Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rent a place in the sun in Orlando

Not surprisingly, given that it's one of the America's top tourist destinations--it drew 48.7 million visitors last year, including almost 800,000 Canadians--Orlando has thousands of vacation homes for rent.

Vacation homes are a great option for two types of groups that flock to Orlando each year: families visiting the famous theme parks, and golfing buddies heading to some of the 176 courses within an hour's drive of the city. Families appreciate the breathing room--the kids can be downstairs playing video games while at least one parent grabs a few extra minutes of sleep. And groups of adults enjoy the full kitchens--no more making coffee in a hotel bathroom.

One drawback to renting in Orlando is that you can be overwhelmed by choice, with dozens of companies vying for your rental dollar.

Ottawan Steve Flemming, who takes a golfing holiday with friends to Orlando each year, has nothing but kind words for Pilgrim Holidays. The company manages Orlando properties for mainly British owners, and Flemming's group has rented from Pilgrim for several years. "We normally rent a massive four-bedroom, fully furnished and equipped home with a pool for less than $1000 Canadian a week; some are a bit smaller and are available for $700 to $800 and are terrific," he says. "So far, every detail of every rental has been trouble-free and exactly as advertised."

Orlando-bound travellers may also be interested in the website of an association of eight Orlando home rental companies, Discover Vacation Homes.

If you decide you like the Orlando area so much that you want to buy rather than rent, check out a USA Today article on Orlando's second-home market by Larry Olmsted, which includes details on prices and amenities in several neighbourhoods.

One thing to keep in mind about the Orlando rental market: because the city is sprawling and because there are so many rental properties, you may not get the whole "like a local" experience you might enjoy by renting, say, an apartment in a European city. You may well find yourself on a street surrounded by other travellers rather than year-round residents. On the other hand, if you prefer the ease of renting from professional property managers with local concierges, rather than renting directly from owners, Orlando has all sorts of choices.

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