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Monthly Archives: December 2012

It’s that time of year again: the shopping malls are bustling, Christmas bells are ringing and holiday lights are bringing sparkle to small towns and big cities.  We’ve rounded up a few special places that are decked out with lights and holiday cheer.  Whether you’re looking for a warm weather escape to sip holiday cocktails on the beach and bask in the sunlight or a place to cozy up next to the fire with a mug of hot cocoa, FlipKey has homes near and far that are sure to get you into that holiday spirit.

We’re sure you’ve already made your holiday plans, and many are already settled into the laid back pace of vacation. As you relax this season, all of us here at FlipKey wish you happy holidays and a great new year. For those looking for some eye-candy, Enjoy this round-up of festive spots lit up with holiday lights and decorations… and for a little fun, see if you can spot Rudolph and a snow covered carousel!

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by Allison Hollins

Allison Hollins is a project manager at Fly.com, a website that scans the best airfare deals on the internet. She lived in Hong Kong as a child and has been an avid traveler ever since. She frequently travels to the UK to visit family and hopes that the grandparents offer to babysit her toddler so she can escape to somewhere exotic with her husband in 2013!

Flying with small children requires an incredible amount of energy and patience. My husband and I live near NYC, and our folks live in the UK and San Francisco, respectively, so we have plenty of experience taking long flights with children to visit family. We did trips in both direction with our baby last year, and the experiences were… interesting (the airlines should hand out free cocktails to parents upon landing). Nevertheless, I was well prepared, and in my research for the flights, I did discover that many airlines do make an effort to make the process a little easier. Here are some survival tips:

Save some cash
Most domestic carriers allow children under two to fly for free on a lap. If flying internationally, children under two may still fly on a lap but will be charged 10% of a full adult fare. Once a child is over two, an actual seat must be purchased for the child at the full fare. With the high cost of airfare these days, this is when things get expensive. Back in the day, airlines gave a generous discount on child seats but now it’s a rare thing to find. However, there are still some airlines that offer a discount. Scandinavian Airlines offers 25% off adult fares for children between the ages 2-11 (keep in mind this is 25% off the fare, before taxes). If you’re headed to South America, LAN Airlines also offers 25% off full fares for children. On domestic U.S. flights, child fares are few and far between, though some airlines will provide them through a special promotion or sale. For example, this past fall JetBlue Airways offered free flights for up to two children (traveling with an adult) for vacations book through JetBlue Getaways. To stay on top of deals like this, sign-up for email offers from JetBlue, Virgin America and other domestic carriers. Otherwise, Fly.com is always a good resource to find cheap airline tickets.

Get a good seat
As the airlines have been blocking more sections the plane (front rows, aisle seats, etc.) for those willing to pay for a seat assignment – there is a chance that families flying on full flights might get separated if they don’t pay for seat assignments. Most major domestic carriers like American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and U.S. Airways do give travelers the option to reserve a seat online for free at the time of booking. To ensure your family sits together, try to book as early as possible to get the most seating options and lock-in seats during the booking process. If you find yourself having to book a flight last-minute and space on the plane is tight, use the free Seat Alerts tool from ExpertFlyer.com. The tool allows travelers to select their seat preferences (aisle, window, etc.) even if the seats are occupied. ExpertFlyer then notifies the traveler by email or text when a seat becomes available.

If you are traveling with a young infant, check with your airline if it’s possible to reserve a bassinet seat. Typically located in the bulkhead row, the bassinets are a great perk as your baby will have a place to sleep and you will have your hands free for at least part of the flight. It depends on the aircraft model (typically a Boeing 767 or 777), but you’ll usually find bassinets on cross-country and international flights. Major carriers like American Airlines, United Airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and KLM all offer bassinets, depending on the route. The bassinets are usually free of charge, although some airlines allow you to reserve them in advance while other carriers operate on a first come, first serve basis after check-in.

Keep track of your extra baggage
When you first start traveling with a child, it is difficult to wrap your head around all the stuff you’ll need to transport to the airport, check-in, get through security and then onto the plane. Strollers, car seats, snacks, toys, diaper bags and then all of your personal belongings. Since most carriers now charge baggage fees, keep costs down by traveling with an airline that will allow you to check your car seat and stroller for free (and not count them towards your baggage allowance). Here are a few that will transport them for free and links with further baggage policy details: United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. These carriers will also allow you to check strollers/car seats at either the check-in desk or at the gate. This is helpful so that you can use your stroller in the airport. If you are traveling with a small infant that might sit or sleep in an infant car seat during the flight, check with the airline when you get to the airport to see if there are any empty seats available on your flight. They might give you an extra seat for free to place your car seat. I got lucky and was able to get an extra seat twice for our car seat when flying American Airlines this past year.

Board with ease
Many carriers are either eliminating the family pre-boarding group or tightening up the policy. For example, United Airlines completely eliminated the boarding group over this past summer and American Airlines has no defined policy but families can board after first class (if they hear the announcement in time) or purchase a group 1 boarding pass for $10. Doesn’t sound appealing to you? There are a few carriers that still offer a true family pre-boarding, allowing families to board before anyone else. For families traveling with children under the age of two JetBlue Airways, Delta Air Lines, AirTran Airways and Alaska Airlines all offer pre-boarding.

Entertainment, snacks and fun stuff
You should always pack plenty of snacks, toys and games in your carry-on bag, but there are a few airlines that do offer kid-friendly amenities: JetBlue has free DirectTV with children’s programming and complimentary snacks (including animal crackers). Southwest offers peanuts and pretzels for free and coloring books are available. Delta gives out the kiddie pilot wings and on flights with seatback televisions, there are 16 On Demand children’s programs that cost $1 per episode.

The domestic carriers mentioned above offer some nice perks, but you’ll find the good stuff on international airlines. On Virgin Atlantic, kids receive a complimentary backpack with books, candy, and other goodies. Lufthansa offers special children’s meals created under the direction of top chef and children’s cookbook author, Stefan Marquard. And the Abu-Dhabi based Etihad Airways offers custom-designed kids packs for in-flight entertainment and a nanny-monitored play room inside the lounge at the Abu Dhabi airport.

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by Christine Mathers

Way back in January, Christine Mathers was the lucky winner of our Flippin’ Awesome Vacation Giveaway. She and her husband won a weeklong vacation at Villa Ferraia in Tuscany, which they enjoyed this fall. Here’s Christine’s review of the experience…

First of all, I would like to thank Flipkey for the amazing opportunity to travel to Italy and stay at Villa Ferraia. I was totally surprised when I found out I had won and, to be honest, had completely forgotten about the contest and where I had chosen to go! After speaking with Kelly at Flipkey, I was referred to Tami, the property manager for Villa Ferraia. She and I went back and forth over email to arrange our visit and anything special we would like while we were there. The planning process went smoothly.

arriving at villa ferraiaWhen we arrived in Italy, we spent a few days in Rome to get acclimated before heading to Villa Ferraia. We then rented a car in Siena and made the drive to the villa. I had read in one review that the road to get up to the property was not paved so we didn’t know what to expect. The drive was very nice: we passed through a small town set on the hillside, then passed through the village of Tocchi, where everything was so quaint. Just after going through Tocchi, the road changed to gravel and packed dirt. It was very bumpy but that was all part of the adventure. We followed the wooden signs on the tree trunks and came to the gate in about two miles.

As soon as we drove through the gate, our jaws just hit the floor. No picture we had seen had done Villa Ferraia justice. It is a breath-takingly beautiful property.

Vittorio, the owner, and Carolina, one of his staff met us at the door. They showed us every room in the villa and told us we could stay in whichever one we wanted. They joked with us that we could change every other day if we wanted to. We settled on a little two-story building detached from the main house. We had a small living room area, off that was a table and chairs, and upstairs the guesthouse had a bedroom and very big bathroom. Once we were settled, the staff informed us we were going to be the only two people at the Villa for the week. We couldn’t believe we had the entire place to ourselves.

This weekend’s debut of The Hobbit has been talked about so much that we have round doors and furry feet on the mind. If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, then there’s a good chance that you’ll be on a quest to see the latest installment in the next day or two. But what if a trip to the movie theater isn’t enough? We don’t have a secret way to get to Middle Earth, but quite a few vacation home owners have fashioned their properties after the cottages of the Shire. We put together a list of our ten favorite Hobbit Homes, so that you can vacation like Bilbo Baggins…

Enchanted Hobbit House



Dubbed the “Hobbit House,” this home is furnished with antiques, custom designed iron beds, comfortable sofas and chairs, and lounges on the patio. The home has a guest suite to fit your entire fellowship.

Hobbit’s House Bellac



Built on the site of a 10th century chateau belonging to the Counts of March, this hobbit hole commands a spectacular view over the Vincou Valley. The house is 15th century, with original oak spiral staircase and its original treads (rather worn and wonky).

Hobbit House on the Hill



Built of ferro-cement, this newly constructed house is perfectly sited on the top of a hill from where one can see every island in the Grenadines. Wake up to the sunrise over the Atlantic, and end your day with the sun-setting over the town of Hillsborough and the Caribbean.

Santa Fe Hobbit House



Santa Fe Hobbit House is a luxury vacation rental, but it is more than that… It is a live-in art gallery with a very private feeling that is centrally located only minutes from the Historic Santa Fe Plaza, Canyon Road and the Rail Yard District.

Magical Hobbit House



Orcas Island is one of the most beautiful islands to visit in Washington State. The natural beauty here is colored by the Madrona trees, the sparkle of the water and the abundant wildlife. The spot is absolutely spectacular and a pure joy to witness.

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Have you spent the past six twelve months dreaming of a white Christmas? If you’re like 72% of travelers who planned their December vacations on FlipKey, then chances are that you’re imagining white-sand beaches and colorful bathing suits, not frosted pine trees and ugly sweaters. While chilly northern cities like New York, Paris, and Breckenridge stand out as top destinations this season, most travelers are heading to the tropics for the holidays.

Here at FlipKey, we share our users’ differing opinions on hot versus cold holidays. but we all agree that holiday travel season is the most wonderful time of the year. We took a look at traveler habits to see if we could find holiday travel savings or interesting trends to take advantage of, and we discovered that most travelers made their Christmas plans long ago. For those of you who still need last-minute accommodations for the holidays, it may not be too late; stay away from the top destinations because they book up early!

  • Most travelers begin booking in April and May, with some parties booking as early as January this year!
  • After the United States, the most active countries for holiday travelers are Australia, Canada, and Great Britain
  • Most vacations begin on December 22nd, and a majority last seven days
  • The average accommodation cost per guest is just $53 per night

Want to share these Christmas Travel Trends? Copy and Paste the HTML code below:

If you’re feeling stressed about your holiday plans, we completely understand. In-laws? Plane flights? Gift shopping? Oh, and let’s not forget, the Apocalypse will be coming around this year too. Preparation and planning for that notorious guest must be top priority on this holiday season’s to-do list. After all, there are fewer than 10 days remaining.

December 21st is going to be here before you know it. According to several sources, the doomsday possibilities vary. From what we’ve gathered, here are a few of the circumstances you should prepare for:

1. A planetary collision between Planet X, also called Nibiru, and Earth.

2. A catastrophic natural disaster caused by geomagnetic reversal – when the Earth’s magnetic field reverses, causing the South Pole to head north and the North Pole to head south.

3. The Sun unleashing solar flares in Earth’s direction, causing (again) a catastrophic natural disaster.

4. An unusual planetary alignment resulting in a three-day worldwide blackout.

To help tackle these dangerous situations, many have suggested building a shelter and stocking it with food and water supplies. While we agree that shelters are a good option, we have a few more luxurious accommodations options for any of you looking to go all-out as well as be able to ‘remain calm’ during what is looking like a very stressful holiday season. With thousands of breathtaking villas, mansions and castles to choose from, we think the properties below would relax anyone within seconds of arriving – even if those are your last seconds on Earth…

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We’ll be here in Boston, hoping for the best. In the meantime, we’re rocking out to this hit from before the last supposed apocalypse and hoping for the best.

 

 

 

A new study conducted by PhoCusWright on behalf of TripAdvisor reinforces the importance of reviews in the online booking process. Notably, the study found that 53% of respondents will not book a property that doesn’t have reviews on the site. Other findings include:

  • 87% of respondents agree that reviews help them “feel more confident” in their decisions;
  • 74% write reviews because they want to share a good experience with other travelers;
  • Only 5% looks for negatives when reading reviews; and
  • 84% agree that appropriate management response to a bad review improves their impression of the property

FlipKey Director of International Accounts Koryn Okey will be presenting these findings at this week’s Holiday Rental Professionals Seminar in Barcelona.

Visit this infographic for full survey results.

Recently, we heard that President Barack Obama had planned his official winter vacation for the year. With a $4 million price tag on the President’s last trip, we predict an equally lavish and relaxing vacation this time around. The destination? Hawaii, of course! The tropical hotspot and childhood home of the President has been a favorite location since he was first inaugurated. His trips are often followed closely — who could forget the photos of him surfing? Or the photos of him visiting U.S. troops? We anticipate that this year, the First Family’s vacation will be just as rewarding. But, where will the President and family be staying this time around? Hawaii has been a favorite vacation spot for the past three years and we can’t help but speculate what the First Family’s new vacation home will look like. To help us get a better feel for where the President may stay, here are some top Hawaii homes and vacation spots from politicians and celebs alike:

1. Paradise Point Estates at Kailua Bay, Hawaii
This breathtaking home was where Obama and family stayed for their first official winter vacation back in 2008. They liked the estate so much that they picked the luxurious property for another two years in a row. The best part about it? This rental is available through FlipKey!

2. Oprah’s Hawaii Home
Oprah has long been a fan of Hawaii and in 2006, she decided to build a beautiful and comforting property – a 21st century-style cottage home to be exact. Perhaps Oprah will let  the First Family stay in her farmhouse? We expect she will pay them a visit at the very least.

3. Luxury Home on Kailua Bay, Hawaii (2011)
Another luxurious estate known for its exclusive location and superb amenities. The First Family changed their typical accommodations and went for this 6,000 square foot home, located right down the street from their previous favorite spot, Paradise Point Estates. Since their last vacation, the home has gone up for sale at a cool price of $7.9 million.

4. Grand Wailea Resort Hotel and Spa, Maui, Hawaii
The Grand Wailea, a Waldorf-Astoria hotel, was a favorite of former President George W. Bush Jr. With Obama’s previous estate now up for sale, perhaps the President will take a look at this exclusive, high-end resort.

Grand Wailea Resort and Spa

As the President of the United States, Obama will have several luxury estates, villas, and resorts to choose from. Do you think he would pick any of the above for his next vacation? Or will he go back to his favorite home at Paradise Point Estates? If you’re looking for more facts on how the President travels you can take a look at our previous infographic, How to Travel Like a President.