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Being on the Other Side…Eight Things I Learned from Being a Renter Instead of the Owner

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, we skipped our normal St. George Island family beach trip this year to go to a family reunion in the Smokey Mountains. It was a great trip! I got to see family members that I haven’t seen in 15 or 20 years and even some new family members (spouses and cousin’s kids) that I’ve never met before.

We’ve been owners on St. George Island for nearly seven years now, and we’ve rented vacation homes/condos/rooms from VRBO (and even AirBnB) several times since. However, this time was a little different because I didn’t get to pick the spot. In this weeks’ blog, I want to focus on eight things that I learned from being on a family vacation as the renter, not the owner.

1) 38 people is not too many in a single cabin…

Yep…we had 38 people in one cabin. The cabin had 11 bedrooms and 11.5 baths! The thing was huge! There was a lot of square footage for everyone, and the cabin slept 48 according to the rental company’s website. There was a large living area, big kitchen with two of everything (fridges, dishwashers, ovens), two hot tubs, a big theater room and had a game room with foosball table and pool table. There was a lot of everything in the house (but the kitchen was not well stocked - they needed a lot more pots and pans and other kitchen utensils). The picture below doesn’t really do justice to how big this cabin really was.

2) ...But you can definitely still feel crammed though!

However, despite being in a cabin that has a ton of space, you don’t want to rent a place that is just trying to cram as many beds as possible into a house. I’ve seen too many times where a home has 4 bedrooms and supposedly sleeps 18 or 20 people. There is one “master bedroom” with a king, then two bedrooms with 2 sets of bunk beds each, and then maybe another bedroom. Then it has two sleeper sofas. While people want to have room for everyone in their party, they don’t want to feel crammed! In our cabin, all 11 bedrooms had a futon in each room. There were also a few other futons spread out in other parts of the house (including in the living areas). A great example of how tight this huge cabin was is the picture below…In our bedroom there was a lot of furniture jammed into the bedroom (it wasn’t a small bedroom), but it was so crammed we literally had to walk sideways when we tried to move between the nightstand and the bathroom. If you have to walk sideways into the bathroom, your room is too crammed!

3) A pool might just be all you need to keep 17 kids happy

With 38 people, you know there had to be a ton of kids…there were 17 kids between 3.5 and 11 years old. It was crazy! While the kids got along with each other great, we spent a lot of time entertaining them at the pool.

The pool was not actually on the cabin property (which makes it really hard to get 17 kids into the minivans and make the drive to the pool). It would have been much better if the pool was actually on site, that’s for sure. Anyway, we spent hours every day at the pool, and we could have stayed all day every day and the kids would have been happy! I think at least a dozen of the kids were jumping on me or standing on my shoulders at any one time at the pool. It was tiring, but everyone definitely slept well at night!

4) One “big kid” excursion is a must

My sister organized a trip for the adult cousins (and spouses) to go whitewater rafting on the Upper Pigeon River. While the grandparents watched the 17 kids, the cousins were having a great time riding the rapids of the Upper Pigeon. It was a good break for all of us to get away from the kids and let the grandparents babysit.

5) No male really wants to take the big family picture

On every vacation our family takes a big, family picture. Does any male really like to take these pictures? It’s no fun to stand there and take 58 pictures while you’re trying to get the 17 kids to all stand still and smile. I’ve always thought that when my mom made me take family pictures twice a year at JCPenney’s I must have been alone in how much I hated it. This week, I learned every man feels the same way! At least the picture turned out well!

6) You don’t need every day to be sunny on your vacation

Like our renters on St. George Island that had to go through subtropical storm Alberto, we also experienced Alberto in the Smokey Mountains. It rained for our first four days in Tennessee. It didn’t negatively impact our vacation though. We still went to the pool every day (even in the rain), and we had a great time playing games and working on a crazy puzzle. We also spent a lot of time hanging out with family that we hadn’t seen in decades. You don’t need perfect weather to have a great family vacation.

7) A good bed is a must…

It’s always tough to sleep in a bed away from home for me. It could be a bed at a 5-star hotel or even at my parents’ house, but if I’m not sleeping in my own bed, I typically don’t sleep well. The bed in our cabin this time was clearly old and every person in our family complained about the beds squeaking. I’ve never heard beds that sounded like that. It’s really hard to sleep well when every time you roll over the noise from your bed wakes you up!

8) …And so are good linens and pillows!

Let’s just say there was a lot to be desired when it comes to the linens and pillows at our cabin. The bath towels felt like sandpaper and were likely many years old. The pillows were so old that they might have been 1.5 inches thick…max! Finally, my sister left a note for the cleaners when we left this week. Leaving something like this for a renter is just totally unacceptable!

While Krista and I agreed there were definitely some things that the owners of the cabin could do to improve the renters’ experience, we would definitely rate this trip as a 5-star family reunion. Just look at that view from our back deck in the picture below! There is always room for improvement at each of our St. George Island vacation rentals, and we are constantly working with our renters to get feedback on how we can improve their stay. Are there any things that you wished the owners of your last vacation rental knew? Let us know in the comment section below.

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