Vacation rentals and amateur travel trips
non-refundable order. A $67 bill suddenly became
$99 with a service charge plus a “taxes and fees”
Of course, I could cancel the reservation, but would
still have to pay for it. Only a complaint to the Better
Business Bureau got me out of it but I still had to eat
the service charge.
By the way, I even contacted the city and chamber
of commerce in that area, and confirmed that the ac-
tual taxes were only about half of what reservations.
com was charging for “taxes and fees.”
• Tip #2: if you’re traveling where you need to rent
a car, I’ve found that it is well worth going through
the work of searching each rental agency’s site – again
Enter your dates for the type of vehicle you want,
and shop hard. The prices for the same thing vary
dramatically, and it’s not always the same companies
that are the cheapest. I attribute it to supply-and-de-
mand. If cost matters, it’s worth the effort.
• Tip #3a for flying: if I’m checking a suitcase any-
way, I now put everything possible in the checked bag
and use only a small drawstring bag with the absolute
essentials as a carry-on. I can put the drawstring on
my back for walking through the airport, and there’s
no wrestling with the overhead compartment on the
Which leads to tip #3b: once you’re checking a bag,
there’s no hurry to get off the plane – you’re going
to end up waiting at baggage claim anyway, so why
Other than the risk of lost luggage (which is really
quite rare), there’s no point in trying to carry on half
your stuff. Let the airline do the heavy lifting and
enjoy the trip.
First the disclaimer: this is not professional travel ad-
vice, but it is unpaid-for pure opinion from a relatively
inexperienced traveler who would be willing to do much
more if life’s circumstances would allow.
When the kids were young, we found the small re-
sort scene to be plenty adequate for our needs. A few
cabins with a beach and boat rentals, and we were
pretty well set.
Later, we discovered Vacation Rentals By Owner
(vrbo.com), which took our trips to a new level.
The main point is that you can often rent an entire
house – some pretty nice ones! – for a price that’s
often equal to or even less than a hotel.
So do you want 1,500-2,000 square feet, or 325
In some vacation areas, a lake home rental may in-
clude use of a boat – sometimes for an extra charge,
Over the last 10 years or so, we’ve done a number
of these rentals, and we’ve regularly been pleased.
Only once did we have an issue with a rental that
had not passed a water certification test and the
owner didn’t let us know until a couple days before.
Fortunately, we found another one nearby that was
available, and it probably was even better than what
we originally planned.
Otherwise, the process has been very smooth.
Search the website for the area you want to visit,
and play close attention to the details that matter to
you – number of bedrooms, bathrooms, wifi, refund
policy, etc. – whatever is important to your prefer-
When we book a place with an outhouse and no
running water, the kids ask “You did that intention-
ally?” while smiling because they don’t have to go
Yes, we have, but we’ve also got some pretty plush
places as well for less than a hotel cost.
Sometimes the host wants to meet you at the prop-
erty to check you in, answer any questions, or give
instructions how to do something. Others will give
you an access code for the lock and you never see
them. Some call after your arrival just to say hi and
let you know they’re available should any problems
arise. Occasionally, there’s even a basket of fruit or a
baked cake awaiting on arrival.
VRBO has been our mainstay. HomeAway is a sis-
ter company but operates are separate website.
HJ GENERAL MANAGER
Airbnb is another major player. The difference
seems to be that Airbnb also includes shared rentals
– a room in someone’s house while it’s occupied, or
even just a place to sleep – while VRBO focuses on
space that is “yours” (temporarily).
The one time we used Airbnb it seemed to have a
more elaborate screening process. I had to upload a
photo ID, and both guests and hosts are encouraged
to write reviews about each other so the next people
will have a better idea who they’re dealing with.
For a quick one- or two-night trip, a hotel will suf-
fice (that’s another story – see my amateur tips later
in this article), but otherwise our main vacations now
are all VRBOs.
We’ve had gorgeous mountain views, lake homes
with a pontoon, a garage to park in, acres of woods
to hike in, a rushing creek just a few feet outside the
window, elaborate patios, etc.
One was so clean, we were afraid to touch any-
thing. Another seemed so lived in it took a bit of get-
ting used to.
The worst part is all vacations come to an end, and
the only remedy is to start planning the next trip.
• First the hotel advice: if we are doing a hotel, I
start with Trivago or one of the booking sites just to
get an idea of what hotels ex-
ist where we’re going. Then
I go to the hotel websites
directly to compare, and in
my limited experience, that
seems the best.
My most recent error was
getting sidetracked into a
booking site (stay away
Christmas on the
What started out as a below
$445 per person double occupancy
market price offer got very
expensive and was only dis-
closed after I clicked the
Contact us for tour pricing!
August 19-30, 2019
Exploring Central Arizona
Feb. 5-7, 2019
$535 per person double occupancy
Contact Travel Easy for Flight prices
16 W Main St. | Waconia, MN 55387
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Senior Connections HJ.COM
Connections October 2018