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RISMEDIA, May 9, 2009-Since the beginning of 2008 (or long before), most of your worries have probably involved dollar signs. Whether you’re fretting over your job security, your retirement portfolio, or where our economy is headed in general, the rule of the day is save, save, save. But as the days get warmer, your thoughts and those of your family will likely drift to summer vacation. And if you’ve been pushing those thoughts from your head with a stern ‘We just don’t have the money,’ you’ll be happy to hear there’s a cost-effective solution you may never have considered: the vacation rental home.

Karpinski offers the following reasons why a vacation rental is a better choice than a hotel:

There are plenty of vacation homes to choose from. An overcrowded real estate market means more and more people are choosing to rent out their second homes rather than try to sell them. If you’re looking to stay closer to home this year to cut back on gas or airfare costs, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a vacation home within a two-hour drive of most metropolitan areas in the U.S. By visiting respectable websites-such as HomeAway.com or its affiliates VRBO.com, CyberRentals.com, GreatRentals.com, or Holiday-Rentals.co.uk-you can quickly find the one that’s right for you.

The rental process is getting easier and more convenient by the day. Admittedly, it’s not quite as simple to rent a vacation home as it is to book a hotel room, but it is still pretty easy. Websites like HomeAway provide details about the property and contact info and the consumer takes it from there. Homeowners themselves are becoming more consumer-friendly in their business practices though. Despite popular misconception, you don’t always have to commit to a week. Many homeowners will let you rent by the weekend or even on a nightly basis, particularly during the off-season. And while some of them still expect you to send them a personal check, many others accept credit cards or PayPal.

Vacation homes are more spacious and comfortable. Think about the difference between a tiny hotel room, possibly with limited amenities, and an actual home with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms and kitchens, living and dining areas. People who stay in private homes don’t feel so compelled to wear themselves out cramming in every touristy activity in town. They don’t mind just hanging out in the living room and relaxing more, which after all, is what a vacation is supposed to be.

You can live like a local. No one wants to feel or look like a tourist, an “outsider.” When you stay in someone’s home, you get a more authentic experience.

You can get inside information from the homeowner. One big reason vacation home renters get to “live like locals” is that most homeowners love to provide their guests with helpful hints. They’ll point you to the best restaurants in town, the best hiking trails, and the best bike rental places. They’ll tell you who has the cheapest gas, which roads to take to avoid traffic, and which attractions are overpriced “tourist traps.”

You can cook and do laundry. If you’re on a budget, both of these factors can be huge benefits. Obviously, eating every meal in a restaurant gets pricey. The ability to prepare your own meals not only saves money, there’s just something nice about savoring a home-cooked meal while on vacation. As for the washer and drier factor-being able to bring fewer clothes is not only a sanity saver during packing, it’s a spacesaver for those long car rides.

If the weather’s bad, there’s more to do indoors. Most vacation rental homeowners provide DVDs (along with the electronic equipment to view them on), board games, playing cards, and other family-friendly diversions. Also, more than half of all rental properties now have Internet access.

You might even be able to bring Fido or Fluffy. Many vacation property owners will accept pets, which makes their homes especially attractive to families who can’t bear to part with their four-legged friends for a week.

“Once you go the vacation home route, you probably won’t go back to hotels,” says Karpinski. “Yes, it takes a little effort on your part-and you may have to contact several different owners before you find the right home-but the results are definitely worth it.”

Christine Karpinski is the author of How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Buy, Manage, Furnish, Rent, Maintain and Advertise Your Vacation Rental Investment and Profit from Your Vacation Home Dream: The Complete Guide to a Savvy Financial and Emotional Investment.

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