May 2019

Where do you stay when you go on vacation? What sort of accommodation experience are you looking for? Once the choices were fairly simple, this hotel or another hotel, but these days there are wide variety of options that depend on your expectations and needs.

Here on the Northern Gulf Coast much of the accommodation is directed towards leisure travelers – people taking vacations. Unlike other parts of the country Vacation Rentals have been available for a long time here so are engrained in our expectations.  The vacation rental business really consists of privately owned properties that are managed, marketed and reserved through property management companies.  The actual rental units can range from single roomed condos through to luxurious, large beach homes.  Similarly, the property managers can be small companies looking after five or ten individual properties up to large corporations that have inventories of thousands of units. The property managers usually look after all aspects of marketing, sales, maintenance and housekeeping. The important thing to remember is that the actual accommodation is privately owned, but the vacation rental companies bring an element of uniformity to the whole process. This probably includes some security to the whole process of booking and staying on your vacation. As a customer it’s only really necessary to decide on the property manager you trust and then the location.

More recently, organizations like VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner), HomeAway and AirBnB have become more involved.  These companies usually don’t handle housekeeping or maintenance. They are essentially just listing and booking agents. The actual property is the responsibility of the owners themselves.  This can be a good or bad thing, as owners can be wonderful hosts or sometimes not so much.  AirBnB started as a booking service for owners who had a spare room they wanted rent out for some of the time. The hosts invariably were still staying in their property.  The company has now expanded and offer ‘conventional’ vacation rentals, although it’s important to realize that the quality of the property and its maintenance, housekeeping etc., is purely in the hands of the owner.  It pays to do your own investigations.

What about hotels? Again, traditionally here on the Gulf Coast your choice was between small motels and conventional chain hotels. Even that has changed.  You can still find the small, family run motels but they are getting increasingly rare as tourists demand more facilities and features. Newer hotels close to the beach are more like resorts with pools, restaurants and all the activities a family could want on vacation, without the need to leave the property.  Your choice is based on the hotel brand you prefer.

Those hotels that are not totally dependent on the tourist dollar often offer an almost hybrid option that combines the facilities of a hotel with benefits of a condo.  They include kitchens and living space and are available for extended stays.  Look for Extended Stay Suites. The weekly, (and longer) rates are usually attractive but don’t expect daily housekeeping. They may clean your room weekly.  This is a concept that has been used in the non-vacation  accommodation section sector for many years where business travelers who needed to stay for longer than one or two nights, found it more comfortable and cost effective to have their own ‘apartment’ rather than just an hotel room.  The extended stay suite is a good alternative if you have a family and intend to either cook for yourself or eat out. It’s like a condo but subtly different.

Then of course, there are the boutique hotels, often at the higher end of the cost scale, but offering an experience in itself with eclectic furnishing and personalized service. Look too at some of the ‘adult only’ spas and resorts, again usually high-end price wise, but catering to a particular vacationer.

Naturally there are other options like true Bed and Breakfast establishments, usually owner un and managed offering a very personal service. Those of you with Recreational Vehicles will know all about the RV Resorts that allow you to bring your own home on wheels and hook up to the resorts facilities.

All the above are now available here on the Gulf Coast. They’re all different and appeal to varying traveler needs and choices.  Just make sure you’re booking the right accommodation for your and be certain that you’ll be happy with what is being offered. Like all vacation choices it pays to do your research thoroughly.