As a vacationer, you should do your due diligence on the Rental Company or private homeowner that you will be renting from. In recent years hotels and bed and breakfasts have taken a back seat to private rentals and vacation rental company bookings. If you are researching rental companies, the size of the company is not so important as the quality of service and the product. As the old saying goes, “a few bad apples can spoil the cart” so a checklist is always a good idea. Once you decide upon the location, there are a few things that you should do to ensure that you and your family have an enjoyable experience:
1-Look for companies that have up-to-date, attractive homes ONLY! After you make the initial inquiry by email and have settled on price etc., CALL them! Talking to the staff or homeowner will tell you volumes about the company and its day-to-day operation.
2-Read the reviews from other vacationers. If you have a question as to why a guest commented one way or the other, ASK!
3-Book Early! Most rental companies and private homeowners will offer a “first right of refusal” for return guests. Ask the question. Waiting to book or re-book a property will most likely result in no availability or limited availability, for your travel dates. Anna Maria Island’s Peak Season is January-April with June-July running a close 2nd although the island is now busy year-round. Rates go up and availability goes down during the busy times. Booking during Off-Peak Seasons is a great way to have more to choose from and to save money!
4-Ask what all is included in the rental fee. Is Internet/Wi-Fi part of the package? Is the cleaning fee included? Is there free local phone service provided? Linens and towels too? Also, beach chairs and gear? In higher-end and more professional rentals, these things are typically part of your base rental fee. Rental taxes in Florida are 11.5% so knowing this going into an agreement will prevent shock with the bottom line.
5-Genuine hospitality is also a good indicator of the quality of the homeowner/company. Ask the staff if they live in the area. Where they eat and hang out. Local information and the contacts they can provide can enhance your vacation experience and just may make the difference in booking a return visit.
6-Consistency! If you do re-book, think about the things that made you decide to return and make sure you look for those things in the next rental IF you decide to look for a different home to rent. Longer stays can result in a reduction in price. As always, treat the property as if it were your own home.
7-Travel Insurance is not a requirement but it truly is to your best interest, for a few reasons and the benefits far outweigh the cost. If you purchase the insurance you will be covered for accidental damages to the property and many other unforeseen incidents that could spoil a vacation.
8-Get a reliable contact name and phone number for the homeowner/rental company. This includes an emergency contact as well as an after-hours contact.
9-Knowing the Check-in/Check-out procedure is a must! Ask if you need to pick up a key or if there is a lockbox at the property. If you are going to be arriving after dark, ask if a light can be left on outside and get specific instructions on the operation and location of the lockbox.
10-Ask about the specific configuration of the sleeping arrangements. For instance, if you require a room for children or young adults, ask if there are twin beds or a double. Most rental properties have a maximum person capacity-this refers to the number of people actually sleeping in the unit. Anna Maria Island does have strict noise ordinances as well as strict parking laws so BE SURE to ask about this. Also, if you are bringing a boat or jet skis and will need a place to park the trailer ask if this acceptable!
Have a great vacation and stay safe!