How to Find the Perfect Vacation Rental

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Feb 03, 2014 / 0 comments

One of the best ways to travel, I think, is to live like locals. Now we all know we can’t really live like locals, since we’re only there for a short while, possibly have more money than locals (especially in developing countries), and can choose to move on. But living like locals can bring many benefits – from learning insider tips on cool places, restaurants, and shopping; having a home base and living in a home, instead of a hotel; and living like a resident – grocery shopping, cooking meals, being on your own schedule in a home. We always do this when we travel – we rent homes or apartments, and get a better sense of a place than one can at a hotel.


It’s not a secret, but many people don’t know about renting homes! And to rectify this situation, our friend Gillian Duffy, of One Giant Step, has written the perfect book on renting homes, called, appropriately, How to Find the Perfect Vacation Rental. This is a complete guide to renting a home or apartment, and includes who should (and shouldn't) use vacation homes, the benefits and drawbacks, cost comparisons, a genius criteria list, how to find vacation rentals, questions to ask, pitfalls to avoid, and a complete checklist of how to do find, book, and stay in a great vacation rental. There are also many tips from travelers that use vacation rentals, AND owners of vacation rentals. It is, hands down, the ultimate guidebook to vacation rentals.


How to Find the Perfect Vacation Rental


We were lucky enough to catch up with Gillian to discover more about her book – it’s a great resource! Here’s what she had to say…


Gillian Duffy, One Giant Step



Please tell us about your book...

How to Find the Perfect Vacation Rental is a resource for travellers looking to break out of staying in hotels on their vacations.  

In it, I explain what a vacation rental is and who they are best suited for. I honestly state what the benefits and drawbacks are, and include a cost comparison case study to show the financial value of vacation rentals. The bulk of the book, though, is written to combat the feeling of overwhelm that people face when searching for a property. I break down the criteria selection process, compare vacation rental websites, compile a list of questions to ask, and walk the reader through the exact process we use to find and enjoy vacation rentals around the world.


What inspired you to write this book?

In the last few years, there has been a huge rise in the use of vacation rentals by travellers, and yet I still meet people in my day to day life who have no idea that this is possible. As I talk to friends and family about my travels, and show them pictures of where we stay, they almost invariably ask me how I do it. They often aren't aware that vacation rentals are even possible and when I explain it to them their eyes glaze over and they seem to get overwhelmed just thinking about it.

I think vacation rentals are such a great evolution of travel accommodation; the ability to stay in real neighbourhoods and have a local experience is the greatest benefit.  People should know about it, and know how easy it is to search for, and find, one that will fit their needs.


Just like home - How to Find the Perfect Vacation Rental


I LOVE your criteria list - and thank you for the hard-earned knowledge that it took to create! What were some of your worst experiences, that led to this list?

Ha! The criteria list is the key, really, and came about during our round-the-world trip a few years ago. I found I was spending hours, and hours, and hours, searching through booking websites trying to find the 'perfect' hostel to stay in. Only I really didn't have any criteria that would tell me what 'perfect' was. I would bookmark dozens of properties, mark which one I thought was best, and then for some inexplicable reason, would keep looking!

It was a terrible system and we still ended up staying in what-I-am-sure was a brothel with the thinnest of plywood walls and threadbare sheets in northern Thailand. My 'system' obviously wasn't working. That was a tough night and we knew we needed a better way.

The criteria list just formalizes what it is you're looking for and what features are most important. Budget? Decor? Location? Size? Not-a-brothel? Once you've found something that fits the criteria you're done looking. Done. As in close the website done. As in no more looking done. As in have a beer because you found a perfect place done. Done.


What are your top suggestions for someone looking to do vacation rentals?

Know what you're looking for and be realistic in your expectations. The biggest cause of disappointment is unmet expectations. That's where the criteria list helps again; it makes you really think about what experience you're looking for and what it is that will make you happy.

Often times we don't realize we have an expectation until we're disappointed and it's too late. Put just a little thought into what you're really looking for and everyone will be better off for it.

Another suggestion is to use the criteria list to filter the options on the vacation rental websites. They all have great filter options so you can select price range, # of bedrooms, location etc - use these to only display those properties that fit your criteria. There is nothing worse than having a budget of, say, $100 per night and having to scroll through all the unbelievably gorgeous $250 per night properties to find the ones you can afford!


better than a hotel - How to Find the Perfect Vacation Rental


How can people find out more about your book - and your work?

How to Find the Perfect Vacation Rental is available on You can read a little more about it on my website If you're looking for other travel books to read on your vacation I also run where I curate a library of travel books from all over the world. Novels, travelogues, history books, memoirs and food books that will help anyone connect more to their vacation spot.


Thanks so very much, Gillian! We highly recommend How to Find the Perfect Vacation Home to our Wandering Educators!




All photos courtesy and copyright Gillian Duffy