Traveling with your friends can be a wonderful experience, but what’s really awesome is traveling with your sister…who also happens to be a great friend.
My sister and I have been very close through our adult lives, and I love spending time with her, so it was a no-brainer when she suggested we have a long weekend together in Durango, CO. Luckily our spouses enjoy spending time together too.
I’m a huge fan of staying in places that allow you to visit together and play a board game or share a movie—think a house, cabin, or apartment with outdoor space. Bonus: These domiciles often give you a place to be alone with a cup of coffee in the morning or for a quiet chat. Hotels or motels don’t often usually offer that opportunity.
The sites I use most often to find my next vacation hideaway are VRBO.com, HomeAway.com, and airbnb.com. I’ve used these sites extensively over the last couple of years and have never had a bad experience. (Some interesting ones, but never bad.) With any planned vacation, you have to do your research. Luckily, I have developed a formula to finding that awe-inspiring place that’s hard to forget.
First, you need to know how many people are going to be staying with you. In this case, we have two couples. What are their expectations? One year we rented a cabin with another couple and when we arrived, there was one room with a king bed and the second bedroom had two twin beds. My arm is still sore from arm-wrestling over who got the king bed.
Second—what’s your budget? Believe me when I say there are mansions and even castles on these sites, but some budgets will not allow for such a wondrous place. If you’re splitting the fare with travel mates, be aware of their budget too.
Consider the reviews. This is a major factor when traveling, as most of my traveling cohorts will tell you they rely heavily on the reviews. You can get them from the site itself or you can even check tripadvisor.com. To give back to the travel community, I spend some time after the trip to provide my review as well. I think it’s important for the business and to let those looking know what you thought worked and what didn’t.
Next, consider the location. There have been times the perfect place was in another town from the main activities and was well worth the extra twenty-minute drive. Sometimes lodging is more expensive in the main town.
Another word about location: Make sure there’s ample outdoor space for those in your party. If you have kids, you may want to look at a place that has kid-friendly equipment outside. A flat yard to play games with the kids is a plus. I also look for an outdoor grill. It makes for a quick meal prep if you can have a BBQ…plus, the kids love grilled hamburgers and hotdogs.
What’s great about getting a house, apartment, or cabin with others is you can split the cost. You can also find many accommodations with kitchens so you can save even further when cooking together—and what a great way to share an experience. Sometimes, spending time together in the kitchen and enjoying someone else’s cooking and recipe ideas is an ideal experience.
For this trip, we used airbnb.com. We found a place with plenty of space for both couples and space to make sharable memories. Yes, sometimes what happens on vacation stays on vacation. This particular home was a little pricier than past places we’ve stayed in but very similar to the price of hotels in Durango. We paid about $1100 for three nights, which came out to about $188 per night per couple. We ate breakfast there every morning and cooked two of the three nights we were there. All in all, it was worth it to us.
We had plenty of room and a well-stocked home to share. There was even a washer and dryer, which came in handy after three days of fun in the sun. I always read the fine print about the owner’s expectations so there were no surprises when it came time to check out. The other thing I look for is the owner’s binder or notes left on how to contact them, what to do when leaving, and how to use some of the equipment such as the grill or fireplace. Don’t ever assume, so if in doubt, contact the owner.
A FYI: Contact the owner before you book if you have concerns about their pets that may have resided or reside in the home. If you are allergic to pets or chemicals, this could be very important knowledge to have, and sometimes the owners don’t disclose those details. The cat in the photo above was not ours, but was a frequent and fun visitor.
See the Menu/Foodies/Restaurants section for our menu and grocery list for this trip.