vacation rental for exactly the dates you want, although sometimes there is a one week minimum. I have found that vacation rentals in the US are more expensive than comparable rentals in England or Italy. Perhaps as there starts to be more demand and then more competition, the prices will lower.

Most vacation rentals in North America come with the basic household supplies (toilet paper, Kleenex, dish soap, etc.), but do not come with food, so you need to hit the stores for your basic supplies. If your rental is in a small town or the countryside, the stores may not be open as late as you are used to.

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