Thursday, February 5, 2015

Florida Snowbird Observations

We spent January 2015 renting a house in Naples Florida to see if we liked it, and we did.  We also learned a lot about renting and the Snowbird experience in general.  We found the rental through, which is quite popular.  We enjoyed the weather, golf, daily walks, the beaches, shopping, the downtown area, and the local attractions like museums and botanical gardens.

Tips on Renting

  • If the owner is not local, it is best if they have a property manager.  If the owner is in California, and the cable or AC breaks, you will be heavily involved in getting it fixed instead of the owner.  The property manager may also make sure that the house/condo is kept to a reasonable standard.
  • If you don't know the area or the condo development, do a lot of research including doing google maps (street view), checking out the condo website, checking out the reviews on the renting website like VRBO, tourism websites, looking at real estate websites, etc.  You can avoid surprises like finding out that your luxury condo backs onto a busy street.
  • Don't bring your pet (we did).  The selection of places to rent drops by about 95% if you want one that is pet-friendly.  You may also find that there is a negative correlation between pet-friendly and tidiness of the rental and cost.  It is also harder to find good hotels that take pets when you travel.

Tips on Traveling

  • Everyone sets out for Florida in the first week of January, and everyone returns from holiday on the weekend closest to new year.  If you travel during this period, expect traffic jams.  For example, we waited about 45 minutes in a jam on I95 because someone's boat fell off their trailer and was blocking 1.5 lanes of the two lane road.
  • Don't trust your GPS system when it tries to re-route you over Florida secondary highways due to traffic.  You will spend a lot of time slowing down for little citrus farming towns on the highway and you will not save any time.

Restaurant and Activity Tips

  • Prices go up during "the season" (Jan-Apr) in restaurants and stores, so expect to pay more.
  • Early bird specials are around 430pm and prime dinner hour is 6pm, most places clear out by 730pm.
  • If you are renting in a golf resort, it will be hard to get tee times during "the season", plan ahead.
  • Avoid restaurants that advertise on TV with cheesey music, Tiki bar decor, and feature Jimmy Buffett style entertainment, just a thought.

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