“Real Home” Bliss on Vacation

Yes, Real Home Bliss is heading into vacation mode – though that’s not actually what this post is about. But, since I have your attention, let me tell you that Kate and I will be shifting into a summer slow down with content for the blog and our Instagram feed, while we concentrate on our design clients and trying to parent our way through summer vacation with our kids!  So don’t worry if our posting is sporadic over the next month … we’re still here, still taking clients, and will be on a regular posting schedule again by mid August when the kids head back to school. Until then, be sure to sign up for our email list so you don’t miss any updates!

Now, what this post is actually about:

How renting “real homes” brings a special sort of BLISS to family vacations

Since summertime is vacation time for many of us, I wanted to take a moment to share my special love of vacation rentals with you.

First, a disclaimer:  my husband works for HomeAway. No, they are not paying me (or him) anything for writing this, but yes, it does influence this post because before he started working there, I had never stayed in a “short-term vacation rental”. Boy was I missing out!  Now these homes are our accommodations of choice when we travel – even though, no, HomeAway does not give us discounts for staying in them. (Everybody asks ;))

Personally, we search for, find and book all our rentals through the HomeAway platform, but, where relevant, I’ve also added links to individual property management companies we’ve come to know and trust through our stays. (These property managers do (or did) advertise their inventory on HomeAway, which is how we came to be familiar with the properties and management companies.)

Our most incredible stay – courtesy of my in-laws. My husband and daughter are taking in the view from the interior of this Frank Lloyd Wright house (!!!) in Hawaii.
The outside view — my father-in-law, kicking off his retirement and enjoying our “backyard” on the Big Island. (Property managed by South Kohala Management, Waimea, HI)

Why do I love staying in short term vacation rentals instead of a hotel?

Of course there is the convenience of having a kitchen to cook in and space to spread out, both of which are game changers when traveling with a family. (In case you haven’t personally experienced trying to eat three meals a day in restaurants with young children, let me assure you it is it’s own special torture. One possibly exceeded only by trying to share a hotel room with teenagers!)  Also, my family enjoys the privacy of retreating to our own digs after a long day of experiencing crowded tourist attractions. Finally, we find the cost to be comparable (and sometimes lower) than staying in a hotel – considering the savings that come from cooking your own meals, plus the fact that oftentimes these homes are plenty large for two or more families to share. These practical advantages are nice and go along way in promoting vacation sanity, but they don’t account for my love of the experience.

Sometimes local “culture” means watching the moose outside the kitchen window in your rental house. (Property managed by Summit Mountain Rentals, Breckenridge, CO.)

What really drives my passion for staying in vacation rentals is my passion for home design, architecture, and culture!

I LOVE experiencing life in a different HOME for a week or a weekend.

If you haven’t tried it, you should! One-story dwellers can experience life in a two-story home (super exciting to my kids!), suburban peeps can try out a city condo, modern-home owners can see if living in an old Victorian is really as romantic as imagined. You can upsize or downsize, soak in a private hot tub, cook in a gourmet kitchen, or sleep in bunk beds (kid bliss!). You can have happy hour on a deck overlooking something more beautiful than your own yard that needs mowing (parental bliss)! The possibilities and perks are practically endless!

This lovely Santa Barbara classic had all the charm you might imagine from a 1920s home.
Intricate tile work on the front window – one of my great design loves!

I love experiencing different styles of interior design and architecture.

I always try to choose homes that speak to the character of the place we are visiting, or at least have a vibe that is unique for us. Sure, we could live in a modern condo in downtown Austin, but we don’t, so it was FUN to live in a high rise condo for a week when we visited Seattle. My kids got to experience parking garages, doormen, and trash chutes (along with the other things you might expect – like the Space Needle). And though I don’t want my home in Austin to be decorated in a Southwestern style, we of course choose fully-decked out adobe homes when we visit Santa Fe! Kivas, vigas, and courtyard gardens enclosed by thick adobe walls make our time there extra special.

Playing on the rooftop terrace of this Seattle high rise was just one exciting part of urban living with my children. (Property managed by Sea to Sky Rentals, Seattle.)
Turquoise and adobe – could you get any more Santa Fe than this cute rental casita?
When in Cape Cod … of course Kate’s family chose to stay in a cute Cape Cod house!

The other thing I love about staying in a short term vacation rental is experiencing new NEIGHBORHOODS.

Again, this is fun for the whole family. It’s almost like you get to try out being a different sort of family for the week — one who walks to the market instead of drives, or who spends their Saturdays picnicking on the beach instead playing in soccer tournaments. I am careful in selecting neighborhoods both for their character and convenience. I don’t want to feel like I am in Anytown suburbia (most of us get to do that at home). I want to be surrounded by where I am – after all, we chose this destination for a reason! Can we walk to the beach, a park, or a funky coffee shop? Do we have a nice mountain view? How long will it take my husband to get to the market (because you know he’s going to get sent there at least once a day – we are cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen after all!) For us, it really is fun to basically pretend we live somewhere else!

Sometimes the best neighborhoods lack neighbors … and a nearby market – sorry dear! (The gate to our rental home near Joshua Tree National Park)
This home with its stunning views was aptly named.  (Joshua Tree Oasis, Joshua Tree, CA)

That pretty much sums up my obsession with staying in “real homes” when we travel. My family learns more about the place and culture we are visiting, we’re all more comfortable, and I get to feed my love and increase my understanding of diverse design and architectural styles. There are still times and circumstances when we prefer a traditional hotel, but in general, staying in short-term vacation rentals greatly enhances the travel experience for me and my family.

Your Turn

What about you? Do you stay in vacation rentals when you travel? How has being in a “real home” affected your experience?



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