EIGHT or GREAT – one Vacation Rental’s Refresh Program

EIGHT or GREAT – one Vacation Rental’s Refresh Program

 

Vacation Rental

Bungalow Bedroom

Erehwon Retreat isn’t your average vacation rental – it’s a 1923 Arts and Craft home away from home.  Airbnb, Booking.com,  Vrbo, TripAdvisor have revolutionized the way we book vacations but there’s still nothing like personal attention to detail.

Hospitality means you can’t perform maintenance when something breaks. Hotels can move a guest to a different room, but that strategy simply doesn’t work for a vacation rental. Why not? Because our guests deserve uninterrupted calm and perfect amenities during their stay.  At Erehwon we use every turnover to check every detail and we perform routine maintenance every six months whether we think our properties need it or not.

Finding a vacation rental with the personal touch

So, what does that mean?   Many ‘holiday home’ proprietors retire to Florida and want an income for themselves. Slowly the quality and style of their furnishings erodes … but the photos online still look like the first opening. At Erehwon Retreat we update our image with independent professional photographers every other year and that means no nasty surprises when you arrive.

Vacation RentalWe’re different in other ways too, because at Erehwon Retreat our focus is on timeless elegance. I take a curator’s perspective: every aspect of the bungalow, cottage and grounds is examined carefully. I work hard to combine the pedigree of Erehwon’s era with modern innovations in comfort and performance. That’s where interior designer Nikki Couture comes in. Every year she helps me create a maintenance schedule to renovate or replace so I keep my properties bandbox fresh. When the cottage ‘turned eight’ we reviewed everything and replaced anything slightly shabby. Of course, some items, like towels and wash cloths, are replaced annually. That doesn’t happen in a lot of other vacation properties!

 

Florida Vacation Rentals – how to find perfection in every detail

One of the secrets to success at Erehwon Retreat is personal attention. Twice yearly, I spend a night in each property because this gives me first-hand experience of my vacation rentals. I try out the cutlery and the mattress, I check out the bookshelves, ultimately I even sit on the deck to enjoy the view. This allows me and my team to improve and ‘refresh’ so that the rental experience constantly improves.

In December 2016, this maintenance activity included:

  • Re-crowning the six dining room chairs with foam and leather re-upholstery
  • Having the cottage’s reading chair reupholstered by a specialist
  • Deck furniture being sent away for sand-blasting, repainting and sealing
  • Replacing the box spring and mattress in the cottage (our hotel grade beds are often favorably mentioned in our reviews!)
  • Changing deck boards where necessary
  • Adding a handrail between the deck, path and parking area
  • Installing passive lighting to enhance the gorgeous tree cover
  • A new low-voltage path lighting around the property.

This fall the cottage has new seat cushions, bolsters and pillows to ensure perfect comfort.

The period details of the property aren’t just window dressing, because they contribute to the quality of every experience. The 1920s were the tipping point between craftsmanship and mass production. This means the furniture and decorative items were made from high quality materials using innovative and exciting design concepts. It’s the ideal balance of form and function that makes our Florida vacation rentals lovely to look at and superb to stay in.

Choosing a vacation rental – top tips

Bungalow KitchenWhile looking at photographs can help you get a sense of a place, it’s important to look at reviews too.  Finding the perfect base for your vacation, means paying attention to details such as the quality of sleep that people get. It requires a kitchen fully supplied with everything necessary to cook a great meal. Ultimately it’s the atmosphere of a property which can make the difference between a good vacation and an unforgettably great one.

We always remember that the difference between a hotel and a vacation rental is entirely in the quality of the experience. And here’s a simple example – if our guests take towels to the beach, we wash them overnight so they have fresh towels  the next morning.

Finally, in trying to be a great vacation rental host I love to make sure my guests are relaxed and happy because that makes me happy too!

Christmas in Florida – an Insider’s Guide

Christmas in Florida – an insider’s guide

 

tampas-christmas-tree2
RW Bridge Lighting2
Downtown at Christmas

Florida in winter has always been an amazing place to take a vacation – and while the weather can be variable, it’s usually gorgeous.   Christmas in Florida is extra special in Tampa Bay, starting with the boat parade on the Hillsborough River from early December, right throughout the month.

Between December and late February,  holidaymakers from around the world come, in essence, for our weather.  There’s sunbathing and swimming in freshwater springs that are  72 degrees all year.  In fact, once Labor Day is over, savvy travelers book winter breaks to get the perfect vacation rental – because by Thanksgiving availability lessens. For overseas visitors, remember the Snowbirds who visit Florida for the entire winter and who book between May and August. Beginning September 30, night rentals begin, and by late November generally only weekly rentals and short stays are left.

Tampa – a relaxed winter destination

Tampa is easygoing over Xmas – of course there are wonderful events taking place but they are more laid back. This gives vacation rental visitors time to relax and take Christmas in Florida at their own pace. A Florida Yuletide contains wonderful weather, good old-fashioned Christmas cheer and a peaceful vacation.

What to expect?

  • Busch Gardens is a wonderland of wintery delights, lit with thousands of tiny lights. You’ll also find live music, holiday shopping and seasonal entertainment.
  • The Henry B Plant Museum hosts a Victorian Christmas stroll every year, comprising fourteen gloriously decorated rooms, antique artefacts, games and activities. Finally, spiced cider and cookies on the veranda make this a delicious sensory experience.
  • Bok Towers brings the noise with popular seasonal music at Bok Sanctuary where there’s daily carillon music. All concerts are free with Sanctuary admission.  We love the Candlelight Tour of Homes in Old Northeast, undoubtedly one of St. Petersburg’s most historic neighborhoods.

December – February Vacation Rental in Florida

 

Top tips for a perfect vacation rental indoors:

  1. No need to pack your stockings – at Erehwon Retreat we’ll hang them ready for your arrival. If you’re staying in the bungalow, they’ll be over the fireplace mantel. Lucky guests spending Christmas in the bungalow also have an oven, so they won’t need the recipe in tip 4!
  2. Want to cook your own turkey, but staying in the Erehwon Retreat cottage so you don’t have a stove? No worries, we have a recipe for you. Buy a turkey of less 12lb or less, and thaw it thoroughly. Heat some vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or pot big enough to hold it. Fry some onion, carrot and celery just until the onion is translucent and then put the turkey on top of the vegetables. Add around two inches of stock, white wine or water or mixture of all three. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Check every thirty minutes to ensure the liquid level doesn’t drop below an inch, if it does, top it up. After two hours, check with a meat thermometer – the thickest part of the thigh should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit or more.  Continue to cook for at least another hour, carefully basting the turkey with the liquid every 15 minutes. Remove to a carving board, and cover with tinfoil to relax for 20 minutes before carving. While you wait you can reduce that delicious stock to make gravy!

Top Tips for a perfect Christmas in Florida outdoors:

  1. Take a stroll, because there is something truly special about wandering through Florida’s lush landscapes in winter. Our wonderful overhead canopy of tree growth is a century’s worth of verdant greenery. One fantastic way to start your day is to take a cup of coffee outdoors and enjoy this beautiful scenery.
  2. Remember to pack a range of clothing, some warm socks and a lightweight fleece alongside your shorts and sandals ensures you have everything you need to enjoy every minute of your stay.
  3. If you’ve been sea-shelling, remember many Floridians make their holiday decor unique by showcasing shells from the beach. Why not add yours to a string of lights or use them as decorations on your holiday tree? You’re only limited by your imagination.
  4. Many grocery stores don’t open on Christmas day, meaning you must buy groceries in advance or book a table at one of the many hotels providing festive fare over Christmas. If you’re lucky enough to be spending New Year’s in Tampa, you can enjoy dinner at The Refinery, Rooster and the Till, or Ella’s American Café.

 

Tampa Travel – The Local Lowdown

Tampa Travel – The Local Lowdown

One of the great joys of vacation travel is discovering how the locals get around.   Tampa offers some of the most memorable local transportation in the USA. Here’s our guide to getting around Tampa like a local.

Tampa’s electric streetcars – vacation transport that doesn’t break the bank

Back in 1892, Tampa had a novelty, electric streetcars with smartly uniformed conductors. These vehicles conveyed travelers round Ybor City, Ballast Point, Hyde Park and Sulphur Springs.  It allowed workers to reach the cigar factories of west Tampa, as well as taking families on day trips to local parks like DeSoto and Macfarlane. They were the circulatory system of the region until 1946, making Tampa among the last cities to let go of its historical streetcar system.

The TECO Line Streetcar system has returned to Tampa, covering Downtown, Channelside and Ybor City, bringing cruise ship passengers to the city and transporting workers just as the original streetcars did. A second phase of development has linked Franklin and Whiting Streets and the Fort Brooke parking garage, unifying downtown and bringing parking within easy reach of all. Best of all, it’s Free to travel all day!

Coast Bike Share – vacation transport on two wheels

Coast Bike Share allows you to rent a public bicycle whenever you wish – simply register and then enter your pin to unlock a bike from any convenient station and then return it to any other station in the system – ideal for picnics or sightseeing trips and great for your health as well as the city’s low pollution levels.

 

The Cross-Bay Ferry – seasonal travel with added romance

Travelling between St. Petersburg and Tampa has never been more enjoyable. The Cross-Bay Ferry, a brand-new pilot project that returns each November.  It cruises between the two cities twice a day and it’s for foot passengers only. The $8 one-way ticket (children under four travel free) buys you an hour crossing the Bay and gives tourists and locals alike a fantastic chance to enjoy a great meal, some sightseeing and maybe wildlife spotting – dolphins regularly ride the bow waves of cruise liners out of Tampa Bay. River walks and trolley cars connect well with the ferry service.

Pirate Water Taxi – explore Tampa from the water

For a rollicking day out in Tampa, the pirate water taxi system is for you! A single payment allows you to travel the Tampa waterways all day cruising the Tampa Riverwalk, Harbour Island and the Channelside Districts.  With more than fifteen stops, the bright yellow water taxi is bound to deliver you close to whatever tourist attraction you desire, from museums to restaurants and Lowry Park Zoo.

Hillsborough Area Regional Transit – take the HART around Tampa

Since 1980, the HART system has been serving Tampa.  The HART #1 bus is a half-block walk from Erehwon Retreat and is a quick and easy way to reach all the best destinations downtown and the University of South Florida.