Thursday, November 20, 2014

Are You Ready for A Break from the Cold? Pet Friendly Beachfront Townhomes Available Now...

In this Issue:
  • Beachfront Pet Friendly Units at Gulf Sands East (next to Whale's Tail) and Gulf Sands West (close to Captain Dave's)
  • Now Booking for Spring Break, call 855-550-8005
  • 10% Offer Code for Stays now until December 20, 2014
  • Click on Book Online Today at for Promo Code
Winter Rates starting at $95 per night!
Snowbird Availability...
Feel the sand between your toes and soak up the sun! You will love this lFeel the sand between your toes and soak up the sun! You will love this location right on the beach. The sandy white Destin beach is steps from your balcony. Enjoy a morning cup of coffee while listening to the waves and seagulls. You will not find a property closer to the beach. .If you are a true beach lover, this property is perfect!
Winter Rates starting at $95 per night!
Snowbird Availability...

"Beachfront" defines this quaint townhouse built right on the sandy Destin beach! This townhouse has been recently refurnished while retaining the charm of “old Florida”. You will not find a better location for the beach lover. There are no swimming pools or tennis courts, but you will be impressed with this fantastic spot right on the beach! There are plenty of restaurants close by. The Silver Sands Outlet and Destin Commons shopping areas are just minutes away.
Shore Dreams Vacation Rentals
Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Miramar Beach, Sandestin Resort, 30-A
Panama City Beach, St. Augustine, Florida; Atlanta, Lake Sinclair, Georgia

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fall Discounts on Low Rates!

Fall Specials on already low rates! 10% off already discounted rates until October 18, 2014. Discount automatically applies when booking online at

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

In this Issue:
We are Growing! New Rental Properties at Lake Sinclair, GA and Destin, FL
Spring Fling - Stay a couple of days between now and 5/10/14 and get $50 off when booking online!
Welcome To Our New Rental Properties!
Summerhouse Townhome on Miramar Beach, FL

Sunset Cottage Dock

Gulfview 326, Miramar Beach, FL

Shore Dreams Vacation Rentals
Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Miramar Beach, Sandestin Resort, 30-A
Panama City Beach, St. Augustine, Florida; Atlanta, Lake Sinclair, Georgia

Monday, April 7, 2014

Pets or Not—Vacation Rental Companies Divided What’s an Owner to do?

I’m a Marketing Consultant for a vacation rental company, and few issues in this industry are as polarizing as whether or not to allow pets. Those advocating pets cite loyalty, increased rentals and a broader market in their success stories. Those on the no-pets side are concerned about damages and alienating guests who suffer from allergies and asthma. Both sides have valid points. So what’s an owner to do?

1. Consider your location: Are you in an area frequented by pet-owners wanting to bring their pets? This could include beaches, national parks, areas with walking and hiking trails, locales that cater to pets, etc. If so, you certainly want to consider welcoming them into your rentals.

2. Does your competition allow pets? This has implications on both sides, however. If most of your competitors allow pets, are you losing rentals because you don’t? Or are you picking up most of the renters who don’t want to stay in pet-friendly units? If few owners in your area allow pets, you might just capitalize on an untapped market if you decide to offer pet-travelers a welcomed option.

3. Are your units conducive to pets and pet travelers? Do you have carpet or tile/wood floors? How often are you replacing the carpet currently and would it make sense to upgrade to tile or wood? Are you in an area with a nearby park or grassy area? Do other vacation rental units surround yours or are most neighbors, permanent residents? How do they feel about pets, particularly dogs? The overall pet-friendliness of the area should be taken into consideration since dogs do need a place to walk and potty and may occasionally bark. How will your neighbors react? Will your guests be hassled by others living in the area? These factors are important considerations to your guests’ overall experiences and whether or not they would choose to return.

4. Do you stay in your units with your own pets? If so, you can’t really advertise them as “no pets” to those with allergy and asthma concerns. The same is true of smoking--it needs to either be all or none.

5. Consider your current damage costs. People/kids damage units too. Spilled red wine or colored drinks can stain carpets and furniture. Milk leaves a sour smell on carpet/fabric that is difficult to remove. Crushed cereal and smashed food in sofas and chairs are a frequent issue when children are allowed to eat in front of the television. We’ve never had a pet to smoke, run a golf cart into the side of a building, dent an appliance, punch a hole in a wall, steal, host a party, play loud music, get drunk, etc. As an owner, you already have to spend money for damages caused by humans. With a hard-surface floor and appropriate furnishings, you may find that pet-owners cost you less than many of your current guests. And by charging a reasonable pet fee, you will build a fund that will take care of any situations that might arise.

Whatever side of the pet fence you reside on, it’s hard to ignore the fact that a 2013-2014 survey conducted by THE AMERICAN PET PRODUCTS ASSOCIATION found that 68% of American households contain at least one pet. That translates to 82.5 million homes. And that percentage is up from 56% in 1988, the first year they conducted this survey. Additionally, they reported that Americans spent more than $55 billion on their beloved fur kids in 2013 and are estimated to spend more than $58 billion in 2014. This is definitely a growing market segment and one that deserves serious consideration for the vacation rental industry. Those are big numbers and owners should carefully weigh the risks and rewards. If you decide to offer pet-friendly units, there are several things you can do to protect your investment and maximize your profits.

1. Install hard-surface floors. This will eliminate the need for replacing carpet every few years, which you are probably doing anyway (or should be). But it will also increase the value of your investment. It’s much easier to clean and it reduces the headaches you have with carpeted units.

2. Promote your unit(s) as pet-friendly on your website, social media and VRBO, HOMEAWAY, and other sites where you are listed. This market is very loyal and they communicate with one another. They are grateful to be able to take along their pets, and most are particularly interested in being allowed to return. Renata Circeo-Loudon, owner of Shore Dreams Vacation Rentals has this to say, “Since we began promoting our units as pet-friendly 2 years ago, we have doubled our listings and increased our rental income. Our pet-friendly units average about 30% greater occupancy, resulting in increased rental income. And we haven’t experienced any additional damage costs. In fact, we have more damage from humans than from pets. By charging a nominal fee, we can pay for any damage, deep-cleanings or additional pest control that might be required. By promoting via social media. our spokes dog JAZZ engages our customers and develops loyal relationships on our Shore Dreams Pet Adventures page.

3. Trust your instincts. Using the verbiage “Pets Considered” gives you the latitude to decide for yourself if you feel the guest will be responsible. Ask about size of pets, number of pets, how often the pet has traveled with them, etc. If you don’t have a good feeling about them, don’t allow them to bring a pet. If you’ve been in this business for any length of time, you probably have pretty good “radar.”

4. Charge a refundable security deposit, have guests purchase an insurance policy, or self-insure. These are good policies whether a guest has a pet or not. Some owners/managers prefer a refundable security deposit stating that it gives the guest an incentive to protect your property. Others prefer the insurance route and charge all guests a flat rate. Still others have decided to set aside monies collected via fees to cover any unexpected damage. And you can always utilize a combination, collecting both a fee and a security deposit if you feel uneasy and then waiving it for return customers who have proven themselves to be responsible. Whatever you decide, make sure that you have a way to collect from any guest if they, or their pet, damage your property.

A HOMEAWAY survey reported that 29.1 million Americans traveled with their pet in the past three (3) years. That represents a lot of potential rentals. They also discovered that 41% of people had snuck a pet into their hotel room, either because the hotel was not pet-friendly, their pet was too big, or it was a breed not accepted. So you may be hosting pets without your knowledge and not earning the extra fees from these rentals. Vacation rental companies can’t afford to ignore trends in the hotel industry. Not only are they our competition, but they also conduct ongoing research to refine their brands and improve the bottom-line. So they are a good source of information about the travel industry. Subsequently, many luxury hotel chains are increasingly embracing pets–not just allowing them, but catering to them with amenities that range from pet beds and bowls to special spa services.

Fodor’s reported The 7 Best Pet Friendly Hotel Chains in this 2011 article as: KIMPTON, LOWES, MANDARIN ORIENTAL, “W”, RITZ-CARLTON, HILTON, AND HOTEL INDIGO. Many WESTINS are also pet friendly. If these top-notch, popular hotels allow Fido, perhaps vacation rental owners should take both note and advantage, of their research and consider rolling out the tiled/wood welcome mat for the fur members of our guests’ families.

Deborah J. Thompson is a Marketing Consultant and frequent Contributing Writer and Photographer for FIDO Friendly magazine. She’s a regular traveler with her Maltese JAZZ–the newly elected doggie “Mayor of Atlanta” in the DOGTV nationwide contest, and her spunky rescue Yorkie, Sophie Rose. You can “bark” with Jazz and Sophie Rose at or share travel stories at

Sunday, February 16, 2014

How to Avoid Being Ripped Off or Scammed when Renting a Vacation Home.

Every season, our vacation rental management company gets calls from travelers, who had booked with another owner desperate to find a rental because the one they rented does not exist or is booked already (by the legitimate owner, most likely). They are stranded, with high expectations and huge disappointments, as well as anger for being scammed on a “vacations by owner” website or Craigslist.

ABC News recently ran a story on 20/20 outlining how vacation rental scams or ripoffs are becoming more common.

In most cases, the money was wired to a foreign bank account or money transfer company never to be seen again.  A credit card was never used. These vacationers are tired, out of money and homeless at the moment and looking for a solution.  We have helped guests in some cases and in others if we are sold out, we suggest a hotel as a quick fix. Regardless, as a professional vacation rental company manager and a vacation rental owner, I cannot imagine how a guest must feel in this situation.  However, just like the internet is called “The Wild Wild West” of our time, then the folks riding the horses looking for a vacation ranch have to look out!

I have owned vacation rentals as well as rented them myself through Vacation Rentals By Owner, Flipkey or management companies and have had mostly decent experiences.  I have also had hundreds of emails from potential “guests” asking for address information so they can send our company a certified check (for more than the rental, send back the difference…usually addressed to us as Mr. or Ms.) and you know the rest of the story. Delete, Delete, Delete!

So it goes both ways…

The last time I rented through a management company, I had an interesting experience.  Since we rented last minute, the Chat price, referred to as “CHAT” did not catch up with the price they charged me and we were overcharged.  The management company had to “review” the CHAT before they credited my account. The check in instructions did not arrive via email until after we got on the road, however we were instructed to download an APP with the info.  We had what we thought were the codes and addresses (initial documents upon booking and payment) and all, but it turned out we had the address to the unit, but the code to the “Post Office”...I mean management office door, now known as “FORT KNOX” (yes the company had bought an old Post Office)  It was like FORT KNOX when we got there (we went to the unit first because we couldn't find FORT KNOX initially).  Problem was the instructions did not give us the code to the key box inside of FORT KNOX.  So we tried the APP.  It did not work on my Android phone…OOPS! However my friend had an IPhone and we were golden (as in getting into FORT KNOX!). Got our Key and left FORT KNOX.  We already knew where the unit was because we had been there already.  


First thing we noticed when we got back there however, was a sign that we needed a parking pass or we would be towed.  We figured we would be okay since everything else had gone wrong…Wrong!  No, we did not get towed (we went in the next morning to the office and picked one up, they were not too happy with the management company however), we just could not find our unit because the numbers were not in sequence.  At this point we needed wine desperately, so we went against math logic and figured it out.  Well the unit was on the second floor without an elevator. That was okay. I like going up stairs with luggage, computers, Trader Joe's 2-Buck Chuck and K-cup coffee makers.

Key works!

We get in and it looks the same as the pictures with a great ocean view.  Wine gets open first and then we discover that the unit only has one full bath!  It was advertised as a 2 bedroom, 2 Bath condo on the beach.  I am okay with that.  My associate wanted her own bath.  More wine, please!

Before I go on…This was a working trip, so we were not there on vacation and really just needed a place to sleep and blow dry our hair.  NOT…The power downstairs went out at 8 AM the next morning.  This included the kitchen, half bath (the one that should have been a full bath), AC unit and Shore Dreams Vacation Rental Central on the dining room table.  So we called the management company’s’ number and got a very nice person on the phone.  “Oh sorry you are having issues. Did you check the Breaker Box?” she asked. “There is no visible Breaker Box,” I replied.  Anyway, I told her we had to go to work and that they could come over and fix it without us there.  “And by the way, the AC is out and it is 80 degrees…” I added. (I think she really thought I was clueless not being able to find the Breaker Box.  She kept on saying it was behind the refrigerator?)

Remember, I run a medium size vacation rental company, Shore Dreams Vacation Rentals, and I know how to troubleshoot most issues including Breaker Boxes hidden behind fake Picassos.  There was NO Breaker Box and it was HOT.

That afternoon we got back to the unit and the electricity was on but the AC was not.  Also a Phantom Doorknob to a Phantom Door had been broken (hollowed out) and the door was unlocked.  I notice these things! Upon opening, we discovered a lock out unit downstairs with a kitchen and bedroom!  And low and behold, there was our other bathroom and the Breaker Box!  We were cool and did not use the bathroom we paid for, regardless.

I called again that night and told them that the AC was still not working and they said that they sent him over during the day, but since we weren't there and he did not have a key he could not get in and that it was our fault that we weren't there!  With my inside voice, I told her that we were working and that no one told us that we had to be there and even if we knew and could, we couldn't. Outside voice came later…

To make a long story short, the AC unit was not fixed until the next day and I requested a full day refund.  They only gave me $50 refund for the AC being out for almost 2 days because I had already received a discount in the CHAT.  Guess I was pushing it after the CHAT discount?

They did admit that they had advertised the unit wrong and that it only had one full bath. Really?

So in conclusion, be it vacations by owner or with a management company the moral of the story is never pay by certified check, wired funds or use the HUGE management company, located in the FORT KNOX building, that we used on the East Coast of Florida for our working trip!  But I am not mentioning any names…

RenataCirceo-Loudon is the founder and owner of Shore Dreams Vacation Rentals. Shore Dreams Vacation Rentals is a Florida Panhandle company specializing in affordable family and pet friendly vacation condos and homes in Destin, Sandestin, 30-A, Fort Walton Beach, Panama City Beach and St. Augustine, Florida as well as Atlanta and Eatonton, Georgia. In addition to welcoming thousands of guests and their furry kids from all over the world, Shore Dreams Vacation Rentals provides owners with full service property management options in the Florida Panhandle, St. Augustine Beach and Georgia’s Lake Country. Email us at for more information.