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Monthly Archives: March 2009

Area: Vacation Rentals in North Myrtle Beach, SC

Expert: Kristen Askey with Susan Hewson & D’Aun Kingsbury

Years living in North Myrtle Beach:  Susan has lived in North Myrtle Beach for 26 years.  D’Aun has lived in the area for 20 years.

Company: Ocean Resorts

What makes North Myrtle Beach a great destination to visit and stay in a vacation rental?

1. Beautiful, wide sandy beaches.

2. The original home of Beach Music and Shag Dancing.  (“The Shag” is the State “Dance”)

3. North Myrtle Beach … A small city incorporating a quaint residential feel with a fun yet peaceful beach experience for all walks of life.  Guests are within short driving distance to all the entertainment, attractions, restaurants, shopping, and golf venues in North Myrtle Beachand Myrtle Beach, but can enjoy a quiet and relaxing beach experience without being right in by the hubbub of touristy amusements and traffic.  (For example:  People go to Myrtle Beach to play and be right in the middle of the summer vacation hoopla.  People go to North Myrtle Beach to be close enough to the same hoopla, but away from it enough to relax and enjoy family time together at the beach).

4. Family friendly accommodations are numerous and varied in the form of classic condominiums, high rise resorts, and detached beach houses.  North Myrtle Beach has different beach areas in which specific vacation tastes can be accommodated.  (Cherry Grove, Tilghman Beach, Ocean Drive Beach, etc).

5. North Myrtle Beach is easily accessible by major new highways and is only 20 miles from the Myrtle Beach International Airport.

What are the top things to do (attractions, activities, events, etc.) in the area?  Are there any hidden gems that people may not be aware of?

Events:

• Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival – one of the largest on the East Coast.

• Taste of the Coast at Barefoot Landing

• Blues & Jazz Festival

• Sounds of Summer Concert Series

• Mayfest on Main

• July 4th Fireworks Display

• SOS Spring Safari and Fall Migration

• Octoberfest on Main Street

• The Little River Blue Crab Festival

• Endless Summer Festival on Main Street

• Intracoastal Christmas Regatta

Attractions:

Barefoot Landing (outdoor shopping, dining, amusements), Tanger Outlet (name brand outlet shopping), Alabama Theatre, Alligator Adventure, House of Blues, La Belle Amie Vineyard & Winery, Vereen Gardens and Nature Walk, quaint Main Street shopping.

General things to do:  water sports, deep sea and pier fishing, golf, miniature golf, and tennis.

What are the top 5 ‘must-try’ restaurants in the area?

There are many to choose from and everybody’s taste differs…  So… here’s what we’ve come up with … we couldn’t limit to “5.”

Local favorites include:  Sea Blue, Villa Tuscana, The Parsons Table, Chestnut Hill, and Cagney’s.

Popular venues for tourists include Greg Norman’s Australian Grille, Damon’s (famous for BBQ ribs), Dick’s Last Resort (good food, not too price, but watch out for the waiters!), Umberto’s, Dockside (in Calabash, NC).

What popular entertainment/nightlife options in the area would you recommend?

Shag Dancing at Fat Harold’s and Ducks, concerts at the House of Blues, Dixie Stampede & Carolina Opry.

You rent homes to hundreds of guests each year….so you must have a funny story or two about people that visit North Myrtle Beach?

It was difficult to come up with just a couple of stories that are generically “North Myrtle Beach”, but one North Myrtle Beach phenomenon is the Shaggers.  The shag dancers are drawn to North Myrtle Beach as it is the place in which the state couples dance was founded.  The Ocean Drive area is the shag “mecca”, as it were.  There are numerous festivals and dance competitions held every year that attract the Shaggers – young and old — including the April Spring Safari and the September Fall Migration.  Shaggers can’t stay close enough to Ocean Drive and the “O.D. Experience”.   Ocean Resorts offers condominium rentals 2 blocks from Ocean Drive at Tilghman Beach & Racquet Club, and this has historically been “the place” to stay for Shaggers because it is within short walking distance to O. D.   Ocean Resorts also offers condominium rentals 6 blocks from Ocean Drive, but we have found that those extra 4 blocks are just “too far” for those hard-core shaggers who want to be on Ocean Drive 24/7 to dance!


Submitted by Discover Vacation Homes:

Effective immediately, I’m pleased to share with you that the voice for our professionally managed vacation rental industry, the Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA), launches a much-anticipated awareness campaign for the traveling public: Discover Vacation Homes.

The only collaborative effort of its kind within the industry, VRMA’s Discover Vacation Homes initiative will work to promote professionally managed vacation rentals as one of North America’s fastest-growing lodging categories through public relations – including earned publicity, social networking and emerging new media strategies.

Why, you ask? Today’s economic conditions and “togethering” travel trends indicate a huge need for value, space and privacy – needs which vacation rentals address better than any other lodging option. In short, there’s never been a better time to share our story than right now.

United toward this momentous goal, the VRMA with its DVH promotions arm will be able to more effectively elevate the perception of the entire category, enlightening those who are currently unaware of what we offer, as well as the many benefits associated with it. What’s more, with the strength of more than 600 members and approximately 150,000 trusted rental homes, condos and villas, the VRMA’s collective voices can be heard with authority – proudly shouted from the rooftops of vacation rentals worldwide!

In support of the new public relations initiative, the VRMA has retained renowned vacation rental industry supporter Rick Fisher as a Chief Strategist, and utilizes the services of top international advertising, marketing research, and public relations firm, Ypartnership, for dedicated representation in 2009 (www.ypartnership.com).

Companies will have the opportunity to learn more about the Discover Vacation Homes program, and meet the team behind the campaign, during VRMA’s three conferences this year (Eastern, Western and National).

For more information about VRMA and its new campaign, including member benefits and answers to frequently asked questions, check out the newly redesigned VRMA website at www.VRMA.com or the evolving www.DiscoverVacationHomes.com.

The FlipKey Blog often features stories and testimonials from local experts or recent guests who are familiar with one of our many popular vacation rental destinations. We caught up with Katherine S. a physical therapist and Portland, OR local who recently visited Sunriver, OR with her family and loyal K-9 companion. Katherine had great things to say about her first experience as a vacation home renter. 
sunriver
Area: Vacation Rentals in Sunriver, OR

Guest: Katherine S

Katherine, how many times have you visited Sunriver?

Once, this was my first time.

What size group were you traveling with?

7 plus one dog

Why did you choose to travel to Sunriver, OR?

Close proximity to Portland and we were hoping for snow so we could ski and snowshoe.

Why did you choose to stay in a vacation rental instead of a hotel or resort?

There was a group of us, and after researching different locations a vacation rental was the best deal and it came with a hot tub, games, and a full kitchen!

What activities, attractions, and events would you recommend to other visitors of Sunriver, OR?

Winter time: anything snow related.  Ski or snowboard at Mt. Bachelor, go tubing at Mt. Bachelor, snowshoe, cross-country ski or rent a snow mobile.  And or course…relax, your on vacation!

What was the best part of the vacation home you stayed in?

Ping-pong table and the hot tub

Where is the next trip going to be?  Are you going to look for a vacation home again?

Next trip is Cancun…need to get some sort of warm weather. 

For going back to Sunriver, next year!   As a group we decided to make this trip annually.  We all had a great time and it was very affordable.  We would definitely use a vacation home again

Area:  Vacation Rentals in Sunriver, Oregon

Expert: Robert W. Bennington

Years living in Sunriver: 10

Company:  Bennington Properties, LLC.

Robert, what makes Sunriver a great destination to visit and rent a vacation rental?

Central Oregon as a whole is considered one of the top Outdoor Meccas of the world and Sunriver sits right in the middle of it all.  Surrounded by 1.6 million acres of National Forest you would be hard pressed to find a resort with more places to “get away from it all” than Sunriver.  The Deschutes River runs right through Sunriver sporting world famous trout fishing and white water rafting.  A 20-minute drive takes you to the top of Mt Bachelor Ski Resort where, depending on the season, you can choose to downhill ski, cross country ski, mountain bike, or enjoy world class dining and sight seeing.  Want to enjoy a night on the town? Visit our little city in the woods (Bend, Oregon) just 18 miles away that plays host to a plethora of restaurants and activities to fill your evenings with.

What are the top things to do (attractions, activities, events, etc.) in the area?  Are there any hidden gems that people may not be aware of?

Even with the seemingly infinite number of activities to enjoy here in Sunriver (everything from rock climbing to jet skiing) our restort’s greatest assests are truly the peaceful, family friendly amenities that are available.  With over 30 miles of paved bike trails that wind around the resort, families of all sizes and ages can enjoy an active day out.  Central Oregon boasts over 20 premier golf courses, 4 of which are right here in Sunriver.  We are also home to over 100 trail horses that love to take riders (beginners and experienced) exploring into the mountains.

What are the top 5 ‘must-try’ restaurants in the area?

What is so incredible about Sunriver is we attract every age and class of visitor.  So whether your needs require a romantic evening for two, or a table for 16 (with 6 high chairs) Sunriver has it all.   Our all time favorite restaurant that is both romantic and family friendly is the Trout House.  This beautiful restaurant sits on the Deschutes River, with views of the river from every table.  An incredible collection of culinary genius will greet your palette with every bite.  A focus mostly on local “seafood” (everything from salmon and trout to clams) with a wide selection of entrees for the “land” loving food critics in the family.

We also recommend the following must try restaurants in Sunriver:

2.Café Sintra (for the Portuguese in you)

3. Village Bar and Grill (good ol’ American burger and fries)

4.Blondies Pizza (can’t beat this when you have a inkling for pizza)

5. The Meadows Restaurant (the view is incredible)

What popular entertainment/nightlife options in the area would you recommend?

For night life most of our guests prefer cuddling up to a roaring fireplace in their vacation home of choice, but for those that want an escape from the house, we recommend the “Owls Nest” at the lodge for cocktails.  Or if selection is what you want, a short drive to Bend will open your possibilities to a selection of clubs, restaurants, plays, concerts, or an evening at the movies.

You rent homes to hundreds of guests each year….so you must have a funny story or two about people that visit Sunriver.

We have every kind of story imaginable, but one of the funniest was a family that was staying in one of our non-pet friendly homes.  At about 11:00 am on the day this family was supposed to be checking out, we received a frantic call from the guests saying that they could not find their dog.  “Your dog” we asked, perplexed why this family had brought their dog to a home they knew was not dog friendly.  “Oh don’t worry, said the guest, we never allowed our dog in the home, she always stayed in her kennel in our car.”  Well after several hours of searching Sunriver, the guests were unable to find their dog and had to leave to head back home.  Later that day when our housekeepers arrived at the house they found a cute little fluffy white dog curled up on the king sized master bed.  She must have had enough of sleeping in a kennel and decided to hide in the house until she knew it was safe to come out and enjoy her rightful place on the bed.  I wish I had a picture of that little princess enjoying her well deserved vacation in Sunriver – a perfect image of what it means to be on vacation in Sunriver.

Area: Vacation Rentals in Russian River Valley, CA

Expert: Camille LeGrand

Years living in area:  Full-time 15 years; part-time an additional 6 years

Company:  Russian River Getaways

What makes the Russian River area a great destination to visit and rent a vacation home:
We have it all:  gorgeous scenery, great Mediterranean weather, proximity to many activities.  This area is geared to year-round outdoor activities with redwood forested mountains, a serene summer river, and beautiful creeks, all a short distance to Pacific coast beaches.  Activities include hiking, biking (Lance Armstrong trains here), fishing, swimming, boating, hot air-ballooning, golf, and horseback-riding, in addition to world class wine-tasting at our hundreds of wineries known for some of the best pinot noir, chardonnay, and zinfandel in the world.  We also have great food, emphasizing locally grown ingredients since just about everything grows in the boutique Sonoma County farmland.

What the top things to do in the Russian River area:

Hiking among the ancient redwood trees in Armstrong Wood State Park

Strolling the beach at Goat Rock State Park with its giant rock formations, huge sandy beaches, and harbor seal population

Kayaking the river (try it under a full moon)

Japanese spa treatments at Osmosis in Freestone

Wine tours

Guided tours of the winery and garden at Korbel

Charles M. Schultz museum and ice-skating in Santa Rosa

Mud baths at Calistoga

Day trip to Bodega Bay; day trip to Salt Point

Any hidden gems or events travelers should be aware of?

 

There are rare performances held in the amphitheatre in the redwood forest (see http://www.stewardsofthecoastandredwoods.org/) for event schedule; hiking to Bull Frog in the Austin Creek Reserve; our own African safari at Safari West (http://www.safariwest.com/), Cazadero General Store, shopping and brunch in Occidental, the Pink Elephant tavern in Monte Rio, watching  the logging operation at Berry’s Saw Mill, shopping and dining at Duncans Mills (a re-creation of a turn of the century logging town), hanging out at the Blue Heron (especially when they have local live music, always really good, and try the barbecued oysters on the outdoor patio on Sunday afternoon), the World War II Quonset hut movie theater, with period murals, in Monte Rio, Raymond’s Bakery.

Events:  

The rodeo in June, Civil Wars Days re-enactment in July, Women’s Weekends in May and September, Jazz & Blues Festival in September, Winter Wineland in January, Barrel-Tasting Weekends in March.

Recommended Russian River Restaurants and Nightlife?

Top five restaurants:  We are a gourmet mecca with dozens and dozens of fabulous restaurants, so it’s impossible to name all the great restaurants.  Here are a few:

Dinner:

Farmhouse Inn,  Cape Fear,  Applewood,  Zazu, Mosaic,  The Sandpiper,  Underwood Bar and Bistro, John Ash

Lunch:

La Tapatia Tacqueria (the best Mexican food outside Mexico),  Garden Grill (great hamburgers and curly fries),  Willowood Café

Nightlife:

Not a nightlife kind of place.  Neighborhood bars: The Pink Elephant  in Monte Rio, the Blue Heron in Duncans Mills.

If you happened to visit TripAdvisor  in the past few days noticed a couple changes  – the most obvious being slightly modified logo, and a new “get the best flights. then go.” tagline at the top of every page. When a company makes these sorts of changes it usually indicates something big – and such is the case with TripAdvisor, who launched a sophisticated airfare meta search engine last Friday.

TripAdvisor’s Flight search competes in a fairly crowded space, but has several really useful features that set it apart from some of the established players like Kayak, Sidestep or Farecast:

  • Fee Estimator: Its no mystery that airlines often tack on fees for checking bags, in flight entertainment and beverages (among other things). TripAdvisor’s “fee estimator” allows travelers to calculate the real cost of flying by indicating various preferences. The tool even takes loyalty program membership into consideration and adjusts the total cost accordingly.
  • SeatGuru and seating availability integration: TripAdvisor leveraged its SeatGuru.com relationship for this product, allowing travelers to see detailed layouts for the planes used on each leg of a flight within their search results. Additionally (and this looks like its currently available only for flights through Expedia) travelers can view actual seating availability information. This is a huge convenience for anyone looking for specific seating arrangements or looking for that couple inches of legroom.
  • Advanced Filtering: While some of these options may appeal only to hardcore airplane or airport enthusiasts, TripAdvisor’s Flights tool has a couple interesting filtering criteria  such as “airplane type”, which allows travelers to filter down on individual plane configurations.

The service isn’t perfect (for example, there’s no “surrounding airport” or “flexible date” search yet), but it’s a solid offering for a beta release, and represents a huge value add to the TripAdvisor experience. Travelers can now use the site for almost all stages in the travel purchase process: finding a destination, the best lodging, cheap flights and even activities once you’re there.  With TripAdvisor’s massive traveler community, this move could really shake up the meta search space.

From a traveler’s perspective, one of the big questions and concerns about vacation rentals is “how do I pay.”  Asking a guest to send a check in the mail can often cause users to feel uncomfortable about their reservation and/or delay payment.  Waiting for checks to arrive and clear the bank can also cause management challenges.

By securely accepting credit cards and electronic payments, you can process payments immediately and verify that the payments were received within just a few days.

An easy and affordable payment solution – PayPal!

Some vacation rental listing services offer the ability for owners to accept credit cards but charge you an annual subscription fee.  PayPal, an industry-leading payment solution that many sellers on eBay have used to accept credit cards for years, charges no set-up fees.

How it works:

Paypal2–  Create a free Business Account on PayPal.  Your Tax ID number is simply your Social Security number.  You can create an account directly at www.paypal.com.

–   Verify your account.  An easy process that allows you to obtain a small verification code.

–   You can now email invoices to guests through PayPal, which will allow them to pay by credit card.

–    PayPal will process the credit card and credit your account minus a small transaction fee.  It’s that easy.

How much does it cost?

There are no costs to set-up an account and withdraw funds.  PayPal makes money by deducting a transaction fee each time someone uses a credit card to pay.  Transaction fees range between 1.9% to 2.9% (depending on transaction volume) plus $0.30 per transaction for domestic transactions.

Therefore, if your transaction fee is 2.5%, you will be charged $25 for a $1,000 transaction by PayPal if the guest pays by credit card.

If the transaction fee seems unattractive, many renters will offer their guests two options:

Pay Via Check = Rent + $0 transaction fee

Pay Via Credit Card = Rent + 2.5% transaction fee

For many users, the increased peace of mind paying via a credit card is worth a small additional fee.   Even if a guest prefers to save the extra $$ by paying via a check, the fact that you offer a credit card option helps them feel more comfortable with the transaction.

PayPal is available at www.paypal.com.