Florida Holiday Accommodation for Dummies

By: Terry Hely

Copyright (c) 2008 Terry Hely

Finding suitable Florida accommodation is usually done online using one of the proliferation of accommodation affiliate websites. When you take into account the combination of over 4 million overseas visitors to Florida each year, plus the internal domestic market, it's easy to see how lucrative this market is and why so many sites are trying to get their slice of the pie.

It has become commonplace with websites that cater to this market to refer to ALL accommodation as either "hotels" or "vacation rentals", when in fact much of the accommodation they list is neither. The term "vacation rentals" in particular tends to be used to include all types of vacation lodgings when in fact the term is meant to apply only to lodging that has self-catering facilities including a wet area (sink etc), refrigerator, microwave, etc.

It is only when you dig a little deeper, usually when reading the fact sheet for a particular property, that words such as "hotel", "resort", "condominium", "townhouse" and "vacation rental" start to be used to differentiate one choice from another. So what do these terms actually mean to the person making a booking? What are the differences between them that might influence your final decision on what to book?

** Florida Hotels

Hotels are nearly always located at, or in reasonable proximity to, the major vacation destinations. The accommodation consists of a serviced room (aka suite) with a bed, TV, chairs and essential furniture plus an ensuite bathroom and toilet. Private laundry facilities are no available. Meals are usually available in the hotel restaurant or on an eat-out basis.

Higher rated hotels usually offer facilities such as gymnasiums, pools, spas and saunas. At the bottom end of the price range, hotels may only offer the basic accommodation without any guest facilities. To keep abreast of current market demands, many hotels are now providing a choice of traditional hotel suites as well as units complete with a kitchenette for basic food preparation or a fully equipped kitchen for total self catering. In effect they are offering serviced apartments within the hotel complex.

Hotel tariffs are per room per night with extra person charges for persons that exceed the standard occupancy.

** Florida Resorts

In many cases there is little to distinguish resorts from hotels. Most resorts are also located at or near the most popular locations. Many are large high-rise complexes and operate under the same brand-names of the better known hotel chains such as Sheraton, Westin, Holiday Inn etc. Resorts usually offer a range of guest facilities and entertainment that surpasses hotel accommodation.

Swimming pools, games rooms, water sports equipment, tennis courts, kids clubs are all typical of the features and facilities that are inclusive with resort accommodation although there will be variations between different resorts and different locations.

Themed resorts are common in Florida, especially in the Orlando, Kissimmee and Lake Buena Vista entertainment park areas. Golf resorts dot the landscape all over Florida, which is not surprising given that there are over 1100 golf courses throughout the state. As with hotels, resort accommodation is often a choice of room only or fully equipped multi-bedroom suites with kitchen and laundry facilities (ie.. an apartment).

Resort tariffs are per room per night with extra person charges for persons that exceed the standard occupancy.

** Florida Condominiums & Townhouses

These can be best described as multifamily housing complexes with common facilities such as recreation areas, sidewalks, parking lots, etc. Whereas the condo (aka apartment) owner owns the inside of their unit, a townhouse owner owns the complete unit, including exterior surfaces and the land on which the unit is built.

More often than not, condominiums are located within a high rise property serviced by elevators. Condos in a low rise will generally involve a walk-up from the entrance via a communal staircase, something that needs to be considered if climbing stairs is a problem for anyone in your party. Townhouses are usually one or two levels above ground level and the stairs are internal within the unit.

Condos and townhouses have kitchens fully equipped for self catering, an equipped laundry and will nearly always include all linen and bedding. They are generally suited for holiday makers who prefer their accommodation away from the high rise complexes, have little or no need of in-house guest facilities and prefer to manage their own provisioning and meals.

** Florida Vacation Rentals

This is where the most confusion occurs, because if "vacation rental" is correctly interpreted as having "self-catering facilities including a wet area (sink etc), refrigerator, microwave, etc." then the term can be applied to some units within hotels and resorts, serviced apartments, condos, townhouses as well as detached private dwellings. One vacation rental might be a 1 bedroom beach shack 3 miles from town, another might be a fully equipped apartment in the Sheraton. Same description but very different properties.

The above notwithstanding, most vacation rentals will have separate bedrooms, fully equipped kitchens, one or more bathrooms plus laundry facilities including washer and dryer. Towels and linens are usually provided and daily maid services and other hotel conveniences are often available. When the rental property is a domestic dwelling and not part of a vacation complex, it is unlikely there will be any maid services available.

Unlike hotels and resorts with per person or per night pricing, vacation rentals usually have a set price for an entire rental with a maximum number of persons allowed. Extra person charges apply to additional guests accepted at time of booking.

Most one-bedroom units sleep a maximum of four using a sleeper/sofa in the living room. Most two-bedroom vacation rentals sleep a maximum of six, and most three-bedroom vacation rentals sleep up to eight.

The sleeping arrangements for rental houses will vary depending on the number of bedrooms, verandahs, sleep-outs and the individual layout of each one determines the maximum occupancy. Before making a booking for your Florida accommodation, it is important to read the fine print carefully to see exactly what each property offers.

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