Every Friday afternoon from December through late March, the White family loads up their SUV with kids, suitcases, coolers and the dog to drive three hours to their ski house. In the four years since they bought their mountainside home, they have pretty much mastered their weekend getaway routine. Their goal is to hit the road by 4:00 p.m. and arrive at the cabin no later than 7:30 p.m., weather permitting.
“By mid-day on Friday I have the car gassed up, everyone’s clothes packed, and food loaded into the cooler,” says Ellen White, a 43-year-old suburban mother of three. “When the kids get off the school bus they have half an hour to grab a snack and organize their backpacks with homework, iPods and DVDs. And the minute my husband Jack gets home from work, we are on our way! We all love skiing and waking up in our own place on Saturday mornings so we can hit the slopes early when the lifts open.”
“Stage Two” of the weekend getaway routine unfolds immediately upon arrival at the cabin each Friday night. Everyone in the White family works quickly to unpack the car and start warming up the house. The boys help Dad bring in firewood from the garage as Mom cranks up the thermostat and starts the wood stove. Although the cabin has an efficient hot water baseboard heating system and the thermostat is set to 50◦F when the house is vacant, it still takes about two hours for the home to reach a comfortable temperature. While the house is warming, the Whites pile back into the SUV and head downtown to grab a bite to eat.
“Waiting for the house to heat up is a real snag in our routine,” Jack admits. “By the time we get a table at the restaurant and our meals arrive, the kids are cranky and hungry. But no one likes eating in a cold house, so we spend the extra time and money to go out for dinner every Friday night.”
When they first bought the cabin, the Whites relied on their caretaker to stop by and turn up the heat on Friday afternoons. “It was wonderful to open the door to a warm and cozy house after that long drive on a frigid night,” laments Ellen. “But our caretaker charged extra for that service and it got expensive. And sometimes he was late getting to our house so the place was still cold when we arrived!”
One weekend last winter, the White family braved a six-hour drive through a blizzard to reach the cabin. Upon arrival, they decided to stay put in the cold house and forgo having dinner out — no one wanted to risk another mile on the slippery roads. The incident prompted Jack to begin researching options for remotely adjusting the home’s temperature. “With all of the recent advancements in technology and emphasis on comfort and convenience, I figured that there had to be some kind of device out there that would allow me to raise the temperature in the cabin before we arrived,” Jack explains.
His online research revealed that there are, in fact, a variety of affordable remote thermostat systems on the market. And since their cabin has a landline phone as well as high-speed Internet access, they could choose between a phone-enabled thermostat or Internet thermostat. Jack was also pleased to learn that some models are even multi-functional. In addition to reporting the current temperature in the house and allowing remote adjustment of both heat and A/C, these advanced models can send email or text alerts on emergency conditions such as a break-in, sump pump failure or other type of water leak.
“Originally I was interested in a simple remote control thermostat that I could install myself,” Jack says, “but I learned that there are quite a range of sophisticated do-it-yourself remote thermostats available. I just ordered a Bayweb Internet Thermostat that lets me raise or lower the temperature using either my computer or my smart phone.”
Ellen loves the convenience of being able to turn up the heat in the cabin using her cell phone to call the remote control thermostat. “Three hours after we hit the road, we are welcomed by a warm and comfortable living room,” she says with a smile. “The added bonus is we’ll be saving a lot of money since we won’t have to go out for dinner every Friday night!”
Tell us about your vacation home routine in the comments!!