Excuse me, this isn't the Corona I ordered...
Updated: Apr 14, 2020
Since I first saw Panama City Beach, I have said that it looks like a Corona commercial.
But, this is NOT the kind of Corona I had in mind. To say that I had envisioned the last month going differently would be a vast understatement. I'm sure you could write a similar post with your own story of how COVID-19 has changed everything you thought you knew about what 2020 would look like. Here's my version of that story.
I have dreamed of owning a home at the beach for much of my adult life. When my parents retired and bought a place in Panama City Beach, FL in 2017, I started to see how this dream could become a reality. As I learned about Panama City Beach, I became convinced that this Gulf coast city was the ideal location for a vacation home that we could share with others when we weren't using it.
Panama City Beach has unbelievably pristine beaches and beautiful water that reminds me of the Caribbean. Because of the temperate climate along the Gulf coast, visitors flock to this area year-round. There are so many interesting things to do in the area, and there truly is something for everyone here! Pier Park became a new town center that attracted top shops and restaurants. In 2016, the city government passed an ordinance banning alcohol on the beach, which basically killed the spring break party scene on the beach, making it a friendlier option for families. In my opinion, these factors make Panama City Beach a really attractive destination for travelers to discover or rediscover in upcoming years.
In general, what I saw on the vacation rental market was dated and sad, and just didn't match the beauty and potential of the area. I knew we could do better. I believed that there were vacationers out there who wanted something different. So, we started our search for a vacation home on Panama City Beach last Fall. After looking at hundreds of properties, we found just the right place for our family. The condo we chose is at Dunes of Panama, in the same building as my parents' condo, just one floor away.
We closed on the condo at the end of December, and our vision for the Joy Coastal condo was one step closer to fruition. The condo had been on the rental market previously, and winter guests were scheduled to be there from January - March. We planned a whirlwind trip for late March in between our winter guests and other April bookings. During this trip, our plan was to paint the condo from top to bottom and update most of the furnishings.
Throughout January and February, I planned every aspect of getting the condo up and running. I launched this blog, created social media accounts, considered the merits of different paint colors and finishes, agonized over area rugs (I'm embarrassed to admit how many area rugs I looked at this winter), and dragged my best friend to more home decor stores than any friend should have to endure.
As February drew to a close, we were starting to hear about this Coronavirus and trying to sort fact from fiction. By mid-March, offices and schools were closing, and we started to consider that our plans for the condo might be in jeopardy. I am fortunate to have a flexible schedule and our kids are homeschooled. So, we did what any normal person with a newly purchased vacation home burning a hole in their pocket would do, we decided to head to Florida a week earlier than we had planned to shelter in place there.
Since December, I had been ordering things for the condo and having them shipped to my parents. They had graciously been holding those things for when we came to start working on the condo. Our children started referring to the pile of home furnishings growing in their dining room as "Mt. Condo".
After we made the decision to head to Florida early, I ordered the remaining items we needed for the work. I had planned to purchase a few final items from stores in Panama City Beach. As the days went by, one by one, those stores closed their doors and I had to find online replacements. But even that had its challenges, because items were delayed in the shipping process. When it was all said and done, 6 separate items I ordered online were marked "delivered" with no item in sight. It was pretty frustrating.
I ordered all of the paint for the condo over the phone from a local paint store for fear that the paint store might be ordered to close without advance notice. The guys at Panhandle Paints were so gracious and patient as we worked out the details for the paint order.
I had planned to order the remaining items we needed through Amazon Prime. That worked well until Amazon Prime stopped shipping non-essential items. The day before we traveled to Florida, the local government closed the beaches and sheriff's vehicles patrolled the beaches from morning to evening. Our April and May bookings were cancelled.
Our winter guests left a few days early, which allowed us to begin preparing the condo for new paint and furnishings. The first week we were in Florida, we were able to thoroughly clean everything, take inventory of items in the condo - which were replaced as necessary (I'm looking at you, circa 1960's blender), and refinish the furniture in the master bedroom.
We cleaned drapes, tested appliances, updated cable boxes and remotes, replaced batteries and light bulbs, and tried out the sleeper sofa (and then subsequently replaced the mattress - if you stay with us this year, I'm looking out for you).
The following week, my husband joined us and the real fun began. We painted almost every inch of the condo. With each coat of paint, we started to see our vision become a reality.
Because of the prep work we did the previous week, we were slightly ahead of schedule. This turned out to be a good thing because on Wednesday I received a call from the photographer we had scheduled to photograph the unit on Friday. He informed me that the Florida governor had just announced a "shelter in place" order that would prohibit unnecessary travel after midnight on Thursday. The photographer wanted to know if he could come a day early to shoot the photos. Fortunately, we were able to make that work. We finished our work in the condo 1 hour before the photographer arrived on Thursday!
Finishing the condo early meant we could finally list it on VRBO. Which turned out to be so anticlimactic! Over all these months, I dreamed about finally sharing the condo with its updates, never in my wildest dreams (or worst nightmares) did I think we would be in the middle of a global pandemic, on shelter in place orders, with the beach closed, and a state-mandated moratorium on new vacation rentals. NEVER.IN.MY.WILDEST.DREAMS.
To make the most of this strange time, the kids and I stayed an extra week in Florida. We were able to stay in the condo and get a real sense of how it lives. Here's what I can say, the beds are dreamy, the balcony is perfect for early morning coffee and dolphin watching, the kitchen is really well equipped for cooking, and the space as a whole just works really well.
We've been dreaming and planning and working for months to be able to share our space with you. While we didn't think it would be under these circumstances, they don't make the condo any less lovely. The last few weeks have been a roller coaster and a reminder that control is an illusion. So, we're trusting that the God of the universe, who was not surprised by any of this, has a plan in all of it. We know that He is in control even when we are not.
So, without further ado, we are so excited to share the Joy Coastal condo with you!
If you're interested in staying with us, VRBO is currently offering a 20% discount to the first 3 bookings through them. You can check availability and see the full listing here.