Vacation time may be several months away, and you may be starting to think about where and what might be the perfect vacation this year – the beach, golf resort, SCUBA diving, skiing, maybe just sight seeing? And you think about places you have been – and the problems you have had. You cannot forget the time you went on vacation and discovered that the rooms that were really too small, or the room service was bad. There was also the time that the people in the next unit were loud and obnoxious, and the primary reason you had taken a vacation was to find peace and quiet. If only you could have the comforts of your home magically transported to your fantasy destination, then you could have had the perfect vacation.

Well, your dream arrangement is (almost) possible – you just have to look at vacation rental of a home, condo or cabin instead of hotels, motels and resorts. If you’ve never tried a vacation rental, there is a whole world of opportunities out there, just waiting for you to discover them.

Lots of people have vacation homes or condos that they use only part of the year. Many of these people rent out their places when they know they aren’t going to be there to use it themselves. The process is a little different than pulling up in front of a Best Western or Holiday Inn, but the principle is the same – you get to use a room or set of rooms where you are able to reside, for the length of your vacation.

Normally hotel, motel or resort rooms are relatively small. So things can get a bit tight, particularly if the kids are along, or if are there or two, three or four couples who have a routine of vacationing together. By renting a vacation home or condo you will get more space, some privacy, and you may be able to get luxury features you haven’t been able to install yet under your own roof. Another thing – you can find vacation rental units of practically all kinds, practically anywhere in the country – or, for that matter, in the world.

There are literally thousands of places available that are private homes, condos, cabins, etc., available for vacation rental. And, the facilities available in these rentals range from rustic to lavish, comfortable and spacious.

There are thousands of companies around the world acting as agents for owners. Many of these agents have listings in every state of the United States, plus Mexico and the Caribbean. They are really just booking agents, but they have information on a huge number of properties in a large number of locations. They have listings in Central America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the South Pacific. Unless you had your heart set on a vacation in Antarctica, it doesn’t seem like there can be much of anywhere that you will not be able to find vacation rentals.

Most agents found online and offline have vacation rental homes in US destinations, and many also have access to international listings. On the Internet, you will be able to find listings provided by agents – and vacation rentals by owner. At most websites that cater to the vacation rental industry, listings will contain a full inventory of what a particular property has to offer the vacationer and most of those listings contain several photographs, including interior and exterior photos.

Many vacation home rentals can be found near the center of major tourist areas, such as Disney World in Florida, or near beaches – perhaps even on the beachfront – in many coastal states. Other vacation rental homes are located out in the boondocks, such as in the wooded and mountainous regions of Arkansas, Colorado or Tennessee.

For instance, there is the 4-bedroom, 2.5-bath, lakeside, log home at Presque Isle, Wisconsin, located on the shores of Presque Isle Lake, an hours’ drive south of Lake Superior. The property is a rustic wilderness stone and log cabin on top of a ridge, with sleeping space for up to 14 people. Overlooking the 1500-acre, crystal clear waters of Presque Isle Lake in the North Woods, this log cabin receives guest’s year-around. During the summer, many families enjoy the swimming off of the cabin’s lakeside dock, and anglers enjoy an ample supply of trophy Muskie, Walleye and Bass from the dock and by boat.

Let’s say you are thinking about taking the family to Breckenridge, Colorado for a week of skiing or snowboarding fun. A short search on the Internet will give you a sizable list of resorts or hotels to choose from. They have nice rooms, food service, probably a pool, and transit service to the slopes. But what is available in a vacation rental?

There are more than two-dozen vacation homes available in Breckenridge, Colorado. You can access descriptions and photographs of many of these homes. Facilities range from units that sleep 6 to exclusive townhouses that provide sleeping quarters for up to 22 people. Rates start at $70 per day to $20,000 per week. That would seem palatial to me. I wonder if the rates are negotiable?

Finding exactly the right-sized home, with the desired amenities, for the price you are willing to pay will take some searching. You should really take the time to decide what kind of a place you really want, the amenities, and how many people will be going with you, before you start going though lists. Of course, some people go to Breckenridge in the summer, rather than during the winter for the ski season, and rentals are available, even during the off-season.

With a vacation rental you get more space and special amenities compared with a conventional hotel, motel or resort. The cost per square foot is usually less, but the amount of space is usually more. You have more privacy, but you will probably have to do your own cooking and wash your own dishes. As with everything else, you have to decide how you want to spend you time and your money – what do you value and how much is it worth to you?

Picking and booking the right vacation home may require some time, but it is also time well spent with people you love. Compared to the hotel experience, a vacation home rental is an excellent option that you should consider for your next vacation. It might create that perfect memory you have been looking to achieve for your family.

Suppose, instead of Breckenridge and skiing, you are interested in a week at the beach, a weekend in the woods, or a week following your favorite NASCAR event. On January 20th, 2008, it is estimated that four million people will be in Washington D.C. for the inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama. Hotels were sold out weeks ago… but there are still plenty of vacation rentals in the greater D.C. metropolitan area, looking for renters. Some people are even renting their homes to visitors coming in for the inauguration and taking the opportunity to visit grandma, while someone else is renting their home.

Jeb Maxwell