We were not welcome in hostels or hotels in the city. While some will allow dogs under 30 pounds, none allow pets as big as Lily, my 100-pound Newfoundland puppy, and almost none take two. Lexa, my daughter’s 12-pound Westie, was part of our pack. That’s why we dived into the listings on a well-known vacation rental booking site with a healthy list of family and dog friendly properties in Rehoboth.
We haven’t even made the trip yet, but we have already made a few mistakes for beginners.
We discovered a four bedroom, three bathroom home that we dubbed Ocean Adventure in honor of our long-delayed vacation. It allowed my daughter, my son-in-law, their two children, my husband and me to be together – and apart. The beachfront location would eliminate the daily drama of loading the car with two toddlers, two dogs, beach chairs, a toy umbrella and shovels, and then circling to park and galloping to to the shore laden with all our affairs. We wanted simplicity.
Of course, we went through the photos of the property and took a look at the reviews. All five images revealed an older house with sea views from the deck, a single kitchen, and 1970s furniture that would make Edith and Archie Bunker feel at home.
No problem. We didn’t need fancy. But we needed cleaning up, especially in the event of a pandemic. Managed by a very efficient host cited for its cleanliness, the property was rated 4.9 out of 5 stars. Reassured, we reserved the house.
It was the blankets that warned us.
About a week after booking, we read the reviews more carefully. A former guest praised the host’s willingness to wash the blankets before his visit. What? Since the host assured me that she was following the covid-19 cleaning protocols, we assumed we would go to bed under cool blankets. This is not the case: She confessed to only washing the blankets at the beginning of the season, a period that stretched from mid-April to mid-September. Eww. We too asked the host to wash the blankets before we arrived.
After that, we analyzed guest feedback and probed the host’s responses to our emails, like Aspiring Sherlock Holmeses. We needed to know if Ocean Adventure’s definition of cleanliness matched ours.
You’ve probably guessed by now that it isn’t. When we asked about the other linens the host said she replaced a few pillows a year ago and was not sure when the bedspreads last saw the inside of the bed. ‘a washing machine. In response to my worried questions, she volunteered to strip the beds, providing only the washed blankets. We got the hint. We’re going to throw pillows in the back seat of the car, and we don’t need bedspreads in a beach rental.
Another guest mentioned “cloudy” sliding doors that made it difficult to view the ocean from across the street. You guessed it. The sliding doors are not cleaned until the beginning of the season. Remember we booked a property rated 4.9 out of 5 stars by a top performer cited for cleanliness. She explained that a strong sea breeze would spray the doors with salt. For us, this is even more of a reason to wash glass between tenants, not to mention that the entrance to a terrace with sea view is likely to be a “high touch” area requiring scrupulous cleaning.
Our host prevented guests from using the house the day before we arrived. It was fine, although the gesture was probably made as no one had reserved the place on Saturday (usually changeover day) before our appearance on Sunday.
Most mega-rental companies post cleaning protocols on their websites, but that doesn’t mean tenants aren’t sometimes unpleasantly surprised. Or there may be national details that, like us, you just take for granted. Keep in mind that what is non-negotiable for you may be the “So what?” The bottom line: if you want details on how your potential rental is cleaned up, ask on the front end.
The same goes for the way it’s stocked: don’t assume your accommodation comes with something. For example, the Ocean Adventure editorial staff made no mention of linens and towels. Since all of the condos, villas, houses, cabins, and even the glamping tents we rented came with these, we assumed our top-performing host provided them as well. Nope. At $ 715 plus fee per night, we weren’t expecting a simple rental.
We have learned the importance of carefully reading the equipment list and asking the right questions. Towels and sheets were not marked as provided so maybe we should have known the closet was empty. Still, blankets, bedspreads, and pillows weren’t on the list either, and these came with the rental. From the detailed description of tableware and utensils for 10 but no pots or pans, we considered carrying a box of basic cooking utensils. Not necessary. The host replied that the kitchen was well stocked. But not the bathroom: no soap, no shampoo, no toilet paper.
We are grateful to be making it to the beach with our family after a year that has been so difficult for so many. We will have a great time. Toddlers have new bikes to ride on the boardwalk. We’ll build sandcastles, eat pizza, munch on Thrasher’s fries, and breathe the salty air through our masks. Lily can rest her head on the packets of softgoods in the back seat. We’ll take a jar of cleaning supplies and spend the first few hours scrubbing. What we forget to bring we can buy.
Wiser, we won’t abandon owner-managed rental sites. Homes fulfill a need, providing accommodation that is otherwise unobtainable and often larger and more cost effective for family groups than multiple hotel rooms or suites. The host responded quickly and honestly to our requests – and yes, we are happy that she agreed to wash the blankets. Without Ocean Adventure, we couldn’t enjoy a local seaside getaway with dogs, kids, and plenty of living space.
Next time, to allay our fears and lighten up what we have to lug around, next time we will book a property that includes clean sheets, towels, linens, blankets, and all the comforts of home – including paper hygienic and soap.