Rental By Owner or from a Rental Company????

We often get questions about the advantages of renting from a rental company verses from an owner directly.  Well,  both have their advantages.  Speaking from the rental company side the advantages we see come from the problems people who rent from owner mention to us as they come through.  We are here on site if there is a problem big or small we are here to help!  If you have to change rooms for some reason, say a leak, we have a large selection of properties to offer you in place of the problem room.  A rental company is just a phone call or a few steps away, where as most rental by owners are a phone call away but often in another state with just a cleaner to help you with problems.  Having a rental company  is handy for information, or if you happen to lock yourself out, or just the strange emergencies that come up.  We have people stop for everything from resturant suggestions and clogged disposals  to Jellyfish stings, and missing bottle openers.  The nice part about a rental company is they have a staff of people close by to help with any and all problems.  Because of the large stock of condos we can often match or beat the pricing of a Rental by owner and provide additional service that guests want and need to make their stay worry free!!!!

10 Tips for Planning your Beach Wedding

It is that time of year again, I talk to a new Bride to be every week.  They are all so very excited and looking forward to the warm days on the beach with friends and family, celebrating their marriage.  I have found that everyone in the planning stages of a wedding run into the same problems.  I wanted to give you a few pointers, from my experience over the last few years with brides, that will help you breeze your way through the rough planning stages. 

1.  Try to avoid a Saturday wedding!  I know Saturday is an easy day for travel but it is a crazy day to try and get in a beach house for a wedding.  Most beach houses rent from Saturday to Saturday during the Spring and Summer months.  So you would either be checking in or checking out the day of your wedding, unless the house was booked for 2 weeks, which is often cost prohibitive during the summer months. 

2.  Be prepared to rent a house for an entire week.  Again during the Spring and Summer months most houses only rent for a week at a time so be prepared for that full week rental. 

3.  Consider picking a date that is off peak season, such as early May or after Labor Day in September, or October.  Usually the weather is better during those months, not so hot, and the rental rates are lower for you and your guests. 

4.  See if the company you are renting with has any wedding packages or specials available.  Often companies will give a little discount for everyone in the group if you rent multiple properties.  They have rentals and you and your guests get a discount.  Everyone wins!!!

5.  Remember the temperature and humidity when picking our your attire.  It can be well above 90 even at sunset in the summer months with 100% humidity and no sign of rain till after dark.  Large satin dresses and tuxedos will make for a very warm evening!!!

6.   Shoes!  Certainly check out the beach in person before you tell your guests that shoes are optional.   Most beaches are better to walk on barefoot and not fill your best shoes, and reception with sand.

7.  Allow for the elements!  You are having an outside wedding, it could rain.  See if the house would allow you to have the wedding indoors, or have an alternate location for your ceremony.    Be sure to let your guests know where that will be and have a plan to get the word to them of the venue change.   Also, Because of the wind and wave noises music is difficult to hear at a beach wedding.   You have a couple of choices running a long extension cord and playing recorded music, or having live music which is beautiful but the salt air and sand can make a difference in the sound of their instruments.

8.   Have a helper!  Destination weddings are tricky, trying to plan everything from a distance.  A trusted friend or wedding planner is always helpful, so you are not dealing with every little detail the day of your wedding.  If you do ask a friend for help be sure to thank him or her with some down time to enjoy the trip too, maybe a massage or a nice dinner out away from the wedding. 

9.  Beaches are considered a National Treasure and should be treated as such.   Remember you are going to someone elses home to get married.  The locals of the area take a lot of pride in their beaches and will not welcome you and your guests destroying local plant life to get the perfect picture or littering by accident.  Remind your guests where they are going and that you want to leave it as beautiful as you found it.  Be sure to ask about local rules or fees for beach use and about overflow parking!!!  If you are getting married in a small closed community maybe make a donation to beach restoration in that area.  It is a great way to leave a positive mark on a beach that means so much to the two of you. 

10.  Finally,  even if you are not on an island the locals are probably on Island time.  Everyone works really hard and want you to have a beautiful meaningful ceremony in a timely manner, but they most likely will not get stressed out or run to get anything done for you no matter what you pay.   They have been here and done this many times and know what it takes to get the job done.   Take a lesson from them, take a deep breath, know your wedding will be amazing, and relax you’re at the beach!

Family Road Trip Ideas

Planning your next Fort Morgan beach vacation can come with a lot of joy, excitement and anticipation. Unfortunately, these feelings can be overshadowed by the road trip needed to reach Fort Morgan or Gulf Shores Alabama. While some kids and teens travel very well most will need extra attention in car rides over 3o minutes. As a parent you will need to have everything planned from movies to games to snacks.

Parents need some extra planning to help ensure the car ride is as pleasant as the beach vacation. While planning road trips is easier said than done, we have listed some family road tips below to help turn those car rides into more enjoyable experiences. Pay attention because who wants to start and end their beach vacation on a sour note?

Tips For Teens

  • DelegateSometimes giving an older child a job will help occupy their time. You might be surprised at how serious they take this position. Ideas include planning rest stops, co-piloting, or controlling driving route.
  • Electronics – In this ever changing digital age, you never need to leave the house without some type of portable electronic. This includes DVD players, Ipods, and now laptops fall into this category.
  • Snacks – Who doesn’t enjoy eating some food?

Tips For Parents

  • Rent A Car – Not all cars are suitable for long trips. Vans and other larger cars can relieve a lot stress related to a several hour road trip. Some new vans/cars are quite suitable for road trips. They include cup holders, more space, and built in DVD players. Plus, their will be less wear and tear on your personal car or van.
  • GPS Devices – While we do not completely recommend following these directions to your specific property, GPS devices are surprisingly accurate for most road trips. You will most likely need to follow Sunset Properties directions upon arriving in Fort Morgan as houses are not always accurate.
  • Plan For Mistakes – Making great time does not need to be a priority as it will add stress to the rest of your family. Plan for things not going well, extra traffic, or some rain storms. Enjoy the extra time with your family and make light of the situation. Having kids should remove expectations of perfection.
  • Short Breaks – Stopping every few hours can help eliminate the inevitable “Are we there yet” from your kids? Having this places planned will give your kids something to look forward too. Plus, it should help some very stiff legs.

Tips For Kids/Toddlers

  • Games – This might be the easiest thing to help entertain kids. Unique car games include 20 questions, I Spy, or the License Plate game. Kids love these type games and it can help take their minds off the long road trip to the beach.
  • Extra Supplies – For younger babies and toddlers there are few extra necessities that you will need to pack. These necessities include bottles, wipes, snacks, medicine, and blankets.
  • Departure Time – Planning your departure time can have a huge impact on the success of your car ride. IF you child takes a two hours nap in the morning plan your leaving time at the beginning of nap time. What a great way to eat-up some free time.
  • DVD Player – This type of electronic babysitter can become very helpful for shorter car rides.

Activities for Men in Gulf Shores / Ft. Morgan

Ok  guys I know you want a break just as much as the rest of your family and maybe you would like some special things to do just for you.  Have an adventure or just relax with a line in the water.  I’ve got some ideas for you!!!

Beautiful beaches are not all there is to enjoy in Gulf Shores. 

1. Golfing; for all of the golf enthusiasts out there! There is a golf course minutes from anywhere you stay in Gulf Shores and levels of difficulty that range from beginner to professional.  Most courses are reasonably priced and offer specials that include carts if you’re not up for the walk in the humidity.  Check out Gulf Shores.com for a list of local courses and specials.

2.  Fishing; weather you are ready for an adventure on a boat or you like to fish off of a pier or the beach you have opportunities surrounding you.  Some of my favorite memories as a little girl are fishing with my Dad so this might be something to do with the kids to make some great memories!!  You can charter a boat for a day or for a shorter half day trip.  If it is a longer trip they usually include food and will take you where the fish are biting and provide your license and all of the rigs and tackle you need to bring home a great catch.  Some of the captains will even grill your fish for you for lunch!  The prices are based on the length of time you are on the water and how far you go out.  There are several great piers in the area that are fun to fish off of  for a minimal fee.  You do have to provide all of your gear for this type of fishing and don’t forget you fishing license.  Surf fishing is always fun too, and one of the more popular ways to fish in Ft. Morgan.  You just need to be careful of swimmers, and be sure to pick up a fishing license!  You can purchase a fishing license over the phone or at most local bate stores. 

3.  Water Sports; for you guys who are looking for an adventure, you have everything from para-sailing and jet skis  all the way to kayak rentals or scuba diving.  All of these activities come with risks but they are all lots of fun too.  You can find providers of water sport rentals or activities at Gulfshores.com.  Most of these activities are offered on an hourly basis.  Be sure to go with a company that has a good reputation and trained guides.

4. Nature / Wildlife activities;  because of the amount of coast line and wildlife refuges located in this area you have numerous opportunities to enjoy wildlife in their native habitat.  You can go on a Dolphin watching cruise or a nature hike on one of the islands many hiking trails.  Depending on the time of year you can experience different types of nature that migrate through or hatch right here on our coast.  You can see sea turtle hatching’s in the fall, bird banding and migrations in the Fall and Spring, even things like manta ray and different types of sea snails migrate through the area at different times of the year.  All of these are amazing.  Try to catch one of them while you are here. 

5.  History; for all of you history buffs, did you know there are two Civil war era forts in the Gulf Shores area?  What about the Native American settlements???  There is a huge Naval history an AMAZING museum about 40 minutes away.  This area has a long and very proud history and the list of places to see and experience is a little overwhelming.  Try not to miss the candle light tour of  Ft. Morgan, and the Naval Air station Museum in Pensacola.  The Gulf Shores Museum has some great information about the Native population in Gulf Shores along with settlers that followed and the widely varied heritage they brought to our area.                      

There are many more things that can be added like massages, shopping, and amusement parks!  This is just the short list guys!  If you are looking for a specific activity ask at the front desk, We are happy to help!!!!  Be sure to spend some time on the beautiful beaches but try to take some time and enjoy an afternoon doing something just for you.

Why Travel Insurance???

Why should I get travel insurance????  I get asked this questions daily.  There are several really good reasons but the most important one is you never really know what is going to happen, and those unknown things are what travel insurance is for.  

For example, the travel insurance we offer through CSA covers things like if your children or a member of your family gets sick just before you travel to the beach.  I know in the past insurance has helped several families in this way when the little guys get the flu or break an arm, or if a parent becomes ill and they suddenly have to leave.  Remember this is still insurance and you will have to fill-out claim forms and give proof, but it can certainly help you with the unexpected. 

Another time I have seen it extremely helpful is during hurricane season.  We don’t even like to say the “H” word around here, but the reality is that it does happen and we can only predict them when they are just a day or so away.  The last major storm that came through our area when we had lots of guests was right around Labor Day of 2008.  It was not bad but the roads were closed for a day and traveling was extremely difficult.  Everyone who purchased the insurance within their rules was given money back for the parts of their vacation that they missed. 

Travel insurance is certainly something to weigh carefully.  When you are making your vacation plans just give us a call.  We can answer your questions and email you some information about travel insurance to help you make an informed decision.   We are happy to help!!!!

Ocean’s Resturant opening soon….

I mentioned not long ago that our favorite pizza place in Ft. Morgan is opening a restaurant.  Ocean’s will be opening in January, the tentative date is the 4th!  We are so excited that our friends dream is finally happening.  I stopped by the restaurant yesterday to see how things were progressing at the restaurant.  Our friends and Becky our Office Manager were finalizing the menu and doing some final touches to the interior. 

The warm coral colors and large fish tank screen set the tone for this family restaurant that boasts local seafood, and hand cut steaks and all sorts of savory sides and tempting desserts.  For those of you who are coffee connoisseurs they will have an outstanding variety of speciality coffees.  Ocean’s also boasts a fun  bartender with lots of experience, award winning Chef and live music. 

The schedule is not completely set as of yet but they did want me to tell you about some of the specials.  Starting this winter Monday is Prime Rib Night!     Brent Burns will be entertaining Tuesday nights when Ocean’s will be serving “All You Can Eat Shrimp.”  Bring your condo key for a Free,  Fried Pickle Appetizer when you show your Sunset Properties key tag.  We will be sure to tell you about the current specials as they come along.   Don’t miss this great new addition to our dining choices in the Fort Morgan Area.

Alabama’s Coastal Connection

One of the newest additions to the National Scenic Byways Program is the Alabama Coastal Connection.  The Scenic Byways Program is a part of the Federal Highway Administration and the Department of Transportation.  The program is an collaborative effort to preserve selected roads throughout the US.  The selected roads run through protected areas or areas that are specifically American in their nature.  These roads must be described by at least one of the following; archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities (www.byways.com/org).

The Alabama Coastal Connection has all of these qualities and is right in our back yard, Literally!!!  This trail begins ins Bayou La Batre a beautiful historic fishing village, where you can get some of the freshest seafood in amazing local restaurants.  The trail continues on to Dauphin Island where you can again get wonderful seafood and enjoy the history of Ft. Gains, here you can also walk the Audubon birding trail and take a tour through the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium.  The Sea Lab is a favorite of our guests as it is a fun place to get hands on education for adults and kids alike on our local wildlife.  From Dauphin Island you catch the Mobile Bay Ferry over to Ft. Morgan where you can enjoy a tour of the fort.  The most popular tour is done by candle light!  From here you are minutes away from Sunset Properties and the beautiful beaches of Fort Morgan.  The beautiful beaches of Ft. Morgan are quiet and secluded right at the end of the island.  Fort Morgan is a great place to split your trip on the Coastal Connection and rest for the night. 

From the Ft. Morgan beaches the trail continues on into Gulf Shores down Hwy 59 where you pass great shopping and restaurants on through to Foley.  Once in Foley you travel west on Highway 98 to Fairhope another beautiful town with shopping, outstanding dining, wildlife around every turn, and history at your fingertips.  

You can travel the coastal connection in one day but we recommend and extended trip to take in all of the great food, nature, culture, and history as you travel this beautiful byway.  What a great way to relax and really get to know an area.  Hope to see you soon.

Thanksgiving at the Beach

Thanksgiving at the beach is really a lot like any other time at the beach.  You have beautiful sunny days, white sand, blue water and inspiring views.  The big differences are it is much less expensive, there are fewer people, and the weather is a little cooler.  You will still see families on the beach playing and exploring, and fishermen who are thrilled to show off  their latest catch.

I had a chance to walk down to the water and watch some friends, the Colman’s, real in their second 38″ Red fish of the day.  It was lots of fun everyone on the beach came down to cheer them on as Casey fought the fish in and his father helped him get it on the beach.  It wasn’t a huge crowd but everyone was really excited.  They even cheered as they released the fish to swim for another day.  During the quiet Winter holidays it is easy to make new friends and everyone kind of seems like family here enjoying the quiet beauty of the beach together.  It is a great time for famlies to get away.

From  our family here at Sunset Properties we hope you have a wonderful holiday surrounded by the ones you are thankful for.  Consider Thanksgiving at the beach sometime make some memories you will always treasure.

Sunset Properties Assistant Manager “Locked Up”

Most of you have met Katie our Assistant Manager.  Usually at the front desk when she is not running in different directions, helping someone plan something special for their vacation or fixing a problem for an owner or guest.  She is a little soft spoken and smiling always ready to help.

We were all a little shocked when she told us she was being locked up.  the Katie explained it was for a great reason.  Katie was recently part of the Foley MDA Excutive Lock Up!  She was raising money for Jerry’s Kids.  Being a former children’s minister and teacher, Katie loves working for and with kids, so she was very excited to help out.

Katie had been raising money for several weeks when the officer came in mid morning to take her away.   She already had several hundred dollars in her hand to put toward her goal.  Katie and Officer Cline of the Foley Police department traveled to Foley where she jumped on the phone and with the generosity of family, friends, and the owenrs that she works so closely with, Katie raised enough to send a child to camp and the some.

Later that afternoon Katie was dropped off by a limo at the office and she was back to work like she had never left.  Katie mentioned that she really wanted to do this again and try to send a few more of these amazing kids to camp.  We will certainly do everything we can to support her and Jerry’s Kids!!!

Ft. Morgan must see’s for Kids

Ft. Morgan is a beautiful family friendly place, but for new comers they don’t always know what to do with the kids and there are some definite must sees while you are here.   

Dolphin!!!! You can see them feeding morning and evening just off shore.  It is against the law to touch or feed these animals but they are beautiful to watch.  In the spring you will often see entire families or pods teaching babies to feed.  You can follow these beautiful creatures as they jump and play right in front of you. 

Ft. Morgan!!! A civil war era fort only a mile from the Dunes Community.  You and your family can explore through the fort on your own during the day and they have an outstanding museum.  If you go in the evening you can do a candle light tour and they shoot off the cannons and do reenactments throughout the summer.  Kids love the excitement of the cannons and they get a history lesson all at the same time…

If you come in the spring or fall don’t miss bird banding about 2 minutes from the condo near Ft. Morgan.   There are a group of dedicated volunteers that take important information from these beautiful animals while giving the guests an education before they let them go again.  The fun part about this is the visitors get to let them go!! Your kids will get to set a bird free and if it is Spring it will very likely be a humming bird. 

If you visit in the fall be sure to try and see sea turtle nest hatching.  It is an amazing site to see but it requires lots of patience and some free time at night.  Again dedicated volunteers spend many free hours watching these nests and making sure all is well with the baby turtles.  If you can spend the time and have the patience to wait and watch for the turtles this is certainly an experience you and your family will never forget. 

If you have little guys or nature lovers, take time and visit Dauphin Island Sea Lab,  and Estuarium.  You can view local wildlife, and they have great touch tanks and preserved animals for the kids to handle.  You can watch sting ray, and all different sorts of fish, and a beautiful shell collection to compare your shells to. 

These are just a few of the local thing not to miss while you visit the area.  If you need a few more ideas stop by the office we always have a list of local events to attend while on vacation.