Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fall Travel: Great for Families with Young Kids, Couples, Seniors and Singles

New York City's a sure bet for a fall vacation.
(Huffington Post: 17 Great Places to Visit in the Fall)

Who said you can't take a vacation in the fall? If you're a family with children who aren't in school yet, a couple with no kids, seniors who are done raising children, or single, fall can be one of the best times of the year to travel.

The humidity and stifling hot temperatures abate in places like Florida (as does the threat of hurricanes). Crowds thin out too. Major attractions remain open, although sometimes with more limited hours. Smaller attractions may close, but they too often stay open. Vacation rentals are a great choice for the fall because competition for space all but disappears while deals and specials abound.

Here are some great ideas for a vacation this fall:

How about a spooktacular
time this Halloween at Disney World
or Universal Studios?
Orlando. There's a reason Orlando's so popular: it's got something for everyone. Walt Disney World will be much easier to enjoy with a preschool age child without the summer crowds and summer heat. And you'll be paying off-season prices for your lodging, airfare and other expenses. Adults can enjoy Disney World as well -- Cirque du Soleil performs every night. Or take in Sea World, Epcot, Discovery Cove and special Halloween Fright Nights at Disney World and Universal Studios.

Northern Fall Vacations. On the flipside, maybe you live in the deep south and have had your fill of hot weather and want to experience the truly glorious beauty of fall weather in the northern states. Your vacation plans may require some flexibility, but you should be able to catch plenty of fall color and crisp weather. Try to speak with arborists in the areas you're planning on visiting. County extension offices are a good place to get reliable information. Or, simply escape to New York City if the fall. Again, the crowds are gone and the city is mostly filled with natives. 

The Caribbean and Mexico. Anytime of the year is a good time to enjoy a sun-soaked beach vacation in the Caribbean or Mexico. Perfect Places Travel can set you up with package tours, or you can select from our many vacation rentals.

Europe. Overseas airfares drop in the fall, as do the lines at historic sites such as Versailles and the Tower of London. The temperatures may be crisp, but you'll at least get to experience beautiful fall weather while vacationing in a beautiful place. You'll also find that locals are more willing to interact with you since they don't have to deal with crushing crowds of tourists. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

3 Vacation Rental Tips: Find Your Perfect Place

If you've never rented a vacation rental or villa before, the task may seem a bit daunting. But if you're comfortable with renting a hotel, then you'll have no problem finding vacation rentals to fit your needs. The process is similar, though there are a couple key differences.

Understand Your Own Needs. Vacation rentals are highly-personalized forms of lodging. You can get a home, condo or villa suited to your wants and needs. Think about what you want to do while on vacation, the kind of transportation you'll require, as well as considerations such as the needs of children, food you enjoy, and what you require to be comfortable. Does everyone need their own bedroom? How many baths would you like? Would you like to be within walking distance of entertainment options, or are you okay with a drive? If so, how long of a drive? You can get accommodations that aren't just nice -- they'll be virtually tailored to your specifications.

Rent with a Reliable Property Manager or Owner. This isn't much different from a hotel or resort. Most people tend to pick accommodations based on the reputation or reliability of the chain or owner. Vacation rentals aren't any different. For example, you'll want to use a trustworthy website like Perfect Places that lists tens of thousands of properties, so you can easily compare your choices. Look for lots of photos. If reviews are available, read them over. But beware single reviews that are either too glowing or too critical. Those could be one-off experiences. Be sure to check out the owner's website too. Make sure the property is in good shape. Some renters go as far as to verify the property isn't in foreclosure.

Ask Questions. Even if there are a dozen fair and balanced reviews and the property looks good, you should always contact the property owner or manager with questions. This is a natural advantage that vacation rentals have over hotels or resorts -- you can get a first-hand description of the property from a person who understands it fully.  The specific type of questions to ask depends on what your vacation plans and needs are, but there are a few basics to keep in mind. First, verify that the person you're talking to has actually stayed on the property or has seen it first-hand. If not, then as for someone who has or find another rental. Ask to see a contract early in the process and read it carefully. Renting a vacation home is more like renting an apartment. Most contracts are relatively short and easy to understand. 

Finding the perfect vacation rental takes a little longer than simply booking a hotel, but not much longer than booking a resort (travelers usually have to do more due diligence with resorts). The process can take as little as an hour or two, or as long as a couple of days. But you have more options, pay less if you're traveling with more than two people, and have a truly unique and personal place to stay.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Save Money & Have Great Time: Book Your Holiday Travel Now

It may be end of summer and back to school time, but many people are already making plans for their next vacation. If you want to get in on the biggest savings and best destinations, you might want to start planning your Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years or school break vacations now.

Most vacation rentals needed to be booked well in advance of your vacation since most stays are for a week or more. There are lots of deals and specials available now for various times of the year. The great thing about vacation rentals is that since they're usually someone's vacation home or second home, they're available in highly desirable locations, near resorts, the water, mountains, lakes and major attractions. 

Resorts and hotels offer less flexibility than vacation rentals. For example, a specific resort may be out of the ocean-view room you wanted, whereas you could probably still find a vacation rental on the water. That's not to be critical of resorts--it's just a good reason to book your travel to a resort or hotel early, rather than wait until the last minute.

Airfares are always lower the further out you book. Just be sure of your travel dates before you book you flight. While it's true you might catch break with a discounted flight close to your travel dates, the odds saving money and getting the flights you'd really like are low. Rather than gamble on ruining your vacation, it's best to build the airfare into your budget now and look for deals on activities and attractions at your destination.

Generally speaking, everything gets more expensive the closer you book to your travel dates. Your options become limited in terms of your lodging, and even many activities sell out. So if you're traveling over a Holiday this year or in 2013, go ahead and make your plans now and have something fun to look forward to.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

3 Ideas for a Relaxing & Memorable Labor Day Vacation

This Labor Day, how about a beach all to yourself?

Labor Day's a great opportunity to say goodbye to summer and hello to fall and the start of school. Travel falls off for most people during September and October, before picking up again at the Holidays. So make sure you take a relaxing, memorable vacation this Labor Day, to tide you over until you jet off to a beach in January.


Speaking of beaches, why not send summer off with a rousing bang and hit a favorite beach, or perhaps try someplace new. Grab a quick flight to the Florida Panhandle, Southern California, or the Eastern seaboard -- Myrtle Beach, Virginia Beach and Hilton Head, for example. While Labor Day can still be busy, you just might be pleasantly surprised by the lack of crowds in some location. You'll face your first day back at work or school with a killer tan and warm memories of sand and sunshine.


Another great way to send the summer off in style is with a golf vacation. You can stay in the lower 48 and find fantastic golfing in Florida, Arizona and South Carolina. Or treat yourself with a golf vacation to Hawaii. Spend a long weekend golfing in a beautiful location and you'll come back relaxed and recharged.


Despite its name, Labor Day is all about doing anything but work. That's why long weekend of indulgence at a spa makes so much sense, and would be such a welcome relief. As great as summer is, it can be stressful, especially with the heat most areas of the country experienced. And since you might not have a long weekend for several months, relaxing in quite, Zen-like setting with peaceful sounds, sights and aromas will help you recharge and energize for the fall.

So get away this Labor Day -- don't hang around for the same old barbecues and local events. Find an out-of-the-way piece of paradise and make the last weekend of summer one to remember.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The End of the Postcard and Facebook

Signs of the times: In a poll funded by mobile provider O2, just 16% of 2,000 adults surveyed in the United Kingdom sent a postcard while on vacation. Almost half said they have never sent a postcard. Just 55% of people have received a postcard in the last year. Thirty nine percent call friends or family while on vacation, a third post to Facebook and another 29% email to stay in touch. Couple that with a recent infographic from Facebook that shows that travel experiences account for the most posts on timelines around the world, and you can see why traditional postcards have waned.

The problems with postcards are obvious: They're slow to arrive at their intended destination, and they're targeted to a single family or and individual. With electronic communications, a traveler can update a whole host of friends and relatives with one Facebook post, Tweet, Instagram or email. And they don't have to spend precious vacation time hunting for the right postcard, finding a mailbox and figuring out how much postage might be needed in a foreign country.

An ironic twist: even though Facebook posts can be seen by virtually anyone, 10 percent of Brits shunned postcards because they're worried about the postman reading their postcards.

There might be some good news for the postcard. Given that they're going the way of the handwritten letter, think how thrilled and intrigued someone would be to receive a postcard from you from some exotic, faraway place. And if there's a luddite on your contact list who refuses to join the digital age, they may be the only way to stay in touch.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Celebrate Vail's 50th Anniversary with a Ski Vacation

On December 15, 1962 at 9 am, Vail Mountain opened for skiing with one gondola and two chairlifts. The rest is history, as Vail celebrates its 50th anniversary of skiing this coming season. Quite a bit has changed since then -- lots more lifts, runs and entertainment options. And since it's such a big milestone, Vail has plenty of great activities planned. Plus, Vail is a very family-friendly ski area that's easy on the budget. Be sure to check it out. Here are some key dates to keep in mind as you make your ski vacation plans:

Nov. 15: US Ski Team Announcement and gondola rides.
Nov. 16: Opening day!
Dec. 10 - 16: Special 50th Anniversary Snow Daze activities. Lots to do this week.
Dec. 15: The big birthday bash -- fireworks, a concert and much more.
April 1 - 7, 2013: Plan your spring ski trip for this week. There'll be plenty of activities and special rates.
April 8 - 16: The following week is the National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame Induction, Film Fest and Spring Back to Vail, with 50th Anniversary events.
All season: Stop by Lionshead and Vail Village 50th Anniversary Headquarters to get up-to-date details of all the fun.

This is a perfect time to book a Vail vacation rental for ski and snowboarding season, and Vail, with all the activities planned for 2012 - 2013, is the perfect ski vacation destination.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Vacation Fitness Tips Part 2: Easy Ways to Work Exercise Into Your Routine

Vacation is a great time to put
your fitness to the test and
try something new.

The road to vacation is paved with the pounds of well-intentioned travelers who gained weight--even though they swore they'd stick with their exercise routines in the face of eating out, waking up late, imbibing at cocktail hour and sunning all day long. (Sitting in the sun and perspiring does not burn off the previous night's lobster bisque).

If you've been keeping your cardio and strength training up and want to avoid the dreaded vacation bulge, take heart. Taking a trip doesn't mean you need to bring back extra baggage around your midsection (or somewhere even less flattering). Here are some tips to keep you on the straight and narrow waistline.

Create a calendar. Now, many of you may already use a calendar for working out. If you do, be sure to carry that forward onto your vacation. Plan out your days as much as possible. If you have a loose itinerary, that can be tough since you won't know exactly what you'll be doing. In that case, just block out enough time in the day to exercise and stick to it, even if it's a "sleep in lay by the pool read a book watch the sunset with a drink" day. Write down exactly what you plan on doing that day, and stick to it. If you don't already maintain a working calendar, you're in for a treat: you're about to lose more weight and get fitter than you ever thought possible.

Stop thinking like a gym rat or exercise equipment junkie. You can workout anywhere. You don't need a gym to get in shape or stay in shape. And you don't need exercise equipment either. Even if you're traveling to a remote island in the South Pacific, you can find a sturdy tree branch to do pull ups on. Or look for a playground with a swing set or pull up bar. Before you leave on your trip, familiarize yourself with pull and push exercises that use your own body weight. Learn how to properly do lunges and squats, as well as core exercises. Without any equipment at all, you can get a full body workout in. 

Since you're staying in a vacation rental, there's likely to be plenty of room. Or, find a nearby park, or workout on the beach. These days, you're not likely to get very many odd looks. In fact, you'll probably encounter other people trying to stay fit. Do you bike and run at home? The running on vacation will be heavenly. You can simply rent a bike to get your biking in. If you use exercise DVDs at home, simply bring them along. And if you've never used exercise bands before (they fit in you suitcase and take up hardly any room), then you're in for a real treat.

Try something new. See the photo above? Windsurfing burns calories and gives you an upper and lower body workout. A vacation can be a great time to mix up your exercise routine. While you should be physically fit to try unfamiliar, strenuous activities, they can be an excellent way to stay fit and try something new, both at the same time. Skiing, hiking, swimming are all fantastic, fun activities that will get your heart rate going. You don't have to windsurf or ski every day, either. Just a day or two of a challenging sport will help you leave a few pounds behind but take great vacation memories home with you.

Simply put, there's no excuse not to continue your exercise regiment while you're on vacation. And nothing equals the feeling of coming back from a fantastic vacation, hopping on the scale, and seeing that you actually lost weight.

Simply put, there's no excuse not to continue your exercise regiment while you're on vacation. And nothing equals the feeling of coming back from a fantastic vacation, hopping on the scale, and seeing that you actually lost weight.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Start planning your sandcastle vacation

Any child who's spent an afternoon on the beach knows the joy of building a sandcastle. Minutes turn into hours and before you know it the sun is setting on a masterpiece built with buckets, wet sand and shovels. More and more adults are rediscovering this fun and rewarding beach pastime. Along with this resurgence has come an interesting sandcastle building competitions. You'll even find people who are professional sandcastle builders.

If you've been honing your sand sculpting skills on the beach this summer, there's still time to get in on competitions yet this year. Here are a few to check out for 2012.

North American Sandsculpting Championship
September 28 - October 7
Virginia Beach, Virginia

This is the signature event of the Virginia Beach Neptune Festival, recognized as one of the top 20 events in the Southeast by the Southeastern Tourism Society. Sand sculptors from around the world will be on hand for 10 days of competition. They'll create 22 sculptures that visitors can view from walkways throughout the day and evening. The sculptures are protected from the elements, and you'll be able to take part in teaching demos and "QuickSand" competitions. 

Sandcastle Days
October 4 - 7
South Padre Island, Texas

Some of the world's best sand artists sculpt big, beautiful, dream-like creations. There's also family lessons, vendors selling art supplies, treasure hunts, photo opportunities with the artists, competitions for amateurs and school age kids, and much, much more. The 25th anniversary of Sandcastle Days will be held at Clayton's Beach Bar & Grill (which claims to be the biggest beach bar in Texas).

The American SandSculpting Championship Festival
November 16 - 26
Fort Myers Florida

Walk on the sugar sands of Fort Myers just once and you'll know it's perfect for creating sand castles. The American SandSculpting Championship, also recognized as a top 20 event by the Southeastern Tourism Society, will feature sculptures from around the world competing for multiple championship titles. This years event, the 26th annual, will be held at the Holiday Inn on Fort Myers Beach.

If you can't make one of these sandcastle festivals, then check out some other options here and here.