Wednesday, January 30, 2013

91 New South Lake Tahoe Vacation Rentals Added to Perfect Places

 Perfect Places Vacation Rentals has long served the Lake Tahoe region, so we're excited to announce the addition of 91 properties from Coldwell Banker McKinney andAssociates.

There's a wide variety of properties available, from really nice 2-bedroom vacation rentals sleeping 3 - 6 and starting at $65 a night to 5 bedroom homes sleeping up to 14.

You'll find secluded homes on the Truckee River, lakeside rentals with all the amenities and incredible views of the lake and mountains, bungalows just minutes from the excitement of South Lake Tahoe. There are great properties located in Tahoe Keys, one of the most popular resort areas in South Lake Tahoe. In Tahoe Keys, you’ll be able to rent boats, wave runners, schedule activities and enjoy fine dining at a world-class restaurant.

And when you venture into South Lake Tahoe itself, you’ll have the Heavenly resort at your disposal, with top-of-the-line shopping, restaurants and entertainment. And just across the street (literally) is Nevada, offering the fun and excitement of casino gambling.

Here are just a few photos of the properties available You can see them all here.

A hot tub is inviting any time of the year.

How about a Tahoe vacation rental on the beach?

Yes, that's your view.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Go Pet Friendly for More Bookings? A Vacation Rental Owner's Dilemma

Fido wants to go on vacation too ...

A prospective renter called the other day looking for a large beach house that was pet friendly. He lamented how tough it was to find pet friendly vacation rentals with his basic requirements -- sleeps 6 and on the beach. Not overly demanding, to say the least. We were able to provide him with options, but the interesting point was that this was someone who was more than willing to stay in a vacation rental. He knew the advantages vacation rentals offer, but he couldn't find a pet friendly option in his desired location.

While whether or not to open up your vacation rental to pets is entirely your decision, here are some things to consider if you currently don't allow pets: reports that even while the economy was tanking and pet ownership remained flat, spending on pets rose 73%, to $51 billion.  Pets are like family to a group of people willing to spend money on them. They often don't have kids and are intensely loyal to their furry best friends. Many baby boomers who once traveled with their children are now taking beloved pets along for the ride instead. Some pets have specialized health needs that makes kenneling or boarding with friends impossible or just not desirable.

On top of the money they're willing to spend and the loyalty they feel, predicted that nearly half of pet owners would travel with their pets in 2012.  And 90% said they'd change their travel plans to accommodate their pets. In a survey by AAA and Best Western, 75% of traveling pet owners said they would take their pet on every vacation, if they could.

If you're not currently accepting pets, it's definitely an untapped marketing opportunity, especially if your property is pet friendly. For example, if your yard is fenced, or if you're near a park that's perfect for dogs, you could use those features as important selling points. One vacation rental owner reports a 30% increase in bookings for taking pets (that will certainly pay for a couple of carpet steam cleanings!). Of course, your concerns about damage are worth taking seriously--but there are steps you can take to protect your property while booking more weeks to people who travel with pets. Here are some things to consider:

Damage deposits. Some vacation rental owners who rent to owners with pets include a standard pet damage deposit fee which is collected regardless of whether there's damage or not. Others treat it as a true deposit, which is refunded after a visual inspection when the guest departs.

Charge the pet as additional guest. This is a bit of a twist on the damage deposit. You could increase your nightly rate when pets are present.

Establish and enforce rules. In your renter's contract, specify that dogs must be on a flea preventative, be fully housebroken, under control in the house at all times and on a leash while outside, and that all waste must be picked up. The vast majority of pet owners who travel with their pets are going to adhere to these rules anyway. They want a pleasant experience with their pet more than you do.

The key to rules is to clearly communicate them to the guest before the contract is signed and to review the rules upon arrival. 

Keep in mind that whether you allow pets or not, you're going to be performing a thorough housecleaning anyway. You might just add in a couple of extra steam cleanings of the carpet, just to catch anything that might have been missed on your visual inspection upon check out.

A pet friendly policy is also something you could check out for a year if you rent just one property, or on a couple of locations if you rent multiple properties. Given the increased competition vacation rentals are getting not just from other vacation rentals but also hotels and resorts, going pet friendly might just be a great competitive edge for you in 2013.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Snowmobiling: a Great Winter Adventure

Photo courtesy devriesm/Creative Commons

Snowmobiling is becoming an increasingly popular winter sport. Snowmobile enthusiasts are booking vacation rentals and bringing their own machines along for exciting week long trips in some of the most beautiful and untouched parts of the United States and Canada. If you're planning a ski or snowboarding trip, consider including snowmobiling in your itinerary. Your sore muscles will likely welcome a break from speeding down the side of a mountain. There are plenty of outfitters who can rent you machines. Some will deliver sleds directly to your vacation rental, or meet you at the trail head of your choice. Just be sure to do your research and work with a reputable outfitter.

Snowmobiling can be as casual as a drive in a snowy national park to an exciting backcountry adventure. Either way, you'll see new scenery and find yourself in areas most people don't venture (aside from other snowmobilers).

Plus, snowmobiling is a great way to spend time with friends. You can ride two to a sled and head off into the wild with multiple machines. This increases the safety factor as well. Similar to skiing, it's always good to have a buddy along with you, and it's certainly advisable to make sure someone outside your party knows your route and expected return time.

All age levels can snowmobile, though children and those in their early teens should be passengers and not drivers. If you head out on a day trip, you can expect to travel 25 to 80 miles, depending on the trails, your skill level and sense of adventure. Touring on snowmobiles is becoming more popular, with groups traveling for several nights from one resort town to the next. They enjoy shopping and dining along the way. These trips are generally for more experienced riders, as you can expect to cover about 100 miles a day.

Yellowstone National Park is a popular destination for snowmobiling. There are guided tours which take you through some of the parks most beautiful areas, where you'll see all the wonders of Yellowstone (including Old Faithful). There are outstanding outfitters throughout the Yellowstone and Jackson Hole area.

Canada is another popular region for snowmobiling. In Quebec, there's the Gaspe Peninsula, which offers four Canadian national parks and six wildlife sanctuaries. There's also the White Trail, which encompasses incredible, unforgettable views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. British Columbia is another area to consider.

Colorado offers great snowmobiling. The state is filled with ski resorts that have plenty of snowmobile outfitters with lots of machines to rent and experienced guides to help you have a great adventure.

Michigan. You'll find plenty of trails in Michigan--there are more than 6,000 miles of well-maintained and interconnected trails in the state. Northern Michigan offers plenty of trails and great vacation rentals friendly to snowmobilers of all skill levels.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

5 Tips for Improving Your Listing & Booking More Weeks

Fill the deck chairs in 2013 -- Spruce up your
property listing on Perfect Places to draw in the
most guests.

You'll want as many bookings for your vacation rentals as possible in 2013, and one way to help you achieve that goal is by reviewing your listings on Perfect Places and making any needed updates or improvements.

Great photos make a great first impression. Take a look at all the photos of your vacation rental. Make sure the best photo that will inspire the most bookings shows first. Are there are any out of focus shots? Replace them. If a photo appears smaller than a competitor's, be sure that you're uploading the largest sized photo possible. Add new photos of any new amenities or property features. And be sure to use captions. A brief description of the photo is another chance for you to sell your property on a guest.

Create special offers and review your rates. Take a moment to ensure that your pricing is competitive with comparable properties in your market. Then, give yourself a competitive advantage by creating special offers. They are another way to make your property stand out. While discounts are always attractive to a guest, you can also consider offering discounts to area attractions, bonuses such as free pickups at the airport or concierge service upon arrival, or special services such as massages, spa treatments or gifts (Wine, cheeses, candy) upon arrival.

Update your copy. Take a close look at your property description. If you uploaded the same copy as what's on your own website, take a few moments to make one or the other unique.  This will help avoid any duplicate content issues with the search engines. If you've added new amenities, or if there's a new attraction in your area, you'll want to add them to your property description. Be sure to review your headline while you're at it: include key search words for your property and area, use as many characters as needed (long headlines are OK), and avoid superlatives unless they specifically relate to the property (for example, if the property is oceanfront or in a historic area, say that, but do ask yourself if the view truly "amazing" or if the property would be considered a "luxury villa").

Add Your Location.  Perfect Places can now show your listing’s location using Google maps. This is a great selling feature that helps guests determine your exact location. If you’re concerned about privacy and don’t want to show the exact address, you can just show your location with a Google map pin marker and not reveal your address. If your property has an address that doesn’t show up on Google maps, then you can use latitude and longitude to display the pin marker.

Updated Calendar.  One of the biggest questions guests have when comparing properties is availability. Updating your calendar can help keep your property at the top of the list and avoid unwanted frustration for the potential guest and you.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Vacation Rentals Make Good Business Travel Sense

This Orlando vacation rental not only has a private
pool, it's also on a golf course.

American companies are planning to spend more money on fewer trips, which could mean longer stays in one location. The Global Business Travel Association reports that companies are expected to spend $266.7 billion on business travel in 2013, but reduce the number of trips by a little over 1%.

This may be pointing to companies looking for more productivity from the money spent on business trips -- more sales meetings, client presentations and prospecting. Since it's shaping up to be a $266 billion dollar market this year, vacation rental owners and property managers would be wise to position their properties for the business traveler.

Selling Points for Your Property

A vacation rental has advantages over a hotel, especially if a group from the same company is traveling together. They promote collaboration--impromptu meetings over breakfast, late night recaps of the day’s events, etc. And for companies watching their travel budgets, preparing meals in the kitchen of a vacation rental will save a significant amount.

If a company plans on entertaining clients, vacation rentals can offer even more advantages over hotels, both in terms of cost and amenities. This is particularly suitable for vendor companies at trade shows. Just be sure that all amenities -- pools, saunas, steam rooms, game rooms, etc., are in good working order. You might want to work with a local party planner or designate one of your team members as point person on party planning to assist your business guests.

While some might argue that hotels offer unbeatable advantages such as onsite business centers and concierge service, neither of those should be enough to stop you from saving money with vacation rentals. After all, there are plenty of copy and printing shops to be found in nearly any size city, and finding the fun things to do and great places to eat in a city is as easy as doing a few Internet searches and make a few phone calls. Be sure to provide travel guides about your area to your business guests upon their arrival. Time is money to a business traveler, and anything you do to assist them will help ensure a repeat booking.

How to Source the Business Market

People planning business travel will likely find your rental the same way they find other lodging--online. Be sure your listings are up-to-date, and add as many photos as possible. You might point out in the photo descriptions how a living room can be used for group meetings, and highlight an area that can be used as an office.

The more descriptive text you use, the more unique your property will look. Be sure to vary your text from website to website--this can potentially be your biggest advantage over your competition since so many property managers and owners simply cut and paste their copy from website to website. Make all your descriptions unique, and you'll stand an excellent chance of coming up first in search results. You might consider including a paragraph aimed directly at the business traveler. This way, you can write your property descriptions as you would normally, highlighting the features you think are important, but then turning around and showing business travelers how thos features can benefit them.

Business travel is a big market, and in this economy, everyone wants to save. You can book more weeks by tapping into the multi-billion dollar business market.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Valentine's Day & Vacation Rentals -- 5 Romantic Getaways You'll Love


This year, Valentine's Day falls on a Thursday, and what better surprise than to whisk your sweetie off on February 14 to some romantic location for a long weekend. Here are five destinations perfect for quiet romance you'll both enjoy.

Paris. The City of Love -- while this would be considered a major trip, just imagine the impression you'd make when you show your Valentine two tickets to Paris, one of the most romantic cities in the world. The good news is February is considered the off season in Paris, so you should be able to find some bargains (just be sure to use the money you save on a Paris vacation rental overlooking the Seine or Eiffel Tower).

Montreal. If Paris is out of reach this year, then try the next closest alternative. Montreal is the most European city in North America, with an abundance of history and charm. You'll find romantic cafes and bistros on nearly every corner. Even though it's February, the French Canadians know how to have fun in the winter--you'll find a lot of things to do, from ice skating to horse drawn carriages to skiing on Mont Royal to the Cirque de Soleil. Of course, there's a wide variety of Montreal vacation rentals to choose from.

Marco Island, Florida. Looking for something a bit warmer? Try Marco Island rentals, where you'll find the average daily temperature in February is a balmy 78 degrees. You can enjoy a fire on the beach for two, romantic strolls by the ocean, or enjoy a sunset cruise. There are also plenty of restaurants for fine dining, but be sure to do some research before you go and make reservations.

Savannah. If you're looking for old-world romance, Savannah offers plenty of vacation rentals and lots of opportunities for quiet candlelit dinners, sunset watching on Tybee Island, a riverboat cruise and some hand-holding on a haunted mansion tour.

Lake Tahoe. If you're both outdoorsy, consider a Lake Tahoe vacation rental for just the two of you. Tahoe offers a wealth of outdoor activities and is well-known for being one of the best ski areas in the world. Once you've had your fill of the slopes, there'll be plenty of shopping and dining opportunities, as well as wine and beer tasting, art galleries, gondola rides and even casinos nearby in Nevada.

If traveling to one of these destinations isn't in your budget, think about what's close to you, then check out to find the perfectly romantic Valentine's Day vacation rental for you and your loved one.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Christmas 2013: Plan Your Holiday Stay in a Vacation Rental & Start a New Christmas Tradition

Christmas in Mexico, anyone? You're sure
to get some takers when you announce
that trip.

Well, we all made it through another Holiday season. And while there's both a sense of relief and nostalgia as you put away the decorations, now’s a great time to think about where you'll be spending next Christmas. While being home for the Holidays is wonderful, there's a lot to be said for traveling over Christmas. It's off season for many popular locales in North America, Europe and parts of Asia so rates will be lower. Plus, local Christmas traditions have survived the test of time. You'll truly get a real feel for how unique a culture is when you join with them in their cherished Holiday traditions. Then, when you celebrate the Holidays in your home, you can bring new ideas home and enhance your traditions. Vacation rentals are the perfect lodging choice for such a trip, as they allow you to fully immerse yourself in local culture and traditions.

For example, in Italy they just celebrated La Befana, the final festivity of their Holdiay activities (Italians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25). Befana is an old woman or witch who brings gifts to good children and coal to bad children on the eve of the Epiphany, the Holy Day in Christian tradition that celebrates the visit of the three wise men to the infant Jesus. Of course, Befana bears strong similarities to the Santa Claus character prevalent in many cultures. This year, the Epiphany fell on January 6 and was welcomed with events and celebrations such as the Cavalcade of the Three Kings in Florence, which featured over 700 costumed characters cheering the witch as she flew across town visiting children. There was even a Miss Befana beauty pageant to show that the witch doesn't necessarily need to be unattractive.

Of course, there are lots of other parts of the world to explore over Christmas and New Year’s. You can experience a Dickens Christmas in England -- there's nothing quite as special as enjoying a glass of port in an English pub as you listen to traditional carolers. Or visit Holland or Germany and see the origins of Santa Claus and the Christmas tree firsthand. Or escape the cold for the warmth of Mexico and join in on the nine day celebration of Las Pasdas, during which people dress as Mary and Joseph going from house to house asking if Mary can stay the night. Of course, they're eventually invited in and everyone enjoys a great party filled with food, song and piƱatas for the children.

So as you reflect on the memories you made during the 2012 Holiday season, think about all the fun you can have during Christmas 2013 and New Year’s 2014, and start planning your Holiday vacation now!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Tips on Traveling to the Great Smokies -- Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg & Sevierville

The Great Smokies region of Eastern Tennessee offers visitors a wealth of exciting activities, and plenty of 
 Pigeon Forge cabinsSevierville vacation rentals and Gatlinburg vacation rentals to choose from. Whether you're looking for shows and shopping or hiking and biking, there's something for everyone. You simply won't regret planning a trip to Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg or Sevierville.

All three communities are near each other, connected by US Route 441, otherwise known as The Parkway. The Interstates running into the area are I-40, I-75 and I-81.

The Great Smokies are great to visit just about anytime of the year. It all depends on what you want to do, and your definition of a vacation. Like any popular area with vacation rentals and cabins, you'll find high seasons and low seasons.

May might be the best time of the year to visit the Smokies. The weather can still be pretty spring-like (rain), but you're also going to get a good number of great weather days. Enough people book vacation rentals and cabins to keep attractions, restaurants and activities not just open, but hopping. However, it's not nearly as busy as the summer months, so you should have your pick of whether they're on a quiet secluded lake or in the middle of all the action.

The end of August and September are similar to May in that the crowds will have peeled away. The weather will be of the late summer, early fall variety, which is certainly nice.

Naturally, the summer months -- June, July, and August leading up to school -- are the busiest in the Great Smokies. They can also be the most expensive, but vacation rentals, vacation cabins and condos are all still pretty affordably priced in Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Gatlinburg, when compared to other vacation destinations.

October picks up with the fall colors, which extend into November. Timing a trip for fall colors can be tricky, so be sure to speak with your vacation rental's property manager or owner when booking. As Thanksgiving approaches, you'll find people booking Turkey Day getaways, so plan early. Christmas and New Years are also busy.

Dollywood's the major entertainment attraction in the area, located near many Pigeon Forge cabins. You'll find amusemetment park rides such as roller coasters (be sure to check out the Thunderbird, a wooden roller coaster), water rides, live stage shows, themed shops, demonstrations of 18th century crafts such as glass blowing and blacksmithing, and endless supply of food, desserts and beverages. Dollywood Splash Country is made up of several dozen water slides, a 25,000 square foot wave pool, a lazy river and more.

While there's plenty to do in Gatlinburg (shops, restaurants, and attractions such as Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies), it's the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so it lends itself to people looking for something other than a huge, manmade theme park. After spending a day or two at Dollywood, be sure to check out the many outdoor activities near Gatlinburg--hiking, horseback riding, skiing, whitewater rafting and much more. At night in the summer, you'll be entertained by one of nature's delights, synchronized fireflies. These glowing insects put on a remarkable show that people come from miles to see.

Sevierville has plenty to do and see as well. Check out the Rainforest Adventures Discovery Zoo, Forbidden Caves, NASCAR Speedpark and much more.