Both TripAdvisor.com and the Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA) are among the sponsors of the relatively new reality travel series Getting Away Together – airing on PBS stations nationwide – so it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the vacation rental homes featured on each episode are pretty darn sweet.
A Kissimmee, Florida, rental property, which would have been nice enough with an outdoor pool, also has a game room equipped with video arcade machines; an Outer Banks, North Carolina, home is shown with a cavernous entryway, as well as a pool table; and a property in Oceanside, California, is not only tony, but it comfortably accommodates a group of 46 travelers.
Not all vacation rentals are this nice, which is perhaps one of the indirect lessons of the series. Since most of us don’t have a producer hand-selecting our vacation rental, it pays to use a resource like TripAdvisor or VRMA to compare properties and their amenities. Whether you book a vacation rental that's professionally managed (as are the properties featured in the series) or offered by an individual owner, you should clarify early on how the property is furnished and stocked.
Ask: What are the sizes of the beds, and are sheets and towels provided? Are young children and pets allowed and, pursuant to that, will cleaning fees be assessed? Are there pots and pans in the kitchen as well as dishes? Are there restaurants nearby in case you don't feel like cooking supper for 46 people? Make a list of your questions to run through and, of course, seek out checklists from friends who have stayed in vacation rentals before.
Lest I be accused of missing the point of Getting Away Together, which may feature girlfriend getaways or other groups of travelers, including families, the series promotes the idea of “togethering” on vacation, which means not only reconnecting under the same rented roof, but also playing together (all of the destinations featured in the first season are also co-sponsors of the series). So we see the family visiting Kissimmee merrily zip-lining, the Outer Banks brood kiteboarding and hang gliding, and the Oceanside group, including a grandma in her 70s, surfing together. If you’re trying to picture your own brood attempting these activities, these sporty vignettes ought to prove useful.
One tip offered on the series' website is that vacation renters should food shop like locals, hitting farmers' markets and stocking up on the destination's seasonal food. That good advice is immediately followed by two oft-repeated selling points about vacation rentals – that cooking at least some of your meals during your stay will save you money, and that a large dining room table – should your rental have one – is a natural magnet for your group at mealtimes.
Whether you cook or order-in (or both), another tip, especially if you’re staying with several families under one roof, is to agree before you go on how much you’re budgeting for food and when and how you’ll be settling up. The more decisions like these that you iron out beforehand, the happier your togethering will be.
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