Thursday, September 27, 2012

Appliances Make a Big Difference in Vacation Rental Rates


Properties with modern, clean appliances command higher rents, according to a recent survey by Perfect Places. Vacation rental owners and managers said they can charge from 10% to 50% more for superior, well-maintained appliances.

So if you've been thinking of replacing your refrigerator, microwave or stove, putting it off longer could cost you money. If your appliances are relatively new, you can still upgrade with smaller items, such as coffeemakers and toasters. Here are some tips on kitchen appliance design trends for 2013.

Refrigerators

An example of an integrated fridge and wine and
beverage cooler (another kitchen trend).
Stainless steel continues to be a popular choice. It wears well and the exterior is easy to clean. Plus, stainless steel, even though it has an industrial feel to it, is neutral in color when compared to black. Another trend is a built-in, or integrated, refrigerator (shown in photo). Door panels match the rest of the cabinetry in the kitchen, giving the illusion that the fridge is another cabinet. This style offers a seamless appearance and cohesive design. On the opposite end of the spectrum are retro or whimsical kitchens. Whichever design option you choose, remember that it needs to work well with the rest of your vacation rental. Placing a retro fridge in a modern kitchen will stand out, but not in the way you intended.

Multi-function ovens

Miele Speed Oven, which pulls double-duty
as a microwave and a convection oven.
A microwave is a must in any vacation rental—it’s what most people are used to at home. But you can add another dimension to your guests cooking experience with a microwave that does double duty as a convention or steam oven. Chefs in many upscale restaurants are using steam ovens more and more because of steaming’s health benefits. Convection ovens have been around for a while and may be more familiar to your guests. Either way, if you’re replacing your microwave, consider adding a multifunction oven as a way to make your unit stand out. Just remember to leave instructions on how to use the convection or steam oven.

Smaller appliances

Along the same lines as an integrated fridge are hidden appliances. A clean, wide-open countertop is inviting, relaxing and reassuring. De-clutter by putting toasters and coffee makers behind bi-fold doors. Alternatively, you can opt for a built-in coffee maker, which makes a great impression on any coffee drinker. If these options aren’t viable for you, then consider updating your smaller appliances frequently. This is a relatively inexpensive way to keep your kitchen looking modern without spending a lot of money. Also, small appliances are often among the most used items in a kitchen, which means guests will notice them more.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Vacation Rentals & Multi-Generational Travel: 3 Tips for a Great Family Trip

Relax on the deck while you keep on eye
on the kids on the beach at this California vacation rental.

Multi-generational travel’s becoming more and more common as baby boomers reach their 60s and 70s and include their children and grandchildren on trips. Vacation rentals are the perfect lodging option for this kind of group travel. The family can live in a home, much like they would at home, but with pools, hot tubs, a beach, amusement parks … well, you get the idea. Here are three tips for ensuring your multi-generational vacation’s a big success.

Find the best vacation rental … for your group. The right lodging will be different for every family. Start by looking at the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Don’t just go by the number of people the vacation rental sleeps since that might include a hide-a-bed in the living room—not that you wouldn’t choose that in the end, but you’ll want to be sure of the sleeping arrangements. Make location a high priority. However, since you’ll probably be renting a car or driving to your destination, being further away from the beach or amusement park might be an okay tradeoff for more bedrooms and amenities. Finally, consider amenities such as a pool, game room, hot tub, beach access, etc. You’ll want a vacation rental that offers some entertainment options, should you find yourself indoors on a rainy day, or just want enjoyable down time. All of this depends on who’s traveling in your group. Game rooms for small children are different than for teenagers, and adults may want a spot they can escape to for much needed relaxation.

Make planning a family affair. The larger the group, the more diverse the interests. While you may go nuts over Civil War battle sites, your 15-year-old granddaughter may not. Or, perhaps worse, she may feign enthusiasm to make you happy, but be unhappy with the trip. To counter this, get entertainment and activity ideas from everyone, preferably indirectly. Too often, the ones we love want to please, especially if you’re the one paying for the trip. Ideally, you should end up with more ideas than you can fit into a month, but that’s good. You’ll have lots of options. Then, resist the urge to be the tour guide every step of the way. Try dividing those duties up on a daily basis, with activities based on what will interest one person or groups of people. Or, divide the day up and give different people responsibility for the morning, afternoon and evening. The key is to stay flexible in your planning and get everyone involved.  And remember this: If someone says, Ï don’t care what we do, you decide,” they don’t mean it—you just need to work harder to draw out what does interest them.

Make time for down time. There’ll be the temptation to go, go, go, because you’ll want to make sure everyone is always having a good time. Remember that small children need naps, teenagers like to sleep late, mom may like to go to bed early, dad always reads the news online in the morning, and grandma and grandpa really enjoy quiet evenings by the pool. While vacations are supposed to disrupt routines in a good way, too much of a good thing can be stressful. If you’re in Florida during the summer, it’d be a good idea to plan for a couple hours back at the vacation rental during the afternoon heat. That way kids (and some adults and teens) can get a nap in, while others hang out by the pool or in the game room.

Be sure to check back for more multi-generational travel tips in later blog posts. Until then, happy and safe travels to you and your family.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

3 Ways to Save Money on Air Travel

Don't spend your vacation money on airfare.
Spend it on having a beach like this
all to yourself.

We’re always on the lookout for ways to save time money when traveling. After all, vacation rentals offer the best value for your lodging dollar, so why shouldn’t you get the best deals for the rest of your trip? Here are a 3 websites that can help you save money on what's usually the biggest portion of anyone's travel budget -- airfare.

WhichBudget.com. Flying overseas? Then check out WhichBudget.com. It searches for local, budget airlines you might otherwise overlook, or not even know about. This can really help you cut costs, especially if you’re jetting to a beautiful, remote island in the Adriatic. You simply enter your origination and destination airports, and WhichBudget.com lists airlines the major online booking services overlook.

Yapta.com. There’s a great trend happening in the travel business—refunds when the price of a ticket drops. But how do you keep track of the price of your ticket? It’s a pain constantly checking, and even if you take the time, you might miss a price drop that’s followed quickly with a price increase. It’s all about timing. Yapta.com will do all that work for you automatically and will send you an email or Tweet when your flight drops in price. Then, it’s up to you to contact your airline and travel agent to ask for a refund. (At the very least, you should ask for a voucher on future travel.)

Frequent-flyers. Frequent Flyer Services offers a couple of great tools for frequent flyers. WebFlyer.com is a great resource for a wide array of information about programs from a wide variety of airlines. You can even see how your miles convert between programs. InsideFlyer.com is a newsletter that provides a lot of great information about frequent flyer programs. If you’re a business traveler or a vacation traveler who flies a lot, you’ll definitely want to bookmark these sites and subscribe to their services.

You can see more great money-saving travel tips here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Destination of the Week: Outer Banks, North Carolina


Now's a great time to visit the Outer Banks. In fact, US News and World Report says September to November is one of the best times to vista the OBX. Summertime heat and humidity of have dropped (along with prices), yet it's still warm enough to enjoy outdoor activities. There are great events, such as the OBX Marathon and Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival, as well as other regular activities such as hanggliding, parasailing, lighthouse exploring, sailing, fishing, golfing and, of course, lazy days of beachcombing. US News says March through May are also a great time to visit, for many of the same reasons. Of course, summer is fantastic in the OBX with a full event schedule and a nearly endless supply of summertime activities. And even if you decide to visit the Outer Banks from December to February, you'll still find plenty to do (and at greatly reduced rates!).

Naturally, you'll want to be near the water during your stay. There are plenty of Outer Banks vacation rentals perfectly situated near the water, such as this one featuring a lovely walk to the Atlantic. 



If oceanfront isn't in your budget, you can always find vacation rentals near other great locations, such as this one near Crystal Lake.



What vacation would be complete without a daily dip in the hot tub. 



Architecture is truly unique in the Outer Banks. For example, this vacation rental in Rodanthe is as tall as a three story house, meaning you're going to have some great views from the either the first or second floor. 



Since the Outer Banks is a vacation area, you'll find vacation rentals with relaxing furnishings and wide open and airy rooms. You'll feel like you're still on the beach, even when winding down the day on a comfy couch. Note the view out the living room window.





Thursday, September 13, 2012

Emerging Trend: A New Way to Save on Airfare or More Hassle When You Travel?

Save money on airfare on your trip to this
vacation rental in Little Cayman.

In an effort to trim fees paid to online booking sites such as Expedia, Travelocity and others, airlines are getting aggressive in offering money-saving deals to travelers for booking on the airlines websites.

While the airlines can't offer lower fares on their sites, they are getting creative with offers such as discount coupon codes to frequent fliers delivered via email, Facebook or Twitter. Others are penalizing travelers who don't book directly with the airline by placing limits on seat assignments, increasing fees or cutting the number of frequent flier miles a traveler can earn on a trip.

Airlines are also offering a variety of perks for booking on their websites, such as the latest seat maps, more details about in-flight entertainment options, and easier air travel booking. This gives the airlines some advantages during a traveler’s research process. Since online booking sites focus almost exclusively on price, the airline has few ways to communicate some of the other benefits their flights have to offer. For example, a booking site won't tell you that an airline offers Wi-Fi or extra legroom. Travelers will often pay more for these kinds of benefits.

What do travelers lose? First, booking on the airlines website makes comparison-shopping more difficult. Travelers also lose the "one stop shopping" advantage that online booking sites have--you won't be able to book your hotel and rental car at the airlines website.

While that's a major issue for many travelers, it may not be such an impediment to many others. Today's online customer is much more savvy when compared to even just 5 years ago. Many more users fully understand tabbed browsing and how to conduct multiple searches on their own.

As long as too many airlines don't follow the lead of Southwest Airlines and remove their flights from online booking sites entirely, this is all good news for travelers since it will give them more ways to find more bargains for airline travel.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Vacation Destination of the Week: Lake Tahoe


The beauty of Lake Tahoe simply can't be overstated. Deep, clear water nestled in a panorama of mountain peaks, Lake Tahoe's breathtaking beauty calls to visitors long after they leave. In the midst of this natural beauty is a bustling, exciting tourist destination with all the activity you want and all the peace and quiet you need.

A vacation rental is a great way to experience Lake Tahoe. Here are photos of just some of the properties available on PerfectPlaces.com, just to give you an idea of what's available. If you'd prefer a resort or hotel, be sure to contact PerfectPlacesTravel.com for great rooms and rates. And remember that the Tahoe area includes South Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Squaw Valley and others, and that Lake Tahoe itself sits on the California/Nevada border.


While not every vacation rental comes with such a fantastic view right out your living room window, there are plenty that do. You might not have to pay as much as you think either. Look for properties that are on or very near a marina, docks, or an inlet. Also, a great view doesn't have to be of the water. Trees, mountains,  and meadows provide equally relaxing sights and sounds. The photo below is a good example.


Also consider getting away from resorts and neighborhoods. Being a little further out might reduce your cost while giving you easier access to views such as this one.


If you're looking for something in-between a vacation rental and a resort, try a property such as the Olympic Village Inn. The staff there can hook you up with a variety of activities, and it has more of a hotel and resort feel versus that of a private home.


Of course, you're in a ski, hiking, horseback riding part of the country, which means you'll probably need a hot tub to relax in after a long day of activity. Like this one, similar to those found at other South Lake Tahoe vacation rentals.


One of the best things about any vacation rental is the kitchen. You'll save a lot of money by not eating out every meal, plus you'll eat better and when you want. Here are a couple of nice kitchens from Tahoe vacation rentals:




Of course, you're on one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, so you might as well consider a beachfront property (the one pictured also has a boat dock).


And, of course, you might want to get a vacation rental with a game room--the perfect place to end your perfect day in Tahoe!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fall Vacations Part 2: Check Out These Great Spa Travel Deals


Fall's the perfect time to take a spa vacation.  The crowds are gone, the fares and rooms are as cheap as they're going to get, and you can find amazing deals. Why not take a break from the grind and enjoy a long weekend at a beautifully relaxing spa. Take a look at these three great offers, then speak with a Perfect Places Travel Advisor for all the details.

Willow Stream Spa at The Fairmont Banff Springs, Canada

There's still time to save $100 (Canadian dollars) on a Spa Package at Willow Stream in Canada. For $499 per person per night, you'll get a gourmet breakfast, parking, and your choice of a Willow Stream Spa treatment per adult, per day. Willow Springs, nestled at the intersection of three gorgeous glacial valleys, rises out of the Canadian Rockies overlooks the Bow and Spray Rivers. It's abundant natural beauty, old world charm and European-style elegance draws visitors form around the world. When you're not relaxing in the Spa, try your hand at the 27-hold golf course or take a peaceful hike on trails designed for all skill levels.

Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, Maui

Enjoy a Girlfriend Getaway Package. With rates starting at just $256 per night, per person (based on double occupancy and 4 night minimum), you'll have a 50 minute pampering at Spa Grande, a 4-course dinner with win pairing, and more special offers and experiences, such as a full buffet breakfast for two daily at the Grand Dining Room, a $25 Spay Credit per room, per stay, one category upgrade to a deluxe ocean room. The Grand Wailea sits on 40 acres, perfectly landscaped with rich and beautiful Hawaiian flowers and foliage. In addition to relaxing spa treatments, you'll enjoy fine dining and thrilling recreational activities at a world-class Waldorf Astoria resort.

Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa, Branson, Missouri

Through September 30, 2012, you can get your 3rd night FREE at Chateau on the Lake, a beautiful Resort Spa on Table Rock Lake. You’ll also receive a $50 resort credit to use at Chateau Marina, Spa Chateau or at one of the many fine restaurants at the Resort. You'll have access to indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs, a beautiful nature trail, as well as all the shows, shopping, golf and attractions that Branson has to offer. You'll need to plan early, however, since this offer isn't valid for reservations made within 3 days of arrival.