Booking Procedures for Vacation Rentals in Europe
Now that you're sold on the idea of a vacation rental and have found the perfect property it's time to go for it and make the booking! Booking a vacation rental is different from making a standard hotel reservation. Here is the need-to-know information about bookings.
Determine your days. Most vacation rentals are available for weekly stays, usually starting and ending on Saturday. Shorter rentals are increasingly available, especially in cities.
Payment up front. Most rentals require a hefty deposit to reserve, from 25 to 50% of the total rental price. The balance must be paid one or two months before arrival. Some places ask that you pay the remainder in cash upon arrival (this is common in Italy). Cash on arrival may create problems when trying to extract enough of the local currency from the ATM so get some Euros at home before your trip.
Payment methods. Some agencies with US offices will accept payment by US check. Many web-based reservation systems will allow you to pay by credit card, some even use PayPal. Many European-based agencies or owners require a wire transfer which involves a trip to the bank and a fee.
Changes to your booking. Some owners and agencies will let you change your dates if you do it well in advance (and there is availability) but this is not always possible once you have paid your deposit.
Cancellation policies. If you need to cancel after paying your deposit you may not get any part of the deposit returned. If you cancel after full payment has been made you may not receive any refund. Agencies/owners usually offer to refund most of your payment if they can rebook the time you had booked but this is not always possible to do. You may want to consider buying travel insurance which covers vacation rental payments.
Damage deposit. You will probably be asked for a deposit against damage or breakage either when you make your final payment or when you arrive at the property. It will be refunded to you assuming no damage is found. If you pay in cash on arrival, the damage deposit is usually refunded in cash when you check out. If you paid by credit card they may charge any damages to the credit card. Some owners do not require a damage deposit.
In the last 21 years Steve and I have stayed in over 50 vacation rentals in Europe. Never once have we lost any of our damage deposit.
Full disclosure. A common practice among agencies is to withhold some details until you've booked the property. They may not reveal the exact address or location until the booking is fully paid.
Arrival information. Arrival information is sent to you a month or so before the rental starts. You'll receive driving directions, check-in information and the phone number of your local contact.
Make sure you have your local contact phone number and the agency/owner phone number with you. A friend of mine arrived at a vacation rental, did not find the key and when he called the local contact, he realized he had been given the wrong phone number. All was resolved eventually but he had to spend a night in a hotel before he got through to the owner. I don't know what I would recommend to avoid this situation - maybe call the local contact a day or two before you arrive so they know you are coming?
When to book. For popular destinations in high season you may need to book six months to a year ahead.
Now that you know everything there is to know about vacation rentals in Europe, start looking through our lists of recommended resources - find vacation rentals in Europe.