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Cliff Calderwood is a travel writer living in rural Massachusetts. He writes extensively about New England where he has lived for the last 31 years with his family and dogs, and a bunch of animals in the woods that have a lot more right to live there than he does - but he watches out for them.

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6 Cape Cod Vacation Rental Tips

Cape Cod Rental ImageA family vacation house rental on Cape Cod can be a smart choice for a group. It provides the freedom to come and go as you please and save money by having some of your meals at home, and some even come with washer – great if you have messy kids.

There are some things you can do before making your final choice to ensure there are no surprises. After all you want to know that you’re going to be staying somewhere that delivers on its promises and meets your expectations – more on that later though.

So how do you know you’re getting a great rental, not an outdated one with a host of surprises you don’t know about until your arrive on your first day of vacation? Here are a few tips to help you avoid a vacation rental from hell.

1. Get More than One Photo of the Property:

Look for lots of photos – eight to ten shots are often recommended – and beware of pictures with closed window shades. They indicate poor lighting, or an outside view that you won’t appreciate. Every listing should include several interior pictures and several exteriors.

2. Do Your Homework:

With the Internet there is no excuse not to do your homework on a rental property before slapping down your hard-earned cash.

Programs like Google Earth and services like Google Maps mean you can get an overhead or street level photo of almost everywhere on the planet.

Check out the locations in the area, and keep an eye out for inconvenient and loud large roads, industrial complexes, and other problem areas. While the property might be close to the beach, that doesn’t matter if you can’t cross the highway in between!

3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions:

You could save a lot of trouble if you’re just willing to ask detailed questions about what comes with the property, how close important stores and attractions might be, and what to do in emergencies. Ensure you cover how far the beach is from the rental. A few minutes away to a New Englander can mean a 15 minute walk or car ride. If you don’t hear back quickly, or if the owner doesn’t want to answer, be cautious. You might be dealing with a problem vacation rental.

4. Get everything in writing:

As Groucho Marx once said “A verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.”  Get everything in writing. Get a detailed rental agreement with all responsibilities of both parties listed on it. If any changes to the standard agreement are made, insist that they be written down. This protects both parties, and a reasonable rental agency or private person will have no problem with it.

5. Insurance is a smart idea:

Travel insurance can be an important way to protect you and your family from disaster. Many vacation rentals have strict policies on cancellation – you have to do it at least a month or two in advance. Travel insurance can cover your loss if an accident or sick kid prevents you from going to Cape Cod. See if the property managers also offer accidental damage insurance that will exempt you from high security deposits.

6. Be Flexible BUT Get Problems Fixed Quick:

Pictures and description make a place sound like paradise but then when you get there or after a few days it won’t ever live up to your expectations. Remember you’re paying for a relaxing week and being in one of the best vacation spots in the northeast. Don’t sweat the small stuff!

One the other hand a leaky roof or bad odor or obvious pest problems when you arrive is cause for calling up the agent to get it put right quickly. This is the benefit of going through an agent who is close to the property rather than an owner who is sipping his cocktail on some beach 3,000 miles way with your dollars already spent.

Good luck with your rental search!

If you’re planning a Cape Cod Getaway then don’t forget to check out our suggestions at our Cape Cod Vacations Vacations section here.

Another New England post by one of our writers is being prepared right now so be sure to visit again or just subscribe to our RSS Feed here and get notified automatically of events and news.

Cliff Calderwood
New England Online Magazine

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