Mexi-go! Deciding on the Perfect Vacation Rental

VR2If you are planning a getaway to a warm destination like Mexico or the Caribbean and have decided to stay in a vacation rental, there are so many choices available offering basic accommodations to luxury homes. They range from single detached houses, villas, low and high rise condominiums and even houseboats and yachts!

To assist in narrowing your choices of the type of home needed, there are many factors to consider. Over the next few weeks, each factor will be addressed and today we will begin with the Duration of Your Stay.

At the early planning stage, you will have an idea of how long you plan on staying in the vacation rental. For stays of several weeks or months where you’ll be living in the home full time, you should consider a larger, full size home with multiple rooms for you and your travel group. For stays that are for a week or two getaway, a smaller home or condominium in a low or high-rise building or complex may be satisfactory. A smaller home will require less upkeep and is more ideal for a short stay of a small group.

Another issue to help you decide is to look at the size and layout of your own home. If you are planning a getaway for you, your partner and three children and currently live in a three bedroom/three bathroom house, you would want to book a vacation rental of similar size and composition. Even for a short stay, renting a two bedroom condominium with one bathroom will be stressful on everyone.

Know Before You Go…. For stays of several months, consider vacation rentals that tend to rent out primarily to long term guests. The homeowner and property manager will be more familiar with these arrangements and this will simplify the negotiations related to the base price, inclusions and the rental agreement preparation. Similarly, a homeowner or property manager who tends to rent homes for short stays will not be as familiar with the procedure to follow to accommodate a long term guest.

Stay tuned for a review of the other factors or read them all in my latest book available through Amazon and through this site….

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The Double Dipping Dilemma!

Although it’s n4 jam jarsot required that you provide groceries for your guests, it is expected that your kitchen be stocked with the basics. Guests should not have to purchase a bag of sugar if they only need a small amount. Similarly, they may only need a dash of oregano and would naturally rely on the selection of dried herbs and seasonings from your kitchen.

What you want is to make your home welcoming for your guests and help them on their initial days following check-in. If your guests check-in late, they would expect to find your kitchen stocked with coffee, tea and other basics. Over their first few days, guests tend to visit local markets or grocery stores to purchase items for the duration of their stay. The food products you leave are only meant to supplement the foods your guests will purchase.

An interesting comment was recently sent in from Milo, a host in Lisbon asking what to do with opened jars of condiments after a guest’s stay.  He expressed a concern that he was uncomfortable consuming food from an already opened jar used by past guests. I’m sure you’re having a vision of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry asks George why he ‘double dipped’!

For basic condiments such as ketchup, mustard, vinegar and mayonnaise, squeeze bottles are the ideal for dispensing and ensuring freshness. They are also more hygienic as guests are assured that no one has ‘double dipped’! As a host, if you find that the squeeze bottle style is more expensive than the regular bottle or jar format, you can buy inexpensive empty squeeze bottles at a local discount store to fill with condiments for your guests’ use. Also ideal are the small portion packs of condiments (ketchup, vinegar, plum sauce and soya sauce) that are available at a restaurant wholesaler and with takeaway meals.

For other foods you leave behind in your fridge that your guests will have access to such as butter, jam, peanut butter and honey, a suggestion is to provide portion packs or single serve containers available at a warehouse club retailer or restaurant wholesaler. This is ideal as often one may dip their knife into different jars and transferring one type of food to another.

Hope this helps Milo! And please keep sending your questions or dilemmas in for sharing!

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Not Even Room for a Skeleton in this Closet!

Almost daily I heacloset3r from travellers who have had amazing experiences with home exchanging. They write in expressing the delights they had with living as a local… being a traveller and not a tourist! True, as you have read from my past blogs, the benefits of home exchanging are numerous. In fact, next to saving money, the second most quoted benefit is having more space in a home than a typical hotel room for a traveller to enjoy and to store their belongings.

Recently, however, a few guests have indicated their frustration as their hosts did not provide any room in the closets for their items. I too have stayed in numerous homes and have often found that the host does not provide any space or hangers in their closets for my clothes. Once I check-in, I like to unpack my clothes to prevent further wrinkling. However, often I am prevented from doing this as there isn’t any space in the closets.

A solution is for the host to partially empty their closets. Simply slide the clothes to one side of the closet and leave spare hangers on the other side. This should not be too great a task as presumably you as a host are travelling and have taken the majority of your clothes with you.

As the same with closets, guests should be provided with a section of drawers for their belongings. It does not have to be the entire dresser but at least one or two drawers.

I also suggest that a host remove everything from the tops of dressers and night stands or at least leave a section clear to allow guests space to put their items.

In defense of hosts, most agree the importance of providing space, but indicate that it simply did not occur to them to do so. This is understandable. Given this, I encourage you to continue to send in your experiences with home exchanging – both good and bad. It is by communicating and ‘exchanging’ information and ideas that home ‘exchanging’ will be a more rewarding and money saving experience for us all.

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The Benefit of Home Swapping: Knowing Exactly What You’re Booking!


A huge benefit of home exchanging is resolving the unknown. By this, I’m referring to being able to see the exact space that you will be living in during your vacation. In comparison, when you book a hotel room online, all you get to see is a ‘typical’ room displayed on a hotel’s website that usually does not look anything like the room you’re assigned to at check-in. Once booked, you receive an instant verification confirming that a ‘room with one queen bed’ has been reserved for you. That’s it. You may request a room with a view or a room on the second floor facing a quiet street, but it’s not a certainty you will receive it.

With selecting an accommodation through an online home exchange agency however, you know exactly what the home you will be occupying looks like. The listing will include multiple pictures of the space provided by the host. You will be able to see the layout of each room, its furnishings and décor. A map and a ‘street view’ is also provided to help you determine the exact location of the home, the direction it faces and if located on a busy street or a quiet road.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and it is so true when looking at pictures of homes. By looking beyond the décor, you can get a sense of the cleanliness of the home, the level of clutter and how the space makes you feel. Ask yourself if you can truly see you and your travel companion staying in this space for the length of your visit. The competition is strong among homes listed online, especially in medium to large urban centres that receive a great number of tourists and business travellers. If a home doesn’t feel right or will not accommodate your needs, keep looking until you find the one that does.

Thank you for reading my post! More to come….

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What does ‘Broom Clean’ mean?

broomI received an inquiry from Marion of Halifax asking what the term ‘broom clean’ means. She was in the process of reviewing her rental agreement which indicated that at departure, she was to leave the vacation rental ‘broom clean’.

The expression is frequently used in lease or rental agreements. It requires that at departure, a guest is to have all beds stripped, the fridge emptied, all appliances, countertops, sinks and vanities wiped clean and floors swept and washed.  As well, all trash and recyclables are to be gathered and placed in the location as outlined in the rental agreement.

A benefit to you when you complete a cleaning on departure is that it gives you an opportunity to ensure that you have collected all your belongings!

I hope this clarifies the meaning of this term. It should be noted that failure to comply with this clause in the rental agreement may result in you being invoiced a cleaning service charge or the homeowner holding back a portion of your damage deposit.

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New Book Launched on Vacation Rentals!

Vacation Rentals-Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America-Book CoverHi All… I wanted to share an announcement with you… I have now completed my second book which forms part of a series dealing with stays in Vacation Rentals.

Each book provides you with everything you need to research and find the perfect Vacation Rental and everything you need to know to negotiate a rental agreement that protects you! The first book in the series is entitled VACATION RENTALS: Your Guide for the Perfect Stay in… Mexico, the Caribbean & Central America ~ Everything you need to know… before you GO!

Please pass this link on to your family and friends who are heading south!

A big thank you to my editor and team of proof-readers who worked tirelessly to ensure that this book is available to travellers who are now starting to plan their 2014 Winter getaway!

The below excerpt is the Preface of the book….


By now, you have probably heard of friends or colleagues who have returned from a holiday having stayed in a vacation rental. Instead of booking their accommodation in a hotel or at an all-inclusive resort, they’ve stayed in a home that offered more space, amenities, freedom and privacy. And you likely also heard that they saved money! Their enthusiasm has whetted your appetite to learn more.

This book is written for you. The traveller who wants to spend less while at the same time get ‘more’ out of their accommodation choice. Doesn’t sound possible, does it… spend less and get more!

Well it is possible! This book is for the first-timer who wants to discover all the rewards of staying in a vacation rental. It’s also for the traveller who has had a few stays in vacation rentals and now realizes that with a bit more planning and research, their stays could be a far better experience.

… But where to start? The amount of information and people offering assistance in your search to find a vacation rental is overwhelming. But the process doesn’t have to be stressful. This book provides you with a step-by-step approach to ensure you secure the right home at the right price. It provides you with the necessary questions to ask upfront before signing a rental agreement with the homeowner or property manager.

This book is specific for vacation rentals located in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. It offers insight into the culture and the procedures to follow that are different from other areas of the world.

The goal of this book is to provide you with all the information you need to research, negotiate and book the perfect vacation rental. It will give you everything you need to know before you go!

Thank you for your support and passing on this information….

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Deciding if Staying in a Vacation Rental is Right for You

A Perfect Vacation Rental Stay!

A Perfect Vacation Rental Stay!

From past blogs you’ve read all the benefits of home exchanging. Now it’s time to ask yourself if staying in a vacation rental is right for you. Before we delve into what you need to do to select the right rental, let’s step back for a moment and reflect. Ask yourself if you will be comfortable staying in another person’s home and not a room in a hotel, resort or cabin on a cruise ship. The majority of vacation rentals are owned by people who have purchased them as an investment property and who repeatedly rent them out to vacationers like you. However, there are some homes that are permanent residences rented out by the homeowner during the months or weeks when they are absent. In the latter group of homes, you will be surrounded by the possessions and personality of the homeowner.

People who have enjoyed the concept are typically of a certain mindset. They are flexible, adaptable and naturally respectful of the property of others. There are trade-offs with staying in a vacation rental and to enjoy the experience you need to know that the benefits can far outweigh any issues or inconveniences. However, living in someone else’s home may not be for everyone. Things to consider:

It’s Not a Hotel!

Unless you book (and pay) for a vacation rental with housekeepers, you will need to perform some of the ‘household’ tasks on your holiday similar to being at home. Even with a part-time housekeeper, you may find yourself making your bed every morning, washing dishes and putting out the trash. These chores as well as grocery shopping and meal preparation can consume a large portion of your vacation time… time that you likely would rather be spending at an attraction or relaxing on a beach. Then at the end of your stay, you’re required to leave the home ‘broom clean’ with all beds stripped, all countertops, appliances and floors wiped clean and the fridge emptied.

In addition to household chores, you also need to accept that someone has entrusted their home and possessions to you with the understanding that everything will be the same upon their return home. You need to be mindful of your actions and realize that the paint, upholstery, carpets, linens and counter surfaces (ie. especially wood furniture) will not be a commercial grade that hotels use in their guest rooms. This means that you need to take special care such as using coasters for your drinks and removing footwear at the entrance door.

There also is the expectation from homeowners that you will care for their property, both the home and its contents. Each evening, they may require you to collect and store all beach furniture and cushions and collapse poolside umbrellas. You can’t simply walk away leaving your towels and empty drinking glasses on the beach or poolside lounge chairs as you would at an all-inclusive resort.

And what if something doesn’t work in your vacation rental? For example, if the air conditioning system isn’t working, you can’t call the front desk staff for assistance as you would in a hotel or resort.

It’s Not Your Home!

Are you very specific in your needs and unable to adapt to new surroundings? You need to honestly ask yourself if you’re flexible enough to accept that your vacation rental will not have all the ‘comforts of home’. Depending on the home you select, it may not be outfitted with a dishwasher or laundry facilities. Your vacation rental may also be void of window screens, high-speed internet, WiFi and air conditioning!

A vacation rental may not have all the amenities and features that you enjoy at home but this is in part what vacationing should be all about… experiencing something different. I would gladly forgo a dishwasher to have a bedroom less than 20 steps to the beach. Plus, you’ll appreciate that feature (ie. dishwasher) upon your return home after living without it for the duration of your vacation!

And if something isn’t operating properly in the vacation rental, the homeowner or property manager is only a call away. In a hotel or resort, how often has an issue brought to the attention of the front desk staff ever been addressed immediately and to your satisfaction. Plus as the vacation rental is another person’s home, everything should be in working order. If not, there will be a contact number to call.

Welcome the experience and all its rewards. Put aside your pre-conceived notions and give staying in a vacation rental a try on your next vacation. You’ll hopefully be converted and destined to vacation rental living!

~ the above is an excerpt from my soon to be published book: “VACATION RENTALS
Your Guide for the Perfect Stay in… Mexico, the Caribbean & Central America ~ Everything You Need to Know Before You Go!”

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