I’m not a spokesperson for HomeAway.com, paid or otherwise. But I am a fan and a frequent user of their service because it has provided me with some of the best vacation experiences ever. Have you seen the site? It and VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) have changed the way we vacation. We’ve had so many great experiences that I am forever ruined where hotels are concerned. You can search for vacation rentals worldwide and find places that suit your preferences – like air conditioning, a laundry room, king size beds, waterfront or downtown locations, and much more. They post photos so you can see the homes in detail, and I always pay attention to the comments from previous renters to see what they thought of each place. You have to do your research on these sites, but the results can be fabulous. Like this house in Hanalei on Kauai’s north shore:Wow. It’s a great house in a fabulous location – just off the historic Hanalei Pier on beautiful Hanalei Bay. Dr. Beach named this the best beach in the world in 2009. And now I know why. We spent 9 glorious days on this beach in May, and it was stunning. Hanalei is a wonderful laid-back surfer town on the lush, mountainous north shore of Kauai. It’s quiet, beautiful, and it’s worth adding to your bucket list. A walk on the beach here is like a walk through warm powdered sugar. And sunsets over the bay are spectacular and only a few steps from your door. One week here is not enough. Yep, this beats a hotel for me any day.
Then there’s the fabulous house we rented in Paradise Valley, Montana. This beauty is north of Yellowstone National Park, and we enjoyed the house as much as we enjoyed the park. Let me tell you something – they call it Paradise Valley for a reason. And this beautiful place is my idea of paradise. The house is three stories built into a rolling hill overlooking the Yellowstone River, and everything about this beautiful home was perfection. This was such a wonderful vacation. And after long days in Yellowstone National Park, this living room with its rock fireplace and its stunning view of the mountains was our refuge. Laying on that sofa looking out over those mountains is good for your soul. And I would be happy forever if I could use this kitchen every day. I mean it. And imagine having access to this view of the Absaroka Mountains as a sunset storm blows through the Yellowstone River valley. Words can’t explain it. Nope. No, sir…I am not missing those hotel rooms. Not one little bit.
And let’s not forget the farmhouse in Southwest Harbor, Maine, outside of Acadia National Park. This place has very special memories for me, since my daughter and her family joined us on this vacation. Little Jonah Bear was only two. It’s a lot of fun seeing the world through a two-year old’s eyes again.This farmhouse built in the 1880’s has so much history and charm. It’s only 900 feet from the Atlantic ocean and you can pick fresh apples in the fall in the back yard. I know this because I baked a pie with those apples. Again, it’s another example of what HomeAway has done for our vacation experience. Southwest Harbor, Maine is located on Mount Desert Island along with Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. It’s on the “quiet side” of the island, away from the crowds that flock to Bar Harbor. It’s a working fishing village, and it’s so peaceful and quaint here. It’s like something out of a storybook. Fall in Acadia National Park is crisp and colorful and magical. Once you’ve been there, you’ll never forget it. Especially if you love fall leaves and fishing villages and the ocean and sailboats and lobsters.
And I’ll never forget the cabin on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park in Montana. We loved this place more than words can describe. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a view like this from a hotel room. This place had to have been built back in the 1930’s or 40’s and is one of the few private residences inside the park. In fact, it was built before the park was created. It was on the southwest shore of the lake and had a spectacular view of the mountains. Glacier is one of my very favorite places on earth. It’s gorgeous, pristine, rugged and endangered. There are very few glaciers left in Glacier National Park. I’m glad we got to see them before they’re gone. This place is magical if you’re a nut for mountains and water like me. Those glaciated lakes with their unnaturally blue water just knock me out. And don’t get me started on bear grass. I love bear grass so very much. It speaks to me. It says, “Come run through the fields with us and sing ‘The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music!’“
Can you see now why a hotel room holds no charm for me? I have discovered that I don’t need room service, or valet parking, or overpriced mini-bar peanuts. I need peace and quiet, and breathtaking scenery, and all the comforts of home, and a significant absence of crowds. Yep, HomeAway.com is one of my favorite things about the internet. And I’ll never get excited about a hotel room ever again.