By Dave Jordan, News 9
Cash-strapped Oklahomans don't have to let money woes ruin their fun in the sun.
Despite the economic headlines, 53 percent of people are still planning trips for at least a week this summer, and while there are all kinds of deals available, many vacationers are stretching their travel dollars by seeking a home away from home.
The Robert family is planning a week-long trip to their favorite beach. This year, they're renting a condo they found online.
"I would estimate that we'll probably be saving at least $500 by staying in a rental instead of a hotel," Michele Robert said.
The family not only found a good rate, but they can also cook their own meals. Robert said slaving over the stove is a small price to pay for what she's getting in return.
"There's two bedrooms. We have our own private deck that we can sit out on," Robert said. "There's a flat screen TV in every bedroom."
Sixteen million Americans rented a vacation place last year alone. While most used an agent, a growing number of people reserved online, craigslist.com being one of those Web sites.
"All our sites are growing fast and demand, reservation requests, are especially growing faster than supply across most markets," HomeAway Vice President Justin Halloran said.
Halloran's company operates several sites, including cyberrentals.com, vrbo.com, and homeaway.com.
"When you find a property you like you click on it, you view the details and you contact the owner directly," Halloran said.
Direct contact was a plus for Peter Leepson, a real estate lawyer who was in search of a temporary place.
"I think the personal connection between us and the landlord very instrumental in making this whole thing a very, very pleasant experience," Leepson said.
Renowned travel expert Pauline Frommer suggests doing extensive research, including visiting the rental or getting pictures. She also suggests confirming the address and checking out the area.
"A lot of people now book vacation rentals direct with owners," Frommer said. "This often is the most cost effective way to do it, but there are risks involved.
Most importantly, she advises renters to read the contract carefully.
"You might want to get in writing what all the different fees might be from cleaning fees to utility charges," Frommer said.
She suggests that a contract include who will fix things if something breaks.
Halloran suggests renters know their restrictions.
"Make sure that the number of people you are travelling with doesn't exceed the maximum. Make sure that you can bring all of your cars and park them," Holloran said.
Asking if the renter can have guests can also eliminate a potentially awkward situation.
"We tried to have two friends up and the woman stopped us and said, 'No, there are no guests' and we didn't realize that," Robert said.
Renters are encouraged to find out whether the rental site offers a refund if a listing is not legitimate and Frommer said it's a good idea to get insurance in case of a cancelation.