Whether you are traveling and planning a vacation with family, friends, or your special someone or are just simply taking some time away for yourself, you can certainly take steps to guarantee that you have a relaxing time ahead.

After all, you are not just investing money, but a vacation is also a time investment. Neither of which you would want to waste. Ensuring an enjoyable, fun and stress-free vacation begins with planning. Below are some tips to help you successfully plan a fun and relaxing vacation.

Travel Smart: Avoid Vacation Rental Scams

Let us get the “uglies” out of the way – scammers. There are numerous articles about scams everywhere. The internet is certainly peppered with blurbs here and there about vacation scams. However, avoid “paralysis by analysis.” Just do extra research and you should be able to avoid being scammed. Do not let news about scammers take the fun away from planning the dream vacation you have always wanted and scare you away from going where you want to go.

Travel smart, but also research smart. Do not let these scary stories about scams occupy your mind too much as this will rob you away from the fun and excitement of going on vacation in the first place. Yes, there are many scammers out there, but there are also ways to avoid being scammed and there are many websites and agencies that you can call to help you verify information, especially if you are considering vacation home rentals.

Vacation home rentals, over the past decade or so, are fast-becoming the accommodation of choice for most people. It is relatively cheaper than hotels and most offer a nicer, cozy feel, giving you that “home away from home” experience.

Unfortunately, vacation home rentals also seem to be an easy target for scammers. However, do NOT let this scare you away from vacation home rentals, because there are many legitimate websites and companies to choose from that offer a variety of vacation homes that would work with your budget, and most certainly make your vacation more comfortable, relaxing and fun.

We have compiled a “smart list” for you to help you avoid scammers.

  • Avoid Craigslist. We listed this as our number 1 recommendation because in our research, this is likewise the consistent recommendation from reputable travel companies. We have nothing against Craigslist. However, Craigslist seems to be the most common “hangout” for scammers. If you can avoid Craigslist altogether when you are doing your research on vacation rentals, then you already SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE your chances of being scammed. Only choose reputable travel agencies and companies.
  • Avoid Craigslist. If you didn’t get it the first time, let us emphasize again the thousands of people robbed out of their hard-earned money by making transactions through this website. Craigslist has many times been asked to take some level of responsibility for the many people scammed through its website, or improve the level of security on the website to reduce fraudulent people and scammers on their website, but Craigslist has done nothing to this effect other than issue warnings to its users.
  • ONLY pay by credit card or Paypal. Do not send cash, cheques, or wire any money to someone else’s bank account. At least with reputable credit card companies, you can always file a complaint and request for a refund.
  • Use search engines and research the property you are planning to rent. Sadly, the reason why most people get scammed is they are either too trusting or too lazy to do their due diligence in their research, or both. Google maps will actually allow you to view photos of the property and check out the neighborhood. Also, if you have friends near the area, you can actually request them to visit the place and talk to the owners.
  • Have a conversation with the owners. We would actually even recommend if possible a video conversation via Skype or similar services. Ask them for references and contact the previous renters. Again, if possible, request to communicate with the previous renters via a video call.
  • Book directly with reputable vacation rental sites. These sites will have their own websites and thousands of listings that you can choose from. They are a registered business and therefore, their legitimacy is verifiable. Some vacation rental sites also offer a “Happy Rental Guarantee” that may protect you for up to $10,000 in case something goes wrong.
  • Pay attention to suspicious behavior. When communicating with home owners, pay attention to the grammar in their emails, if it sounds “bad” or extremely “too formal.” Studies have shown that most scammers come from outside North America, particularly from Nigeria. Be cautious when they ask to get paid up front by wire transfer or check (do NOT do that) especially, when they say or even “suggest” that they are leaving the country so they would need the money right away.
  • Listen to your gut feeling. If you feel that there is something “off” about the person, move on to the next. There are many to choose from. You are not just avoiding scammers; you are also avoiding people that generally make you feel uncomfortable. Choose a homeowner that you feel you can trust and have a good relationship with. This can be easily verified by getting references from previous renters.
  • Check out websites that specialize in vacation scams. One website we found was called “Vacation Home Rentals Watchdog.” It is a non-profit organization that prides themselves of protecting vacationers and exposing scammers. They also post comments from previous renters who have made complaints about home rental owners, so they have some idea which home rental owners to avoid.

Checklist Time

Now that you have done your research and have carefully selected and have reserved the perfect place where you will be staying for your dream vacation, the next thing to do is make a checklist – your packing checklist (depending on where you are going – to a warm place with beautiful sunny beaches, or somewhere nice and cool). Go online and there are many packing list tools already prepared for you. All you need to do is print it out. Do NOT wait for the last minute to get this list done. You have gotten the “uglies” out of the way – you’ve found a nice place to rent, now, you can start getting on vacation mode! Buy that sexy bikini, and fancy flip flops with matching sunglasses or go online to check out the shopping malls in the places you will be visiting, if you prefer to go shopping there. Your virtual vacation starts now! Do a countdown!

Do a virtual tour of the place where you will be going and check out the restaurants, pubs, museums, resorts, spas or whatever it is you are into. Check out what events that are happening that will coincide on the days and nights you are there. Make a list or better yet, print them out. This is an exciting time for your “pre-trip.” Make the most out of it!

Now that you have done all your planning, the next step really is to just have fun and leave “work” behind, leave your laptop and company phone (do not be tempted to open office emails please! They can survive without you) and be open to the possibilities and adventure ahead of you!

Try new foods and delicacies you’ve never tasted before!

Experience new cultures and new things you haven’t tried before!

Wear what the local people are wearing! Listen and dance to their music!

Most of all, it is a vacation, YOUR vacation. You’ve earned it. Relax. Let go. Have fun.

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