Saturday, December 29, 2012

Vacation Rentals & Florida State Parks -- the Perfect Money-Saving Match for Off Season Travel

Sandcastle building at St. Joseph
State Park in Florida. Nobody around
for miles.



If you've ever stayed in vacation rentals in the off season, you know how great it can be. Most tourist areas are in nice locations, weather-wise, so even if it's cooler, it's still pleasant compared to more wintery locations. Many attractions are still open (though some activities, such as para sailing, may not be), and the locals are glad to see you.

While in season travel is great because you'll have lots to do, going to a tourist area in the height of their busy season has its drawbacks. Everything's more expensive and crowded.

One big advantage to off season travel is the lack of crowds. If your vacation rental is in a heavily traveled tourist area, you'll have the unique and enjoyable experience of having it nearly all to yourself. For example, staying in a Florida vacation rental during the off season means you can visit Florida's wonderful state parks and see very few people. And when you hear the words "Florida state park," think beach.

You'll find pristine, beautiful, wide open beaches perfect for sand castle building or long walks. While a tan may take a bit longer to achieve, you can still throw down your beach towel, lay back and have a nice nap in the sand and sun. Rather than picnic on the beach with you and 100s of strangers, you can have a romantic lunch or fun family gathering, and not see another person walk by.

Florida state parks feature plenty of amenities--walking trails, interpretive centers, bike rentals, areas to Jet Ski, and much more. There are plenty of them and they're easy to get to.

Friday, December 21, 2012

2 Santa Trackers for Christmas 2012 -- NORAD and Google



Google really is everywhere, including the North Pole. And that's just fine, if they keep coming up with great ideas like their SantaTracker.

In addition to using Google Maps to track Santa's progress on Christmas Eve, their Santa Tracker includes a tour of Santa's Village with games and a great tool you can use to send messages to friends and family.

The games include a present drop into chimneys, an elf on a jet pack racking up points by capturing gifts, candy and holiday bells, and a sleigh racing game.

The messaging tool steps you through a series of questions to create a personalized message from Santa on your gift list. You can then send the message in a variety of ways--a phone call, email, etc. The voice quality is great and the message sound really natural.

In addition to following Santa through any web browser, you can also get an Android App, a Chrome extension and a Google Earth App (in 3D).

NORAD's Santa tracker was featured in this blog last year. Their Santa tracker won't start until Christmas Eve, of course, but meantime you can play a variety of games including a word scramble, maze, connect the bulbs to light up a Christmas tree and more. You can set the skill level on some of the games, making them as easy or hard as you want.

NORAD works with Microsoft and Bing to track Santa and recently released a Windows 8 version of its Santa tracker app. You can also get the NORAD Tracks Santa app for iOS (iPhones), Android and the web.

We all know how important it is to know Santa's progress on Christmas Eve, so you might want to use both so that your little ones know when it's time to go to sleep, so the jolly old elf can leave presents under the tree and candy in their stockings.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

5 Great Travel Sites for Saving Money




If you're in the market for a really special gift for someone you love, why not give them the gift of travel? Imagine their delight when the open the present and its trip to their favorite destination, or perhaps some place they've never been before. It will certainly make a big impression. Of course, it will also be pretty expensive. So to help you give the gift of travel, here are 5 great money-saving travel sites you can use to plan your big surprise. And be sure to bookmark this page for anytime you want to save on travel throughout the year. Of course, you can always find vacation rentals at great prices here at PerfectPlaces.com. Be sure to sign up for our monthly vacation rentals deals email below. You’ll be among the first to hear about special, money-saving offers.

BingTravel. One thing I always wonder before clicking the purchase tickets button is whether or not I'm getting the lowest price. It's a common thought, and Bing addresses it with their Fare History feature. Just search for the dates and destination you want, then click the Fare History link. It will show you how fares have been trending for your specific itinerary. If it looks like things have been rising steadily, you might just be getting the best deal possible. Or if you see noticeable patterns in days of the week that are cheaper than others, then you might want to wait a day or two. It's not a foolproof method, but it provides insights that can help you make your decision.

Kayak.com. This site's popular, and with good reason. It gathers all the best airline deals for you. The only notable exception is Southwest, which offers online fares on its website exclusively. But even with that, it's easy to get a roll up of all the best fares, and then go out and check individual airlines to see if you can get a better deal. It has a lot of other great tools, one of which is the ability to scanning a world map for places that are within reach of your budget.

Convert Currency. At XE.com, you can get real time exchange rates, as well as calculators that can help you with international travel. As any experienced international traveler knows, checking exchange rates before, during and after your trip is tremendously important. The amount you save by being savvy could mean you can afford that gourmet dinner in Paris.

RailEurope.com. Speaking of Paris, train travel is often the most economical way to get around Europe. It's also the most romantic as you get to see the countryside and rub elbows with the people more often. Rail travel in Europe is nothing like rail or bus travel in the United States -- it's a much better experience. At RailEurope.com, you can check fares, timetables and book travel.

Hotwire.com and AutoEurope.com for rentals cars. Hotwire collects rates from eight rental car companies, and offers a Hotwire Hot Rate, which guarantees you a car from a leading car rental company. Just as their name implies, AutoEurope.com specializes in finding deals on rental cars in Europe. They'll guarantee the lowest rate by matching any better deals that match and offer 24/7 customer service.



Friday, December 14, 2012

Escape to These 3 Great Beaches




With winter’s official start just days away, it’s a good time to plan a trip to a nice, warm, sunny beach. Here are three of the best in the world.

7 Mile Beach, Grand Cayman
Palm trees await you
on Cayman's 7 Mile Beach.
It's been called the "ultimate beach," and with good reason. While only 5 1/2 miles long, it features clear waters and soft, pristine coral sands along its length. The entire beach is also public, which makes it easily accessible no matter where you're staying. You'll also have a great opportunity to catch the flavor of local culture when area residents hit the beach to cool off. There are several resorts and first class hotels along the beach, with restaurants and bars open to the public strolling through the sand. So you can save money staying in Cayman vacation rentals and enjoy one of the best beaches in the world. Swim with friendly stingrays, scuba the beautiful waters at Cemetery Reef, and swing up to the Cayman Turtle Farm to see the majestic sea creatures that made Cayman famous.






South Beach, Miami
Your pool at your W Hotel Condo
in the heart of South Beach.
Skimpy beach wear, late night (all night?) parties and beautiful people all around -- no this isn't a day at the local lake, this is South Beach. And if you're looking for action and excitement along with your sun and surf, then take a look at the Miami vacation rentals for lodging. You'll be able to take part in all the fun and have a quiet place to relax and recover for the next nights "activities." Even if you're not into partying, there's still plenty to enjoy in South Beach. There are lots of great dining, entertainment and people watching to be had, and South Beach is a historic district, so the architecture is simply amazing.

Maui, Hawaii
View of the beach from your balcony.
From world-class snorkeling on the north end, to a bicycle descent from the top of the Haleakela Volcano, lots of shops and restaurants, whale viewing, all this and more within easy reach of Maui vacation rentalsMaui boasts 30 miles of beaches, mostly white, but you'll also find unique black and red sand beaches. Kaanapali on the west is one of America's Best Beaches, Makena Beach State Park is one of the largest beaches on the island, and Hamoa Beach was called the most beautiful beach in the Pacific by author James Michener. And those are just three of the more than dozen beaches on this beautiful and enchanting island. Nearly everyone who's visited the Hawaiian Islands and Maui will tell you Maui is their favorite island. Of course, the other islands are well worth a week's vacation, but Maui's got a little bit of everything to see and do. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Travel Trends 2013 -- From Vacation Rentals to Agritourism to Adventure Honeymoons

Food related travel vacations are increasing. Since
vacation rentals have full kitchens, guest can try out
new culinary delights as much as they want, and,
often, wherever they want.



There's no shortage of predictions for travel trends in 2013. Every travel writer on the web seems to be jumping in with their prognostications. While their crystal balls may or may not be clear, they're all certainly worth noting. After all, these are people who study the business, and 
2013 has the potential to be a year of significant recovery in the economy. Here are some of the more noteworthy predictions we found.

The Dark Side of the Hotel Lobby (and no, that doesn't mean burned out bulbs)
Matt Landau, vacation rental blogger and expert, says that the vacation rental industry should prepare for growth, citing a continuing increase in consumer demand for alternative lodging. At Perfect Places, we've noticed that more and more people are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of vacation rentals. This means owners and property managers are providing great experiences. Landau also warns that because of this rising popularity in vacation rentals, hotels will continue to lobby in attempts to limit short term rentals, or ban them entirely. Smart property managers will keep a close eye on any proposals that come before their city councils or state legislatures. Even smarter ones will be proactive and begin lobbying campaigns of their own.

A Cluck Cluck Here, a Moo Moo There
One of the most interesting takes was regarding family travel. Matt Villano at AOL Travel says that volunteer vacations and agritourism will all play a bigger role in family travel in 2013. "Family vacations have come a long way since the days of the Griswold's pilgrimage to Walley World," Villano writes. A growing category for families with children over the age of 5 is volunteer vacations. I can personally attest to that since my wife took our two teenagers on volunteer trips within the past few years, though it would be a stretch to call it a vacation. They all actually worked at day care centers in India and South Africa. But they did create fantastic memories worthy of the best vacations while helping the less fortunate. Cross Cultural Solutions is a great place to find volunteer trips around the world. For families with young kids, agritourism gives the young ones hands on, real world experience with Old MacDonald. Along these lines, Landau's predicting a rise in experiential travel and encouraging vacation rental owners and managers to come up with ways to show how their properties can allow travelers to become immersed in the area they visit.

Just Married? Forget Tin Cans Tied to the Car. Give 'em Surfboards Instead
Tamar Lowell of the Huffington Post is predicting an increase in adventure honeymoons. She mentions she spent her own honeymoon trekking in Nepal. It seems like a natural progression from destination weddings, and it seems like a natural fit for vacation rentals in exotic or adventure-friendly locations. . She also predicts that an improving economy will mean longer lead time in vacation planning, citing a move to booking three to six months out. That's great news for vacation rentals, since most have minimum stay requirements which require longer planning time. Lowel and others also say that epicurean tours are slated to become more popular. She reports that one travel agency has seen a 94% increase in bookings for food related tours. 

A prediction of our own: the trend towards group travel will continue. It's been going on for at least a decade now, and as baby boomers get more and more grandkids, it's a trend that can only increase. This is a perfect opportunity for vacation rentals, since they're the perfect lodging choice for grandma and grandpa when they want to get the whole family together for a week away on the lake, near the ocean or in the mountains. Find ways to take advantage of group travel and celebration vacations, and you'll likely have a great 2013. And if you're a traveler, be sure to try a group vacation. They're a lot of fun.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Family Friendly Ski Vacations




Skiing's a great family activity. It's easy to learn the basics of skiing and have fun on the bunny slopes, and it's fun to gain confidence and graduate to the more challenging runs. What's more, ski areas offer a multitude of things to do once you're off the slopes. Since vacation rentals and condos have long been a part of nearly every ski area, it's easy to find lodging that fits nearly any budget. So whether you're looking for an inexpensive trip just to have fun or want the experience of a lifetime, check out these 4 family-friendly ski areas.

Northstar Tahoe, California
Luxury custom-built vacation home in Northstar.
This is a great choice, and is especially close for anyone living in northern California, the Northwest or on the western side of the Rockies. There are plenty of beginner and moderate runs--making up about 75% of all the trails. Ski conditions are normally enhanced by the lake and the quantity of trees. Northstar has 89 trails, 18 lifts and eight terrain parks. There's also an ice skating rink and a tubing hill. Northstar's experienced growth since 2008, so it's not as crowded. The Village has lots of retail shops and plenty of great places to eat in a variety of styles and price ranges. Plus, Northstar's close to Lake Tahoe and everything it has to offer.

Vail, Colorado
Bring the whole family and make it
a ski trip to remember!
A perennial favorite and it's celebrating its 50th anniversary during the 2012-13 ski season, so there'll be lots of activities. Vail is the largest ski resort in North America, offering over 5,200 acres. Every skill level is catered to with a variety of trails--ski boredom simply won't happen. The trails are so well laid out that a family of differing skill levels can go their own ways, yet still find it easy to meet up at the bottom. Vail is also easy on the budget. Because of its size and popularity, Vail can get crowded, but it has another advantage: it's near other great ski areas such as Beaver Creek.

Killington, Vermont
Relax in a soothing hot tub after skiing or snowboarding!
A popular New England ski destination with 88 miles of terrain over seven mountains. You'll have over 190 trails to choose from, accommodating all skill levels thoroughly. It's popular with the locals, but staying in vacation rentals will help you fit right in. The instructor to student ratio maxes out at 5 to 1, so beginners needn't worry about learning how to ski. Once you're done skiing or snowboarding, you'll find over 100 restaurants and bars, casual family dining, and spas for the non-skiers (or the skiers sore muscles!).

Nendaz, Switzerland
Yes, that would be your view  of the Alps.
Located in the heart of the Four Valleys Ski Area, Nendaz provides easy access to 412km of downhill skiing-205 individual runs and 92 ski lifts. You can purchase a Four Valley's lift ticket and ski eight area resorts. Nendaz itself is scenic and friendly Alpine village that overlooks the Rhone River valley. It's one of 23 resorts in Switzerland that's received the "Families Welcome" designation from the Swiss Tourism Federation. It's a great value and will be well worth the trip--after all, what a memory you'll give your family by skiing in the famous Swiss Alps!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Traveling with Friends & Staying in Vacation Rentals Just Got Easier




Vacation rentals and group travel go together. A vacation rental's the perfect lodging choice when you go with family and friends--it's more affordable than a resort or hotel, everyone can get their own room, and you have private pools, hot tubs, etc. But organizing group trips can be a pain. Getting everyone on the same page takes time, emails, text messages, missed calls and, worst of all, hurt feelings if someone feels like their opinion wasn't taken into consideration.

Plan with Friends from Perfect Places makes planning vacations with groups easier than ever.

First, select the vacation rentals you're interested in--they don't have to be just from PerfectPlaces.com either. No matter what property you like, no matter what website you find it on, you can save the property to your Plan with Friends account on Perfect Places. Creating a Plan with Friends account is easy, too (and FREE!). You can login via Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn (fantastic for business trip or retreat planning), Yahoo!, AOL, Flickr, Blogger, WordPress, OpenID, VeriSign, PayPal, or use your email address.

Once you've saved your favorite properties, you can then share and discuss the people traveling with you. You can share any way you like--via one of the social networks mentioned above or email. Your friends can then discuss the pros and cons of each property with you.

But perhaps best of all, if a property is bookable online, you can book it through Plan with Friends. At PerfectPlaces.com, we have over 44,000 vacation rentals available for secure online booking using a credit card.

Perfect Places is more than just our name. We truly want you to find the perfect vacation place--and Plan with Friends is just one more way we help you have your best vacation ever. Check it out now. If you have questions, leave a comment below and we'll respond ASAP.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Need a Break from the City? Try a Vacation Rental in Woodstock


 

Whether you're trying to escape from the crowds of New York City or just looking for something different from your suburb, the Woodstock area and Catskill Mountains offer a peaceful, quite getaway perfect for staying in vacation rentals
That's especially true of the Kaaterskill Clove area, considered by many American writers, from James Fenimore Cooper to Mark Twain, to be one of the most beautiful spots they've ever seen.

Kaaterskill Cove is a scenic ravine in the Catskill Mountains. You'll find forest and waterfalls, hiking and solitude, peace and quite. You'll discover coves of cool mountain water, where the only sound you'll hear is the wind through the trees. You can get your fill of nature and then explore shops filled with handmade craft items created by area artisans, fruit and vegetable stands with produce you can use to cook in your Catskill vacation rental, old bookshops and quaint small towns.

The natural highlight of the area is Kaaterskill Falls, which are higher than Niagra Falls. Niobe Falls, a continuation of Kaaterskill Falls, has been painted by hundreds--if not thousands--of artists from the Hudson River School of Painting. You can stay in the heart of this legendary region. The Waterfall Vacation Home is a charming 2 bedroom, 2 bath Victorian-era home 12 miles from Woodstock, 8 miles from Saugerties and 10 miles from Catskill. It's also just 10 miles from Hunter Mountain, a popular spot for winter sports, and home to Rip Van Winkle, the sleepy woodsman from Washington Irving's famed story. Sit on the deck and enjoy your view of Niobe Falls as you contemplate your next adventure, or reflect on the wonderful day you just enjoyed. Escape to peace and quite soon--it's a trip you'll want to repeat.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

9 New Vacation Rentals in Edinburgh, Scotland




Planning a trip to Europe? Or perhaps you're looking for a vacation that's wonderfully different yet easily accessible. Consider Edinburgh, Scotland, a city rich in history, culture and entertainment. Edinburgh vacation rentals are a great way to explore the city and region as they give you a relaxing home base where you can settle in for a weekend, a week or even longer. And Perfect Places is excited to announce 9 new vacation rentals from Edinburgh at Home.

The first thing you'll notice the stunning, historic architecture. Over 4,500 buildings in the Old and New Towns are listed as World Heritage sites. Old Town includes medieval sites such as Edinburgh Castle, while New Town features neoclassical architecture dating to the 18th century. In Old Town you'll find the Royal Mile with its closes (parcels of land bordered by a wall or hedge), Reformation-era buildings, kirks (churches), turrets and out of the places. In New Town, you'll walk through Georgian Terraces, wide spaces built by members of the upper class seeking to escape Old Town.

Edinburgh's a city filled with atmosphere and historic charm. Scotland's capital until 1707, the city still carries the weight of that importance proudly. The University of Edinburgh gained a reputation as one of the world's leading educational institutions, and the Bank of Scotland, established in 1695, made Edinburgh a financial center.

After taking in Old and New Town, try the Scotch Whiskey Experience and learn how whisky's made. Shop on Princes Street, visit the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Museum of Scotland. Be sure to take a tour of pubs and literature with the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour.

After seeing Edinburgh Castle, you make want to dig deeper into Scotland's noble history. You'll have plenty of opportunities, as Edinburgh's surrounded by nearby castles, such as Dirleton, Tantallion, Crichton, Linlithgow and Blackness.

Regardless of your itinerary, you're sure to enjoy your stay in Edinburgh, and come away with wonderful memories of a historic city, region and nation.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Vacation Rentals & Exotic Locations--You'll Feel Like a Native in Paradise




Whether you're planning a trip to an exotic location, still dreaming, or pining to go back again, try staying in a vacation rental the next time you go. While hotels and resorts have advantages, nothing equals the feeling of being on vacation in an exotic location and feeling like you're a native. Vacation rentals give you an unbeatable opportunity to know what it feels like to be a native in paradise. But be warned: Once you start vacationing in exotic locations, you'll never want to come back and, if you do, you'll always want to return as soon as possible.


To call South Island picturesque is an understatement. It's one of the reasons Lord of the Rings was filmed there: the region has an otherworldly quality that's striking and memorable. As many times as you see it, you still feels as if you're seeing it for the first time. The area has it all--perfect, pristine coastlines, mountains, glaciers, volcanoes. You can ski, dive and hike. Or take in wine tours, spa treatments and find unique gifts while shopping.


Since you've flown all the way to the South Island, why not extend the stay for a week and take in the North Island? It has plenty of natural beauty to offer, but since 70% of the population lives on the North Island, you can get to know New Zealanders and have a more urban experience in Auckland or Wellington. Travel tips: the beaches are simply breathtaking and the island is very drivable.


On your way back from New Zealand, ask the boss for an extra week off. You'll be laying over in Hawaii and you may as well stay awhile. Whether it's your first trip to Hawaii or your 100th, a vacation on the islands is simply worth it. Hawaii is the original exotic location and you can literally have it all. Escape to the quiet beauty of Kauai, or immerse yourself in the modern luxury of Oahu. Take a day or a year to relax on Maui's beaches, or get a taste of every eco-system on the planet (and get away from it all) on the Big Island. You'll feel like you're a world away from everything and everybody, and you won't have to teleport to another planet or exchange currency.


After you're week (or two) in Hawaii, you won't be even close to being ready to go back to work. So do like the Europeans do and round out your vacation to a whole month and head down to Bali. Try Ubud and take in the Puri Saren Agung, a lavish palace now used for incredible performances by traditional Balinese dancers. There are magnificent rivers, temples, rice terraces, and lots of art districts where you'll find both galleries and workshops. After all, Ubud is considered the cultural center of Bali.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cross-Country Obstacle Mud Runs: Get Dirty to Win or Just Have a Really Fun Run



Cross country races over rivers, streams and various obstacles have skyrocketed in popularity the last few years. They're often referred to as mud runs, and with good reason. Even the most mild-mannered of these races leaves at least a thin coat of dirt and mud on virtually every participant.

The Living History Farms Off-Road Race in Urbandale, Iowa (a suburb of Des Moines), bills itself as the largest single race of its kind. It caps entries at 7,500 and is run over the hills, dales, streams and trails that wind through Living History Farms, which is exactly what the name suggests. Hundreds of acres that tell the story of farming over the centuries turn into a massive course for thousands of runners.

While the course is awesome, perhaps even better are the participants themselves. Many (though to the naked eye, it seems like most) come dressed in costumes, even the race his held weeks after Halloween on third Saturday in November. 2012 marked the 34th annual race, held on November 17th. The types of costumes are too many to mention, and included everything from nine reindeer pulling Santa (pictured and, yes, they ran as a group), Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth, nuns, super heroes, gangsters, rock stars (Kiss), Waldo, Titanic survivors and victims and many more. The atmosphere was electric fun.

The race did attract serious runners as well, with speedy cross country racers (not in costume) lined up closest to the start. The winner was Matthew Pohren of Ashland, Nebraska, with a time of 39:09 over a 7 mile course. When you consider he crossed multiple streams and ran through Iowa farm fields, that's a really good time. The first female finisher was Amy Laskowski of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 44:45.

Cross Country Races -- Lots to Choose From

These kinds of races are growing in popularity ever year. They can be considered destination races and events. If you're running for fun, then you'll need time to make a costume. If you're running to win or just turn in a good time, then you'll want time to acclimate to the weather, check out the course and get comfortable with your surroundings. A long weekend works well, but if the race is in a scenic or tourist area, then why not make a vacation out of the trip? Bring your spouse, kids or friends and have a cheering section to help you navigate the most grueling portions. Vacation rentals are a great lodging option, as they give you the most freedom and flexibility as far as sticking to your nutrition plan and getting enough uninterrupted sleep are concerned. 

Photo courtesy Camp Pendleton Mud Run.
A word to the wise: some these races can be very tough and challenging, so be prepared. The Camp Pendleton Mud Run, near San Diego, includes hills, tire obstacles, river crossings, two 5-foot walls with mud on sides, tunnel crawl, slippery hill climb, and a final 30-foot mud pit over a 10K course. The Tough Mudder is a series of races, each 10 to 12 miles, which were designed by the British Special Forces. Its stated purpose is to test the strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie of participants. It also benefits the Wounded Warrior Project for veterans and is held in a variety of cities around the world, including   Tampa, Tahoe, Paris, Zurich and many more. The Warrior Dash bills itself as the largest series. The obstacles can include jumping over fire, walking balance beams or tightropes, crawling through tunnels, swimming, and other surprises. There are races throughout the United States, in Australia, and even in the United Kingdom. It benefits St. Jude's Hospital.

So whether you're running fun, to win or just to challenge yourself in a tough race, consider doing one of these races. Just be sure to train properly, as the obstacles and nature of cross country running make these races different from a regular road run.

Friday, November 16, 2012

5 Places to Ski on a Budget



If you love skiing, you know that the best part of your trip is the time you spend on the slopes. So why spend too much on lodging. Some opt for low cost motels, but you can actually find vacation rentals for about the same price as low-cost motels, and you’ll get benefits only vacation rentals can offer, such as full kitchens and perhaps even a private hot tub. So if it's you and a bunch of slope buddies, book a less expensive condo at one of these areas and spend an extra day or two doing what you love—skiing or snowboarding.

Here are five ski areas where you can find rooms for about $60 a night. (These don’t work for you? Then check out Perfect Places for even more options.)


WinterPark. One of Colorado's most popular ski areas, winter park boasts over a million visitors a year. Because it's so popular, you'll find plenty of shopping, conveniences and amenities to keep you entertained when you're not skiing. Fly into Denver and ride an Amtrak train for a truly stress free time.

Vail. Ski Magazine ranked Vail as the 2nd best ski destination in North America. It also boasts world-class spas, shopping and restaurants. It’s a hotbed for the rich and famous, many with permanent condos and home in the area. With an abundance of lavish spenders, you’re sure to find 1st-class things to do. Not to mention 1st class skiing. If you can't find an accommodation in the $60 range, you can certainly find plenty for around $100 a night--still a bargain. Plus, Vail is one of the most family-friendly ski areas in the world, and it's celebrating it's 50th anniversary during the 2012-2013 ski season.

Killington, Vermont. Killington has the largest vertical drop in New England (3,000+ feet), 141 trails, 22 lifts and extends across six mountain peaks. It has one of the longest ski seasons on the East coast (most often the longest) and is simply one of the best areas on the East coast for skiing.

Steamboat Springs.  Located in Northwest Colorado, Steamboat is a complete mountain range with six peaks and ridges offering outstanding skiing. It's about 3 hours from Denver by car. You can also reach it by air with direct flights from seven major airports. With the money you save on lodging, treat yourself to a flight directly into Steamboat.


Tahoe. While Tahoe may conjure up images of celebrities and jet setters, you can still ski and stay for cheap, if you look. The Tahoe area's easy to navigate and offers some of the best skiing in the world, so why not save on your room and spend the extra cash rubbing elbows with the rich and famous in Heavenly village?




Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Enter Our $100 Pack Your Bags Sweepstakes

Just a quick note about our $100 Pack Your Bags Facebook Sweepstakes running now through November 30th. Just Like Perfect Places Vacation Rentals Facebook page to enter to win a $100 VISA Gift Card that spends like cash. It's that easy!

Click here to enter. Good luck and happy travels this Holiday season.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cool Chart on Cheapest Days to Fly Over Thanksgiving

Over the river and through the woods?
More like over the cab stand and through security.
Whether or not you purchased your airline tickets for Thanksgiving, this chart from ABC News/Travelocity is pretty neat. It shows airline prices for different combinations of days over one of the busiest travel holidays of the year.

 If you haven't bought your tickets yet, use it to come up with the combination that's right for you. Not only will you save money, it will likely save you trouble. You'll spend a lot less time trying to come up with inexpensive options yourself.

 If you've already purchased your tickets, then bookmark this page and come back to it when you travel next year.



Friday, November 9, 2012

Mush! Try Dog Sledding in Haliburton for a Unique Vacation Experience




While swimming with dolphins is great fun, relatively few people can say they've really run with the big dogs – BIG sled dogs that is. It's an activity rich in history and filled with excitement. Like skiing, it's guaranteed to warm up a winter day. And even a short dog sled trip will give you a lifetime of wonderful memories. And dog sledding is a great activity when you're staying in vacation rentals--you can look forward to returning the the cozy comfort of your home away from home.

Haliburton County in Ontario, Canada is one of the best areas to dog sled in. The area offers a lot of opportunity for dog sledding, including Winterdance Dogsled Tours, a local outfitter that knows the area and provides safe, fun and exciting tours. You'll ride through the beautiful wilderness alongside Algonquin Park behind a powerful team of purebred Siberian Huskies. Winterdance Dogsled Tours has been featured on the Rick Mercer Report, the Toronto Star, Country Women Magazine and elsewhere in the media.

Not Just Dog Sledding

Haliburton isn't just about dog sledding. You'll find a host of winter activities. Downhill skiing, ski racing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, luge (yes, the Olympic sport) are some of your options for warming up this winter. When it's time to relax, enjoy local maple syrup on warm and filling pancakes or the local French-Canadian cuisine, shop at quaint local shops and art galleries, and enjoy special events throughout the winter.

"There are so many unique things to do in the Haliburton area!  Dog-sledding and luge runs are a blast!  Over 640 kms of groomed snowmobile and cross-country ski trails, and everyone's favorite, Sir Sam's Ski Area for downhill skiing and snowshoeing make Haliburton Ontario's most popular winter destination." -- Janice Bishop of All Season Cottage Rentals (see all the all season cottage rentals here)

Haliburton's a Great All-Season Destination

If a winter vacation isn't in your plans, then schedule a week or two in Haliburton when it warms up. The area is bursting with natural beauty that can be experienced in a variety of ways. Canoe, kayak, sail, waterski or fish on one of the areas 600 lakes; ATV the miles and miles of trails (you can head for the backwoods or stay nearer to civilization); hike to your heart’s content; or enjoy golf, horseback rides, cycling, fall color tours--the year-round activity options are nearly endless. The area is rich in natural history as well. Try recreational geology and geocaching, a fun activity using GPS and other navigational techniques to hind and find containers, referred to as "caches."

Haliburton County is just two hours from Toronto and four hours from Ottawa (Canada's capitol), so while it's far enough away to feel isolated, you're really very close to civilization. Plan your trip to this natural wonderland now.





Monday, November 5, 2012

Wailea--Hawaii's Millionaire’s Paradise Welcomes You




One trip to Wailea on Maui and you'll feel like you landed in heaven. The combination of natural beauty and upscale amenities offers you the best of both worlds. While the resorts in the area make it seem like Wailea is exclusive, nothing could be further from the truth. Wailea, while it's definitely paradise for the rich and famous, is within reach of the average traveler. First, there are many Maui vacation rentals to be had, like those offered by the Maui Rental Group. MRG vacationrentals offer direct access to the incredible Keawakapu Beach--one of the very best on Maui. You'll see the island of Kahoolawe in the distance, and enjoy nearly a mile of soft sand. It's secluded, and slopes gently into the ocean with no sudden drop off.

Another thing to know is that all the beaches in Wailea are open to the public and offer public restrooms. So what seems like a closed resort beach is actually accessible by anyone. You can have the best of both worlds--stay in a private, deluxe vacation rental, enjoy Maui and Wailea on your terms, and still get your fill sun-filled days on your pick of the world's best beaches.

Near Mokapu and Ulua Beaches.
Wailea Beach is on Maui's south shore. Sunbathing, swimming, inviting surfing and body boarders. The beach is flat, with calm, gentle waves, making it perfect for whale watching from the shore during the winter. There's a walkway that connects you to restaurants and hideaway coves with native plants.

For those that want more than just beachcombing, snorkeling is a popular pastime in Wailea. Mokapu Beach, Ilua Beach or Polo Beach are great choices, with something for beginners and experts alike.  You can also kayak or paddleboard.

When you're done at the beach, head to Wailea Golf Club. It offers three 18 hold courses. When it opened in 1993, the Gold Course was recognized as one of the 10 best new courses and its reputation remains strong today. It hosts the Wendy's Champions Skins Game.

No trip to Wailea would be complete without a spa treatment or two. The Grand Wailea Hotel houses the Spa Grande, Hawaii's largest spa--50,000 square feet of luxury, voted one of the top 10 spas in the United States by Conde Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure magazines. It offers treatments for all age groups using a variety of treatments. With all the resorts in the area, there are also many other choices for fantastic spa treatments.

You'll become so immersed in Wailea, you might forget you're on Maui, which many consider to be the most beautiful of the Hawaiian Islands. Maui is an island of quaint small towns, upscale resorts and hotels, and many natural wonders (Haleakala National Park). Find black sand at Waianapanapa Beach, drive along with Hana Highway for incredible scenic beauty, or visit the Maui Ocean Center for an up close view of marine life.

Don't wait any longer. Plan a vacation to Wailea--it's a trip you'll remember forever. One warning: once you arrive you won't want to leave, and once you leave, you’ll immediately plan your trip back.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Israel's "Little Tuscany" Offers Laid Back Escapes

Relaxing during a hike through the
Tel Dan Nature Preserve.

 

If you're thinking about visiting the eastern Mediterranean, consider a stop in northern Israel. The upper Galilee has become known as Israel's "Little Tuscany," because of its wineries, beautiful green landscape and laid-back attitude. It's the type of place that once you visit, you'll wonder why you don't live there. It's the type of place perfect for a stay in an vacation rental.

The Hula Valley offers an abundance of nature, and is one of the absolute best bird watching spots on the planet. In fact, you don't even need to be an expert bird watcher to fully enjoy the experience. The Valley is part of the migratory route for a wide variety of species flying from Europe to Africa and Asia. You can also take a seemingly endless variety of hikes and bike trails to fully explore one of the most gorgeous places you'll ever see. The Hula Valley is actually part of the Great Rift Valley, which runs as far south as Mozambique. While it's in the Middle East, it's hardly a desert. The Valley is teeming with water--from reclaimed marshes to natural springs such as Ein Tina and the Jakhula, to the Dan, Snir, Hermon and Jordan rivers. You'll even find a waterfall in the Banias Nature Preserve. All the water means you'll have plenty of chances for kayaking and other water activities.

Migratory birds in Upper Galilee.
After getting your fill of the outdoors, take in the city of Safed, located in a dense pine forest overlooking the modern city of Tiberias. Safed offers lots of history and modern resort facilities. Said to be founded by one of Noah's sons after the Biblical Great Flood, the city has changed hands numerous times over the centuries. Jewish culture has been present in Safed for centuries as well, having been settled by Spanish Jews after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. Today, Safed has strong Kabbalistic influences (a mystical segment of the Jewish faith) and is home to a vibrant arts community.

Banias Nature Reserve
Another advantage the upper Galilee region has is its year-round beauty. Spring offers an abundance of colors, summer a host of activities for children, fall means tours of wineries and harvest festivals, and an increase in precipitation in the winter means rushing streams. You'll find skiing on Mount Herman, Israel's tallest peak, on the border of the Golan Heights and Upper Galilee. It's Israel's only ski resort and attracts thousands of visitors every year. Like any mountain, Mt. Herman also offers beautiful warm weather activities.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Haunted Vacation--3 Top Spots for Spooktacular Vacation Rentals

Haunted? Click here to find out for yourself.



Whether you believe in ghosts or not, hauntings make for fun times whether it's Halloween or not. Here are three places you can visit anytime of the year and be guaranteed a scary good time.

Savannah, Georgia. Some say it's the most haunted city in America. This classic Southern city's filled with charm and alive with history, so even if you don't see a ghost, you'll feel a part of the past in a unique and memorable way. Try booking a stay at Laura's Cottage, reported to be among one of the many haunted places in Savannah. There are plenty of modern, real world activities in Savannah too--shopping, dining, nightlife and entertainment--as well as many non-ghostly Savannah vacation rentals.

Prague, Czech Republic. With a long, sometimes violent, history, Prague has a rich reputation for ghostly occurances. The city has the added advantage of being spared destruction in Europes two world wars, so the spirits get to hang out in their old haunts. The Charles Bridge was the site of the execution of 10 Lords who are said to haunt the span. In St. Vitus Cathedral, the ghosts of Emporer Charles IV's wives can be heard bickering among themselves (heard by believers, at least). And the old Jewish Cemetary is the oldest Jewish graveyard in Europe, with an estimated 100,000 burials. It's said to be the most haunted place in the city. Find Prague vacation rentals.

After your ghost tour, have a lively time
in the eternally beautiful San Diego weather.
The Whaley House, San Diego. Built in 1857 on a plot of land that was once part of a cemetary, the Whaley House has been the site of many ghostly encounters. Window shutters that open by themselves, unexcplained smells of perfume and cigar smoke, appiritions and mysterious encounters. Stay in a non-haunted San Diego vacation rental and pay a visit to the Whaley House for some spooky fun.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spending The Holidays In A Vacation Rental

Christmas on the beach?

It's that time of year again. Everyone is making plans for the holidays and going through the difficult process of deciding who to spend Christmas with. Rather than deal with the stress at home, why not book a vacation rental? Whether you decide to escape as a couple, or bring along the entire extended family, going away for the holidays can be a fun and easy way to celebrate.

Traveling at peak times

People are often put off from traveling around the holidays because they see the journey as a big hassle. True, the airlines are busy, and family travel can be annoying to arrange, but booking well in advance and doing things like car sharing to the airport can help make it easier on the family. If you're traveling within the USA, then a road trip may be a better option. Hire a minivan or even a bus so you've got plenty of space for your family and their luggage. Don't be afraid to explore options like taking a train as part of your trip, whatever makes your itinerary less stressful. Remember that a vacation rental gives you a great deal of flexibility. Not everyone has to arrive or depart on the same day, so if there's a large party you can organize your trip around different schedules. This can allow certain people to travel and quieter times and help you organize a convenient itinerary for everyone.

Warm Christmas memories.
Where to go?

There is no shortage of options when it comes to vacation rental. If you're the kind of family who enjoys summer all year round, then perhaps you'd enjoy Florida. It's a classic family vacation spot, and there are plenty of indoor and outdoor activities, perfect for when you've got to keep all the generations happy. California is also popular. Accommodations in beachfront areas will often be condos, but if you have a bigger party there are plenty of villas available, many with private pools, so you can celebrate the holidays with a BBQ or pool party.

Perhaps the holidays just wouldn't be the same for your family without snowy landscapes, cozy fires and everyone in warm sweaters. If so, consider a place in the mountains, such as the Colorado Rockies or the Lake Tahoe area. You’ll find the kind of picture-perfect day normally seen on greetings cards. Whether it's a sleek townhouse in Aspen, or a classic mountain home far from civilization, you're guaranteed a white Christmas and a peaceful vacation. Or, if you're feeling especially adventurous, try heading to Europe for a truly magical Christmas.

If your family enjoys big cities, endless Christmas light, and plenty of culture, then consider a vacation rental in a larger metro area such as New York or Montreal. Many people are put off trips to larger cities because of the expense, but with a vacation rental is often much more affordable than a hotel. You have the convenience of your own kitchen, meaning you don't have to spend money on eating out for every meal.

Perhaps a Holiday escape to Europe.
Celebrating away from home

If you've never spent the holidays away from home, it can be a daunting prospect. After all, this time of year is stressful and often involves lots of planning and coordination. One of the joys of going away for the holidays is that you can make your Christmas a lot simpler. If you're staying near a major tourist area then there will be plenty of grocery and department stores for any last minute shopping, and being in a group means you can assign people to take on different tasks. Keep things informal, and remember that the point of going away is to relax!

What to pack

Your vacation home will have most of the essentials such as cooking utensils, so don't feel like you need to bring too much. You may wonder what to do about gifts, since you may not have much room for luggage. Consider doing a secret Santa gift exchange, or setting a limit on the amount you spend on each other. Buy small presents such as gift cards or jewelry, or perhaps make this the Christmas where you all agree not to buy presents for each other. The money you'll save will help pay for your vacation or give you some extra cash to spend on a fun day out.

Wherever you decide to spend your holidays, consider a vacation rental to bring your family together and enjoy your celebrations in a beautiful location with all the amenities you'll need for a stress-free trip.