Over the last few years, vacation rentals have become all the rage in travel. Sites like HomeAway, VRBO, and FlipKey have made the process of renting a home for vacation far easier and more secure. On a recent trip to Miami, my wife and I joined the vacation rental craze for the first time, albeit unintentionally.
Our routine when cruising out of Miami is to head down the night before, and enjoy a night out on the town celebrating the start of vacation. I hopped on Hotels.com a few weeks before our trip to try and find a good deal on a room for the one night. Most were a little out of our budget, but I happened upon what seemed to be a great deal at The Club at Brickell Bay.
|The Club at Brickell Bay - Credit: Expedia|
After driving by the building twice - nothing out of the ordinary there - we left the car with the valet and headed to the lobby to check-in. The lobby consisted of a front desk and a bank of elevators...that's it. A lady emerged from the back office and greeted me with a simple "Yes?" I thought it was pretty clear why we were there, but soon I would learn why it was not. After informing her we were checking-in, I was asked to follow her to a back office. It was right about now that I started to think something was amiss...
|Looking down on the rooftop pool|
Once in the back office, I was asked for a credit card as a "deposit." I found the wording a little odd, but didn't think much of it until the agent handed me an old school credit card slip for $1000. Finally, the "this isn't a hotel" alarm began sounding full blast inside my brain. Having seen far too many Dateline specials where people get ripped off, I had a bad feeling about that credit card slip. Without much other choice, however, I took the key - as well as the warning that losing it would also cost $200 - and we headed up to our "room."
|The Living Room|
The description on Hotels.com had accurately portrayed The Club at Brickell Bay as a condo building, but my mistake was assuming it must have been some sort of mixed-use condo/hotel combination. It was clear at this point that we'd rented someone's condo for the night, which was puzzling since I reserved it through Hotels.com. As we rode up the elevator to the 28th floor, I began to wonder what we would find once we got there, and what kind of "damage" they'd try to hit me up for once I was gone.
|The Dining Area and Kitchen|
We unlocked the door to someone else's condo and were immediately surprised by what we found inside. Beautiful tile floors, a modern kitchen, and comfortable furnishings throughout the living area. We had reserved a "studio" but this was a two bedroom unit which, from the pictures all over the condo, clearly belonged to a mom and her young son. It took a while to realize that no one was going to ask us to "make ourselves comfortable," but eventually the weirdness of being in someone's home wore off, and we did just that.
|The View of Brickell Bay|
The view from the condo was spectacular, with the bay on one side, and bustling Miami to the other. I spent quite a bit of time on the balcony enjoying the fresh air, and watched as one Ferrari after another passed by our building. As day turned to night I eventually headed back inside, and came to terms with the idea of sleeping in someone else's bed. This was without a doubt the most unnerving thing of the entire experience...
|Why I found this bed to be more scary than a hotel I'm not sure...|
In the end, most of my unease about the situation was all for nothing. The condo was beautiful, the price was right, and I didn't get charged for imaginary damage. While it would have been good to know what I was getting into beforehand, I'm almost glad I didn't because chances are I would have passed on staying there. Now that we've experienced a vacation rental, I'm more than open to the possibility on future trips, and I have a feeling we just might use one again soon.
Have you ever used a vacation rental? What was your experience?
~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~