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This tip was generously submitted by Melanie of Anna Marie Island, Florida.

Melanie has been a member since 2002 and has two five star ratings on her listing! Read the comments on the ratings, and I think you’ll agree that Melanie knows a thing or two about providing a welcoming home for her guests.


My husband and I are partners in a small business here on Anna Maria Island. We’re flexible with our travel plans now with the kids all grown and on their own. We’re located on an “undiscovered” barrier island just south of Tampa Bay.


Here’s my tip for making your exchanges go smoothly for the visiting family.  Before our first exchange, we’re on our fourth now; I started a GUIDE to our home. The first page has directions to the nearest emergency room, contact numbers for our friends and neighbors who have offered to help our exchange family. Also, the number for our dentist, family doctor, plumber, electrician and pool man in case any are needed. I provide the number for our local gym, the spas, my nail tech and hairdresser. I list trash pick up days and when the newspapers are delivered. And what’s happening to our mail, and where our dogs are boarded. Over the years it’s become all inclusive.


I went thru each room in the house, and wrote down anything that might be helpful. For example how to work the coffee pot, dishwasher and washer/ dryer. The living room has the thermostat, ceiling fan and how to work the TV with on-demand movies. How to work the hot tub, what to know about the pool and where the beach gear is stowed, are all covered.


It seems like a lot to write at first, but now I just open the word document and freshen it up each year. It’s grown to include my personal dining guide to Anna Maria Island with reviews of our 50 restaurants. I tell our friends where to find the coldest beer, best latte, best breakfast with a water view and where to go for the freshest seafood. The GUIDE now includes a shopping guide to our 3 villages. So you can find a gift, buy a new swimsuit or know where all the ATM’s are located before you leave the house.


 I just print out a fresh copy and leave it on the kitchen table with a nice bottle of wine and antipasti in the fridge. My goal is to make our exchange family feel at home quickly, to make every minute of their trip count – more time for the beach, no time to stress!


Editor's Note: Now that's a useful and timesaving tip if I ever heard one.

Have a tip (could be a one liner!) or story to tell? Send to