Secrets to a Great Summer Share

Back in the day, getting a summer share meant squeezing 15 of your nearest and dearest into one hotel room or rental for a raucous, spring-break-style getaway. Now that you've grown up, gotten hitched, and developed a taste for more personal space, consider a vacation rental with a few close friends. It's a great way to reconnect and spend some quality time together without harkening back to those Girls Gone Wild days.

Why get a summer share?
Lakeside, beachside, or in the middle of the wilderness, many vacation rentals offer perks that go above and beyond your standard hotel fare:

Convenience: Your share becomes the hub of social activity. Find one near the beach (or another attraction), and there's no need to venture to crowded tourist traps.

Privacy: You won't have to share your vacay with the grand poobah convention at the local Hilton. It's just you and your friends. Flexibility: Rental homes are a great option for mixed groups—singles, marrieds, and new parents. you can find a rental for four adults or four adults and four kids.

Spaciousness: Most rentals offer more areas to congregate with (and get away from) your beloved friends, such as family rooms, game rooms, decks, and other common areas.
Pet-Friendliness: Many vacation homes will welcome your pooch with open arms (just don't make it a dog convention since most owners allow two dogs max).

Safety: When you're all under one roof, there's no need to meet up at the local watering hole. Everyone can help stock the bar, and you've also erased the worry of people drink­ing and driving.

Renters beware (of these personalities…)

The Over-Organizers: Completely obsessed with every single detail from start to finish – to the point where it isn't fun anymore.

The Cheapskates: Think they can find a better deal, nickel and dime you, and then want the very best room – but skimp on groceries.

The Freeloaders: Don't' respond to your call to rent the house, yet still show up with sleeping bags and stay for the whole week.

Find the perfect place
The Internet is by far the easiest way to find a vacation home. Check out these resources to find a rental that fits your style and budget:

Craigslist: Know where you want to go? Use's local guides to find great deals (sometimes last-minute) from owners. HomeAway.Com or Real estate agencies and property managers list a wide variety of vacation homes all over the world—often representing individual owners. When you log on, you can compare all the different prices, amenities, and locations.

Tip [Do a walk-through before signing a lease so there are no surprises your first weekend.]

Play nice with your sharemates
Follow these golden rules of renting…and you'll spare yourself some major drama down the line:

Be in good company: Friends that drive you crazy in day-to-day life will be unbearable when you live together. (Remember your pal Bob whose bathroom is straight off the Old School set?)

Enlist a point person: Make one person responsible for collect­ing feedback, consensus, and the deposits. No takers? Try this: the person who does the dirty work should get rewarded with the biggest bedroom or a discount on the weekly fee.

Set a deadline—and keep it: establish all the key dates for deposits and final payments. If someone misses the date that everyone agreed upon, you'll have to channel your inner Heidi Klum. You're either in or you're out!

Know what you'll nosh: Do you pool money and buy a week's worth of groceries or just have a small kitty for condiments, milk, bread, and other necessities? Put it this way: If you like Gruyère, you might not like the communal Velveeta.

Get in bed with your friends: All bedrooms are not created equal—there's a difference between the palatial master with the Jacuzzi tub and the smaller one with the half-bath and bunks. Charge different prices for each bedroom or draw straws.

Lay down the guest law: Are you comfortable with letting your sharemates' friends and family members use your room if you're not up there for the weekend, or would that really piss you off? This discussion about privacy issues needs to happen before you sign on so everybody is okay with the set boundaries.

Ask before you rent
Found the perfect beach house? Ask this before you sign the lease:

  • How many guests can the rental unit accommodate?
  • How many bed­rooms are there?
  • What kind of bed is in each room?
  • When do I check in and out? n do I need to pro­vide my own linens?
  • Am I responsible for having the house cleaned regularly?
  • Are there cleaning supplies available?
  • What kind of park­ing is available?
  • Do I sign a lease or is the arrange­ment less formal?
  • How can we pay for our deposit and the total cost?
  • Is there a washer/ dryer, hair dryer, dishwasher, full-size fridge, microwave, range, and grill?

Nestpert: Christine Karpinski, director of owner community at