I remember it well. A Christmas get-together with friends, a considerable amount of mulled wine, lots of fun, and lo and behold, a plan to vacation with them next summer. In the enthusiasm of the moment we all got excited about the idea and talked into the early hours about all the fun we would have, how the kids would just love being together on the water, and the sort of property we could rent when we were sharing the cost. Sadly, it all was a bit of a disaster but we all learned a lot. As we figured out, if you decide to rent a vacation home with friends, there is a lot more to consider than just all the fun times you plan to have together.
Friends usually decide to vacation together based on a mutual desire for a similar style of getaway, and plans often are made in the relaxed atmosphere of a festive occasion or card game with neighbors. When reality sets in, it’s often too late to back out as deposits get paid and cancellation policies apply.
Here are five tips that will make sharing a vacation rental with friends a holiday to remember for all the right reasons.
Make important decisions in the cold light of day. Since many vacation plans are made over a few beers or bottles of wine, make sure you confirm any decisions in the cold light of day. This is the best time to get practical. Will sharing a house for a week really work? Do you know your friends well enough for them to witness your quirky habits? Do the children get along with each other?
Agree on your priorities. Be totally honest with each other. Create a list of your collective criteria, the “must haves,” the “nice to have,” and the “in your dreams” lists. Watch out for areas in which you radically disagree. Your friends may prefer to go without a TV but it’s a priority for your family. Or, your idea of a vacation is to relax, read books and eat yourself silly while your friends are excited about all the activities you can do to keep fit. This could be a sign of problems ahead. You need to be in sync with each other in order to have a successful vacation.
Set ground rules. The issue that can cause the most friction when you decide to rent a vacation home with friends, is the different way families have of managing day-to-day activities such as meals times, childrens’ bedtime routines, cooking and housekeeping. If one family relaxes their hold on regular routines during vacation periods and the other doesn’t, this can create a conflict that will surface early in the vacation. If you don’t address some of these issues before you get into vacation mode, this will have a considerable impact on your enjoyment of the vacation you have spent months looking forward to.
Decide on bedroom allocations early in the planning process. Don’t leave this until you arrive at the property. This can cause friction at the very beginning, particularly if there is a master bedroom with ensuite, or if there is only one queen bed and the rest are doubles. Resentment can build quickly so it’s best to get this sorted out early in the planning process.
Discuss how you will manage housekeeping and food budgets. This is another issue to discuss early on. You don’t need to get into the finer details until nearer the vacation, but you should discuss this at the outset. Will you share the cooking? Who will do the shopping? How will you pay for groceries? If you see a vacation as a junk food extravaganza and your friends are talking about all the healthy eating they plan on doing, it would be good to get this sorted out before you go any further.
Renting a good-sized, upscale cottage becomes much more manageable when you share the cost with another family, but if it has the potential to cause dissent and, worse yet, the loss of a friendship, think again. Your vacation should be a relaxing event, not a hotbed of arguments and resentment. In some cases it may be best to think of it as a good idea then just leave it at that. But if you select the right place, plan well in advance and consider as many eventualities as possible, the could be the beginning of a memorable time for you and your family.
This article was written by Heather Bayer, owner and author of CottageBlogger.com, a resource for vacation rental owners. Heather prefers to rent vacation homes over any other type of accommodation and stays in several different locations each year.