WARNING: This is a longer than usual post, so maybe grab a cup of coffee first.
Last week we left a terrific townhouse in Collingwood. Winter arrived almost a month early this year and it was time to get away from the snow, which much to our disappointment had been dumping white on us since early November.
We’ll be away for 5 months, taking only what will fit comfortably in our car, and otherwise relying on what is available in the condos we’ve rented.
I’m excited to be back at “Beachy Keen”, the Myrtle Beach condo where we spent much of last winter. We’ll be here until the end of February, after which we’ll move on to Surfside, South Carolina.
Beachy Keen was our first short term rental experience, and the one that convinced us the concept could work for us year-round. It felt instantly like home. It’s in an older building, but is newly renovated: bright, modern, uncluttered, and decorated largely in white accented with vibrant colours. The view from every window is sand and ocean; at night we can hear the waves crashing into the shore all the way up on the 17th floor. The kitchen is a dream: everything you need to cook a lovely meal AND it has a wine fridge!! Ted is enamoured of the great wifi and the vast selection of channels on the cable TV. I love that there are tons of (matching!) hangers in the closets.
Which brings us to the concept of “other people’s stuff”.
We arrive with what we can fit in our car and think we will need. Two large suitcases hold clothes suitable for weather which will range from lows of about 5C to highs by end of April well into the 20s. I’m prepared to buy anything else we need, although we try not to increase our overall volume of “stuff”, so we now buy to replace items rather than to add new ones. An overnight bag that we used en route also contains make-up, medications and an initial supply of my calcium and Ted’s vitamin B12. We can buy more vitamins, but have brought enough of our prescriptions for the full duration of our stay out of Canada. Because we drove, we had the added luxury of 2 car bins, so the Keurig, rolling pin, and my inevitable extra shoes have come with us (Ted’s cappuccino maker, sadly, is too bulky, so it is wintering in storage at our son’s house, along with a bin of clothes that we don’t need with us on this trip but might on others.)
Beachy Keen is amazing. The only utensil I bought in our entire time there last year was a whisk.
Our second rental last winter was a huge house in Davenport Florida, where we hosted our youngest son’s family for part of our stay. The amenities were incredible. “Sunseekers “ had a heated pool inside a screened lanai (complete with weekly maintenance during our month there!); a huge pool deck; separate outdoor entertainment area with barbecue, bar, dining table and chairs plus lounge seating for 10 around a gas fire pit in a screened gazebo; a games room with foosball, air hockey, movie theatre seating, video games…. and even a laser light system! The kitchen was not only decorated in sunny orange, but the Rachel Ray pots and pans were orange too! There were tons of dishes, and tons of pool towels. Even so, we had to buy an ice cream scoop and teaspoons (since the spoons were way too big for our grandsons’ little mouths).
Our Collingwood rental left nothing to be desired. It even came with a small cappuccino machine (!!), although Ted wanted his mega version. Because we are returning there next year, the owners allowed us to bring and leave behind my stand mixer, a turkey roasting pan, and our full sized Keurig, all of which we are okay with their other renters using.
We know not every rental will be equally well equipped. Especially for shorter stays, a fully equipped kitchen is not mandatory. That said, there are a few “non-negotiable” things we look for when choosing rentals:
1. No matter how much we love the location and vibe of the place, it must come with bedding. Most furnished VRBO and Airbnb rentals provide linens, but not all. We are NOT carrying sheets and towels around the world, although we are prepared to buy new pillows if needed.
2. If we are staying longer than a week, it must have a washer and dryer. We travel light (5-6 changes of clothing for each season, plus Ted’s workout gear) so we need to be able to do laundry. The exception would be countries like Mexico where the local residents also regularly use same-day laundry services. For European destinations we look to see whether they have the Euro-style combined washer/dryer, or only a washer and a clothes line, with preference being the first option.
3. A kitchen in which we can prepare a complete meal. A microwave, bar fridge and hotplate doesn’t cut it. Since this is now our life and not just a vacation, we can’t afford to eat in restaurants every night.
4. A Queen size or larger bed. We’re not small people, so sleeping in a double bed for more than a single travel night gets really uncomfortable really fast. Some rentals offer a set of twin beds, which are also not our preference, but we love the Euro style “double twins” that are the size of a North American king but made up with 2 separate duvets…. so no one can steal the other’s covers!
5. Wi-fi. We need a connection to our families and the outside world…AND a way to search for and book our next stay!
6. Cable TV. Honestly, this is more for Ted than for me. He suffers CNN withdrawal if we don’t have access to cable news.
7. In North America, secure parking for our car. In other destinations, proximity to public transit and grocery stores or markets.
So far, there is nothing we left behind in storage that either of us miss.
We’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, check this out: