So you’re staying at a rental property during your vacation – congratulations! A rental offers a number of advantages over a hotel, including more space for your money. Keep in mind, though, that a rental may also require a little homework to make sure you’re comfortable in the place you’ve chosen.

For instance, extras you might take for granted at a chain hotel – like shampoo and spare pillows – may or may not be included in your rental. If you’re not sure if a needed item will be available, ask ahead of time to avoid last-minute scrambling. Here are a few matters to consider when you make your reservation at a vacation rental property.

A good location means different things to different people. Some guests like to be in the center of the action. Others prefer to stay in an out-of-the-way corner. Don’t assume that if a rental is near the water it must be right on the beach; if that’s important to you, ask. Would you like to be within walking distance of town and attractions? Confirm the meaning of “walking distance” – is it five minutes or half an hour?

You may not need all of these things, but if any of them are necessary to your stay, make sure they’re available: parking, laundry facilities, air conditioning, cable TV, wifi, outdoor grill, fireplace. If your rental is equipped with a kitchen, find out if it has decent pots and pans, utensils, glassware, a microwave, a toaster, a coffeemaker.

Smoking or non-?
Many properties don’t allow guests to smoke, but you never know, especially if the rental is in a foreign country. If you’re a non-smoker and dislike the stale odor of cigarettes, confirm that smoking is prohibited in your rental.

Outdoor space.
Check to see if there’s space to relax outdoors (weather permitting). Inquire about privacy. Is the space your own, or will it be shared?

The extra touches.
Think about things you use every day and would like to be there when you need them: coffee, tea, spices or other cooking staples, paper goods, soap, shampoo, lotions, laundry detergent. If they’re not included, find out where to buy them locally. As for linens, blankets, towels, bedding – you might take these things for granted, but it never hurts to ask.

Frankly, this is something you can’t be entirely sure of until you get there. You don’t have to whip out a magnifying glass, but look to see that the box spring and mattress are enclosed. Check for dusty surfaces and mold in the bathroom. Peek behind the toilet to make sure it’s clean.

Again, you probably won’t know it’s right until you see it, but you can often get an idea from photos on the rental property’s website. Does the vibe seem comfortable? Not too formal or fussy? If you have young children, make sure the place is kid-friendly. You don’t want to spend your whole vacation worrying about priceless antiques.

The reviews.
Here’s where you can pick up information about all of the above, especially the intangibles like cleanliness, service, and atmosphere. Don’t treat reviews as gospel, but do note whether commenters seem to agree on certain points.

Ultimately, where to stay is a personal choice. Some people like a spare environment, while others prefer to have every convenience. It’s always nice when your vision agrees with reality, so do your research ahead of time. When a vacation rental is right for you, you’ll know it because you’ll feel at home there – and want to come back!