Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
How to Book Your Vacation Rental
Booking a vacation rental is very different from booking a hotel. It is best to book months ahead, even a year ahead. The Europeans are used to booking a year ahead, so you need to start planning early too. Most vacation rental bookings are by the week, from Saturday to Saturday. You will need to make payments to secure your booking; specific requirements vary depending on the agency or owner you are dealing with.
Pay a Deposit When you Book, the Rest Before you Arrive
Most agencies require you to pay a deposit, typically 25 to 50% of the rental total, at the time of booking. You pay the balance one or two months before your arrival date. Agencies have different policies about how to book and what is refunded if you cancel; read these policies carefully. If you have to cancel a month or less before your scheduled arrival, your money will usually not be refunded.
If you are dealing with a US agency or owner, payment will generally be easy. Most of them will want a check; some will take credit cards. It is a little more complicated when dealing with European agencies or owners. If you are lucky, they will take credit cards, but do not expect this. They may ask you to wire the money to their bank (there will be a fee for this from your bank - we have paid around $50). Bank wires are commonly used in Europe.
Pay a Deposit When you Book, the Rest in Cash When you Arrive
Yes, it feels like a drug deal, but many local agencies require this. I am at the point where I resist booking with an agency or owner that requires this. I have a feeling it might be for tax evasion purposes. Several times we have had to arrive with the equivalent of $1000 in euro to make the final payment on arrival. This means you have to get the foreign currency before you leave, or pump the ATMs when you arrive (many ATMs have a $500 or less limit on them).
Pay a Security Deposit
You may have to pay a security deposit as well. This is used if something is broken during your stay and is refunded to you after. In all our vacation rentals, we have never been charged for breakage. Some agencies have you pay the security deposit when you pay the final amount; others ask that you give a deposit when you arrive at the vacation rental and it is refunded to you when you leave. Still others require no security deposit.
You Don't Get the Full Information until you Book
Another common practice is that an agency will not tell you the exact address of a place until you have booked it. I guess they don't want you to find out where a place is and try to rent directly from the owner.
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