Vacation Rentals: The Better Deal


Ryan Ong



What’s that pathetic sound all the hotels are making? Oh right, it’s their death rattle. Because vacation rentals have become the way to travel, in both Singapore and Europe.  Rentals are more cost effective than hotels, offer better alternatives, and can improve your self defence skills (if you find them on Craigslist, that is. Sleep with a knife). In this article, I explore why your next vacation stay should be a rental:


What is a Vacation Rental?

Instead of booking a hotel room, you rent private property to stay in. This is common practice in Europe and Canada, where people have holiday houses to spare.

(Yes, houses “to spare”. They have those, because a Sentosa Cove Bungalow can cost more than a submarine base in Norway.)

Jealousy aside, that’s a great deal for travellers. Vacation rentals have featured everything from furnished apartments to actual castles. Advantages include:

  • More bang for your buck
  • Unique locations
  • More spacious accommodations
  • Choice of amenities
  • You can cook


1. More Bang For Your Buck


Sweeping away clothes
Free laundry and free room cleaning. Let’s just say I roll them into one package.


This Lake Tahoe lodge charges about $270 per night (converted to SGD and tax added). It’s five minutes from the casino and ski resort, accommodates up to 10 guests, and gives you two storeys to roam around.

By comparison, the local hotels charge about $170 a night; but that’s for a single room. If you’re travelling in a group of three or more, splitting the cost makes the lodge way cheaper. You also save on tips, because there aren’t 20 valets sticking to you like damp underwear.

Some vacation rentals are also negotiable. If you’ve rented the same place three or four times, and you’ve proven to be good “tenants”, the owners may give you a discount.


2. Unique Locations


Nuclear plant
My unique holiday rental? I’m writing an e-mail about it right now, with my third hand.


Feel an urgent need to rent a fortified castle? Sure you can. It costs more than a hotel (about $12,000 SGD a week). But if you’re the sort to spend money that way, you probably need all the loan shark protection you can get.

Or try this tree-house near a volcano, a perfect blend of modern architecture and pants-wetting terror.

Other options include isolated cottages, beach front villas, and farm stays. In the case of farms, you can even mitigate some of the costs by working. And yes, working on farms does makes for fun vacations; just like washing the windows when you stay at my condo (e-mail me for a great time).

One problem: Unique locations might mean unreliable transport, especially on days that end in “y”. So if you’re staying at “Castle-on-the-cliff, Romania”, you better rent a car.


3. More Spacious Accommodations


Beach huts without windows
Sure it’s spacious. The cattle never complain.


Most vacation rentals accommodate 4 to 10 people at once, but charge single room rates. Apart from lowering the cost per head, it gives everyone more legroom.

In Europe and Canada, 2500 square foot, multi-storey rentals are not uncommon finds. Even split 10 ways, they’re more spacious than equally priced hotel rooms. And don’t forget privacy; if you don’t want to march into a foyer with a 100 guests, or line up to use a pool, rental wins.

Note that more spaciousness might not apply to certain countries. Vacation rentals in places like Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore (ooh, big surprise there) are obviously tiny.


4. Choice of Amenities


Playing Wii
I needed this break. Couldn’t keep doing the same damn things I do at home, right?


Most people don’t use the hotel amenities they pay for. Which makes sense; if I’m vacationing in Miami, I need a hotel pool like Starbucks needs more hipsters. Same goes BBQ pits or pool rooms, which may not appear on the bill, but have been factored into the overall price.

With rentals, you get to cherry pick the amenities. Apart from excluding some, you get to choose amenities hotels can’t offer. How about a private lakeside dock? Or a gym you don’t have to share? Or even a wine cellar you can walk into and pick from?

And while most of us won’t bring a Shih Tzu to Florida, I know what some of you pet owners are like. Good thing some rentals are pet friendly, which is something you won’t find at the Hilton.


5. You Can Cook


Martin Yan
If Yan can cook, so can you. Maggi mee, that is.


Don’t knock it. Lots of people want to reunite with mum’s cooking, or make dinner for the spouse while on vacation. The good news is, most rentals come with fully equipped kitchens.

Most budget travellers know how to save by not eating out. Frozen pizza and sandwiches are both viable diet options, provided you have a place to prep them. And no, the hotel won’t microwave your food for you (I’ve tried asking). They make money off their room service menu, with its plastic streaks and poissons de merde.

So if you’re going the cheap route (no restaurants), a rental is a godsend. Oh, and don’t forget: With enough friends, you can hold your own barbecue. A lot of rentals are summer houses, with pits facing the sea or lake.


Never Tried It Before?

If you’ve never rented before, try hitting sites like airbnb first. It’s easier to pick out what you want, and those places are trustworthy. It’s also good to go with someone who drives, because a rental location may not be as central as a hotel.

Only veteran travellers dare to find rentals via Craiglist. Some are even seen again.

Image Credits:, donger, peretzp, peter pearson, The Consortium, SF Chefs,

Ever rented for a vacation? Comment and tell us about it!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.