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Travel Talk

Travel Talk: iPad makes lining up a rental easy and quick

Oh, alright . . . Bud and I are iPad converts now. We get the whole tap and pinch and flick thing.

A dash to Florida last weekend to check out potential rentals for next winter did the trick.

Our requirements were fairly specific. Most important, we’ll have Maggie and Millie, our two Standard Poodles with us. We also wanted a small pool and maybe some canal access for puttering around on the water. We had a budget but also wanted at least one extra bedroom/bath for company. How did the iPad help?

Ready: First I got my new iPad set up for email, WiFi and 4G cellular service. This would allow me to communicate while in the car driving through areas we were considering in Southwest Central Florida – Englewood, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Cape Coral, Venice and so on. The area is full of peninsulas, canals, islands, vast man-made neighborhoods and mile upon mile of highway. We would need an organized approach with on-the-fly communications. Second, I found a couple of iPad-savvy friends to give me the quick course in “iPad for dummies.” Next I downloaded app versions of vacation-rental websites I knew I would use: Tripadvisor, VRBO, HomeAway and Flipkey. I added Google Maps and downloaded the iPad tutorial to my iBooks app for on-the-road technical assistance (as well as in-flight reading). Once we arrived, I found I needed an adaptor to charge the iPad via the car cigarette lighter, and a quick trip to the local Verizon Wireless store fixed that.

Set: We have used Vacation Rentals by Owner (vrbo.com) for years with great success. But homeaway.com and the newer (and tripadvisor affiliate) flipkey.com also have excellent listings in terms of quality and quantity. All of them now have convenient search features (pet-friendly, pool, nonsmoking, kid-friendly, senior-friendly, number of beds and baths, waterfront, beachfront . . . etc.) and if you set up an account (free) you can save your searches and highlight your favorites. Homeway.com automatically (and clearly) records those you have already viewed as well as those you have already inquired about and allows you to build a favorites file. In addition, flipkey.com and homeaway.com have excellent map views which make searching particular neighborhoods a snap. Before we left home, Bud and I each took shots at locating possibilities, sent out some email inquiries and settled on a place in Port Charlotte that had appealing photos and seemed reasonable. We hoped our trip would confirm our selection and we could spend the next year planning for our two-month sojourn in the south. I practiced searching via iPad so I (hopefully) wouldn’t get flustered “on the road.”

Go: After checking into the dog-friendly La Quinta (no Maggie and Millie with us, but we’re building reward points for future road trips), we used our portable GPS and my iPad to locate the rental we had chosen. Problem! The VRBO photos were accurate as far as they went, but the neighborhood was not what we expected – too close to the highway and a bit run down. Back to the iPad – vrbo, HomeAway and flipkey! I pulled up our
“favorites” files, and we headed for alternate properties in nearby cities and towns. The map feature designated properties that fit our criteria with blue dots – a tap on the dot brought up photos and details, including rates and contact information. We were able to call and arrange walkthroughs for many of the best options on the spot and eventually settled on a lovely place in Cape Coral that’s perfect – right down to the budget!

Just one thing would have helped – a stylus for more accurate tapping.

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