After sifting through various vacation rentals on, you've narrowed down your options to a few gorgeous prospects. So what next? Beyond the listing's photos and description, how do you ensure you book the right getaway for you? Before booking, contacting the owner is a great way to get more information about a property. Open and direct communication is an effective way to “preview" your temporary home, but what questions and best practices should you keep in mind when talking with your potential host?

Get the most out of your vacation rental experience with our comprehensive guide below.

Inquiring to Owners FAQ

How do I send an inquiry to the host? Does it differ on sites like HomeAway, FlipKey and VRBO?

Once you select a property, you'll notice that each of our partner sites carry different ways of inquiring to the owners. Some will have a “contact" button to the right of the description, others will simply highlight their booking details with an email or phone number. Here are some examples from our partners on how to send an inquiry.

Inquiring To Owners on HomeAway

Immediately to the right of the photos is a price description and fill-in boxes for check-in dates. Click on “Contact Manage" below and a pop-up window will appear, prompting for your information.

Inquiring To Owners on TripAdvisor

When first clicking on a TripAdvisor property on, there will be "Send Message" option. By clicking on it, a pop-up box will immediately appear prompting for your information. Fill in your details, and your message will be quickly on its way.

Our other partner sites will usually have a contact widget on the right of the description where you can include your contact information and any questions you may have.

What should I say in my initial email with the host?

Give a friendly hello, introduce yourself, and feel free to state where you're traveling from and what you're looking forward to on your trip. It's always helpful when homeowners get a real sense of who their residents are. In getting to know you and your interests, they are also more likely to recommend exciting things to do in their area that you'll enjoy.

Express your interest in booking their property, and be sure to include specific details on your length of stay and group size. How many people will be staying? Will you have children? Pets? The clearer and more specific you are, the better your host can help and guide you along the process.

I sent an inquiry for a vacation rental but haven't heard back from the owner. What should I do?

If you notice a lapse in communication or do not hear back from an owner, we suggest that you consider another property. Unfortunately we have no control of whether a host will reply or continue with the booking, but has a huge selection of rentals to choose from. To secure an amazing vacation rental for your next trip, it is in your best interest to inquire to multiple properties to ensure you get responses in a timely manner.

What qualities should I look for in a vacation rental, and what should I discuss with the host in order to better understand their home?

What's great about is that you're able to select from thousands of homes and find the renal that best matches your budget and needs. Are you traveling with a pet, with your partner or spouse, or with the entire family? Do you prefer a condo or a cabin? Is high-speed internet a necessity for your trip, or is it more important that the kitchen is fully stocked with cooking utensils?

With a better understanding of what you want in a vacation home, you can then easily find rentals that provide these features. Once on the search results page, click on the “Filter" drop-down menu that appears at the top of the map.

Here you can select your desired amenities or add specific keywords into the keyword search bar.

Your new search results will now appear, displaying homes that fit your criteria.

On your chosen listing page, read through the description to make sure the rental has everything you need. A good rule of thumb is to confirm these with the owner. Discuss with the host your specific needs, including amenities, accommodation space, location, nearby transportation, parking space, recommended landmarks, dining options or local activities. Be sure to review what exactly is included in the price. After all, you are paying for the home as well as the comfort and experience.

What other specifics should I be mindful of before booking a vacation rental?

Additional Fees & Cancellation Policy

Some homeowners may not include extra fees in their description, so it is best to double-check with your host. Ask about any cleaning fees, surcharges or security deposits, and if and when these fees would be charged.

Also ask about their cancellation policy. Is there a fee when cancelling within the month? Do you have a 24-hour window to cancel with no consequence?

Key Access & Meeting with Host

This is essential to plan before finalizing your booking. Does your host live nearby and is able to meet and get you situated? Or are they easily accessible via phone should you need assistance? Plan with your host the day and time you plan to arrive. If they are not physically available, discuss where they can leave the key or how else you can gain home access. Planning this beforehand will save time and ensure a smooth accommodation process.

Reporting Damage

In the event that something breaks (or was already broken when you arrived), notify your host right away with the details of the occurrence. It's also important to know who else to call or what to do when problems such as plumbing, power outages or property damage occurs.

Didn't find the answers you were looking for? Have a specific concern or question for one of our rental partners? For further assistance, visit our partners page for a complete list of our vacation rental partners and find the contact information you need.