The 15 Questions to Ask Before Booking a Dreamy Vacation Rental

Listings don't tell you everything. Ask the right questions before booking.

You've found the perfect seaside rental home for your next vacation and you're ready to book, but is it really perfect?

Listings and glossy photos give basic info but typically don't tell everything.

Do Research Before Booking

Debbie and Michael Campbell—the Senior Nomads—have been traveling the world since retiring in 2013, making Airbnbs their temporary homes for their permanent retirement lifestyle. They spent their 1,000th night in a rental on July 22, 2017.

They begin searching for the next Airbnb rental about four weeks before they travel to afford plenty of time to communicate with hosts and they strongly recommend studying the photographs and reading reviews carefully.

"That's where the truth lies," said Debbie Campbell. "Americans don't like leaving negative comments, so they'll say things like, 'It was great, except the mattress was really lumpy.'"

After doing the initial research there are still some questions that need to be answered. 

Interior of a Tokyo home
Interior of a rental in a Tokyo home (Courtesy Airbnb)

15 Must-Ask Questions

How fast and reliable is the Wi-Fi?

Jenna Rose Robbins, a freelance writer who books long-term stays throughout Europe, relies heavily on a fast, reliable Wi-Fi connection for work. She has stayed in more than 40 Airbnb rentals in the past three years. Even if work isn't an issue, having Wi-Fi can save money on data connections, web-based phone apps and other tech.

The listing says "pet-friendly or "childproof." What exactly does that mean?

Melanie Fish of HomeAway, sister home rental site to VRBO,  said there's no standard for making a home accommodating for pets or children.

"Pet friendly can mean 'There's a fenced yard,' to one person, but mean something totally different to someone else," she said. "Make sure everyone is on the same page."

Backyard playground
Backyard playgrounds are just some of the amenities that a vacation rental might offer but not advertise. (Courtesy HomeAway)

How safe is the area?

As a female traveling by herself, Robbins said she typically asks if a female host feels safe walking by herself at night. 

What's the parking situation?

Astrid Lindstrom, senior manager of communications for Evolve Vacation Rental Network, recommended asking the specifics of parking.

"In some places it will say 'street parking' but it turns out you'll have to move your car every two hours," Lindstrom said. 

How noisy is the area?

Be sure to find out if there is a construction site nearby or if the rental is located next to an airport, train tracks or anything else that may disrupt the peace. That's not something to find out once you're there, as changing accommodations may not be possible.

What floor is it on? 

Most listings will identify which floor the rental is on, but keep in mind that in some other countries the floors are numbered differently. Robbins—who suffers from knee pain—found out the hard way that the third floor in France is actually the fourth floor.

How many sets of keys are given? 

During a trip to Florence, Robbins and two friends were given one set of keys, requiring a lot of coordination to ensure that someone was available to let the others in the apartment.

Women playing guitar on porch
Some rentals come with outdoor space that can double as a sleeping area if the neighborhood is safe and the weather's nice. (©Pexels)

How many bedrooms are there?

When booking in another country, it's important to know the numbering nuances of rooms, just like the floor numbers.

Robbins said she rents what many Germans call a "two-room." Her space has just a living room and a bedroom, not two bedrooms as many Americans would assume.

What basic necessities are provided?

Robbins has stayed in rentals where such things were not provided, and stores were closed when she arrived. Occasionally, a new host will not know or consider to provide these things. It's better to find out before leaving home.

What exactly is the kitchen equipped with? 

In one rental, the term may mean a pot and a saucepan and in another it may mean a full chef's set. If preparing meals is on the travel agenda, knowing just what's in store in the kitchen is critical.

"You should specifically ask about things like 'are there chopping knives available, or spatulas, wooden spoons and mixing bowls?," Lindstrom said. 

Also ask about basic spices might save a mid-dinner-prep dash to a nearby market for missing spices. 

Are there any additional fees?

Some cities impose additional taxes on top of fees paid to the vacation rental site. Sometimes the tax is included in the reservation fees, but this isn't guaranteed. Asking ensures there are no unpleasant surprises at the door. 

Tell me about the security deposit.

Companies handle security deposits in different ways, so be clear about liability in the event something is damaged. 

"On your way to the bathroom you might knock over a lamp you didn't know was there. It doesn't make you a bad guest, you're just in a new space that you're not familiar with. It's easy to make accidents," Lindstrom said.

Where are local services like the grocery store, hospitals, post office?

They may not be needed, but don't want to waste precious time looking for these places if the need arises.

Who do I call in an emergency?

The best rule of thumb is to have the emergency contact in hand before leaving home.

"Give them a call before you arrive just to make sure the person actually answers the phone," Lindstrom said. 

Beach sunset from a pool deck
(Courtesy HomeAway)