6 Reasons To Be Addicted To Siesta Key Beach, FL

siestakeybeach

photo©Ben Clark

Growing up in California, I was surrounded by beaches and the freedom the ocean air brings. There were many times I spent walking back and forth with no precise agenda—except to enjoy the gentle breeze and calming crash of waves. The Pacific coast had the best beaches around; but to my pleasant surprise, Florida opened up an entirely new realm of beach-love. Siesta Key beach stole my heart the moment my feet pressed into that perfectly white, silky sand. From the sunsets to the location, there are many reasons to love Siesta Key beach, but here are six reasons it will have you so addicted you can’t help but come back for more.

1. The Sand is 99% Pure Quartz

When I said the first thing I fell in love with was the sand, I wasn’t kidding. The feel of the soft grains against your skin is incredible. One look down the shore and you will see people lounged out and sleeping. If there was a way for me to haul bags of sand home, my mattress would be quickly tossed to the curb and forgotten. Because the sand is Quartz and reflects the sun, it stays cool underfoot unlike the sand at other beaches that will have you hopping around because your toes are burning.

2. Siesta Key Village

A short walk away from the famous beach is an adorable village that makes up a few blocks. Shops filled with souvenirs, clothing, groceries, décor, and swimwear call you inside. Even if you don’t plan to buy anything, it is fun to take a peak around. Intertwined with the shops are delicious restaurants and tasty treats. Michael’s on East serves tasty food in a 1940’s themed club atmosphere and has outstanding service. A favorite place of mine is Hob Nob Drive In; originally opened in the 1950s it will get your burger or hotdog cravings stopped. Another award-winning restaurant is the Broken Egg Restaurant that not only serves amazing food, but hangs breathtaking artwork along the walls. For an entertaining place to eat, the Blue Que Island Grill is a fine dining restaurant that adds live music to the experience.

3. Dolphin Watching

You don’t have to pay to go to SeaWorld to see dolphins jumping playfully through the air, at least not on Siesta Key beach. Every time I take a visit here, I am pointing out, excitedly to my friends, a new animal I spotted swimming through the waves. It is incredible to be in such close proximity to animals as amazing as dolphins.

4. Gorgeous Sunsets

Sunsets, oh how I love you. When a day at the beach is spent and my body begs me for sleep, I always begin packing up my bags and towels to go. As I turn to leave, the sun begins to hide itself and glow its perfect shades of color. No matter how sleep-deprived I am, or exhausted my body feels, I cannot walk away from its beauty. I tell you it is impossible to turn down a sunset while standing on Siesta Key beach.

5. Ideal Location for Weddings

Many times, while relaxing on the beach, I see a wedding ceremony not too far away. As I watch the bride and groom begin their marriage with a kiss, I am always astounded at the beauty around them. It is the prime location to get married. The ocean works as an elegant and timeless back-drop, the weather is ideal year-round, and the natural elements come together for dreamlike photographs.

6. Ocean Activities

To say it simply, Siesta Key beach is fun. There are so many outdoor activities to do, that no one could possibly squeeze them all into one short vacation. From the modest sand castle, to casual biking, peaceful kayaking, or adventurous parasailing high in the air, there really is something to do no matter how old, young, small or large your family is. I often watch enviously from the sidelines, people jumping around and spinning circles in the ocean on jet ski rentals. It is always watching those around me that has me saying, “Next time I come, I am going to try that.” It is that very reason, along with everything else, that brings me back every single time and will also be what brings you back too.

 

Karen J. Fowler Twitter

Karen J. Fowler Facebook

Karen Fowler Google Plus

Leave a comment

Which Florida Tourist are You?

Have you ever vacationed in Florida? Well, you’re not alone; last year almost 90 million vacationers flocked to The Sunshine State. What makes Florida unique is that while it is a universal hotbed for travelers, the reasons for which folks travel there really run the gamut; from pumping fists at the clubs in Miami, to holding on tight on the roller coasters of Disney, to catching rays at the beaches of Siesta Key – there really is something for everyone in Florida, so what kind of Florida Tourist are you?

Use the infographic below to claim your identity, and learn exactly what kind of Florida Tourist you are!

Which Florida Tourist are You?

Want the Florida Tourist Infographic on your site? Copy and paste the HTML below:

Leave a comment

13 Amazing Facts About Hawaii

Hawaii

photo©Grantzprize

A dream vacation to Hawaii is on plenty of people’s bucket lists, and it is no surprise why. Hawaii is one of the most unusual and breathtaking islands in the entire world. Millions, yes millions, of people travel across the ocean to soak up the sun and spend a few days drenched in the Hawaiian paradise. If I could, a trip here would be marked on my calendar every year. If you are thinking about a trip to Hawaii, check out these 13 amazing facts that might make you buy your plane ticket sooner than later.

1. Hawaii is nicknamed the “Aloha State.” I remember watching Miss Congeniality several years ago and laughing as Sandra Bullock teased the Hawaiian US contestant about the difficulty in ending a conversation on the phone when “Aloha” is used for both “hello” and “goodbye.” A trip here and you will quickly understand why Hawaii is called the “Aloha State” when you are welcomed with a kind “Aloha” as you both come and go.

2. You might wake up in the morning to a hot cup of coffee, but have you ever wondered how far those coffee beans have traveled? Hawaii is the only US state that grows coffee.

3. The first moon landing took a lot of preparation and practice in the 1960s. To get a similar experience to walking on the moon, astronauts trained by walking on Mauna Loa’s hard lava fields.

4. Hawaii was the final state to join the US. I never realized how young Hawaii is to our nation, but on August 21, 1959 it became the 50th state. My dad is older than that!

5. If you are getting tired of looking at skinny models stamped across magazines, you might be happy to hear that ancient Hawaiians thought heavier women were the most beautiful.

6. Hawaii is home to the rainiest place in the world. Don’t believe me? A stop to the island of Kauai and a hike up MT. Waialeale will give you proof with over 476 inches of rainfall per year. Don’t worry about bad weather on your vacation though, Mount Waialeale gets hit the hardest with precipitation because of its conical shape and geographical position between the ocean and trade winds.

7. Hawaii doesn’t do day light savings and is on a different time zone than almost anywhere else. That means no matter where you live, with very few exceptions, it will be a different time in Hawaii.

8. Growing up I dreamed of a trip to Hawaii. I pictured myself packing on the sunscreen, running around in a swimsuit, and swimming in the ocean to cool off from extreme heat. It had to be hot; it was next to the equator! Years later I learned what makes Hawaii so magical, is the warm temperatures that aren’t too hot. The highest recorded temperature was almost a hundred years ago on April 27, 1931, at 100 F. The lowest recorded was on May 17, 1979 at 12 F. A little closer to the ocean level (under 3000 feet) the lowest temperature was only 56 F. The temperatures are typically mild year round with an average of 82 F in July and an average of 72 F in January.

9. From east to west, Hawaii is the widest state in the nation.

10. A whopping 7,627,819 people visited Hawaii in the year 2007. That is a lot of people! Since the economy was been hit, those numbers went down about 5-10% but it doesn’t hide the fact that Hawaii is the place millions of people want to visit every year. In fact, in 2012 7,998,815 visitors went to Hawaii, breaking the previous record.

11. Waikiki attracts the most visitors with roughly 72,000 a day. If you add up all Hawaii tourists in the entire state, Waikiki makes up about 44 percent.

12. The Big Island of Hawaii has three active volcanoes. Many tourists stop to explore the 330,000 acres at The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Big Island to see the many volcanoes.

13. Hawaii is made up of eight main islands and one of the islands, Niihau is privately owned by the Robinson family. Over 100 years ago, their ancestors bought it from King Kamehameha IV. How would you like to inherit an island? I know I would love my own island in Hawaii.

Karen J. Fowler Twitter

Karen J. Fowler Facebook

Karen Fowler Google Plus

Leave a comment

Sharing Your Vacation Home with Guests

teaching new renters to trust
At one time, most vacation rentals were second homes that were used by their owners and rented out when they were not being used.  I remember staying in rental homes back in the nineties where the owners had cleared a shelf in their kitchen cupboard for food, and a couple of drawers for our clothes.  It was clear we were in someone else’s well-used home.  What was acceptable then is no longer OK though, and if you are still in that mindset that you are sharing your vacation home with guests, without any compromise, you may find your stay in the rental business is short-lived.

Many vacation homes are now dedicated to this purpose with many people buying them for investment.  This has created new expectations in a growing client market as more travelers are choosing this type of accommodation for their vacations. Guests are less tolerant of the over-personalized house with a mass of family photographs on the walls, owner’s winter coats in the closet and their food in the freezer.

This by no means says a vacation home has to be a sterile place without any character or personal stamp because it’s the uniqueness of each one that makes them so different from a hotel room or resort suite.  However, a balance between keeping the place a home and creating a welcoming space for guests so they don’t feel they are intruding into your personal life, is the compromise.  Here’s four easy ways to get there:

Junk Drawers

We all have kitchen drawers that attract junk whether it’s matchbooks, rubber bands, half-packs of gum or birthday candles.  Guests will add to that, so it’s important to clear these out regularly and only leave items that are genuinely useful.

Photographs

There’s no need to remove every family photograph because having one or two selected pictures reminds guests that it’s a family-owned place and can serve to generate more respect and better treatment for the property.  Where owners have renovated or built a property, an album of photos that shows the progress of the work is usually well received as guests get a history of the property as well as some personal  owner information.

Clothes

Unless you really want your guests to know you very personally, never leave your own clothing in drawers or closets.  Rental guests will check out every cupboard and drawer that you have, so leaving anything in them is fair game to be found.  If you want to leave clothing at the property, use a separate lockable closet or pack items away in boxes that can be stored in a basement or locked room.

Food Cupboards

This is a tricky one.  I love going to vacation rentals where there’s staple items such as herbs and spices, flour and cornstarch available– those things you may use once or twice on vacation but you don’t want to buy a large bag or carton just for one or two meals.  On the other hand, I have heard of complaints from guests because they have found ‘owners’ food ‘ in cupboards that they expected to be cleared for them.  The solution is to offer guests the option of using the non-perishable foods that are left behind, as long as there is a clear indication in a guest book and pre-arrival information that they will have this choice.

If your vacation home is a place that you and your family use on a regular basis, there is no reason to strip it of everything that makes it personal for you, but you do need to consider how much of yourselves you want to leave behind. Sharing your vacation home with guests is a different practice in today’s market.

Leave a comment

Using Guest Reviews to Improve Your Listing

teaching new renters to trust
We live in a culture where we like to share our opinions, and in a consumer environment we are now more likely to listen to the voice of other buyers than to the sales spiel from the product manufacturer or supplier.  So, when guests take the trouble to write guest reviews on a listing, post a comment on your Facebook page, or leave some notes in your guestbook, think of them as little gems that you can use to create an improved product for your next guests.

What do the following comments tell you?

‘The pictures don’t do the place justice’ or ‘It was much better than we expected from the listing’

At first glance you might get a warm fuzzy feeling because the feedback is good, but what this is really saying is that these guests didn’t see the best of the property from your listing.  The comments would suggest that professional photography may bring more traffic and increased bookings. In fact you might even go back to those guests and ask them to elaborate on their comments.  What was it about the home they liked the most?  What images do they think would improve the listing?  People love being asked their opinion and if you respond to their guest reviews, asking for more, you may be surprised at what they will tell you and how helpful it is.

Using feedback to revamp your listing

Guests reviews left will often tell you things that are important to them and can create some good content for your listing.  If these comments are in your guestbook rather than online you need some place for your potential guests to see them, since they may be the triggers that encourage people to book.  Feedback such as….

‘We loved all the hiking trails and places to walk the dog, and that there are local restaurants where we could take her’

…tells you that pet owners would be interested in hearing about these features of the area, so you could add that to the text on your listing.

Similarly, if a guest comments on how much they enjoyed an activity or attraction in the area, make sure you mention that in your listing too.

Is there anything we missed?

This is a great question to ask on your checkout list as it encourages more feedback.  It could be as simple to rectify as a suggestion you should get an ice-cream scoop, or some additional storage space.  Sometimes it will generate an idea you hadn’t thought of that might bring in extra revenue in the long run.  For example, this comment prompted one owner to install a freestanding propane fireplace which went on to boost her winter rentals substantially:

‘We’d love to come back in the winter but like to stay at places with a fireplace so we can get cozy after skiing’

What guest reviews have you received that have prompted you to make a change?

Leave a comment

Keeping Vacation Rentals Clean

teaching new renters to trust
This sounds easy – leave a clean property and you won’t get a complaint.  But hold on…what constitutes ‘clean’ and how can you really ensure the the self-confessed clean freaks will be happy with your efforts? Keeping vacation rentals clean can be more difficult than you might think.

You’ll never be free of the potential for complaint since some guests will never be happy no matter what you do.  We’ve all come across those types – the ones that will pick holes in the most pristine of places since that’s just the way they are.  And, when you only have 4 – 5 hours on a changeover to cover every aspect of your cleaning program, there is a limit to what can be done.  However, if you follow these few suggestions, there will be little room for negative comment.

Clear clutter

At one time, second homes were the repository for everything that should have headed to the landfill, from mattresses that were being replaced to the old vacuum cleaner with the fabric bag.  Do you remember the dust that puffed out when it was switched on? Of course, things have changed and what was acceptable in a vacation rental years ago, is now the basis for complaint if the owners haven’t caught up with the times.  In many places, clutter seems to collect and keeping vacation rentals clean is more important than ever before.

Too much stuff means dust, spider webs and the potential for something being missed in the changeover.  Take a good look at what is around and about the place and remove anything that doesn’t add to the overall ambiance.  It’s easy for things to be collected over time without much thought being given to whether they contribute to the look and feel.  This means getting rid of ornaments, old artwork, throws, old baking pans and chipped mugs and unmatched plates.  Check out bookcases for old magazines and games that have seen better days too.

Pay attention to detail

A changeover should be more than a flick of a duster and a quick spray of chemical cleaner and odor cover-up.  A ‘that’ll do’ attitude opens a place up to scrutiny that may result in negative feedback or genuine complaint, and all that is really needed is attention to detail.  A comprehensive checklist for property managers can make the difference between a happy or a disgruntled guest so it’s worthwhile compiling one that includes notes to remind whoever is doing the changeover to:

  • Check under the beds for dust bunnies
  • Wipe over all window frames and remove dead flies/ bugs
  • Look up and check for spider webs
  • Examine walls for swatted mosquitoes

Provide an efficient vacuum cleaner

Your property deserves the best and that applies to the cleaning appliances.  If you have ever been a guest in one of those places where the old home vacuum was sent to die, you will appreciate this.  There’s a dual benefit to this as most guests will want to use a vacuum to keep the place tidy while they are in residence.  If it’s ineffective it will lead them to question the quality of the cleaning that occurs between rentals, whereas a good vacuum is more likely to be used and appreciated.

These tips may seem to be no-brainers and for most owners there’s not much new to add to your regime.  However, it’s worthwhile taking a little time to consider if there’s anything you can do proactively to prevent a potential cleaning complaint. Keeping vacation rentals clean means more repeat business.

1 Comment

Spending Halloween In Salem, MA

salemma

photo©DrStarbuck

Spending Halloween in Salem, MA

Nothing says spooky like Salem, Massachusetts. I live in Boston, so Salem is just a 20-mile jaunt up the coast for me; however, spending at least one Halloween in Salem is a must-do trip for everybody, even if you live far away. Salem has a dark history, and its infamous witch trials still haunt the city. In 1692, John Hathorne presided over a witch-hunt that lasted several months and cost 24 men and women their lives. Many believe these “witches’” remain in Salem to this day… in spirit that is. If you are looking for a haunted Halloween with some real ghosts, psychics, and witches both dead and alive, plan to spend your next Halloween in Salem! Here are some fun Halloween activities for 2013!

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Podcasts for Vacation Rental Owners

teaching new renters to trust
Do you listen to podcasts?  A recent USA Today article says ‘The land of podcasting, once an esoteric outpost devoted to heavily tech-oriented chats, is booming.’  There are podcasts in every niche – something for everyone – and whether you are a listener, or one of the growing band of podcast producers you’ll be able to find an episode to interest you, or an audience for your home-grown presentation, and podcasts for vacation rental owners are no exception.

My own podcast, Vacation Rental Success is a lot of fun to put together, uncomplicated to produce on minimum equipment, and even easier to upload to a WordPress blog.  I was blown away with the number of downloads from the first episode and they continue to be listened to, months after the first upload.  I also subscribe to many other podcasts that keep me company in the car, on an airplane, while out running or at the gym and thought I should share my 4 favorites that deliver terrific information and resources that are great podcasts for vacation rental owners, and will help you succeed in the business.

Erik FisherBeyond the To-Do List

I’ve learned a lot from Erik’s interviews with many people about how they have managed their time, prioritized their tasks, and taken steps to avoid burnout.  Given that we vacation rental owners juggle so many things to keep our properties maintained, bookings managed, and guests happy, every little helps on the organization front.

Favorite episode:  Daniel J. Lewis shares successes and failures in building a business without it controlling your life – BTTDL23

Pat FlynnSmart Passive Income

Pat’s podcasts are my top of the line favorites.  If you are interested in going beyond the finite vacation rental income your place is generating, then subscribe to this one.  Focused on entrepreneurial activities, the interviews and resource tips that Pat offers are some of the most valuable content on the web.

Favorite episode:  SPI 011 : 5 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself to Improve Your Online Business, Blog or Website

Social Media Examiner – SME Podcasts

Without doubt the best resource for everything to do with social media on the web.  Whether you want to promote your place with Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or on LinkedIn, there is a podcast interview with an expert to help you.

Favorite episode:  Twitter Traffic – How to Double Your Traffic To Your Content With Twitter

And if you haven’t yet subscribed to Vacation Rental Success, I would love you to check it out and let me know if there are any topics you would like me to cover in future episodes – it’s one of the many valuable podcasts for vacation rental owners!

Leave a comment

11 Reasons The Gulf Coast Is The Best Coast Of Florida

palmtrees

photo©Sebastian Fuss

I have said it before, and I will say it again; Florida is a tropical paradise.

It is sunny almost every single day of the year, and with the warm ocean water, the Gulf Coast of Florida makes the ideal vacation spot. The beaches are refreshing with sand that is like white powdered perfection. The evenings are filled with night-life and sunsets made for tranquil walks. I have never found myself struggling to find things to do when there are countless museums, zoos, aquariums, parks, beaches, restaurants, cities, amusement parks, and artistic structures around every corner. A vacation here will only scratch the surface of the Gulf Coast of Florida and have you dreaming to come back. Below are eleven popular places people visit on their Florida vacation.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

When Guest Friendliness Becomes Guest Intrusion

teaching new renters to trust
I had an interesting discussion with a neighbor of a local vacation rental property recently regarding guest intrusion.  Rather than complaining about noise, or overcrowding, or straying pets, he had what seemed to be a strange request.  He wanted to know how he should approach a problem he experienced each summer – the knotty issue of over-friendly guests.  What he wanted the owner to do was to speak to the incoming guests and explain that he lived in his property year-round, was retired, but he and his wife were not in constant holiday-mode and ready, or willing, to be entertained each week.  In short he did not want to ‘make friends’ with a continuous flow of neighboring rental guests offering invitations for drinks or even a barbecue.

This was an unusual dilemma but I could easily see how the weekly arrival of yet another round of happy vacationers, eager to become locals for their short stay, could begin to become wearing after a while.  The neighbor said that each week, at some point, the property guests would say hello over the garden fence or call to them as they sat on the deck having coffee.  They would ask questions about where the nearest beach or dog walk was, how to get to the Farmer’s Market or even look for information on events in the area.  The neighbor started to feel like an unpaid tour guide but did not want to be seen as aloof or unfriendly.  He and his wife began to take their coffee indoors and only spend time on their deck or in their garden when the guests had gone out, until they realized this was not an answer to the guest intrusion problem.

I’ve stayed in vacation rentals in areas that have permanent residents as well as holiday homes, where the owner has given some pointers on respecting neighbors’ privacy and offered some guidelines on being a guest in the community as well as the property.  In those situations we were gently advised in the Welcome Book that if we needed information on the area that was not provided in the copious tourist information, to call them and not seek answers from neighbors in the first instance.

As an owner myself, I accept a responsibility for protecting my close neighbors from any unwelcome intrusion by my guests whether it be from noise and disruption or from well-meaning overtures.  Taking the time to talk to them and find out their expectations and concerns about your rental intentions is worthwhile and can create better relationships.  Maybe they will enjoy the connection with visitors and welcome the diversion they bring, but if they don’t, finding out their views can be very helpful in addressing a potential situation.

This isn’t about telling guests not to be friendly to the neighbors – it’s simply about understanding the nature of a community and respecting that not everyone is on vacation at the same time they are. Addressing potential guest intrusion today, could save you headaches down the road.

Leave a comment