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.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tips for Flying First Class on Your Next Vacation

Travel in style to your vacation rental.

When it comes to air travel, nothing equals the feeling of being asked (immediately upon taking your seat) which complimentary beverage you'd like by a very friendly flight attendant. It's an experience reserved for first class. So is a hot towel for your tense neck. And real silverware for your meal. Let's not forget to mention free snacks other than peanuts or pretzels. Whether you're a regular first-class flyer looking to save money or someone who's never flown first class, put the tips below into action ASAP (but be prepared to never look at coach the same way again).

Buy your ticket cheap, check in early. This tip works in you plan ahead and get the best bargain on your ticket possible. Let's say your total ticket price was $250, round trip. When you check in, which should be 24 hours before your flight, look for upgrade deals from the airline. Even if you pay an extra $200 for a first class upgrade, you're still getting a great deal. Think about--everyone buying a couple weeks prior to the flight will likely be paying about the same--but without a sweet first class upgrade. Saving money's great--but spending the money you saved on something you'll truly enjoy is even better.

Update: According to Kayak, the best time to book an domestic flight is 21 days out, when the average fare is $342. The average fare 6 months out is $370. For international flights, the best time to book is 34 days out ($997 vs. $1,016).

Use the money you save for a beach front vacation rental.
Comparison shop. When booking your flight, do a little extra digging and find out what each airline charges for a first class upgrade. You might just be willing to pay a little extra for airline C because it offers a lower first class fare without driving your overall cost too high.

Find an airline you like and stick with it. This one's tried and true, and works very well for frequent flyers. Even if you're expensing the flight to your company or a client, insist as much as possible (and only you will know how far you can take it) on flying the airline that you've built frequent flyer miles with. In most cases, you'll be able to, since price differences between airlines for seats in coach aren't dramatically different. Be sure to look at credit card offers from your favorite airline as well. Many will give you bonus miles for using your credit card when booking. Even if these cards carry an annual fee, it's probably worth it given the number of miles you'll accumulate, which you can use to upgrade to first class.

Ask at the gate or ask the flight attendant. The airline may be eager to sell first class seats, so you may be able to get a bargain at the gate. IF you see empty seats in first class as you're walking to your seat in coach, ask the attendant for an upgrade. On board the plane, there's an outside chance you'll get a free upgrade, depending on how friendly you are. In situations where you plan on using your personal charm to get a free or reduced-price upgrade, it's important to look the part. A suit is great, but at the very least dress business casual. Flip flops, cut offs and beachwear might not land you among people dressed more appropriately.

Knowledge is power. Get on several airlines' email lists. While this may get a bit annoying, you'll be the first to know about offers from your favorite airline, but you'll also be able to compare offers from competing airlines. If you see something particularly attractive, you can ask your airline to match their offer. It's not guaranteed to work, but if you've been a loyal flyer, you stand a better chance.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Part 1: Lose Yourself on an Island and Find Paradise

A secluded beanch on Anguilla.

There's something about traveling to an island that makes you feel renewed and refreshed. It can be remote like Hawaii, steeped in history like Sicily, or wild like Vancouver Island--whatever the location, you'll feel far away from your everyday cares when you step onto an island.

We searched the web for what the experts and pundits feel are the best islands in the world. Even better, these islands all have vacation rentals, so you won't be held captive by expensive resorts. You'll be able to truly live like a native islander.

Your Seychelles pool.
In the middle of the Indian Ocean are the Seychelles, a group of 115 undeveloped islands. You won't find commercial resorts here--just white beaches where you can relax, and coral reefs you can explore snorkeling or scuba diving. The 115 islands are easy to access, so you can use your vacation rental as a home base. Be sure to hire a guide, so you maximize your time and have the best experience.
Seychelles beach near your vacation rental.

A classic Mediterranean view on Santorini.

Santorini, Greece
This idyllic Mediterranean island provides perhaps the most iconic images of Greece--the cobalt blue rooftops and sugar-cube white buildings clinging to hillsides that climb dramatically out of the water. The island is what remains of one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in recorded history, and while it can get crowded, those crowds are also one of the reasons there's so much to do on Santorini. You'll experience endless beauty and endless activity, if you like. Because like any other island, you can always find a quiet beach.

A view of the Caribbean from your Anguilla
vacation rental master bedroom.
You won't find casinos and nightclubs on Anguilla, but you can find the old Caribbean mixed with new, stunning vacation rentals. Enjoy a beautiful villa and experience the reggae beats of authentic island culture all at once. Dine poolside or enjoy fresh lobster at a hidden haunt only the locals know about. If you're looking to get away from it all without spending eight or more hours on a plane, Anguilla may just be the answer.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Make Star Gazing Part of Your Vacation Plans this Winter

Milky Way photo by Richard Payne.
Taken in Arizona's Kofa Mountains.

While laying on a blanket gazing up at the stars on a warm summer night is enjoyable, the best time of year to see the stars is winter. Humidity is down across the country, so even areas in the east and southeast offer great conditions.

Don't worry about not having a telescope. Star gazing is about taking the whole sky in, not just individual stars. You'll know you had a premier star gazing experience when you tell friends back home that you saw the Milky Way in all it's glory.

Of course, a clear night with no moonlight and as far away form a city is always best, but the higher the altitude, the better the view.

Here are a few prime locations for star gazing in various parts of the United States. These areas also have plenty of vacation rentals available at Perfect Places.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore
The Outer Banks, North Carolina

There's over 70 miles of rural seashore, making the Outer Banks one of the best spots on the east coast to see the stars. You can also see bioluminescent plankton glow in the water. Cap Hatteras National Seashore also offers boating, camping, fishing, interpretive programs, a visitor center, water sports and much, much more.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Big Island Hawaii

Catch up on your sleep poolside in Kona,
The Big Island.
Any of the Hawaiin Islands offer great star gazing. After all, you're on the most remote islands anywhere in the world, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Hawaiin Volcanoes National Park would be worth a visit for the optimal experience. Park Rangers are available, there's a visitor center, interpretive programs, camping, hiking and more. Then there's this: on the WM Keck Observatory platform on Mauna Kea, you''ll be at 9,200 feet and above the clouds.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Borrego Springs, California

Outside of San Diego is Borrego Springs, California, an internationally recognized Dark Sky Community. The IDSC designation recognizes communities that take steps to preserve natural light. Borrego Springs is surrounded by Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Flagstaff, Arizona, and Homer Glenn, Illinois, have also achieved IDSC designation.

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are a great example of the type of area you should go to for star gazing. You can find secluded beaches and spots where the night sky lights up with the Milky Way. You'll also be near plenty of services and amenities, as well as a host of things to do during the day.

Other great places for star gazing include: National Bridges Monument, Utah; Block Island, Rhode Island; Cap Cod, Massachusetts. You can find more here.

If you're new to star gazing, here are some tips and resources to get you started.

Monday, October 8, 2012

College Football Bowl Games & Vacation Rentals: A Perfect Match

Map courtesy of DirecTV

College footbal season's in full swing and the first Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings will be released on October 14th, with weekly updates until the final rankings are released December 2nd. If you've got a favorite collecge football team and it looks like they'll make it to a bowl game, consider going with a group of fans and staying in a vacation rental. You'll have the privacy of a home in a beautiful bowl city location. Or, if you prefer to get away with your spouse and avoid crowds, try a condo or smaller home. You''ll find amenities equal to hotels, often with more affordable rates.

Click here for a complete list of bowl games. You'll find all the best vacation spots--Miami, Los Angeles, Pheonix, Pheonix, Orlando, Atlanta, Dallas, Hawaii, and more.

Pre and post-game beach time in Miami, anyone?
Even if you're not a college football fan, you might consider a winter break vacation in a city hosting a bowl game. The cities always have a lot going on during bowl week--parades, festivals, parties and more. Plus, big-time sporting events bring an electricity to an area that's hard to match. While even smaller bowls, such as the Outback in Tampa or the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, bring a heightened level of fun to their repsective cities, the larger bowls (those affiliated with the BCS), truly have a big game atmosphere. The BCS bowls are: the Orange Bowl in Miami, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, both on January 1st, the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on January 2nd, the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, AZ, on January 3rd and the BCS Title Game in Miami on January 7th.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Survey: Well Maintained Vacation Rentals Bring 20% More in Rent

A recent survey of property owners revealed that vacation rentals maintained at the highest levels and offering superior appearance and appliances can bring increased rent up to 20%. Also, 45% of property managers and owners focus maintenance efforts on bedrooms, living rooms and dining rooms, as work done in those areas bring the highest returns on investment. Kitchens were second at 27%.

While at first this seems surprising, it makes some sense. People spend a lot of time in living areas, even on vacation. While kitchens are important, people still sleep 8 hours or so in their bedrooms. And after a long day of sightseeing or at the beach, people still want a nice place to relax at the end of all their activity. And keep in mind that the survey asked about ongoing maintenance, not major improvements.

Other results from the survey indicate that quality of service is the most important reason for repeat bookings and referrals (42%), followed by location of the property (25%).

Nearly all property managers and owners (92%) perform maintenance on an as-needed basis throughout the year.

In addition to the survey, Perfect Places also released its Top 10 Maintenance Tips. There are ideas for reducing clutter, key areas to focus your time and money on improvements, exterior maintenance tips, and more. You'll find specific ideas and general guidance for upkeep.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Book Your Thanksgiving Vacation Plans Now

Imagine relaxing here after your
Thanksgiving Day meal in Telluride, Colorado.

Wait a minute--didn't we just have the hottest summer on record? And now we're talking about Thanksgiving travel? Indeed, now's the time you should be booking your Thanksgiving travel plans, if you haven't done so already.

Thanksgiving falls on November 22 this year, so it's fairly early compared to other years. Airfare is still affordable, but will be rising quickly as the holiday approaches. Try booking your flights for the Monday before (November 19) or on Thanksgiving Day itself for the cheapest fares. While traveling on the holiday may seem unusual, you'll not only likely save money, you'll also avoid crushing crowds. Certainly, if you can get a direct flight to your destination, it's could be a great choice. 

Or relax in sunny Florida during
Thanksgiving week.
Finding a vacation rental may or may not be easy, depending on where you're going. For example, some areas of Florida (especially the further north you go), have lots of availability from September through the end of winter. However, prime locations do get booked for holidays, so if you want to eat turkey on the beach, book now. Vacation rentals in ski areas tend to book faster, as some areas will be open for skiing over the holiday. Even if the slopes aren't open, spending Thanksgiving in a beautiful, quaint and romantic mountain area is a fantastic way to start out the holiday season.

Yes, that would be the beach right outside
your living room in La Jolla, California. A perfect
spot for a nap after your feast.
Some areas to check into include Orlando and Telluride. Orlando is, of course, home to Disneyworld. Make a long weekend of it, or take the kids out of school Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week and have a holiday you'll remember forever. Perfect Places has some stunning properties in Telluride. Why not get together with some of your relatives and escape to a luxurious mountain retreat. Many come with full gourmet kitchens, so you can cook your Thanksgiving feast in style. Or, head out to one of the areas restaurants.

Other areas to consider are San Diego, Branson, Missouri, Savannah, Georgia and places in North Carolina, South Carolina, coastal and further inland. You can find lots of choices for vacation rentals at