5 Things I Learned Staying in a Vacation Rental
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be on the other side and be the owner of the home you’re staying in on St. George Island? As an owner, we often need to be reminded what it’s like for our guests too. One of the most popular blogs that we’ve ever written was a blog about our experience renting a huge cabin for a family reunion in Pigeon Forge, TN a couple of years ago. You can read about our experience here.
A few weeks ago we took a trip for our 15th anniversary to Antigua. Antigua is a beautiful island in the eastern Caribbean and one of the very few places that are open to travel. We rented “Bamboo Cottage” from a wonderful lady named Joanne, and we learned several important lessons that we wanted to share with you:
1) Always, always, always book direct
Having a big anniversary like our 15th during COVID-19 is difficult. We have always loved the Caribbean and wanted to visit a Caribbean island for our trip…however, many of the islands remained closed to travelers. We originally booked a lovely small cottage in St. Lucia with the hopes that the island would open up before our trip. However, the homeowner let us know about a month before our planned trip that she did not think we should come. Because of the huge amount of uncertainty, she actually never took any money from us, so cancelling the trip was very easy. We will definitely look to book with her when we try again to go to St. Lucia (maybe for our 20th!).
We originally found Joanne and her Bamboo Cottage on VRBO, but as you know from our past blogs (check out our #bookdirect blogs here and here), we do everything in our power to book outside of VRBO and save hundreds of dollars in booking fees (and you should too!). We did a simple google search for “Bamboo Cottage Antigua” and easily found Joanne’s Facebook page. She was very responsive through Facebook messenger, and we quickly made the easy decision to book the Bamboo Cottage. If you are ever planning a trip to the Caribbean, click on Bamboo Cottage and make sure you talk with Joanne as you plan your trip!
2) Trust your host
In the early part of the process of booking Bamboo Cottage, Joanne asked us if we’d be renting a car to explore the island. I told her “Yes,” and booked a car on Priceline. Antigua is a small island and so I booked a compact car and called it a day. Joanne said that she could reach out to one of the “local” rental car companies instead, but I told her that we were taken care of and we were all set. BAD MOVE!
We picked up the car when we landed at the airport. We booked with Budget Rent a Car. Budget is obviously a global brand that we have used many times in the past so we thought we were in good hands…WRONG AGAIN! Budget has franchises in the Caribbean (maybe everywhere) and “Matthew’s Enterprises” was the franchise owner. We walked out of the rental car building, and they pulled up with a white Ford Fitz…Krista called it a “Ford junk.” They “suggested” that we use “the Club” each time we were done using the car. We didn’t realize it at the time, but they likely told us this because the car didn’t have power locks…or any way to lock the car from the inside at all. It took us nearly 24 hours to figure out that we could lock the car at all (only from the driver’s side with the key). The car had no rims, the driver’s side seat was broken and constantly leaned to the left, and eventually we got to use the spare tire…because we got a flat tire, in a third-world country without the proper tools to replace the flat (I’ve replaced many flat tires in my time). Thankfully “Mr. Rex” drove up, helped us with the proper tools, and we were eventually on our way.
We were also nearly charged a fee for “excessive sand” in the car when we returned to the airport as well. I had to go back and clean out more of the sand before we could go into the airport. Who knows though…we will continue to watch our credit card to see if we are charged. Next time, I will make sure that I listen to Joanne!!
3) Embrace the unique features of the property
Bamboo Cottage had so many unique features that attracted us to the home…but we really didn’t appreciate them until we arrived in Antigua:
Similar to all of our homes at SGI Beach Vacations, Bamboo Cottage had a private pool for us to enjoy. We honestly only used the pool one night because we spent so much time exploring the island of Antigua, but the pool area was beautiful and the pool was a very good size.
When you arrive, you walk into the beautiful grounds of Bamboo Cottage. It’s literally like you’re walking into a rain forest. Joanne has done an excellent job maintaining the property and the gardens around the home.
One very interesting feature was the open air shower at Bamboo Cottage. Honestly, we were a little scared of what it would be like for the only shower in the house to be an open air shower. The shower has three walls, but no ceiling and so you can literally take a shower while looking at the stars. We even had to use the rain shower head…during a rain shower. It was actually a really cool feature that we enjoyed.
One thing that took some getting used to was not having air conditioning at Bamboo Cottage. Honestly, our first night or two was a struggle as we had to get used to the humidity (and warm temps) in Antigua, but eventually we grew accustomed it and utilized the fans throughout the house and enjoyed the rest of our time in Antigua.
4) Follow the house rules
One thing to always keep in mind is to follow the house rules wherever you go on vacation. Our first full day staying at Bamboo Cottage, we accidently left the entrance gate to the property open. While Antigua is a very safe island, there are no locks on the cottage and so the only way to keep people out of the cottage is to lock the gate. Joanne reminded us that we needed to make sure to lock the gate and we did not forget again!
5) Service is king
One thing we always try to do is differentiate SGI Beach Vacations from other homes and management companies by providing top-notch service. Offering great service is not easy…it’s actually really hard work, but we always try to make sure that our guests can enjoy their stay as much as possible.
Joanne was definitely top notch when it came to service as well. The first morning, Joanne came over to the cottage and gave us some maps of the southern end of the island where we were staying as well as a map of the full island. These maps were a huge help because we found that the GPS on our phone did not work well at all in Antigua. Those maps saved us when we were lost several times during our week. Joanne also spent time letting us know her favorite restaurants in the area as well as which ones had different hours during COVID. One of our favorite restaurants during the week was Sweet Ts where we stopped three times!
At SGI Beach Vacations, we try to promote our “industry” as often as possible by staying in vacation rentals whenever we can. We are also constantly trying to learn how to do a better job managing our vacation rentals. If we can glean 1-2 things to improve our homes every time we stay in another vacation rental, we think we can continue to offer the top vacation rental experience on St. George Island.
We’re going to conclude this blog with some pictures of Angitua…just because!