Friday, June 29, 2012

How to Get your Best Fit on Sanibel: The First Steps in Tracking down the perfect Vacation Rental

We are a bit hesitant to write this post as most vacation rental guests who come to Sanibel Holiday have either rented from us before, or at least rented a condo or house previously on the Island.

But there are newbies to vacation rentals who might profit from this advice.

Or those who may have rented long ago or elsewhere and the vacation rental market is different here .... and now.

We hope this post will be helpful for all of the above.

There is always flexibility in vacation rental rules, but by and large private homes on Sanibel only rent for a period of 28 days, and almost always rent from first of one month to first of the following month. Similarly, condos rent for 7 days and most often Saturday to Saturday. While there is a chance the stay for either house of condo can be adjustable in terms or arrival and departure date, that is usually only not possible unless it is last minute, and most of the time off season.

There are some condos that allow one dog under 25 pounds and some houses that even allow 2 dogs of any size. When these conditions exist, there is always a non refundable pet fee. Even if a home or condo is advertised as pet friendly, it is necessary for the guest to inquire and provide information on their pet(s).

Because a vacation rental is so unique, each owner having their own taste and standards, it is best to look at as many photos as possible and, if there are questions, inquire specifically as to what you are looking for. Layout is important to some rental guests, so asking where bedrooms are situated in relation to one another, what floor they are on, etc. will give you a better idea of whether the property is a good fit for your party. If you want to be able to walk to the beach in 5 or 6 minutes, do ask about distance. "Near beach" is a pretty generic term, and most often applies to just about everything on Sanibel, a small island where a beach is never far away!

If you want a child friendly complex, it may be a good idea to see if the condo complex you are interested in has a children's pool, is more frequented by adults or has lots of play equipment. Though most guests on the island, especially in summer months, are families with kids and all enjoy the beauty of nature and the beach, some complexes are more active than others, and that is good to know in advance. The converse is also true: some guests really want to get away from it all, and there are particular complexes most fitting for that kind of stay.

Of course you can't anticipate every single need and preference you have in an accommodation, but you can make a good dent in satisfying yourself. Think of your family and what makes them happiest, then compile a list, whether long or short, before you search.

We love to make our guests happy, and it's easiest to do that when they know what they want and they tell us!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Attention Foodies: The Beach and Good Eatin' are Compatible on Sanibel

We know some people (not naming names here) who will not go to the beach unless they have something to eat there.

Honestly, as crazy as that sounds, the beautiful Gulf, the sight of shore birds, the dolphins leaping through the water...none of that is sufficient temptation to spend the day at the beach.

And while there are not a lot of beach bistros and restaurants on the Island, there are some.

But for our fussy eaters, they want their own food to eat on their own blanket or at their own beach chair, and a baloney sandwich is just not going to make their day.

Have heart, ye Alexajente's of coastal cuisine! Sanibel can provide you with the fuel you need to not only enjoy our natural wonders but savor some delicious and delightful treats as well. A stop at Jerry's before a beach day is a joy to behold. There are quiches to choose from, a wide variety of cheeses, smoked fish, stromboli and bruschetta and dips and spreads galore. If you think you left good snacking behind you in New York City (or where ever), come and see what Jerry's has in store.

Now, of course, we realize that smoked fish may not be what you think of for breakfast at the beach, so you might want to consider the Sanibel Deli and Coffee Factory for your early day meal by sunrise. The Island Deli will tickle your morning palette with its wide and tantalizing selection of breakfast sandwiches, bagels, hard rolls and croissants. And if an egg and cheese sandwich sounds too healthy, you might want to consider their diverse array of muffins (that range from Banana to Buttered Rum). Or take a liquid beach break with a Cappuccino, Espresso or Latte.

And Sanibel caters to those who prefer not to have to do their own shopping, packing ---or even thinking--- on the Island. In fact, the Island boasts a caterer, Leslie Adams, whose mouth watering concoctions can be the highlight not just of your beach day, but of your whole stay. Some of the sample menus on her website will be sure to make you and your vacation party swoon, including Shrimp or Chicken Asian Lettuce wraps drizzled with Thai Peanut Sauce and Dates stuffed with Gorgonzola and bacon served on Rice Crackers....and those are just appetizers! Catering by Leslie would make particularly great sense if you are an extended family or large group of friends looking to make a beach outing a most memorable dining experience!

For those who want to just go to the beach with no further thought or consideration, there is another gal who will do it all for you. Island Go-fer is a pick up and delivery service run by the owner, Ginny Huking. Island Go-fer will pick up and deliver almost anything, almost anywhere. They will shop for your list at Publix, Albertson’s, Costco, and Sam’s Club or just about anywhere else. They will deliver your items to the house and put them away. Or, deliver them directly to your beach blanket.

And, we have it on good word, that the sushi at Costco's is so delicious that you may never again want a baloney sandwich on the beach. Island Go-Fer is a popular service, however, and you must get on their schedule in advance.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Great Films To See Before You Come to Sanibel

We don't know about you, but we like to stretch out our holiday time.

We do that after a vacation by looking over our photos, talking about them to others, buying special books about the Island and taking them home to read and share, and even writing reviews.

Before visiting, it's fun and vacation enhancing to read about your destination, do a little research of the area and plan your vacation accordingly.

But we like conceptual preparations, as well as specific ones.

And seeing movies that put you in a Sanibel mood is definitely a good way to pave and extend your vacation time. Movies about islands, about the tropics, about wild life are among those that help shape, if not your destiny, then your destination.

Here are some movies we think are great preparatory films for a week or more on our Island. We would love to hear from you if you have more to suggest. While none of these movies are about Sanibel or filmed on Sanibel; they are sure to put you in the mood for an Island vacation and stir up some nostalgia as well!

Flipper is a stunner and for all ages. In this 1995 flick, Sandy Ricks is sent by his mom to Coral Key, a rustic island in the Florida keys, to spend the summer with his uncle Porter Ricks. Sandy dislikes everything about his new environment until a new friend comes into his life, a dolphin named Flipper, that brings uncle and nephew together and leads Sandy on the summer adventure of a lifetime. We can't promise that you will have the personal relationship that Sandy has with Flipper , but we can almost guarantee you will see some dolphins and that you will be duly touched and entertained.

The Blue Lagoon, is also an oldie but goodie. Made in 1980, the film is cast in the Victorian period when two young children, Richard and Emmeline Lestrange are passengers on a sailing ship in the South Pacific with Richard's father. (Emmeline's parents are dead, and she calls Richard's father "uncle".) A fire breaks out, destroying the ship. Galley cook Paddy Button gets the children into a lifeboat with him, but they are separated from the other survivors and drift out to sea. After days afloat, they come upon a lush tropical island. We won't reveal the rest in the event you have not seen the movie, but it is a delicious dish of eye candy from start to finish.

And thinking of getting stranded on a desert island, we can't help but recall all the Robinson Crusoe movies, the first being filmed in 1932 and the last one (to date) in 1997. All the plots and details are different for each movie, though the last several follow the same theme. Robinson Crusoe flees Britain on a ship after killing his friend over the love of Mary. A fierce ocean storm wrecks his ship and leaves him stranded by himself on an uncharted island. Left to fend for himself, Crusoe seeks out a tentative survival on the island, until he meets Friday, a tribesman whom he saves from being sacrificed. Initially, Crusoe is thrilled to finally have a friend, but he has to defend himself against the tribe who uses the island to sacrifice tribesman to their gods. During time their relationship changes from master-slave to a mutual respected friendship despite their differences in culture and religion.

Obviously, the appeal of being stranded on a small tropical island is pretty strong, as movies with that theme are still being made. Castaway with Tom Hanks was only made in 2000, but several other films have copied the name and the story line since, though not nearly with as much success. And if these movies seem a trifle superficial in plot, some of them not only leave us with some good lessons but with "characters" we will never forget. Is there anyone who saw Castaway who does not remember "Wilson"?

Fortunately for guests on Sanibel, while the adventure, beauty, nature and romance is all here, you will never be lost, threatened or abandoned on our friendly and comfortable tropical isle!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sure Bets for Father's Day on Sanibel

For those fortunate enough to be on the Island for Father's Day, June 17, the opportunities to wine, dine and gift dad make it an especially nice place to be.

Day activities might range from a picnic at the beach to a bike ride around the island.

But if that sounds too tame for the "father" in your life, consider the water, water, everywhere. If your guy in question is a do it yourself-er, intrepid explorer, he might get the most enjoyment exploring the calm waters of the bays and bayous. Tarpon Bay Explorers allows the adventurer to tour the Wildlife Refuge by kayak, canoe, bike, or pontoon boat on their own. Or to see wildlife up-close and discover the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge with an experienced naturalist by your side. Tarpon Bay Explorers offers many guided tours designed to be both educational and fun! Birds, dolphins, manatees, and alligators are just some of the amazing wildlife found in the pristine native tropical and subtropical vegetation of Sanibel Island.

Similar activities are offered by Adventure Sea Kayak Wildlife Tours in addition to Stand Up Paddle Board Tours, a dandy way to find your balance on the water.

If dad is fisherman, you might want to treat him to a day of fishing with Adventures in Paradise. Back water fishing is often an option on Sundays.

In fact, the fishing is fantastic at Sanibel or Captiva Islands, from deep-sea fishing to light tackle. Whether you hire one of the very proficient fishing guides or captains and go on a half or full day charter or rent your own boat from one of the marinas, or surf cast from the beach or fish from one of the bridges or docks. Three popular places to fish are: The Causeway, Blind Pass Bridge and the pier on the bayside of the Sanibel Lighthouse (Point Ybel light).

But man does not live by fish alone, and leaving the fins in the sea, there is still great adventure to be found sailing the surface. In fact, a really neat gift for dad might be lessons so he can learn to charter his own way around. At the Off Shore Sailing School, located on Captiva, dad can learn the basics or add to the knowledge he has. There are courses for beginners, intermediate or seasoned sailors. Now that is Father's Day gift he will remember and use for the rest of his life.

End of day wining and dining can be simple fare at Doc Ford's or the Great White Grill where the sports bars will be sure to keep any guy happy. But for a more demure experience, you might want to look into dinner at Traditions, The Thistle Lodge or any number of Island eateries where comfortable seating, excellent food and a good bottle of wine can mark this important celebration.