One of my favorite pictures from vacation!

One of my favorite pictures from vacation!

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that we were heading to Florida at the end of this month.  And, I had it all planned out down to the last minute detail.  Since we’re going with my parents, I literally spent weeks searching for a condo that would satisfy everyone in our party.  And when I narrowed it down to the top three or four, I emailed them to my parents and let them decide.

They would’ve been happy with any of them, but we decided on a first floor condo at a resort I’ve stayed at before, mainly because of the lack of stairs and the fact that it was next door to a state park.  The total cost for seven nights was $1,210, including 11% tax and the $125 departure cleaning fee.  It wasn’t the cheapest place that we found, but that I still think that’s a great price for seven nights in a three-bedroom, three bath-condo on the beach.

Disaster Averted

Since I planned this trip and paid for it months ago, I didn’t anticipate making any changes.  Unfortunately, the condo management company had other plans.  The woman we rented from  called me Friday morning and said that she didn’t think we should come.  Apparently some construction had been going on that she wasn’t aware of, and it was taking far longer than anyone had thought.  Furthermore, they couldn’t guarantee that the workers wouldn’t be working on the balconies above us all week.  And, if they were, we may not be able to have full access to our deck.  Blech.

Even though none of it was her fault, she apologized profusely and said that she was mailing back our entire rental amount that day.  Of course, I had some seriously mixed feelings about this.  First, I was happy that she had been so forthcoming and willing to do the right thing.  On the other hand, our vacation was only eight days away…..and we now had nowhere to go!  So, I got back on VRBO and started browsing condos again hoping to find a condo that would work.  Fortunately, I found a similar place that was available on short notice.  What’s even better is that, because it was a last minute deal, they gave me a discount.  The Grand Total: $1,200 including taxes and the cleaning fee.

Four Reasons I Love VRBO

This is probably the 5th or 6th time I’ve rented a condo off of VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner).  If you’ve never used it, it’s just like AirBNB, HomeAway, or FlipKey.  Basically, condo owners and homeowners post their place and set their own price and policies.  Aside from renting a condo that was absolutely filthy once, I’ve had nothing but good experiences.  In fact, I love VRBO.  Here’s why:

I Like Renting a Home

When we take our family on vacation, I like renting an actual home vs. staying in a hotel.  Why?  First of all, I like having a living room where we can all congregate, and I’ve found that it’s much easier to spend time with family in a condo or home versus in a hotel.  I also like having a kitchen for obvious reasons.  Going out to eat is incredibly expensive and renting a place with a kitchen allows us to make most of our meals at “home.”

You Deal Directly With the Owner

If we had booked our vacation through a resort, there is no way they would’ve offered to refund my money.  They would’ve just let us show up and told us to deal with it.  But, since we were dealing with a human being, she saw things differently.  She told me that she would rather refund our money than have the construction ruin our vacation, and that she hoped we would consider renting her condo again in the future.  I think that’s very classy, and I know that we could never expect that kind of treatment from a corporation or resort.

It’s Usually Negotiable

I’m pretty sure I’ve negotiated the price down on every condo we’re every stayed it.  Usually I’ll ask for their “best deal” if I book that day, or if that’s the best they can do.  I’ve found that there is usually some wiggle room, especially if I’m booking way ahead of time or at the very last minute.  One time we got an oceanfront condo for a week for $800 including taxes and fees because we literally booked just a few weeks before.  That’s only $115 per night for a three-bedroom, three-bath, oceanfront condo!

It’s Usually Family-Oriented

We’ve rented oceanfront condos many times, and we’ve always found the atmosphere rather to be family-oriented.  And since we have two kids, this is obviously a good thing.  It seems like all of the drunk college kids lean toward renting hotel rooms instead of condos or private homes, which is fine by me.  All we want to do is swim and enjoy some peace and quiet, and that’s hard to do when people are being loud and obnoxious!

Have you ever rented a condo or private home?  What was your experience?