My love affair with vacation rentals began in 2006, while planning a Florida holiday for my family of ten. I poured over every VRBO and Flipkey listing, within 20 miles of Disney. I looked at every detail - the photos, the reviews, the floor plans,-- even as I wondered if it was an all-good-to-be true scam. Did any of these homes actually exist?
Between the thousands of properties available and my overzealous approach, the shopping process took several weeks. I narrowed the pool down to 10 and from there one clearly stood out. A luxurious 3000 sq. foot home, in a gated community, centrally located between both Florida coasts.The booking process was fairly simple, sign the rental agreement, send the owner the money and the house would be waiting...or so I hoped!
Upon arrival, my anxiety was completely laid to rest. In the words of my 15 year old son as he headed to check out "OUR" pool, "This place is AWESOME"! And indeed it was. 
Everyone quickly claimed their rooms, sounding like a flock of seagulls shouting "Mine, Mine, Mine". For hubby and I, there was no choice. The large, luxurious master bedroom with direct pool access was "OURS" and the large jacuzzi tub in the ensuite bathroom was "MINE"!
I will admit I am selfish when it comes to my family vacations. A holiday is expensive, so I make no apologies for stretching every vacation dollar where I can. Nor do I apologize about making sure I get everything I want!

I want my vacation to be affordable, so I can start planning my next one as soon as possible. For our Florida trip, the cost savings on accommodations alone was the primary reason I chose a vacation rental. The house cost us $325.00 USD, per day, during the high season, for five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a den, a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, living room and OUR pool with covered lanai (that's Floridian for screen room). Five hotel rooms would have easily cost double and would not have had half the amenities!

I want to spend time with my family, exclusively, in a space that is just as comfortable as home, if not more so. I have special memories of sitting around the living room discussing the days events, the friendly family banter over a game of cards at the dining room table, and the late night swims in the pool that never closes (OUR POOL). This could not be replicated in a series of visits down a hotel hallway while sitting cross-legged on beds. We were able to enjoy everyone, without the confines of our work, school and sports schedules. It was the perfect holiday.

I want all the comforts of home. My husband takes pleasure in cracking a cold one right out of the fridge. For me, my morning coffee is an important ritual to my every day and I will not compromise that on holiday. Enjoying the first cuppa of the day makes a coffee maker completely essential (I even packed down a ten day supply of tim Horton's brew...which I did run short and had to dip into the homeowner supplied coffee, since all the coffee drinkers remembered to pack their own go cups). There are far too many hotels that don't have in-room coffee makers and a 6 a.m. stroll to Starbucks for a $5.00 coffee has no appeal to me.

I want hotel luxury.  Did I tell you about "OUR" pool?

I want to eat what I want, when I want. My kids are all athletes, and a trip to McDonalds is not considered a meal to them. they all brought backpacks as their carry-on airline baggage and then used them to pack their own healthy lunches, snacks and drinks, when we visited the amusement parks. They ate during the shows and while waiting in ride lines, maximizing our Disney ride time. this was a huge savings of not just cash (our ice cream splurge at Wild Kingdom was over $50.00), but of time. Everyone was content to go home to swim in the pool, while we prepared a quick meal of Spaghetti, Caesar salad, and garlic bread ( 20 bucks and 45 minutes from prep to clean up). By comparison, a trip to a restaurant for all ten, was over $250.00, and took over 3 hours (dressing, driving, ordering, eating).The kids even teamed up and took turns choosing and cooking meals for the whole group (I was amazed at my eldest son's lemon chicken!). On beach days, we packed a cheap styrofoam cooler and picnicked in the sand. By holiday end, I didn't spend much more on groceries than I would have if we had stayed home.

All of my vacation goals were achieved. Within two months, I had our next family vacation home booked. Christmas in Hawaii! I was hopelessly addicted.

Karen Barnert ended up so hopelessly addicted that she and hubby Mark, went on to purchase their own Villa rental in 2012. It's her personal goal that every guest is able to enjoy similiar anxiety-free home-away-from-home vacations at Casa Esquina in Cabo San Lucas.



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