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Skip the Hotel and Rent a Vacation Home
(or Even a Couch)

By Kate Silver
 

One of my favorite vacations of all time wasn’t in a beachside resort. It didn’t involve room service, and there was no “Do Not Disturb” sign to hang. That’s because I drove with my boyfriend two hours from my apartment in Chicago to a small farmhouse, surrounded by 60 acres of snowy woods in Valparaiso, Indiana. “Close to everything, but a world away,” read the listing on Vacation Rental By Owner, where I found the semi-secret escape. It couldn’t have been truer.

By day, we hiked through the snow with our dog, searched for curious deer and warmed up with hot tea and a good book in the roomy house. By night, we grilled steaks, gazed at the stars, played board games and watched movies. With no one around for miles and miles, the concept of “Do Not Disturb” was never a consideration. Ever since that vacation, I’ve looked for rentals rather than searching for hotels when I travel.

While vacation rentals have long been popular in Europe, Americans are beginning to embrace the adventure. More and more U.S. travelers are eschewing hotel rooms and living like locals do, literally, by staying in someone else’s home.

Vacation rentals allow for increased privacy, space, comfort and savings. A report by industry insiders at Vacation Rental Managers Association found that 24 percent of leisure travelers in the U.S. have stayed in a vacation rental home in the past two years. The National Association of Realtors found in a 2011 survey that 91 percent of vacation-home buyers say they plan to rent their property, long or short term.

With rapid growth in rental sites in recent years, it’s easy to find the perfect house or condo for your needs, whether you’re looking for a waterfront home that sleeps eight in Key West, a cozy condo in Aspen or a wild mansion with a pool and fire pit in Las Vegas.

So start out 2013 in your Traverse, whose roomy interior lets you feel more at home when you’re on the road. And don’t be limited by a hotel—slip into something more comfortable.

Who knows? If you search these top sites, you may find your dream pad (even if it’s only for a week or two):

Homeaway.com

Choose from 325,000 vacation rentals around the world. Options run the gamut, with Hawaiian beach homes, downtown condos, mountain cabins and everything in between.

VRBO.com

Vacation Rental By Owner, the sister site to Homeaway, offers 190,000 rentals. One benefit here: filters. Search for different locations and narrow down the options by filtering perks, such as a hot tub, fireplace, outdoor grilling, golf rental, ocean view, houseboats and more.

Flipkey.com

At TripAdvisor.com’s site, travelers can search 170,000 properties to rent for one night to one month. This site is distinguished by its extensive collection of verified user reviews—only people who have actually stayed at the property can comment.

Airbnb.com

Airbnb.com lets you search for an apartment, a home or a couch. This site has a distinctly hip feel, compared to the more traditional options listed above, and does a great job of highlighting some of the more unusual places to stay like in a boot-shaped house, a ship, train cars and even a few snow domes.

The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.

This is the second in a series of Homes Away From Home stories on Chevy Culture. Also check out The Pop-Up Supper Club.

Kate Silver is an award-winning journalist and editor based in Chicago. Her work appears regularly in Spirit Magazine, Men’s Health, the Chicago Tribune and Midwest Living, as well as on Parents.com.

 

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