From the West: How to Get Cheap Lodging on Your Next Trip

In late December of 2010, I happily took on the task of planning a bachelor party. The bachelor is a very good friend of mine from college. In preliminary discussions, it was determined that since all the gents who were going to be attending lived all over the country, we’d pick a single destination and let everyone figure out how to get there. After about thirty seconds of deliberation, we had picked the spot:

Ski Town U.S.A. (a.k.a. Steamboat Springs, Co.)

Background story detour…

While college graduation approached, I had made up my mind that I was not going to into the full time job realm. Instead, a mutual friend of the bachelor and I composed a list of ski resorts around the country that we’d like to live post-grad. Several weeks of being back home, living with our familes, got us vigorously hunting for jobs. In fairly short order, my friend and I each got solid offers in Steamboat. While we prepared for our departure west, the aforementioned bachelor called us and asked if we had room for a third. Luckily we did, and the three of us packed up my ’92 Ford Explorer and hit the road…

This history made the ‘Boat a natural choice. It also didn’t hurt that, while said bachelor and I had left Steamboat years earlier, our friend still calls it home.

Now the real planning began and all the usual wrinkles had to be ironed out. Who would be invited, where would we get cheap lift tickets and, most importantly, where the hell would we sleep? Our friend kindly offered to let us stay at his house, but as our group’s number climbed to ten, we politely declined. May I note that our refusal was much to his female roommates’ relief.

As I began pricing out hotel rooms, a conversation from earlier that summer popped into my head. The letters V, R, B and O, were all I could really remember from a thick, beer induced fog. A quick search on the Google brought the rest of the discussion back in a snap.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, VRBO is short for Vacation Rentals By Owner. And while most of the properties are still brokered by agents, the rates are way, way cheaper than anything you’d find in a hotel. Plus, you’re in a house or condo!

After a bit more intertube traveling, I found that Steamboat Springs was well represented on VRBO. I did a search with the dates we were going to be in town. From there, I looked for units that could sleep the number of people and had the price ranges we could afford. Within minutes, I had a comprehensive list of our lodging options. I plopped a list of links into an email and sent it to the guys who were attending. In a day or so, we had collectively made up our mind on which place to rent.

From there, I submitted an inquiry through the same website. Within the same day, I got a reply from a rental agent confirming that the unit was still available and explaining how payment would proceed. All I had to do was send two separate checks to their office. One for the full sum of the stay, and another for a security deposit. They would then send the checks to the property’s owner. Once the owner got the checks, and deposited the first check, he or she would send me information on how to get into the townhouse.

Though I was a little apprehensive about the Byzantine path my checks would have to take, all went according to plan. Within a few weeks of mailing my checks, I got an informative email from the owner regarding everything I’d need to know for my stay. The security check was held until we checked out and a cleaning person verified that nothing beyond normal cleaning was needed.

Once the long weekend arrived, everything went off without a hitch. The townhouse was as nice and as close to the mountain as advertised. Ullr graced us with fourteen inches of fresh powder for the first day, and he continued the flurries through to the second. Per usual, the vacation went entirely too fast, but it was really an excellent time.

I would highly recommend utilizing the VRBO service if you’re planning a trip. With the high amount prices of real estate on the market, owners are looking for any way to help pay the mortgage (or taxes for that matter). In the end, it’s infinitely cheaper than staying in a hotel, and you can save a bit more money by cooking in a night or two. If you have any questions, feel free to message me on twitter, @h0ke.

P.S. If you can find New Belgian Brewing’s new-ish beer, Ranger IPA, I HIGHLY recommend it. That is all.