Why stay at a hotel when you can stay at an accommodation that feels like home!? Not only do vacation rentals make for a more relaxing experience, but they give you that go-at-your-leisure pace that we all crave when taking a vacation. Of course that at home feeling makes us all comfortable; but the issue at hand is maintaining that comfortable feeling throughout the booking process. Please read on for warning signs and red flags that can turn your dream vacation into a nightmare.
Before You Book…
1. Beware of Photoshopped Pictures
Does the saying “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is” ring any bells? If all the photos presented on the site look professional and extra glossy, you may want to ask the owner or manager to send you more. Thanks to today’s technology you can also check the property on Google Earth to make sure it exists and looks like what is displayed online.
2. Think Twice about Super Cheap Rates
There is a reason why this particular rental is uber inexpensive as compared to its competitors. If the property you are looking to book is offered at a deep discount, you may want to reconsider. Fool the scammer
As fun as traveling is, nothing is worse than being unprepared for a trip the night before you are scheduled to leave or when you have already departed for your destination. Here are some valuable tips to stay ahead of the curve for your next big vacation.
- Choose your rental type wisely. Not every hotel is great or affordable. In fact, vacation rental sites like Flipkey and TripAdvisor offer hundreds of thousands of great rentals that are often priced at lower rates and offer a more personal vacation experience.
- Before you depart, make sure your iPod or musical device is charged and up to date with your new favorite playlist that is suited for your trip. As an example, I am taking a trip to the Southwest U.S. next month and have a full slate of Motorhead,Pantera, and U2’s “Joshua Tree” album ready to go.
- Save images of anything important (i.e. identification, travel documents) to your phone or laptop to avoid carrying/losing hard copies.
- “When in doubt, throw it out.” If you don’t need something for your trip, don’t bring it. Use that room to buy goodies on your trip and give your suitcase breathing room. The lighter you pack, the easier of a
Whether it’s cookies from the vending machine at a rest area or yet another slice of pizza from the boardwalk, sometimes traveling makes us forget our healthy eating habits. It can be hard to stick to a diet or find the healthiest choices when you’re in an unfamiliar place. But thanks to technology, there are some easy new ways to get this information whenever—and wherever—you need it. Here are a few smartphone apps (for iPhone and Android) that can help travelers make better food choices while on the road or abroad.
Track Down Fresh, Local Food
Locavore, available for both iPhone and Android, lets you know where you can buy produce straight from the farm. It provides a map of the nearest farmers markets and farms where you can get in-season ingredients, and even gives you recipes to help you make use of the seasonal bounty available. Then you can brag about your local eating adventures on Facebook—all with this free app. Even before you leave on your trip, you can use Locavore to research what fruits and vegetables are going to be in season in the state you’re going to.
If you’re traveling with a vegetarian or vegan, or just want to
1. Vacation rental ads are often given away for free
If you’ve ever wondered how a small vacation rental could afford to pay for an ad in a major magazine or even in your local newspaper, the answer is, “they can’t.” The smartest vacation rental owners in the world trade free nights at their rental for advertising credit at leading publications so they can compete with larger property management companies or traditional hotels.
2. The longer you plan to stay, the more you can negotiate
Vacation rental owners like the least amount of hassle possible and that is especially true when it comes to check-ins and check-outs. The longer travelers are willing to stay at a rental, the less work is involved for the owner, which means the greater discounts will probably be offered.
3. The rentals with the best exposure offer the best experience
If there is one surefire way to pick out a great vacation rental, it’s by identifying the ones with great online presence. Owners who operate their own website, who offer beautiful pictures, and who display transparent guest reviews are owners who really care about their brand (and accordingly, your experience). The amount of exposure and professionalism a vacation rental offers
When you are traveling, being spontaneous can be exciting. Becoming liberated from your day-to-day routine can feel very refreshing. However, such impulsive actions are almost always coupled with spending more money. By planning ahead, you cannot only leave your conscience a little more at ease since you know where you’ll be sleeping that night. Making plans in advance can also save you big bucks. If you’re on a budget, here are ten simple ways to plan ahead and make less of a dent in your wallet:
1. Rent an apartment ahead of time
There are many perks of staying at a vacation rental instead of a hotel. One of them is definitely saving money. Whether it is a studio, a four or five bedroom condo or an entire villa, vacation rentals are usually priced well below the usual hotel rates. It is common to rent by week and the weekly rate will often equal a three or four night stay at a hotel or resort with comparable amenities, according to arrangeyourvacation.com. Vacation rentals thus frequently offer much higher value than the typical hotel room. If you book in advance, you can score further deals as the prices haven’t skyrocketed just yet.
At $200-500 or more, typical vacation home security deposits don’t run cheap—and for good reason: when you rent someone’s home, you’re being entrusted with the care of a major asset, often one that has emotional, as well as financial, significance for its owners. At the same time, it can be nerve-wracking to have a large amount of cash on the line while you’re letting loose and enjoying some downtime. To maintain your peace of mind regarding your security deposit, try following these suggestions:
1. Understand your rental’s required deposits and fees
The first step in avoiding the unpleasant surprise of paying more than you expected to for your vacation rental is to understand your rental’s deposit and fee structure. Some vacation rental contracts include non-refundable cleaning fees and/or pet fees. Best to know this ahead of time.
2. Know your rights
Read up on local laws regarding rental security deposits. Property owners are generally required to return deposits within a given length of time, (typically 14-30 days), and to provide a detailed list of any damages they intend to withhold money to repair. In the US, some states require property owners to provide actual receipts for expenditures they use the security deposit to cover.
My kids know that I plan, pack and take responsibility for the success of our vacations. That puts a lot of stress on Mom. But even the most organized mom or seasoned traveler, like me, still makes stupid mistakes. Learn from my “almost disasters” and help mom out.
From personal experience, I can guarantee that you’ll be in the doghouse if you don’t notice your pet is not in the car when you pull away.
- Glance in the rear view mirror as you pull away from your driveway, rental property or rest stop. I’ve left a suitcase at the door of the garage, a pet at a rest stop, and a bicycle in the driveway. Retrieving the pet, the bike and the luggage was easy when I noticed it quickly.
Good Neighbors Save the Day
- Notify a neighbor that you’re going on vacation and carry their phone number with you. I’ve driven 200 miles from home when I questioned whether I left the garage door open or turned off the coffee pot. A quick phone call proved I wasn’t so scatter-brained and put my mind at ease.
The Devil is in the Details
- Double check your documents and reservations the moment you receive
As you make plans to visit the beach, go hiking in the mountains, or take a road trip, consider your home’s safety before you go. Burglars prefer to target homes that look empty because it makes the process easier for them. With that in mind, it’s important to make it look like your home is occupied while you’re gone. Along with all the other items on the “to-do” list before you go out of town, don’t forget these five steps for securing your home:
1. Hold Your Mail
A pile of unopened mail and unread newspapers announces to a would-be burglar that your home is empty and ready for intruders. Before you go out of town, call your local post office and ask them to hold your mail. Alternatively, you can even do it online at USPS.com. You’ll also want to call your newspaper service to stop delivery until you return.
2. Trick Potential Intruders
Make it look like someone’s home when you’re out having fun. Here are some ways to outsmart crooks:
- Time lights and electronics. You can time your lights, television, and other electronics to turn on and off throughout the day. You want your lights to look natural, as if someone’s home.
Few things evoke our lust for adventure more than the thought of a road trip: the freedom to go wherever you want and stop whenever you like without a care in the world is one of the most liberating feelings for a traveler.
No schedule, no rules – just a map (or GPS system), some really good road trip music, and you’re good to go.
Here are five awesome road trip routes around the world…
Alsace Wine Route – France
Narrow, meandering roads with sweeping vistas of vineyards on either side are part of what makes the French wine region Alsace one of the best road trip routes in Europe.
As you drive along the Alsace Wine Route you will pass historical forts and castles perched on hilltops. Driving at your own pace means you will have the opportunity to stop over in one or more of the many medieval villages that dot the region.
With half-timbered houses painted in pastel colors, cobblestone alleys and more wine cellars than you can count, the villages along this route are brimming with old world charm. Every time you take a break from driving, step out of your car and feel that you’ve entered into a world where
Flying with small children requires an incredible amount of energy and patience. My husband and I live near NYC, and our folks live in the UK and San Francisco, respectively, so we have plenty of experience taking long flights with children to visit family. We did trips in both direction with our baby last year, and the experiences were… interesting (the airlines should hand out free cocktails to parents upon landing). Nevertheless, I was well prepared, and in my research for the flights, I did discover that many airlines do make an effort to make the process a little easier. Here are some survival tips:
Save some cash
Most domestic carriers allow children under two to fly for free on a lap. If flying internationally, children under two may still fly on a lap but will be charged 10% of a full adult fare. Once a child is over two, an actual seat must be purchased for the child at the full fare. With the high cost of airfare these days, this is when things get expensive. Back in the day, airlines gave a generous discount on child seats but now it’s a rare thing to find. However, there are still
It’s easy to get the essentials down when traveling abroad, like making sure your passport is current and remembering to exchange some money into the local currency. Perhaps what’s harder to grasp are the local customs, which might be different from your own but matter a lot to the people in whose country you’ve just arrived. Although none of these will set off an international incident if you forget to follow them, you’ll do yourself a favor in making new friends if you try to remember these customs during your journey.
Japan: Take off your shoes when entering someone’s home
Traditionally, the floors in Japanese homes were made of tamami, and many activities such as eating and sleeping were done on or close to this soft woven surface. Although homes in Japan might be more Western today, the tradition generally remains, and it’s a sign of respect to your hosts that you share their wishes to keep their home clean.
Ireland and United Kingdom: Remember your friends at the pub
When out with friends for drinks at the pub, you can expect that when it’s your turn to refill your glass, you’re also buying a round for everyone. It’s considered rude to buy a
With South By Southwest starting in just a few weeks, we think it’s time to offer our seasoned wisdom on surviving another year of blockbuster events. Whether you’re a big-time music fan attending your first festival, or a schedule nut looking to maximize your conference agenda, we’ve got the tips to get you through it.
Dress for the weather
Yes, you might have planned on wearing your favorite ironic T-shirt or those new strappy sandals, but neither will do you any good if the forecast calls for atypical festival weather. Keep an eye on that hourly forecast, and plan accordingly. An extra layer will be a lifesaver should the skies turn gray, and it’s helpful indoors too—conference halls and screening rooms are notoriously chilly, no matter what’s going on outside.
Plan to hydrate
Whether brought on by heat or a rigorous all-day schedule, dehydration can put a damper on your fun. Set yourself up so that you don’t have to think about having a steady supply of water. Bring your own bottle to fill up at water fountains (some festivals even have “hydration stations”). For events with more restricted entry, make the effort to find out ahead of time what the policy
Travel goes way beyond the sights and sounds of a destination. Eating is something we all need for survival anyway and luckily, it’s also an excellent opportunity to experience local culture. While Foodspotting and other discovery apps are helpful in hunting down trendy restaurants and hole-in-the-wall joints, there are even more resources for experiencing cuisine the local way.
Restaurant reviews are definitely helpful to potential diners but personalized suggestions are even better. Ness gives users instant restaurant recommendations based on their tastes and preferences. As soon as you sign up as a user, the platform asks you to rate ten restaurants and basically, the more restaurants you rate, the more accurate your recommendations will be. From a user perspective, the interface is easy to navigate and allows you to create beautiful lists of new restaurants you love or old favorites. Like most other apps, you can connect quickly through Facebook.
When traveling within the US or internationally, try using LocalEats to find your next dinner spot. The website and app ($0.99) allows users to search for nearby restaurants, view restaurant deals and get driving directions, among other services. Perhaps the best thing about LocalEats is that absolutely no chain restaurants are included in their