One of the big challenges of a group vacation is managing everyone’s expectations for a vacation home. To add to the fun, you really don’t know what you are going to get until you plop your suitcase down on the front step. Vacation rental listings generally have lots of photos but a tiny digital image doesn’t always tell the whole story.
Individual people have different ideas of what they want their vacation to look like. Included in that package is usually a nice place to stay. But my Taj Mahal may look like a trailer park to my fellow traveler.
This became apparent to me about a month ago. It has become a tradition for my husband’s parents to organize a family vacation to celebrate their milestone anniversaries. This includes the families of Greg and his two brothers. This year we are marking my in-law’s 50th Anniversary.
At Christmas, the adults gathered and tossed around proposed locations for a couple hours. Dates were discussed but no decisions were really made at that time. Several weeks and quite a few emails later, the choice was narrowed to a beach house on the coast between Washington, D.C. and Florida.
Two things I then learned: there are a TON of vacation rentals along the Atlantic coast and if you want one, do not dally. More than once we settled on a house only to find that it had already been booked by the time everyone had a chance to weigh in on the decision.
My father-in-law eventually found the perfect house and immediately put a two-day hold on it so we could confer. It has the exact number of bedrooms we need. They are configured so that the two families with kids have a kid room with the exact number of beds set up as a suite with the adult rooms. There are four bathrooms, one for each family. It has a pool. And a hot tub. And a boardwalk out to our own stretch of ocean-lapped sand. The only way this house could get more perfect for us is if they renamed it with our family name.
Ah, but there was a problem: it’s pink.
When my father-in-law called to tell me he had found this house, he said he thought it could work, but it was kind of ugly. When I asked for details, he told me the color. I thought it must be some garish fushia. As I scrolled through the photos, I saw the bedrooms, the bathrooms, the amenities and a pastel shade of coastal pink.
I called Greg and had him look at the pictures to see if he thought the color was too much. He is a man who is not a fan of pink, but he didn’t mind the house looking like an Easter egg. He said, “We’re not buying the house. Tell Dad to book it.”
So I did.
The next afternoon, Greg called to tell me that his mom had called and she was concerned about the vacation rental. She didn’t know if he would mind spending a week in a pink house.
So I called my mother-in-law to find out what she was thinking. She had spent all morning searching through dozens more homes without finding one that seemed to fit our group as well as the rose-colored beauty.
In, probably not the most diplomatic tone, I reminded her that we were not purchasing this home. It is a rental and after we have rented it, we can come home to our regular color houses. Why was it such a big deal that the house was pink?
Her response to me that day was that we had such a nice house on our last trip five years ago. She just wanted this house to be as nice.
Long story short, we booked the house. I think it helped that my daughters Anna and Kay were super excited about the hue and the fact that the house is named after one of their favorite mythical sea creatures.
Recently I called my mother-in-law back and chatted with her about why they had been so concerned about the color. She mentioned something that we have often discussed over the many years I have been in the family. She is concerned with form over function while I am the total opposite. Where I saw perfection in the number of beds, she saw imperfection in the aesthetics.
She mentioned how our last rental had an amazing backyard with a 15-foot waterfall. It was a pretty cool 1920s California bungalow. But it also had that weird cork wall and had been added on to a time or two, resulting in a broken layout. There was a fabulous bedroom reached by a spiral staircase, but the nearest bathroom was a floor below and down the hall.
No vacation rental is going to be perfect for all people. There will always be something broken or perplexing. The furnishings or appliances will not be to everyone’s taste. But try to remember (and remind your fellow travelers) that you are renting this house. No thirty- year mortgages will be signed. This isn’t a love affair for the ages. It’s a casual fling.
Now that the house is booked, we are planning to spend our vacation looking for rentals uglier than ours (with the exception of Kay and Anna who will be looking for prettier houses). And if we don’t find one, at least we will always remember the vacation where we stayed in that pink house.