Let me start by saying that I love my family and I love my house. But after months of quarantine, I sometimes need to get away from both. I’m still not comfortable flying, or even driving that far from home, so my vacation options are limited.


Then I discovered Austin-based destination rental company Lodgewell and realized I can safely (and stylishly) get away in my hometown and be treated like the VIP my family pretends I’m not.


Lodgewell was founded in 2007 by CEO Chereen Fisher, and up until its recent rebranding was known at Top Trip Rentals. They offer over 40 Austin and Hill Country properties, with prices ranging from $99 to $1,200 a night, including the famous Bloomhouse. The company is a hybrid of the high-level hospitality you’d expect from a hotel and the local charm and flavor you want from a vacation rental. Basically, you’re renting a property, but in this case the hosts are professionals and not Ted and Linda who want to make some extra cash with their garage apartment.


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My first Lodgewell stay was a solo writing retreat. Emphasis on "solo." I spent two nights at the Littlefields, Lodgewell’s two-story lofts in downtown Austin (Congress and Sixth). The ample space (1,000 square feet), silence and guaranteed and delivered cleanliness gave me much needed peace of mind. I maybe spent more time looking out the big windows and watching "Love Is Blind" on Netflix than working on my book, but that’s OK. Writing a future bestseller is a process.


For my next stay, I decided a little company would be good. A friend and I met at the Shorewood in nearby Granite Falls on Lake LBJ. This charming 3,400-square-foot lakeside house sleeps 12, so we were able to easily socially distance. She took one floor and I took the other, like fighting roommates. We stopped for food and supplies at the H-E-B in town in advance, so there was no need to ever leave the house. Not even to take advantage of the local boat and jet ski rentals. It’s just as much fun to watch the lake action from the dock, especially with a cocktail in hand. (Each Lodgewell property has a suggested drink. The Shorewood’s is the pina colada.)


Next, I needed a romantic place to stay for my husband’s and my 28th wedding anniversary. An Italian villa was out of the question, but a registered city and state Texas landmark sure wasn’t. Built in 1894 by stonemason Robert Stanley, the Stanley is a historic, gorgeously renovated three-story home located just two blocks west of South Congress’ entertainment district. The house sleeps 12, and it’s a wonderful blend of historic and modern — beautiful original woodwork, stone walls, handcrafted stairs and a mahogany library, mixed with high-end appliances, marble showers and a giant TV with a variety of streaming movies. There’s also a stand-alone house in the back, should you really need some "me time," and a newly installed stand-alone pool. We picked up dinner from South Congress Café, then, the next morning, took an easy stroll to Torchy’s. Our staycation was only 10 miles from our house, but it felt like we were in a completely different world.


My most recent Lodgewell stay was with my younger son. He’s in online school, and I’m working online, which means we can’t really travel far but we can certainly be plugged in from someplace new. We spent two nights at the historic Provident. Both industrial and charming, this huge third-floor loft is just a block from Sixth Street. We did our work while enjoying the exposed brick, hardwood floors and floor-to-ceiling windows, then took breaks to pick up take-out from the many nearby restaurants like Happy Chicks and Voodoo Doughnut. Two days later, when we returned home, we felt relaxed, refreshed and like we’d actually been away.


For more information about Lodgewell’s variety of properties, from their ranch in Wimberley to a bungalow in Bouldin, visit lodgewell.co.