Vacation Planning

TIME TO PLAN THAT SUMMER VACATION!

 

Planning that summer vacation isn’t what it used to be!!  After 30 + years in the rental industry as an owner/manager and really getting to know what our guests have come to expect in a rental property, I can offer you a little insight into the process of finding a reputable owner/managed vacation rental.  First, filter down your search to owner managed/operated properties!  These properties are usually where you’ll find more insightful information from the owner themselves, rather than from a large company.  Because you are dealing with the owner, you should get great customer service!  To filter your search further:

 

LOOK FOR UNPARALLELED CUSTOMER SERVICE

 

  1. Call or email and ASK QUESTIONS!! If you get no answer, leave a message.  If the owner doesn’t call you back, this is not the place for you!!  Talking directly with the owner is a great way to get a good feel of how your vacation experience will go.
  2. Ask if the owner is independent of booking sites. Although most booking sites provide ease and anonymity, they also include booking and service fees. Many owners have their own websites, can be contacted directly and provide alternative methods of paying to avoid booking and service fees altogether.  Be sure to ask!!
  3. Get a quote in writing! All reputable owners will gladly supply an itemized quote!  If you don’t understand an item, ask!  There should be no hidden fees!!
  4. The deposit. Don’t forget to factor this into your budget. Also, be aware of the process by which your deposit will be returned. Understand what conditions must be met in order for you to get your deposit back.
  5. Research the property. Make sure the owner owns the property!  This may seem elementary, but there are scammers out there willing to take your money in return for nothing!  Is there a website where you can check ownership?  Does the property have a personal website?  Are there reviews of the property?  Is there someone available to verify they have stayed at the property before?
  6. Make sure the property is a perfect fit for you and your family. Ask about the sleeping arrangements, number of rooms and number of beds.  If a laundry is important, ask if there is a place for laundry.  What is included in the kitchen?  In the bathrooms?  Is parking included?  Does the property have internet?  How does the cleaning work?  Do I need a car?  Is there a grocery store nearby?  What amenities are available?  Is it noisy?  Is it family friendly?  Pet friendly?
  7. Find out who you’re renting from. Research the owner, not just the home. Do a little detective work.  Today’s social media makes it easier than ever to check someone out!  Just enter the name of the owner and see what information comes up!
  8. Avoid group-think. As soon as you decide to go on vacation, everyone else wants to join in on the fun! Sometimes a big house works for some, but not others! Extended families and friends may need to be broken up into smaller groups as opposed to fitting them into one house. It gives everyone more privacy and is easier on the finances, because you don’t have to argue over a large bill at the end. The owner should be able to help you find other accommodations for everyone nearby, if this happens.
  9. Review the contract. You’re not checking into a hotel; this is more like renting an apartment. If you want to review the contract in advance, ask! What are you responsible for doing?  How are special situations handled?  How are weather/environmental related disasters handled?
  10. Stay flexible. Remember, you’re renting someone’s home. Some things may go wrong. The plumbing may back up, the air conditioner/heater may stop working, you can’t access the internet or the code to the door won’t work. Will there be someone available to help you, both on and off site, if something like that happens?
  11. Ask for insider information! The owner knows the area and will be able to offer a wealth of information!!  They should be more than willing to point you in any area of interest!
  12. Get A Contact Number.  Make sure to get the owner’s phone number just in case there is a problem.  If the owner doesn’t live near the property, be sure to get a contact number of the housekeeper or maintenance person. You’ll be glad you did!

As owners, we know the process of nailing down the perfect rental can take a while, sometimes taking a couple of hours and sometimes taking a week or more with back and forth questions.  But, the reward in the end is a wonderful experience for both you and the owner!   By allowing us to help you find a rental property that’s ideal for you and permitting us to answer all your questions to make your experience as close to perfect and memorable as possible, you allow us to take pride in knowing you’ll have a wonderful vacation!

Are you interested in staying with us with no booking or service fees?  Contact me (Karen deBarros) for all the answers to your questions about our Ocean Villa Condo rentals in beautiful Panama City Beach, Florida.  Email at oceanvilla16@gmail.com or call at 800-478-0591
 

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Top 5 Things to do in Panama City Beach When It’s Raining

Top 5 Things to do in Panama City Beach When It’s Raining

So, you’re on vacation at the beach and it’s raining!!  You guess it’s a wash and you’ll just have stay in the condo and sleep.  Not so fast!!   There are still plenty of things to do that doesn’t involve shopping!!

  1.  I can think of a lot worse things than having to sit on the balcony of the condo at Ocean Villa Condo, curled up, listening to the rain and the ocean, while reading a good suspense novel or playing a game of cards or dominoes with the entire group!  The balcony is 10 feet deep!  That’s plenty deep enough to stay dry from the dripping at the front edge of the balcony.  And…look on the bright side, you’ll be the first to know when the sun shines again!!

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     2. See a movie in style.  The Grand Theatre at Pier Park is a state-of -the-art stadium seating movie theater located in Pier Park.  There are 16 screens with reclining seats and a abundance of movie choices available.  Located within Pier Park are enough eateries and retailers to combine the movie with a great meal or some shopping.  Tickets are just $6.00 on Tuesdays, and any day is free refill day on a large popcorn and large soda, anytime!

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    3.  Find the “pocket” at Rock’ It Lanes.  It’s not just for bowling!!  Whether the pocket is found in the bowling pins or on the felt of the pool table, this is the place to be!!  Rock’ It Lanes is the only bowling center on the beach and is located just a few minutes from our Ocean Villa Condo in the Edgewater Shopping Plaza!! Bring the whole family. At 50,000 square feet, there’s plenty of room to play all day. There are 24 lanes of computerized bowling, 23 pool tables, an arcade featuring all the latest games and some old favorites, plus an 8,000 square foot roller skating rink! You don’t even have to leave to eat!! Grab lunch or dinner at the Grille, where they’re serving up a great menu including home-made burgers, made-from-scratch pizzas, chicken quesadillas and more.

4.  Take in a little hands-on fact finding at local exhibits and museums!  The Museum of the Man in the Sea is a little drive from Ocean Villa, about 15 minutes, and has fascinating exhibits that will introduce you to a world of underwater mysteries and diving!  There on display, is the SEALAB-1, the world’s first working undersea habitat.  Easy on the pocketbook, entrance to this quirky museum is less than $10!!  Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum offers a totally whimsical museum experience.  In addition to 15 different gallery displays of things that “have to be seen to be believed”, there is a 7-D motion theater that combines 3-D film with subtle and intense seat vibrations, bumps, dips and shakes to  transport you virtually into the movie experience.  Don’t miss the MirrorMaze Challenge or the LaseRace Challenge!!  Right across the street is WonderWorks Museum, where you’ll be greeted by over 100 exhibits and challenges the minute you walk into the door!!  Not to be missed is the Upside Down Experience, plus there is laser tag, a ropes course, a 6D motion ride and plenty of hands-on activities for all ages.

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   5.  Last, but not least, it may be just the time for a little libation!!  Two really great places to get started are within a few minutes drive from our condos at Ocean Villa!!  If beer is your thing, the Fishale Taphouse and Grill Bright,  is a spacious tavern with a fireplace and some 65 craft beers on tap to spend the day trying! There’s also a casual American menu offered when you’ve had enough tasting!!  Up on Thomas Road, the Panama City Beach Winery sells citrus, fruit and berry wines.  These aren’t just your average wines!!  The flavors are endless!  There’s even a tomato wine called “Hot Sun” that is a dry white wine with a hint of tomato and peppers!!  Tastings are free, informative and fun!  Bring along a group of people and have each person select different wines so more can be tried!!  Don’t drink wine?  Go anyway…you might just change your mind!!

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Proving a rainy day in Panama City Beach doesn’t have to be a day stuck indoors, I hope this blog has given you some ideas on taking advantage of a perfect opportunity to enjoy a guilt-free day away from tanning – and the chance to discover some of Panama City Beach’s best indoor attractions!

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PANAMA CITY BEACH SEABREEZE JAZZ FESTIVAL

SEABREEZE JAZZ FESTIVAL

Panama City Beach, FL

April 20 – 24, 2016

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Smooth jazz…that’s what Panama City Beach’s Seabreeze Jazz Festival is all about!  The epitome of “The Good Life”, smooth jazz is laid back, yet upscale at the same time, relaxing and familiar as a pair of your most comfortable beach sandals. Here’s a festival dedicated to just this lifestyle; and, we still have availability at the condos!

Beginning April 20th, sit back and enjoy a Dinner Cruise aboard the Solaris Dinner yacht featuring Nick Colionne.  On Thursday, The Solaris Dinner yacht departs again, but this time for a lunch cruise featuring Mindi Abair.

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After the cruise on Thursday, on the main stage at Aaron Bessant Park, 10 minutes from the condos, you’ll be serenaded all day long by some of your favorites.  There’s even an All Star after party jam nightly, featuring individual artists!!  On Friday, the fun begins all over again at 1pm and continues into the night with more of your favorites at both Pompano Joe’s at Pier Park and the main stage at Aaron Bessant Park!  Get up early on Saturday and Sunday, because the days are filled with smooth jazz performances – what’s not to like!!  Beginning at 8 am on both days and again throughout the day and night, your favorites will be giving their bests again.  All performances end on Sunday with an appearance of Jazz All Stars featuring Peabo Bryson, Nick Colionne, Brian Simpson, and Elan Trotman!

This is truly an event not to be missed!!  For more detailed ticket and schedule information, visit www.seabreezejazzfestival.com.  For more information about accommodations at our condos, visit our website at www.oceanvillacondo.com or give me a call at 800-478-0591.

If you can’t attend the festival, but still love smooth jazz, tune in from your computer or phone to Seabreeze 106.3 fm while working to listen to your favorite smooth jazz or just to see what it’s all about!  I think you’ll agree, smooth jazz and the beach — there’s no other “relax and unwind” combination like it!!

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SHOPPING

Page-11-Image-29Pier Park Panama City Beach is a 900,000+ square foot Florida outdoor shopping center and entertainment hub located in the heart of this beachside city. Located between Back Beach Road and Front Beach Road, it serves as the premiere Northwest Florida shopping destination. This mecca offers dining, specialty shops, attractions, events and more.

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FISHING/CHARTERS

Panama City Beach is famous for fishing of all kinds – especially deep sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. But serious anglers also catch plenty of fish from the piers along the beach and St. Andrew Bay, or by casting a line directly from the shore. Anglers will also enjoy bay fishing, or scouting a local river or freshwater lake. Novice and experienced fishermen alike will be thrilled with the variety of fresh and saltwater fishing options available in Panama City Beach. Most professional charter fishing companies will provide a fishing license for their customers. However, visitors can also obtain a short-term fishing license, details HERE. For more information on fishing from local piers, click HERE.

For detailed fishing regulations, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation.

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WATER ACTIVITIES

 

If you love water sports, the big question here isn’t what to do, it’s how to fit it all in. At Panama City Beach, water sports aren’t just something to do, they’re a way of life. All the equipment, guides and lessons you need are available beachside in front of the condo.

  •  Page-9-Image-25Cruises, Boating & Fishing – The Gulf of Mexico is beautiful from the white-sand shores of Panama City Beach, but you get a totally different perspective out on the water, whether you’re fishing, zipping across the Gulf on a banana boat or just kicking back on one of our famous sunset cruises. Dolphin cruises are another great way to see Panama City Beach by water and observe dolphins in their natural habitat.

 

 

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  •  Diving & Snorkeling – Great weather, great water and an underwater landscape teeming with life make for great diving conditions. Done, done and done! Experienced divers love our reefs and wrecks, and for newcomers, snorkeling is the perfect introduction to Panama City Beach
  •  Skimboarding – Skimboarders run towards the ocean, drop into the thin wash of retreating waves, then skim out to sea and ride the breaking waves back to shore. Our sugar-white sands and flat waters make Panama City Beach a must-skim destination.

 

 

 

  •  Page-9-Image-24Jet Skiing – Feel the wind in your hair and salt spray on your face as you zip across the Gulf. Personal watercraft, usually called “jet skis,” are a longtime favorite for fun in the sun at Panama City Beach, whether riding solo or on a 2- or 3-seater.

 

 

 

 

  •  Paddle Boarding – One of the hottest newcomers to Panama City Beach water sports, paddle boarding uses big boards, letting riders stand and gently paddle their way across the water.
  •  Kiteboarding or “kitesurfing” – This is one of nature’s most zen adventures – just you, a small board and wind to pull you along! In addition to Panama City Beach, some barrier islands like Shell Island, offer spectacular and serene riding areas.
  • Surfing–Part of what makes Panama City Beach water sports unique is that there are opportunities for everyone – experts and newbies alike – and surfing is one area where we’re perfect for beginners. With our white-sand beaches, mild climate and mid-sized Gulf waves, entry-level never felt so
  •  Page-9-Image-26Parasailing – Fast boats lift parachutes high in the air, and you with them. Go solo, or try our big chutes to share the experience with family and friends. Of all the beach sports you might try, this one that gives you a bird’s-eye view you’ll never forget!
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SHELL ISLAND

From the park, you can also take a ferry trip to Shell Island, a pristine barrier island just across from the mainland. This 700-acre island is a peaceful spot for sunning or collecting shells. On Shell Island, you can find miles of beach with hardly a footprint that isn’t your own, no development, and no access other than by boat.

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STATE PARKS

 

There’s always something for the nature lover to do in Panama City Beach, so whether you’re spending the day at St. Andrews State Park, or jumping on a sailboat to explore the Gulf of Mexico, enjoy the natural bounty of Florida in an ecologically responsible way!

  • Page-7-Image-16 St. Andrews State Park, located off Thomas Dr. three miles east of

Panama City Beaches, was named by Travel Magazine as “The World’s

Best Beach” in 1995. The 1,260-acre park is well known for its sugar white

sands and crystal-clear emerald green water. It has thick forests, sand

dunes covered with sea oats, fresh and saltwater marshes, a lagoon

swimming area, fishing jetties, hiking trails, and 1.5 miles of beach.

  •  Page-7-Image-17Camp Helen State Park’s beach offers an even quieter beach escape,

but requires a short walk to get to the Gulf. Offering pristine

beaches, excellent trails that wind through dunes and scrub oak

forests, and a rare dune lake, Camp Helen State Park is truly one of

Florida’s most special state parks.

  •  Page-8-Image-18The Panama City Beach Conservation Park -In the Panama City

Beach Conservation Park you’ll find 12 looping trails ranging from

0.6 to 11 miles for walking, biking, wildlife and bird watching. The

county’s desire to protect and balance our natural resources while

providing outdoor recreational opportunities is the driving force in

establishing the Panama City Beach Conservation Park. This 2,900

acre tract of West Bay Ecosystem is being restored using reclaimed

water to return a natural water balance to these wetlands.

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GOLF

 

 

With 5 championship golf courses (including the only Nicklaus Design course in Northwest Florida), 320 days of sunshine a year, and an average temperature of 74 degrees, it’s no wonder that Golf Digest magazine named Panama City Beach one of America’s top three golf towns. There’s plenty of variety, too! In fact, with 162-holes to play, you’d be hard pressed to squeeze all the great golf Panama City Beach offers into one vacation. Contact the golf courses directly for reservations as preferred tee times are booked quickly.

  •  Hombre Golf Club
  •  Lagoon Legend & The Club Meadows at Bay Point Resort
  •  Holiday Golf Club
  •  Signal Hill
  •  Bay Dunes Golf Club

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AMUSEMENTS

 

Page-5-Image-12Not one but two giant mazes, a stingray petting pool, a four-story science puzzle paradise – just a fraction of attractions for kids in Panama City Beach! Fall in love with fun at Coconut Creek, mini-golf at Barnacle Bay or the charm of the of amusements along the beach. If you’re not down for go-karts and putt-putt, no worries – the beach isn’t the only all-ages game in town! Shipwreck Island Water Park has everything from the toddler-friendly Tadpole Hole to racing slides and “river” rapids, while the popular Gulf World Marine Park can fill your day with animal shows and exhibits, and even the chance to shadow the Park’s animal trainers for a day. Nature-lovers love our eco-tours and the wilderness of Camp Helen and St. Andrews state parks. Or take the family to gaze at 400+ bizarre exhibits at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium.Page-5-Image-8

For the wise-in-years but young-at-heart, attractions in Panama City Beach let you swim with dolphins or launch yourself at 100 mph from a giant slingshot 300 feet in the air. And, if you’re going to stay a while, check out  The Science and Discovery Center of Northwest Florida where they will educate and inspire children and adults through hands-on, interactive exhibits and programs that promote discovery of science, technology, and history.

 

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