Friday, July 26, 2013

Home Away From Home

Well, I've been a little lazy in posting recently, but I've added a few travels and some crafts to the "done" list so I'll have fresh material for a while. Aren't you folks lucky?!

The more I travel, and perhaps the more I age, the more I appreciate a comfortable location to rest my weary head. I'm fine with a random hotel, especially on road trips. Still, I'll admit that if I'm going to stay at a destination for an extended period of time then the better the facility, the happier I'll be. This is where Home Away comes into play.

Home Away is a website on which people list rental properties. People will rent everything from apartments and condos to full scale luxury homes. The site is user friendly, allowing you to search by variables including location, price, number of occupants, etc. Most owners have fairly comprehensive listings that include photos and a list of amenities.

My friends and I have been using Home Away for a while now. We've used this site to rent houses for large groups of friends on holiday weekends. On or around New Year's we rent a house in the Hamptons on Long Island, New York. Then on or around the Fourth of July we rend a house in the Poconos in Pennsylvania or Upstate New York. We basically rent a summer location during the winter and a winter location during the summer to get cheaper off-season rates. After several years of doing this we've had a lot of great experiences. In fact after about 10 or so rentals we've only had one house that did not meet our expectations. At the time it was annoying. Now it makes for some great inside jokes. As Matchbox Twenty sings, "bad trips can make great stories." Still, I'd like to emphasize that we've had some great houses and Home Away has been incredibly useful.

The most recent house we rented was near Hunter Mountain. There were plenty of activities available. We went hiking one day and river tubing another. At the house we had plenty of room for games, dancing, cooking, eating and lounging. This house was a little larger than we usually rent and for 20 people for a four day weekend we each paid $122. We each had a bed, there were plenty of bathrooms and we had the space and resources to cook all of our meals at the house. Including food costs we were able to have a weekend getaway for about $140 per person plus travel costs.

In June I went to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania with three girlfriends for an extended weekend trip. This was the first time we used Home Away for a small group. We were able to rend a condo just a couple blocks from town center. We were within walking distance to nearly everything and the cost was close to that of a hotel. The bonus being that we had two bedrooms, a full bath, a living room and eat-in kitchen for the price of a hotel. All in all, it was a fantastic place to stay.

Tips for using Home Away:
1. Shop around. When you've chosen a location call a few people. We had one person in the Gettysburg area try to charge us almost twice as much as the condo and he was a few miles outside of town.
2. Don't be afraid to bargain. If there is a cleaning fee and your willing to do your own cleaning at the end of the trip see if you can get that waived. Some people will say yes, some say no, but it's never hurt us to ask.
3. Each rental property will be different. Make sure ask for details. You'll want specifics about parking, cooking utensils provided, utilities, garbage removal, linens, etc.
4. Look up the closest grocery store before you leave home. If you're traveling with a small group you may want to shop closer to the rental property instead of worrying about transporting perishables in coolers. If you are traveling with a large group at least one person is bound to forget something, need something or want something.
5. Don't forget to add items like toilet paper, paper towels and soap to your packing list. Little items that are usually included in hotels may not be included in rental properties.
6. Before you arrive make sure you have a contact number to get in touch with the owner if you have any questions or problems during your stay.

Happy Travels!

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