What Makes a Great Vacation Home- a Guide for Renters and Owners

Each year as we vacation at the beach, we learn more and more about what makes a good vacation home from a renter's perspective, and as a landlord also, I also bring that perspective as well. Even though it is only mildly related to food (I will cover kitchen equipment, etc),  I am posting about what makes a good vacation rental because it will help readers know what to look for as they plan their own vacations and perhaps some vacation home owners will read this and learn what features and equipment best leverages their investment and attracts renters.

Here are some tips that we have especially become aware of from our most recent vacation at Paradise Found, a Joe Lamb property:

These Double-Double rooms were great for teens and families
1) Make sure that the bedrooms, beds and sizes meet the needs of your family and peak guest count.  Many rental homes have double bunk rooms that are great for family's with young kids, but not so great if you have grown kids.  For us, we looked for more King and Queen rooms, and what some call a "family" bedroom, with a duobunk (double on bottom, single on top) or two doubles to accommodate parents and their minor children. Don't count on a sofa bed that is in the great room as sleeping space, since the activity of early risers will likely disturb their sleep, however sofa beds in game rooms or separate dens offer practical sleeping space.

2) Look for houses where the beds are made before you arrive.  After the prep and packing,driving, shopping, and  unpacking, the last thing you want to do is make 7-10 beds. I have done it, but I much prefer to spend my time at the beach instead of making beds on that first day.

3) If you have young children make sure that pools and hot tubs have separate gates to prevent them from entering those areas unaccompanied.

4) At the beach I love a house with a screened porch- it is a perfect place to watch the sunrise with your coffee in the morning, provides a place for more boisterous card and board games, and a place to pick crabs or have other messy (or smelly) foods. It provides a respite from bugs, and shade during the sun's highest points. You get to enjoy all the great things about the out of doors without the bad!

5) Paradise Found had everything labeled so I knew exactly which switch turned on the ceiling fans and which turned on the lights.  Information like how to use the TV, DVD and stereo , and even the network key were readily accessible.  I knew exactly where to look for the garbage disposal switch, a cookie sheet or plastic cups.  It was the most renter friendly home I have ever been in because of the time and attention placed in making sure you could find everything you needed.

Amazing kitchen, huh?
The counters were perfect for setting up help-yourself meals!
6) Kitchen and Cooking - While many people on vacation eat out a lot, with the economy the way it is, we  cook most of our meals and selectively go out to stay on budget, so how the kitchen is outfitted is important to us.  Our rental this year had two refrigerators, one in the kitchen and one in the 1st floor gameroom, which made it much easier to make sure there were always cold drinks, and gave us space to hold things like a whole watermelon.  We have used our cooler in the past for this function, but it requires constant restocking of ice, so the second fridge was a great convenience.  Paradise Found had double wall ovens (I lined the bottoms with foil so that drips, etc. did not bake on), and two dishwashers which was great for our large crowd because we always had one running and one emptying.  Another great feature at this home was that there was plenty of silverware and dishes to accommodate our peak meal crowds and we never ran out.  Just about any utensil you could think of was there in a drawer labeled Gadgets, from spatulas to can openers to pizza cutters.  For those of you who own, I would also note that while you can furnish you rental with cheap equipment and appliances, in the long run you probably save money because good quality things last- our rental had Corelle dishes, nice heavy pots and pans for cooking, stainless steel colanders, Pyrex bakeware.  We were delighted to find the home equipped with a huge crockpot (which I used to make carnitas), a large electric skillet (which I didn't use) and a Krups Belgian Waffle maker (which prompted me to order one from Amazon as soon as I got back from vacation!).  These extra touches were great for a foodie like me.

View from the driveway showing the ample, well-maintained decks.
7) When you are looking at homes to rent, look for one that is well-cared for and well-maintained.  That indicates the level of care that the owner has for his property and will make for a much better experience for you. If you are worried about a loose deck railing, or a door that won't lock, you are going to have a hard time relaxing. At Paradise Found, the house was clearly well loved-no ripped screens, broken fixtures, all the decks were Trex, so no splinters and the railings were sturdy white resin- features that are not only great for renters, but for owners who save frequent sanding staining and repair costs! Another great feature was the additional door locks the owners installed- it really added great peace-of mind for a home with so many entrances, providing additional security.

Lots of room for crab dinner!
8) Something that is essential is ample and comfortable seating wherever people gather.  Our rental had a large dining table with plenty of chairs, a breakfast bar with additional seating and an island with seating so no matter how big our crowd we could all be together.  The great room had a huge sectional sofa with a chaise that my kids wanted to bring home, it was so comfortable. It often was the place for a quick after beach and pool nap for family members of all ages!

View from the end of our driveway to the ocean path.
9) Location Location, Location-This is as important for renting a house as it is buying a house.  That semi-oceanfront may not be as good as it looks it you have to cross a main thoroughfare with boogie boards, beach towels, sand toys and young kids in tow.  Are you close to a grocery store? How far to urgent care (you hope you don't have to use this but we did,  and were so glad it didn't involve a long drive!)? Are you near condos, popular bars or other things that may increase traffic or noise?  Can you see or hear the ocean noise, or is it drowned out by road noise or the sounds of construction?  This is the advantage of checking out a property before you commit.

Knowing what to look for is as important as knowing what you want and will help ensure that your memories of your vacation are everything that will be your own Paradise Found!!


Mike Finneran said…
Boy got rhythm!
Deborah Dowd said…
On vacation we all have rhythm!
Anonymous said…
this blog is always so great - yall should check out Extreme Chef it looks awesome http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3J824ZuGXA
Deborah Dowd said…
Anonymous- Thanks!