If the thought of spending the summer stuck in that same old cramped house or apartment has you sweating already, you’re not alone. Summer plans have been upended due to covid-19, but warmer weather has many folks eager to socially distance in greener pastures. With work-from-home guidelines still in place for a lot of the country, a road trip to an extended stay offers a chance to get a change of scenery, give the kids space to run around and have some semblance of a summer while continuing to avoid crowds. But, how safe is it to book a vacation rental? We checked in with Airbnb, Vrbo and a handful of property owners to find out.
What are the rental companies doing?
Proper cleaning and sanitization remain as critical as ever, of course, with both guests and hosts eager for guidance on keeping themselves and others safe. To help, Airbnb launched an Enhanced Cleaning Initiative, a set of guidelines created with the help of former US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.
Similarly, Melanie Fish, a travel expert for Vrbo, says Vrbo has created cleaning guidelines that combine the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and Cristal International Standards. The new guidelines have also been reviewed by infectious diseases expert Dr. Daniel Lucey.
The initiative provides hosts with a list of cleaning products and methods approved by the CDC, plus step-by-step instructions on how to sanitize listings between stays. Airbnb is also providing hosts the option of adding an automatic 72-hour buffer between bookings to further limit possible contamination.
What are property owners and managers doing?
Also, many hosts have been working to address travelers’ understandable trepidation. Ted Stiffel, who rents out a large A-frame home in New York’s Hudson Valley, says, “The biggest change for us during the pandemic will be instructing our cleaner to disinfect all hard surfaces, not just the bathrooms, but all the doorknobs and handles and anything that our guests might touch, even the remote control to the TV.”
Casey and Erika Goddard, hosts of a five-bedroom home in western Massachusetts, say they, too, will be making sure to tackle surfaces “which otherwise might not be cleaned on a regular basis,” like blinds, trim and baseboards, and also leaving more time between guest arrivals “to allow for deep cleaning and sanitization after every stay.”
Stiffel added that he’s making it easier for guests to clean up after themselves: “We plan to leave the disinfectant out on the counter and a box of latex gloves in case they want to do some extra cleaning themselves when they arrive.” This gets to another important consideration before any travel: Guests, too, have to do their part to keep everyone safe. That means paying close attention to local rules and recommendations regarding safety protocols and shelter-in-place orders. It also means that, if you’re feeling sick, you need to stay home.
How do you know which properties are being properly cleaned?
In fact, Vrbo owners are making it easy for renters to find a property that they can trust has been properly sanitized. “More than 100,000 properties on Vrbo already include information about the specific cleaning practices homeowners are taking, which can be found on the property listing under the House Rules section, and more homeowners and property managers are providing this information every day,” says Fish.
If you’re still feeling skeeved, you can always ask the managers about their particular practices before booking, and both companies are offering badges and filters that help bookers identify the cleanest properties at a glance.
Where should you rent a house this summer?
Below, we’ve rounded up some top-rated stays in popular vacation destinations around the country, all of which would be great for those looking to stretch their legs this summer — again, as long as you’re healthy and closely adhering to public health guidelines.
Cottage Near Savannah and Tybee Island, Georgia ($195.83 per night; vrbo.com)
This home is about 10 minutes from downtown Savannah and 20 minutes from Tybee Island’s beaches. It can fit up to eight guests in three bedrooms, making it great for a larger family. It also features a fenced-in backyard with a lovely patio for lounging.
Beach Condo on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina ($159 per night; airbnb.com)
A fully renovated two-bedroom, two-bath condo with a porch and lagoon views, just steps from the beach on Port Royal Sound.
Midcentury Lodge Near Chattanooga, Tennessee ($116 per night; airbnb.com)
For those looking for some peace and quiet near Chattanooga, this 1950s lodge has three bedrooms and a large yard perfect for catching the sunset. You’ve also got easy access to trailheads on Lookout Mountain and the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.
Cottage in Lafayette, Louisiana ($134 per night; vrbo.com)
With 1,500 square feet and a large backyard, this cozy three-bedroom cottage is perfect for a family looking for a getaway in Lafayette. The private yard has both a grill and a fire pit for barbecues, and guests can also use the two bikes on the property.
Casa Maya in Fort Davis, Texas ($285 per night; airbnb.com)
This spacious Fort Davis home has three bedrooms and two and a half baths and can fit up to six guests. A large backyard looks out at Davis Mountain, and you’re about 20 minutes from Marfa, a tiny West Texas town that’s become a world-renowned arts mecca.
Modern Solar Home South of Marfa, Texas ($450 per night; airbnb.com)
To really get away from it all, this remote solar home, about an hour and 20 minutes south of Marfa, is a luxurious retreat on 1,000 acres of land. Do note that you’ll need a high-clearance vehicle to reach the home!
Five-Bedroom House in Colrain, Massachusetts ($356.67 per night; vrbo.com)
For those wanting to get away as part of a larger group, the Goddards’ home near Shelburne Falls has five bedrooms and can fit up to 12 guests. The backyard has a fire pit and the house even has an air hockey table!
Panoramic Views in Ancramdale, New York ($328 per night; vrbo.com)
This cute mountain escape that sleeps eight offers beautiful views of both the Berkshire and Catskill mountains. The house is situated among a bunch of farms, towns and lakes and has access to other things to see, do and appreciate — but it’s the views that will keep you coming back.
Family-Friendly Home in North Conway, New Hampshire ($200 per night; vrbo.com)
Two king-sized master suites and a bunk room mean this house in the heart of the White Mountains will fit your whole crew of up to eight. Hopefully everyone can quiet down and listen to the babbling brook in the backyard for at least a minute of the vacay.
The Country House in Bryant Pond, Maine ($300 per night; vrbo.com)
Enjoy the days on Lake Christopher with full access and use of the owners’ kayaks, canoes and wind-surfing gear. There’s also a hot tub, game room and plenty of other goodies to make great use of the yard with the kids.
Renovated Farmhouse Near Valparaiso, Indiana ($225 per night; vrbo.com)
This charming three-bedroom house sits on a 60-acre farm with groomed trails and a natural prairie. Feel away from it all, but also within a quick drive of the restaurants and town center of Valparaiso.
House by Lake Michigan in Kenosha, Wisconsin ($190 per night; airbnb.com)
Yard for kids to play in? Check. Walking distance to Lake Michigan and downtown Kenosha, close to the train from Chicago? Check, check, check. This charming house has it all and then some. The cozy rocking chair front porch, thoughtful decorating and sleeping accommodations for up to seven guests make this place a must-stay if a family vacation in this area is on the agenda. Please note that this is a private residence throughout the academic year that is rented out in the summer, so the owners expect it to be treated with care.
Peace and Quiet in the Shawnee National Forest near Buncombe, Illinois ($245 per night; vrbo.com)
This southern Illinois nature escape is surrounded by 140 acres of private land. If the great outdoors is what you seek, there is plenty of it here, from fishing to hiking to biking to barbecuing. The house sleeps eight, so even larger families will be comfortable here.
Updated Cottage in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin ($315 per night; vrbo.com)
About an hour (without any traffic) from Milwaukee, this three-bedroom cottage in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, provides a break from the norm. Spend the days swimming, boating, fishing or golfing, then spend the evenings relaxing around the firepit and yard.
Cabin in Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, Michigan ($232 per night; vrbo.com)
Get away from it all but still have everything at your fingertips in this three-bedroom cabin nestled in the Crystal Mountain Resort. Walk to the pool, play one of the two 18-hole golf courses, bike, hike or try the climbing wall and adventure course. No matter what you choose to do each day, the hammock and firepit in the yard will be where each day quietly comes to an end.
Cabin in Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, Arizona ($268 per night; vrbo.com)
Just 20 minutes outside Sedona, this three-bedroom hideaway is tucked into Oak Creek Canyon and offers easy access to all the stunning nature that this part of the country is famous for. Of course, after you hike through the canyons, the jetted tub in the master bath will qualify as one of the trip’s highlights.
South Lake Tahoe Cabin with Deck and Hot Tub ($293 per night; airbnb.com)
This four-bedroom home in South Lake Tahoe, California, comes with a deck and hot tub for plenty of fresh air. The cabin is on a spacious, wooded lot near a meadow and stream, giving kids some extra space to run around.
Riverfront Getaway in Cle Elum, Washington ($161 per night; airbnb.com)
Up to six guests can stay in this three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, which looks out on the Teanaway River. Two and a half acres of surrounding land make social distancing easy and outdoor activities are available in the Teanaway State Forest. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Seattle.
Yakima Riverfront Cabin in Cle Elum, Washington ($172 per night; vrbo.com)
This bright A-frame cabin can host up to six guests in three bedrooms, making it a great choice for a larger family or group of friends. Large windows look out on the Yakima River, and you can expect a quiet stay.
Given the ever-changing situation, be sure to note any property’s cancellation policy before booking. Airbnb says the company will be continually updating its refund policies. “We are constantly evaluating our extenuating circumstances policy as this pandemic unfolds. We would advise those with reservations beyond mid-June to be patient as we continue to reassess our policies.”
Airbnb’s policy was updated on June 15 to include reservations through July 31. Vrbo’s Covid-19 emergency policy is valid for reservations occurring through June 30, but extension beyond that date had not been confirmed at the time this article was published.
“Risk in travel can never be fully eliminated,” Airbnb says, “and the knowledge around Covid-19 is still evolving.”
But hosts are trying to remain positive, and the Goddards have faith that travelers will return. “We’re very hopeful that as soon as states open back up people will begin to travel again,” they tell us. “It’s our job to give them the best and safest experience possible! We’re going to work very hard to fulfill that mission.”
Note: The prices and availability above reflect the hosts’ listed prices for the selected dates at the time of publication.