We've all been there ….
It's the middle of winter, it's darn cold and the days rotate around the start and finish of work. Not fun. And so we start thinking or fantasizing about long hot summer days when the nights seem endless and you can actually do something other than …. well let's see …. work.
We need a rope to cling to, a bright spark to look forward to. What better than a summer holiday with the family? We trawl the web while sitting in our cold study looking at luxurious hotels, motels, holiday apartments and then a listing catches our eye. An amazing holiday rental located in just the area we want. Well what the heck we say and investigate further. The holiday rental is glitzy, it's glamorous, it has amazing views across the sparkling sands, modern décor, you name it – it has it. Wow! we say. Bet that will cost a fortune. So we hesitantly press the check price button. The price flashes up, we hastily do the math and calculate that, well, it's actually not too bad. The daily price per person is not much more than the local caravan park. What the heck. We send off an email inquiry.
Several days later the owner contacts us with availability, prices and bank details for us to pay the deposit. It all reads okay and so we go ahead, confident that we have secured the family a great holiday at a great price. We sit back with a smug smile feeling very pleased with ourselves.
Holiday time comes around. We load the family in the car and set off down the road. After six hours battling the roads and other drivers we're tired, the family is grumpy from being forced to sit in a car bulging with holiday requirements and our partner is complaining about a migraine caused by the kids constant fighting. The destination can not arrive soon enough.
And then we're there. The owner has clearly provided us with a map. Sure it's a little sketchy but hey you navigated the London Tube. How difficult will it be to locate a holiday house? Your partner with the impending migraine navigates for you, issuing instructions that you know can not be right. What do you mean turn off the highway? It is still 10k to the beach. Ahhh, you comfort yourself, the holiday rental was advertised as private. A side road winding down to the coast is all part of the plan. The bitumen road turns to gravel and after a few more k's becomes a narrow twisty path that resembles more of a goat track which inevitably causes to swallow the car in one of the more impressive potholes. The beginnings of nervous perspiration bead on your forehead. Your heart however, lifts with relief when your partner yells "There it is!"
You swing the car into the driveway, wincing as branches from unkempt bushes whip along the side of the car. 'It will all be okay' you mutter reassuringly to yourself. The house emerges, a quaint woodsy cottage surrounded by freshly mown lawns and bush. You stare in disbelief at the heavy native forest surrounding you. This can not be right. You grab the map and check it again; confident your partner has made a mistake. No mistake.
You sneak a look at your partner whose face is frozen into immobility. Your teenage daughter, as usual, sums it up perfectly with the classic one liner 'You can not be serious! I'm not staying in that dump! ' Even your son, an adventurous soul, appears lost for words.
Ever hopeful, you clamber out of the car, confident that the beach and stunning ocean views are tucked away. You just have not discovered them yet. You stand on the verandah and see the ocean. A pale patch of blue far, far away in the distant. In the meantime your partner is scanning the instructions provided by the owner on where to find the keys. You both set off in pursuit of the keys. Okay, the view was not quite what you expected but hey, maybe the house will be better.
After ten minutes of fruitless searching you return empty handed. No keys. By now you're losing it. You punch the owner contact details into your phone and mentally prepare yourself to give this owner a serve, growing more frustrated when your call clicks through to voice mail. Resisting the urge to leave a few choice explets you go with a short, terse message. Call me. Now. '
Conveniently your partner 'finds' an open door and you step intrepidly inside. To your relief the inside appears okay, better than expected. On closer inspection you find dead flies and much to your daughter's horror a large spider has nestled with an extravagant web over a doorframe. There are breadcrumbs on the bench; fat splattered on the hotplates and the oven resembles an open fire roasting pit. The mattress guards are stained, the window ledges are dusty, there's a few choice cockroaches scuttling for cover and quell horror, your partner finds a condom under a bed.
You think you have finally hit rock bottom when a screech from the bathroom has the entire family running to find one grossed out daughter staring at a pubic hair on the tiles. You admit defeat. There is no way your family is going to allow you to get away with this.
Half an hour later having exhausted every holiday accommodation site for the area on the web you come away with a small victory. A campsite at the local caravan park and the park owners kindly offer to provide the tent and bedding for an extra 100 bucks a day. 'Bargain' you mutter sarcastically while bemoaning the unwarranted damage to the bank account and the exciting prospect of pursuing the MIA owners for a refund.
Yeah, we've all been there. So how do you avoid holiday rental rip-offs? Read these handy tips and while you may not avoid all problems you'll definitely learn how to eliminate some of them.
1. Do your research. And then research some more. When you find a property you like, Google the name and address. See what other sites the property is listed on and check for different photos so that you get a good idea of what the property really looks like. Look at the property on Google Maps. Is it as close to the services as the ad claims it to be? Check the amount of bookings – it is likely that if the property is regularly booked the owner has a good reputation.
2. Check the terms and conditions of the website that you are ordering through. Do their terms and conditions cover the individual properties advertised or are they a set of generic website terms that state 'all care and no responsibility' or refer to owner?
3. Take a look at what other guests have said about the property. Have a look at the reviews on Trip Advisor or look at reviews of the property under the Google Business listing.
4. Be careful about payment. Read the cancellation and refund policy carefully. Chances are if you have booked for Easter or Christmas it may be difficult for you to obtain a refund for other than genuine reasons. Your booking has received the owner from accepting other bookings for that period and as one of their major income weeks – they will want to be paid and will have terms and conditions to cover that very eventuality.
5. Unless you know the owner of the holiday rental personally, have booked the property previously, or know someone that has, it pays to go through an established holiday rental business. The properties are managed by experienced and qualified property managers, standards are set and if not met will be corrected, there will be a local office and staff that you can actually see to speak to and as holiday rentals are their business and you are their client they will be very eager to ensure that you are well looked after.