"I would estimate that we'll probably be saving at least $500 by staying in a rental instead of a hotel," said Michele Robert, who rented the vacation home.
The Roberts found an excellent rate and are saving on going out to restaurants as well. Michele says cooking is a small price to pay for what they are getting in return.
"There are two bedrooms. We have our own private deck that we can sit out on. There's a flat screen TV in every bedroom," said Michele.
Sixteen-million Americans rented a vacation home last year. Most of those vacationers used an agent. However, a growing number are reserving their rentals online. Lots of people are looking on everything from Craigslist to vacation rental sites that put you in direct contact with owners.
Justin Halloran's company operates several sites, including CyberRentals, VRBO, and HomeAway.
"All our sites are growing fast and in demand. Reservation requests are especially growing faster than supply across most markets," said HomeAway Vice President Justin Halloran.
Travel expert Pauline Frommer warns, if you're not going to use an agent, do your research. Pauline says to get lots of pictures, confirm the address of the rental, check out the area, and insist on a contract.
"You want to get in writing what all the different fees might be, from cleaning fees to utility charges," said travel expert Pauline Frommer.
Experts suggest even putting how many guests are staying with you in the contract.
"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," said Michele.
Experts say check to see if the rental site you choose offers a refund, just in case it turns out the listing is not legitimate. Also, Frommer says it is a good idea to get insurance in case you have to cancel.
Finally, experts recommend that if you are going to rent a vacation home online, stick with the sites that connect you with the owners themselves.