Renting a House as a Vacation Option

Last week, my wife and family and I departed for the Seattle/Tacoma area in order to be present for the wedding of my wife’s younger sister. While we were in the area, we did some wedding setup, but we also visited a lot of sights in the area, including Mount Rainier, Olympia National Forest, and a day trip out to the coast to the ocean.

Naturally, such a trip is an expensive proposition. We have two adults and three young children, which not only means that we’re paying for five, but it also means that some techniques that adults or older children might use to save a bit of money on travel didn’t really apply.

One big area of our travel cost was housing. Our family would need lodging for several days while out there – seven days, to be exact. The least expensive hotel within any reasonable range of the places we were visiting that didn’t have frightening online reviews and pictures was well north of $70 per night for a room that would have been cozy with five people in it.

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    Another big area of our travel cost is food. Travel typically means that you’re going to be eating out quite a lot. The options for food preparation in a hotel environment are pretty slim, usually resulting in continental breakfasts and sandwiches… or just convincing yourself to eat out somewhere.

    Our solution? We talked to other people who were also traveling out for the wedding and rented a house for a week with them.

    This simple solution handled all of our problems well. It gave us a location that was reasonably close to the places we wanted to be at, minimizing our gas expenses while out there. It gave us plenty of room, particularly for the dollar. It also gave us a fully-functional kitchen, which enabled us to prepare many of our own meals instead of going out.

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    Our nightly rate ended up being a bit less than the tiny hotel room, but we significantly cut our fuel costs, significantly cut our food costs, and significantly increased the amount of space we had. We also had the convenience and joy of being able to sit out on the porch every evening with family and friends instead of hanging out in hotel rooms.

    Most days, we woke up, ate breakfast together with everyone staying in the house, packed a picnic lunch for the family, and then went out to wherever our destination for the day was – the coast, the mountain, the forest, the sights of Seattle.

    In the evenings, we would return home and, many nights, prepare a simple supper at home. We did eat out a few nights at places highly recommended by the locals we knew in the area, but for the most part, we prepped our own food.

    The contract was mostly managed by another member of our party who was retired and was willing to set up the contract and everything for the rental. It was quite easy from our end – we simply arrived, entered a code into the keybox that was waiting, pulled out a few keys and distributed them around the party, walked into the house, and unpacked.

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    Leaving was similarly easy – we just put the keys back into the keybox after locking the house, then called the property manager. From our end, once the contract was set up in advance, the actual checking in and checking out of the house was extremely convenient.

    In short, if I ever travel again with a large group of people, I will absolutely suggest this as an option. It reduced all of our costs, gave us plenty of space to spread out, and provided a great environment for hanging out and socializing.

    If you’re interested in this type of solution for your vacation, just use Google. Type in “vacation rental” and the location to which you’re traveling and look through the offers you find. I checked several potential vacation destinations that we’re considering over the next few years and found solutions in each of them.

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    Trent Hamm

    Founder & Columnist

    Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.