How to chose the right vacation home..

Choices, choices, choices

Choosing a vacation home can be overwhelming. There is lots of choice in vacation homes, from location, to size of home, to amenities and more. Where do you start? Where do you stay? Will I make the right choice?

With a little pre-planning, the process can be a lot easier. Take a deep breath and follow our handy guide to selecting a vacation home.

Start with the basics.

The first question you answer is how many people are going to be traveling? It sounds simple, but if you are planning a large family reunion or togethering sometimes it is hard to get a final number. In that case, try and get maximum number, especially if you think you may need one or more homes on the same community. We will discuss multiple homes later.

Once you know how many people are likely to be traveling, you can work out how many beds and bed sizes you need. A lot of vacation homes are individually owned and furnished and there is no standard bed configuration. That is one of the things that helps make staying in a vacation home such a nice experience, but it does take time to make sure you have the right number of beds.

Once you know the number of bedrooms that you need, you can start looking at the right size home for you.

Homes have a maximum occupancy limit. This can vary depending on how the owner has set up their home, but traditionally homes in Florida have a maximum occupancy as follows;

  • 2 bedroom home - 6 guests
  • 3 bedroom home - 8 guests
  • 4 bedroom home - 10 guests
  • 5 bedroom home - 12 guests
  • 6 bedroom home - 14 guests
  • 7 bedroom home - 16 guests

in addition to this you can usually have an infant.

Consider the people in your group when you look for a particular size home. Often to get the maximum occupancy in a home, you may have to use a sleeper sofa in a living area. That means reduced privacy for the person/people that are sleeping there. Consider taking a larger home so that you have more space and privacy for the whole family. You have made a decision not to be confined to a small hotel room (1 room, 1 bathroom for 4 people) so take full advantage of that and spread out a little. You will all be happier.

Location, location, location .

As you are reading this information, we hope you have chosen our beautiful community, Emerald Island. If you are still not sure, lets see if we can help you choose Emerald Island for your trip.

There are many communities surrounding Walt Disney World and each has it's own charm and positive points. Some are older communities, some further away from the attractions, some with not as many amenities or different size/layout of home.

Points that you may want to consider to help narrow down your choices, or confirm that Emerald Island is the right place for you!

  • Location of community. - How close is it to the attractions you want to visit? Try and find that information in a tangible format such as miles from A to B. (Not everyone can be within 10 minutes of Disney, but everyone claims to be).
  • Community Amenities. These amenities are more important if you have time away from the attractions planned, have teenagers that want to hang out with teenagers, are renting a townhome / condo or have a large group renting several homes (you may want a central meeting point).

Emerald Island is under 3 driving miles from a Walt Disney World entrance. Close enough for you to get to the parks quickly, often quicker than you can from on-site properties using the resort transportation. You can be at the Animal Kingdom parking lot in 7-10 minutes, MGM and Epcot in approx 10-13 minutes and The Magic Kingdom in approx 12-16 minutes.

For Emerald Island Resort amenities, take a look at our resort information pages.

Home, sweet home.

Getting the right home, along with the right owner, can help make your vacation a magical one. But where do you start when selecting the right home? Every home is different, every home is special in it's own unique way.

Make a list of the features that are very important to you - your 'must haves'. These are the things that would impact your stay if you don't have them, for example if you need high speed internet in the home to keep in touch with work or business, then that item probably belongs on a 'must have' list. If a home doesn't have your 'must haves' then you are better off looking at the next home. In addition, think about the features that would be nice to have. These are optional things that perhaps are not so important to you. Perhaps having board games provided in the home is not that important, but would be nice, but it certainly is not a deal breaker.

When comparing homes, remember that all the extra amenities come with a cost to provide them and maintain them. Some are negligible cost, and some have a more significant cost. This is often reflected in the price of a unit so you may want to balance price and amenities. Vacation homes are still a bargain compared to staying on-site at Disney or Universal or in an equivalent hotel room, so splurge a little. Enjoy your vacation in your home away from home.

Big kids, little kids and the young at heart.

Walt Disney World and the Orlando area is a place for all ages; big kids, little kids and the young at heart. Make sure that you are catering for your whole family by checking that the home you rent works for everyone.

Little Kids
Traveling with little kids can be fun, but it takes planning and is sometimes not much of a rest for the parents. When traveling with babies and infants, it is useful to find a home with amenities for that age group. Owners often provide items such as portable or full size cribs, high chairs, strollers, baby monitors, toys, books and more at no extra charge (it is often just requested that items are left clean and tidy and returned to the location in which they were found). If a home doesn't appear to have all the little kid items you are looking for, it doesn't hurt to ask the owner if they do have them. Another option is to rent the items you need. The owner may be able to arrange that through the management company or there is a company in the Orlando area that rents out baby equipment. A Baby's Best Friend rents sanitized equipment that can be left for you at your vacation home on the day of your arrival.

Safety is always an issue when traveling with children, especially where pools are concerned. Newer constructed vacation homes in Florida are required to have either a pool safety fence or alarms on all the doors leading to the pool. If you have children in your group, make the home you are renting has at least one of these safety measures, if not both. You can't be too careful where the safety of your children is concerned. All homes at Emerald Island are fitted with at least one pool safety feature. Other safety features to consider are security alarms, outlet covers, cabinet door locks, child safety gates.

Big Kids
Look for homes that have amenities for big kids (big kids includes teenagers, and adults that are big kids). Many homes have games rooms in the garage with items such as billiards tables, foosball, ping pong, arcade games, darts etc. Another feature that appears in homes are games consoles such as Playstation 2's, XBox and Nintendo. Check with the owner to see if they provide any games for the consoles, or plan to bring your own.

The young at heart.
Elderly parents and grand-parents often enjoy spending vacations with the family. Make sure that the home you rent will allow them to enjoy the vacation too. Some homes are two stories, so checking that there is at least one bedroom on the ground floor (especially one with a walk-in shower) is usually appropriate.

You know your family best, trust your knowledge and instincts to find the home that is best for you.


It is becoming more common for families to vacation together in what is being called togethering. Perhaps you are planning a family reunion or a togethering. If you are, then the logistics become even more important, as well as complex. If you are planning a large family gathering, you may need two or more properties and of course you want to be close to each other, ideally on the same street or at least in the same community. It is important to start planning in advance, preferably 12-18 months in advance, especially if your trip is planned for a busy travel time such as one of the major holiday periods. Consider traveling in the quieter times as you will have several advantages including; costs will be cheaper, lines at the attractions may be shorter and there will be a greater choice of homes.

The two way street.

If this is your first time renting a home, you may be nervous about sending money to a stranger, afraid that the home may not exist, worried that your dream vacation will be ruined. Try to relax and talk to the owner that you are interested in renting to. They may also be nervous about you. Are you who you say you are, will you look after their home, will you be a good guest? You are entrusting your family vacation to a stranger, they are entrusting their home (which can be worth in excess of half a million dollars) to a stranger. It is a two way street.

Make sure you deal with an owner that you feel comfortable with. Do they have any testimonials that you can see? Did you get any recommendations from people you know? How long have they owned the home? Ask the owner questions, are they open, honest and up front with you? Most owners will offer ways to help alleviate your fears, they could suggest that you talk to their management company, or they may offer to show you their STR rental licence, or they may have another way to help you feel comfortable that their home will be available for your magical vacation.