​When you're looking for the cheapest accommodations for your vacation, apartment and house rentals are a great option.  Especially when you're traveling with your family, the choice between a single tiny hotel room or a 2-3 bedroom apartment with a kitchen for less money is a no-brainer.  But choosing to rent from a private citizen rather than an established hotel can be risky, especially when you're trying to coordinate long-distance.  Here are a few tips so you don't get scammed.

1.  Use your credit card.  Of course your average joe in any city isn't equipped to take a credit card when you arrive.  But PayPal is a great option.  If you pay using your card, you can always reverse the charges if the rental turns out not to be real.  But if you wire money or send a check to someone you've never met for a property you've never seen, you are just setting yourself up to be a victim.

2.  Work with a reputable company.  Tempting as it is to just jump on Craigslist and cut out the middle man, having a real company like VRBO representing both party's interests just makes sense.  Of course there are many honest people on Craigslist, but why take an unnecessary risk?  If you find a deal you just can't pass up, go back to rule #1.

3.  Double-check the residence rules.  If it turns out that the owner of the condo you're renting isn't allowed to rent out his condo, then you could be kicked out if you get caught.  If you paid attention to rule 1, you should be able to get your money back, but that won't change the fact that you've been thrown out into the street in the middle of your vacation.

4.  Read your agreement carefully.  You may have to put down a sizable security deposit, and it may take a while to get it back.  You may be charged for utilities, or other ridiculous fees.  Make sure you know what you're getting into.

Vacation rentals can be a great cost-saver for a family trip, just be sure to take some basic precautions when making your plans!