Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If you're thinking Florida....

We are winding down our time in Florida and are heading back to the northern climate on Friday. We are only going as far as Ottawa so it won't be too extreme a change but really, when you've got used to at least 20 degrees and sunny, anything less is... well less.

But I'm getting off track. When we decided to do this extended Florida trip and to rent a house rather then stay in a hotel I was a little leary to blog about it because I didn't know how it would work out. We know people that have done it but didn't want to recommend something that we hadn't tested ourselves. Now that we have, I want to share this tip. Renting a house rocks... even if you are only staying for a short time. This link will show you pictues of the place we are staying. The reality is as good or better than the pictures show and the location is fabulous. We have 4 bedrooms, heated pool and hot tub. It sleeps 8 (10 if you use the pull out couch) and it's only about 15 minutes from Orlando's major theme parks. Ours is just one in a million places up for rent and from what we found, the market is saturated with houses and they are all vying for your business so you can get some really great deals. Especially if you are willing to wait for the last minute.

The procedure is simple. Google something like Florida Vacation Rentals or Florida Villa Rentals (they call them villas) and you'll get quite a few sites. I'm sure they'll all be similar but this is one of the ones we used. We went right to the General Inquiry where we typed in our dates and what we were looking for (number of bedrooms, pool, hot tub and included baby gear) and waited for people to come to us. By the next morning we had about 50 responses to sort through with a wide variety of prices and house types. We narrowed it down to the few we would choose from and then negotiated the final price. As I said, since there are usually many more villas than there are occupants you can negotiate some pretty good deals. Including the cost of heating the pool is what I recommend as a first step of negotiation. Most will want to charge you $15 or $20 a day for the heat but will usually throw it in if you ask. 

You will also find most of the houses have websites for you to check out where they boast about the extras they have to offer. Cribs, strollers and high chairs are pretty much standard if you need them. Game rooms with pool, ping pong and fuseball are very common. Most offer TV's in every bedroom, cable, playstations, movie selections, wireless internet and even free long distance. Some we saw even had kids playrooms with toys and kids movies included. There really is something out there for every need whether you're coming down here as a couple or two families wanting to share a place.

Now that we've done the rental thing I would highly recommend it to everyone. We love being able to cook our own meals if we want and not have to live off restaurant food the whole time. You can save alot of money that way too. The best part is having our own private pool and hot tub which we have used every day. The management company comes by to clean the pool a couple times a week and make sure the chemicals are right so we don't have to worry about that. They take care of the lawn and garbage removal and they send in cleaners when you leave so you don't spend the last day or two of your vacation doing manual labour.

And my other tip... if you need to rent a mini van from the Orlando airport use Dollar Rent-A-Car. They were about a thousand dollars less than the other big companies and the vehicle is a brand new 2011 Dodge that seats 7. Not sure why they are so much cheaper but I won't complain.

We will definitly be doing this again it worked out so well. I can't wait actually. After a slow and bad start, this vacation has turned out to be one of the best we've had in a really long time. I dread leaving but all good things must come to an end I guess.

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