Wednesday, June 27, 2012

9 Tips to Help You Beat the Heat During Summer Travel Season


A dip in your vacation rental pool will keep you
cool and refreshed.

Record high temperatures are scorching much of the United States and wildfires are burning in parts of the west. But summer vacation plans roll on for most of us inspite of the heat. There are some steps you can take to minimize the impact of high temperatures (short of rebooking your itinerary to Alaska, of course).

1. Go Light and Wear White. Leave the heavy denim jeans at home, even your favorite pair. Instead, pack a pair of light khakis and a white short sleeve shirt, or other light, summery and breathable clothing. Wear sandals, go without socks, and get casual. And get a really cool Panama hat.

2. Remember the Sunscreen. This almost goes without saying, but it can be easily forgotten when packing since most of us don't use it everyday.

3. Limit Your Time on the Concrete. Try to spend as much time as possible in parks (preferably ones with water) and not standing around on concrete outside (at amusement parks, for example). If you're in an urban area, try to stay in air-conditioned museums or shopping centers as much as possible.

4. Ask About the Air. The air conditioning, that is. Now, if you're traveling to a vacation rental in the United States, air conditioning is likely a standard feature. If you're traveling elsewhere, you might want to double check that your vacation rental has air conditioning.

Stay cool like Johnny Depp
5. Start Early, Go Late, Take a Nap. Plan on getting everyone going as close to daybreak as possible. There'll be sites to see, and attractions are always less crowded in the morning before 11 am or so. You might even catch some early-bird discounts. Then, head back to your vacation rental for a bit of lunch and a siesta. In Spain, Italy and other siesta countries, that means downtime from about noon to 4 pm.

6. Stay Indoors. If a siesta isn't your style, then plan most of your indoor activities for the afternoon. Take in museums, libraries, malls, movies and more during the hottest part of the day. The ice-cold air conditioning of a 2-hour movie will recharge your batteries and get you ready to take the heat.

7. Plan Your Routes. Don't expect to walk a mile at 2 o'clock in the afternoon with three kids under the age of 7 and a spouse in tow and not get any complaints. Try to organize your day to minimize walk times during the heat.

8. Plan Light, Cool Meals. A heat wave isn't the time to toss a roast into the oven. Your menu should include lots of cool, refreshing salads, fruit and fresh vegetables. Pick meats that cook quickly, or are great rare, such as filet mignon or ahi tuna. Fish on the grill is fantastic and is ready in just minutes. Have plenty of cool drinks on hand, such as iced tea and lemonade.

9. Block the Sun. Get a reflective windshield protector for your car (even if you're driving a rental). It will help cut down on the heat and keep you from burning your hands on the steering wheel. Consider one for the back as well. If you know you’re going to be in the sun at it’s peak in the afternoon, carry an umbrella so you have your own shade with you, close at hand.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

5 Tips for a Great Road Trip


When you're in hour 15 of your road trip,
just start thinking about the hot tub
waiting for you at your vacation rental.

Vacation season's in full swing, and, according to AAA, millions of Americans are hitting the road on trips of 50 miles or more. Whether you're traveling with just another adult or will have a car full of kids, you'll want to make the journey as enjoyable as possible. With a little planning, you'll likely find that a road trip is just as much fun -- if not more fun -- than taking a plane.

Buy Ahead and Pack a Cooler. Snacks are essential on the road, but only the right kind will do. While grabbing bags of chips, nuts and energy drinks as you’re fueling the car sounds like a good idea, it's not. First, it's expensive. Second, you're buying purely on impulse. Plan out your snacks like you plan your drive. After all, what you eat impacts how your mood, which will impact how much you enjoy your trip. You'll also save time by not running into the store to buy things --- just get gas, hit the restroom and go.

Nothing equals the feeling of reaching
the beach at the end of a long road trip.
Use Online Mapping Tools for More than Mileage. While Mapquest and Google Maps are indispensable for finding the best route, they can also show you landmarks along the way. Look for state parks, historical sites, and entertainment options. Researching fun stops along your route is easy, and you can be as selective as you want. Getting a feel for the area you're driving through is one of the most enjoyable parts of a road trip. You can also find great places to eat and estimate how much gas you'll need. There are other online trip planning tools such as RoadTripAmerica.com, MyScenicDrives.com and Tripit.com

Service and Clean Your Vehicle. This one seems like a no-brainer, and it should be. However, don't just check your own oil and tire pressure. Take the car or van into a trusted repair shop and ask them to give it a thorough once over. They'll check tread wear on your tires, coolant levels, change your oil, examine the belts and air filter and more. Then, take your car to a full service car wash. Get the inside thoroughly cleaned, and spring for the extra air freshener.

Create a Road Trip Ambience Inside Your Vehicle. Traveling 8 to 16 hours in your car across the nation is different from shuttling the kids to practice or commuting to work. First, mentally map out how you'll pack the bags, leaving room for an extra bag someone invariably decides to bring along. Then, position your snacks in such a way that you'll actually reach for them, instead of just falling into the habit of buying something at the gas station. Mix CDs of your favorite music, bring books on CDs, as well as DVDs. If you don't have a DVD player in your vehicle, don't fret. Most laptops play DVDs and will do fine for keeping the kids entertained (you might get a set of noise reduction headphones).

Plan for an Extra Hour or Two of Driving. You never know what surprises a road trip will bring. That's part of the fun -- but if you don't leave a little extra time in your travel plans, it can become a real pain. The extra time will help you relax and encourage you to get off the Interstate and enjoy yourself, or just to slow down and enjoy the scenery as you drive.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Enjoy Dauphin Island and Sea Lab in Gulf Shores


A stay in Gulf Shores vacation rentals will mean a lot of time near the water. But what do you do when you want to get off the beach? We told you about the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in an earlier post. You’ll find plenty of shopping and great restaurants. And, of course, there’s a lot of fun water sports to enjoy.

But there are a few other activities you should consider: a visit to Dauphin Island and its Sea Lab.

Dauphin Island is a must-see, mainly because the island is home to native wildlife and one-of-a-kind species. SeaLab offers many interesting and informative insights into marine life around Gulf Shores. You can see historic Fort Gaines, an Audubon bird sanctuary, several parks, sightseeing on the pier and plenty of beaches.

Ferries offer a great way for people staying in Gulf Shores vacation rentals to visit two great sights in the area. The ferries transport foot passengers and vehicles between Fort Morgan and Dauphin Island. The most popular ferries that route between the Island and Orange Beach vacation rentals are:
  • The Mobile Bay Ferry
  •  Fort Morgan Ferry
  • Marissa Mae Nicole Ferry
Sea Lab is one of the largest Estuariums in the nation, and is just a few minutes walking distance from where the ferries anchor. Visitors can explore over 10,000 square feet with lots to see and do, including:

Living Marsh Boardwalk -- If you're looking for a quick adventure try the Living Marsh Boardwalk. It's just off the parking lot and an easy to navigate boardwalk takes you through a beautiful salt marsh.

Billy Goat Hole -- When you get inside the Estuarium, check out the Billy Goat Hole Gallery. You'll see the Discovery Ship, a reproduction of a French sailing ship. It's great fun for kids, and provides a hands-on learning experience.

Gulf of Mexico -- Since you're staying on the Gulf of Mexico, the Sea Lab offers an excellent chance to understand this vitally important body of water. Check out saltwater tanks that show conditions on the seabed, as well as its occupants: octopus, lobsters, sharks, jellyfish and more.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tips for Buying Travel Insurance


Don't let something unexpected spoil
your trip to paradise.

 Whether or not you need travel insurance depends on your tolerance for risk, your budget, and your current insurance coverage.

First, let's start with the thing most people worry about--travel arrangements gone wrong, forcing a cancellation or serious change in your plans. This could be anything from an accident on the way to the airport to your all-inclusive resort closing down right before your arrival. You can purchase travel delay, missed connection, trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance. Of course, your individual needs for these different types of coverages will vary. But if you're planning a trip of significant expense, they bear looking into. Canceled tours, missed flights, lost luggage alone can all cause you major headaches, and none are uncommon. In all likelihood, none of these types of events are covered by your homeowners or any other kind of personal insurance policy. Be sure to check with your credit card company, however. Some cards offer trip cancellation or interruption insurance as a benefit when you book flights, tours and vacation rentals with your credit card.

Medical insurance is another important consideration. However, there's a strong chance your current health insurance will cover you for any injuries or illnesses on your trip. Read you current policy carefully, or speak with your insurance agent. You might want to purchase additional coverage to supplement higher copays that may coincide with traveling outside of your normal network of health care providers.

Clarify whether or not the kind of insurance you purchase is reimbursement only. Many trip cancellation policies will require you to pay out-of-pocket expenses, after which you can submit a claim (be sure to photocopy, scan or photograph all receipts--proper documentation is vital). Some medical expenses may be out of pocket as well, depending on the area you're traveling too. But there is a greater chance that the benefits will be paid directly to the health care provider.

Auto insurance for rental cars may be an unnecessary purchase if you already have coverage on your cars. Check with your insurance agent--you don't want to get pressured or feel obligated to buy something you don't really need.

One kind of insurance to stay completely away from is flight insurance. It protects you only for the duration of the flight. And since flying is one of the safest forms of travel, it's not a good use of your travel dollar.

Regardless of the kind of insurance you purchase, it's always best to check out the insurance provider. Only use companies that are highly rated by insurance rating services. If you purchase online, do thorough research to make sure it's not a fly-by-night company. When it comes to insuring your once in a lifetime trip to Bali, don't try to save a couple of dollars by going with the lowest cost insurance provider.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Vacationing in Paris? Tips for Fitting in with the Locals


Take in a view of Notre Dame, then parlez
with the booksellers along the river.

When traveling to a foreign country, you want to try to fit in with local customs and habits. This is perhaps even more true for people who stay at Paris vacation rentals. After all, you’re likely to be living like a local, versus a tourist staying at a hotel. And truly living like a local in Paris, with all its amazing charms, can make your trip to this eternally romantic city even more enjoyable.

The first thing to remember is to keep it simple to start. A friendly bonjour (hello), or asking if the person you meet speaks English (parlez-vous anglais?) is highly regarded. Be patient, and speak English slowly, though not loudly, and you will be greeted with open arms. Parisians are generally private people but may enjoy casual people watching from cafes. Eye contact should be avoided in public, especially in the case of opposing genders, as this can be misconstrued for affection.

What are Good Parisian Manners?


Parisians greet by shaking hands; air-kisses are widely recognized as a common action but are usually reserved for close companions. However, don't be surprised if they extend this gesture to you as their guest. Follow your companion's lead if you're unsure of any social expectation, and only offer one light air kiss, or bisous, on each cheek. This may take some practice to build confidence. In many cases, a simple display of your basic phrases will be enough to assure your company that you are American but willing to learn, and that is all they ask.

Who Should I Tip in Paris?


Unlike America, tipping is not usually expected. Most restaurants add a 15% service fee to your bill automatically, but this is not considered a tip. Many Parisians will refuse to offer an additional 10% to their server unless the service was outstanding. Only in cases of exceptional service or in restaurants that hold higher esteem does it become more of an expectation to tip. If you take a taxi, drivers should always be tipped; tips do not usually exceed one or two Euros. Usherettes at the Opera house should also be tipped; they are the only other exception to the rule.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Try a Destin Cruise


Many Destin vacation rentals have beautiful views of the Gulf Coast, but why not take a closer look with one of the many cruises available? One of the most popular is the Destin DolphinCruise. The excursion takes places aboard the Southern Star, an 80-foot glass bottom boat. The 2-hour cruise begins with a guided tour of Destin Harbor. After leaving the Harbor you have the opportunity to feed the seabirds and enjoy the native wildlife. Relax on the tranquil waters of the Gulf of Mexico as the boat eases into the East Pass, where the Bottlenose Dolphins swims and play.

You can also add to the romance of your Destin vacation with an enchanting sunset cruise. This tour sets out an hour and a half before sunset so you can appreciate the points of interest throughout Destin Harbor. Relax with your favorite drink in hand while you cruise to Crab Island, then watch as the superb sunset sets the emerald water aglow while dolphins surf the waves.

SunQuest Cruises offer a delicious fine-dining dinner cruise aboard a luxury yacht. Their delectable menu offers succulent fresh seafood and prime beef as well as a selection of decadent desserts. Indulge in a tropical cocktail from their full service bar while you cruise the bay along the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.

If you are looking for a seashell and snorkeling adventure, Destin’sSeashell and Snorkel cruise is one of the area’s newest attractions. This is a leisurely cruise in calm waters that departs from HarborWalk Village in downtown Destin. Relax in the comfort of a shaded pontoon of take a dip in the crystal waters.

Whichever cruise you choose, whether you’re savoring the sunset, you’re smitten by the playful dolphins, or you’re relishing a sumptuous meal, your Destin vacation will be one you won’t forget. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hot Spots for Vacation Rentals


Will December 21, 2012 the end of the world as we know it? Not likely. But, even if there's a remote chance that the ancient Mayans knew something we don't, you should visit one or more of the hottest vacation rental destinations for 2012.

Belize

Belize is hosting events near the date of the possible apocalypse. The big event will be at the ruins of Xunantunich on December 21. The celebration includes a concert, light show, fire ceremony and more. 

New Zealand

The Hobbit films are set for release in December, and fans of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy are booking vacations to leading up to and coinciding with the event. The books are set in a mythical land, but the film's director, Peter Jackson, chose New Zealand as the setting because of its otherworldly beauty. Experience it for yourself to the fullest by staying in a New Zealand vacation rental.

Portugal

Portugal's struggling economy means you'll find value, not to mention Portugal vacation rental owners, shopkeepers, vendors and tour operators who'll be truly grateful for your visit. Try staying near Lisbon, or the southern coastal area of Algarve, where you'll find the energetic city of Lagos, historical locations, and enjoy great golf and many other outdoor activities.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Enjoy a Destin Vacation Off the Beaten Path


If you’re looking for things to do off the beaten path in Destin, you’ll find a plenty of choices along Highway 30-A. There are also a number of Destin vacation rentals available along this stretch. The highway runs from Destin to Panama City Beach. This 20-mile drive has outstanding scenic views and a number of unique and interesting locations that are worth a visit.

Eden Gardens State Park

Whether you’re a boating and fishing aficionado, you love strolling through manicured gardens or you simply want to have a family picnic, Eden Gardens State Park has something for you. Covering over 161 acres, the park is located on Tucker Bayou and has a delightful nature trail that will allow you a glimpse of the plentiful indigenous wildlife. Visitors can also take a trip back in time at the renovated Wesley House with is Luis XVI furniture and ornamentals gardens.

Stinky’s Fish Camp
Located on Santa Rosa Beach, Stinky’s is a unique seafood and wine bar serving classic local dishes at refreshing prices. Enjoy their raw oysters on the half shell and crawfish etoufee washed down with a signature bloody Mary while you gaze over the fantastic views.

Bike Path
If you want a break from driving, get your cycle out and take advantage of Highway
30-A’s great bike path. The bike trail runs the full length of the highway from Dune Allen Beach to Rosemary Beach crossing through several neighborhood paths. The path is paved and completely separate from the highway.

Away from Highway 30, there are still lots of things to see and do off the beaten path in Destin. Here are just a few more:

Baytowne Wharf
Perhaps one of the most delightful places to visit is the Village of Baytowne Wharf where visitors can take in a wide variety of live music and live band performances. The village is a completely self-contained area with a host of restaurants, shops and other amenities.

Ride on Surf School
A favorite family outing is the Ride On Surf School. The school provides you with a surfboard, wet suit and expert instruction from one of its highly trained and experienced surfing instructors, most of who have surfed in locations all over the world. They offer group lessons.

Gator Beach
The Gulf Coast of Florida is famous for its alligators and Gator Beach is one of the best places to view them. It is a great destination for families because it offers a tremendous educational component. Children love getting a safe yet up close encounter with these exotic beasts.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Paris--Get Off the Beaten Path


Paris vacation rentals are near many
off the beaten path sights, such as the
Sacre Coeur.

Paris vacation rentals are a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the authentic atmosphere  of the city. Most are within walking distance of exciting things to see and do. While many come to Paris to see the countless landmarks, there are many hidden delights to be found along the way. Walking tours are a terrific opportunity to gather information, but galleries, passages, gardens and captivating landscapes can be found by simply exploring less prominent areas on foot and watching where the locals go.

Montmartre & SacréCoeur offer visitors an opportunity to explore the many artistic cemeteries and churches that adorn Paris, including the arch doors of St. Martin and St. Denis, which are rarely visited by tourists. Street art also adorns most places in the capital, and all you need is a keen eye for finding unique pieces. In the historical center of Paris, on the Île de la Cité, at the meeting point of the Quai de l'Horloge, Boulevard du Palais & the Pont au Change, on the Tour de l'Horloge and on the corner of the medieval Conciergerie building is the most antiquated clock in all of Paris!

You’ll want to visit the corner of rue des Trois Freres and rue Androuet. This section is familiarly called "La Maison Collignon" (also "Marché de la Butte"). Inside the grocers is an impressive selection of bric-a-brac, where souvenirs of movies filmed at this location can be purchased at the usual fare of a local shop. The Statue of Liberty of Auguste Bartholdi, one of the various copies erected in 1889 on the Ile aux Cygnes (Swans Island), can be seen in front of the Pont de Grenelle.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

St. George Island: Guide to Outdoor Activities


St. George Island vacation rental,
with private beachfront pool.

If you are taking a vacation in one of the St. George Islandvacation rentals you can make the most of your stay by enjoying the many outdoor activities the island has to offer. When not relaxing on the beach, you can swim in the crystal waters or hunt for shells in the white sand. But that’s not all the island has to offer.

Fishing
Fishing is a very popular activity on this barrier island. You can easily rent a boat and equipment from one of the many marinas or sporting goods stores. If you have your own boat, simply utilize the islands docks and boat launches. Fishing has never been better and you can try to lure a wide range of fish including redfish, tarpon, bluefish, striped bass, speckled trout, snapper and mackerel as well as delicious oysters and shellfish.

Golfing
For golf aficionados, St. George Island has St. Joseph BayGolf Club. You’ll enjoy swinging your clubs on this superb, 18-hole championship course located on the scenic St. Joseph Bay. The course is home to verdant fairways, sloping greens, mature trees and strategically placed hazards that will entertain and challenge amateur and expert golfers alike. If you are traveling to Florida and looking for some golfing while your there, check out the St. George Island vacation rentals with combined golf and lodging deals, or ones that are near or on golf courses.

Tate’s Hell State Forest
If you’re in the mood for hiking or camping a visit to Tate’s Hell State Forest is a must. The forest sprawls over 202,437 acres and is home to a wide range of hiking trails where you can catch a glimpse of endangered species such as the American Black Bear, the Bald Eagle and the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. It’s also a great spot for picnicking and camping with over 35 miles of creeks, streams and rivers suitable for canoeing, boating and fishing.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Guide to Nova Scotia Outdoor Activities


Nova Scotia cottage rentals can provide a great home base for lovers of the outdoors to return to each evening after sampling the many available offerings for the active traveler in this Candian Maritime Province.

Nova Scotia is famous for its Atlantic salmon fishery. Two of the best places to fish are the Margaree Valley on Cape Breton Island, with its many rivers, or the 156-mile (250-kilometer) long St. Mary’s River near Sherbrooke on the province’s Eastern Shore, where summertime visitors can watch the salmon swim upstream from Isle Verte at its mouth and leap over whitewater rapids to spawn.

Surfing enthusiasts can grab their boards and head to PointMichaud Provincial Beach on Cape Breton Island or the provincial beaches at Lawrencetown and Martinique on the Eastern Shore. With its wide, sandy shore, theLawrencetown Provincial Beach caters to surfers year-round with a full set of amenities, along with nearby surf schools and equipment rental shops.

The Eastern Shore also offers a number of places to go kayaking, as do Antigonish Harbor on the Northumberland Shore and the Bay of Fundy, which also offers the option to raft the bore created by the massive tides resulting from the bay’s fjord-like narrowness.

If you prefer to go fast through the air instead of on or over the water, you can zip line down from the top of the Northumberland Shore’s MacGrath Mountain. If you prefer a slower pace, both the Northumberland Shore and Cape Breton Island offer a selection of beautifully maintained golf courses. If you prefer holding a hiking stick to a golf club, the province offers a number of scenic trails, such as the mountain trails off the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, where you can see waterfalls and glacier-excavated valleys, or the Wallace Bay Wildlife Trail on the Northumberland Shore, where you can see over 168 species of birds, including eagles and osprey. In the winter, you can cross-country ski or snowshoe around Sherbrooke on the Eastern Shore.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Visit the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo for a Fun Break from the Beach


Are you heading to Gulf Shores vacation rentals for some rest and relaxation? One of the nearby attractions in the area for adults and kids is the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. Currently, the zoo houses nearly 300 animals including:

·      Macaws
·      Monkeys
·      Tigers
·      Bears
·      And much more

In addition, if you have teeny tots in tow, you’ll be happy to find a petting zoo, where little children can experience animals up close and personal. It’s a trip they’ll never forget. In the summer, visitors can also watch planned animal shows. Sections of the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo include:

·      The Aviary
·      A Reptile House
·      A Petting Zoo

Get the facts about the Gulf Cost Zoo before planning a trip there:

·      The Location: The zoo is walking distance between many Orange Beach vacation rentals with the exact address being: 1204 Gulf Shores Parkway, Gulf Shores, Alabama.
·      Hours of Operation: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
·      Cost: Admission prices can be seen here.

This will allow you to plan an itinerary accordingly. The zoo can be entered year-round, the only exceptions being Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

Here’s How to Save:

If you’re traveling in groups, the rate can be discounted with group bookings. In addition, if you own an annual zoo pass in another state, do inquire about whether these are valid for entry at the Gulf Coast Zoo.

Should you also want a sneak peak before heading out, on a day that doesn’t involve many other activities, check out Zootube, to preview what’s in store.

Plus,  if you don’t want to expend all of your energy hiking the grounds of the zoo, carts are available for rental to see animals without tiring your feet. Save that energy for all the other fun activities around the vicinity of the Gulf Shores vacation rentals.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Check Out Destin Vacation Rentals Near Henderson Beach State Park


Photos courtesy Henderson Beach
State Park website.

If you are checking out Destin vacation rentals you may want to consider looking for accommodation close to Henderson Beach State Park. Considered to be one of the most unspoiled beaches along the Gulf Coast, Henderson has 6,000 feet of breathtaking shoreline. You can also find Destin condos overlooking the park’s many natural features, including beautiful white sugar sand beaches, dune rosemary and sand pines. A walk along the park’s nature trail will allow you a glimpse of the coastal dune ecosystem where the abundant wildlife will thrill any nature lover. If you have pets, don't worry -- Henderson Beach State Park is pet friendly.

October is a great time to visit the park when it hosts the MattieKelly Festival of Art. At this time of year more than 100 artists from throughout the United States gather to compete for $9,000 in cash awards. Visitors to the festival can enjoy a diverse range of art including paintings, photography, pottery, textiles, sculpture, glass and jewelry. Children will love Kids ArtStop where they can participate in chalk art, hat design and pottery.

The park provides 60 campsites throughout the secondary dune system. Each site has electricity hookups and running water as well as access to bathhouses with heating and air conditioning. There is also a playground for the kids.

Make your Destin vacation truly memorable with a trip to Henderson State Park where you can enjoy the warm, crystal-clear water of the Gulf of Mexico while taking in the spectacular scenery that the area has to offer.