Q&A: Tips and Tricks from the Ultimate Vacation Rental Expert

by  Christine Dayao | Oct 16, 2014
Plane in the sky
Plane in the sky / undefinedundefined/iStock

For Lynne and Tim Martin, retirement wasn’t about slowing down -- it was about seeing the world.

In 2011, the couple revealed to their family and friends that they were taking the unusual step of selling their California home, donating the furniture, and putting the rest of their belongings in storage so that they could travel the globe. But rather than set up shop in hotels, the Martins make themselves at home in vacation and apartment rentals through HomeAway, never staying less than a month in each destination. We sat down with Lynne to chat about how they manage this lifestyle -- to get some advice for other roving renters.

What’s the biggest challenge to this lifestyle?
Staying flexible is really the challenge. The main thing we've learned is that it takes a whole lot to get us upset. You miss the train, people are rude to you that day -- you learn to laugh it off. Stuff happens. Sometimes being homesick is really hard. There are moments when you think “I want to hold that kid of mine.” But we find that when we come back, there’s more intensity to our visits. It intensifies your relationship and certainly makes it more interesting to the grandchildren.

What has been your favorite destination so far? What are some highlights there that are not to be missed?
Every road leads to Paris; my heart’s in Paris. But there are so many things about so many places. I love Istanbul. I love Berlin, which was a big surprise -- I didn’t know I’d love it so much. The best part in Paris is that it’s just easy: it’s flat, it’s easy walking, and of course it’s just drop dead gorgeous all the time. In Berlin, there’s so much music and art. It really is an amazing city. Generally, what I like everywhere is the people and having the luxury of living among the culture. There’s the butcher, there’s the wine guy. After a couple of weeks, you sort of feel like you live there.

When/how do you decide it’s time to move onto another destination?
We know a long time ahead what our plan is going to be. We would map out our life months at a time, sometime nine months at a time, so we know when we take off where we’re going to be. This year is sort of a different year because I’m doing some speaking engagements around the country. We’re booked for Paris next September -- that’s all I know for sure.

What are some surprising items that are must-haves for vacation rentals?
I take a knife sharpener -- people never think about it, but you can’t cook with dull knives. I carry the little sticky hooks that you can stick on and that don’t take paint off when you take them off. We have a package of those because many times there aren’t enough little hooks to hang your robes or whatever, which is not a problem for a couple days but we’re here for a month. I also take heavy duty Ziploc bags, and my good wine opener and wine aerator, to keep wine really good. Finally, we take an HDMI cable, and that’s how we can watch the shows that we like by plugging in my computer to the TV.

Have there been any language barriers?
We learn the basics like “thank you,” “please,” “excuse me,” “I’m so sorry.” And when you’ve got a smile on your face, there is no language barrier. People tend to be very nice and helpful, and if they can’t speak English, they’ll try to find someone who does. They make an effort.

Tell us about your favorite rental.
It was outside of Dublin. We lived in an apartment in a 300-year-old mansion [called The Old Connaught House], but the grounds were so beautiful and the view was out of this world. We could see the Irish Sea all the time.

Envious of this globetrotting couple? Don't be. You can get more insight into their adventures -- and learn tips for how you can do it, too -- in Lynne's book Home Sweet Anywhere, released just this past April. For more up-to-the-minute news from the couple, check out their blog, Home Free Adventures.

Quotes have been edited for clarity.

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