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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Stephen Spielberg and Stephen King have come together to create the eeriest miniseries of the summer. Based on King’s 2009 novel, “Under the Dome” takes place in the small town of Chester’s Mill. When a giant invisible dome descends over the town, it disconnects the people inside from the outside world. The townspeople must come together to survive and escape the dome. Airing on CBS, this 13-episode event is already the perfect summer thriller.

Viewers intrigued by the idea of life “under the dome” can make their fantasy a reality. In fact, many vacationers find that dome living can be extremely relaxing. We found vacation homes all over the map that are shaped like domes. So get your family and friends together and see how you like to vacation “Under the Dome.”

Gregory Town, Bahamas

Gregory Town, Bahamas

Great surfing, shelling, beach-combing, and swimming surround this ocean dome.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The builder of this home, Joseph Yacoboni, was the first to patent the Yaca-Dome construction method.

Paonia, Colorado

Paonia, Colorado

Surrounded by 20 acres of land, this dome is a perfect base camp for exploring, fishing, and relaxing.

Seminyak, Indonesia

Seminyak, Indonesia

This Villa Dome is located in the heart of Seminyak, right near all of Bali’s attractions.

Big Bear, California

Big Bear, California

This dome home even comes with a dome shaped fireplace.

Pensacola Beach, Florida

Pensacola Beach, Florida

This luxurious dome offers spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico and Santa Rosa Sound.

Idyllwild, California

Idyllwild, California

Perfect for relaxation: this dome features a hot tub and an aromatherapy cold tub.

Big Bear, California

Big Bear, California

This roomy dome is close to the National Forest and plenty of hiking trails.

Holiday, Florida

Holiday, Florida

This rental overlooks the beautiful pool area and is situated next to a nature preserve.

Yosemite, California

Yosemite, California

This dome home offers a unique experience on a secluded 60-acre horse and cattle ranch.

Big Bear, California

Big Bear, California

This secluded dome is just a short walk to the ski slopes at Big Bear.

Philo, California

Philo, California

The Philo Dome is perfect for a family reunion in California’s Wine Country.

Lund, British Columbia

Lund, British Columbia

This dome was built by a high school shop teacher and is in a completely quiet sanctuary.

Joshua Tree, California

Joshua Tree, California

Luxury is key in this dome home with its own 40-foot indoor pool, Jacuzzi, spa, and sauna.

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

The patio of this home is sited on a direct line between the energy vortexes at Cathedral Rock and Kachina Woman.

by Silvia Pe

If the landscape of human emotion were to exist in a country, it would be in Italy. -Lisa Fantino

A candlelight dinner and a rose are simple and sweet signs of romance, but if you want to seriously get your partner’s attention, organize a weekend in Italy and take love to the next level.

It is often said that it does not matter where you go, but with whom you have the pleasure to spend a romantic holiday. That said, Italy can be seen as the perfect set for a love story: striking locations, delicious food, excellent wine and a fascinating lifestyle are yours to experience with the one you wish to woo.

Italy has so much to offer, and each trip to this stunning country can be personalized according to your imagination for a romantic weekend. Here are three ideas for a lovers’ retreat in Italy…

By the Sea

PetraSegreta-SardiniaIf you are a sea lover, then you could combine your romantic weekend with a stay in Sardinia.

Set in the heart of Mediterranean sea, Sardinia is practically preserved from every kind of pollution. Thanks to this setting, the island boasts amazing beaches surrounded by natural beauty. Thanks also to its insular nature, Sardinia still retains rites and traditions from ancient times, as well as many rural landscapes to roam around.

If you are looking for both romance and privacy, then you should avoid the most highly touristed Sardinian destinations and choose the middle season for your romantic getaway. Try a trip to San Pantaleo, a rare traditional Galluran village tucked in among the mountains. Northeastern Sardinia is one of the prettiest areas on the island, featuring a perfect mix of stone-built cottages, a relaxed atmosphere and about 10-20 minutes’ drive to the many beaches of the Costa Smeralda and Arzachena.

When to go: May, June, September
What to try: Fish soup, mussels, and urchins. A sublime way to cook fish in Gallura is in the oven, topped with the local wine, Vermentino di Gallura.

Slow Travel

Zafferana Etnea -SicilyIf you like the slow travel philosophy and the countryside, and if you love art and history, then you could combine your romantic weekend with the discovery of Sicily.

A succession of different rulers over the centuries has influenced Sicilian culture and strengthened its identity: as a result, Sicily is today a land rich in history and traditions. Between palaces, Doric temples, gardens and archaeological sites, you will partake of the charm and magic that pervade the land of Sicily. This feeling of wonder will give a touch of romance to your dreamy holiday.

When to go: Spring is the best period to enjoy Sicily in bloom and the wonderful colors of nature. Summer is another option for trips that mainly visit the seaside.
What to try: Wines from the Etna region, which has become the third most important Italian region for wine production. Etna DOC wines are white, red and rosé and are all produced in the province of Catania. Do not forget to buy a jar of the popular honey produced in Zafferana Etnea, called “the gold of Etna,” also used to prepare delicious desserts and dishes.

Art and Culture

LocCandeli-FirenzeIf you like art cities, then you could combine your romantic weekend with a cultural stay in Tuscany.

Tuscany is the region of lyric love poetry, and its renaissance beauty is a hymn to romanticism in and of itself. Without doubt, Florence is the art city par excellence with a nearly endless list of sights to see. Like the art, romance is also abundant here. For something special, take a short trip to Candeli, a little destination located 10 km away from Florence. Go up to the southern Arno river and you’ll find yourself in the shade of cypress trees, holm and oaks: a perfect place to relax, enjoy horseback riding and country life, and still make it back to Florence in time for a hand-in-hand walk across Ponte Vecchio bridge.

When to go: From March to June, and September
What to try: A Florentine steak, Cantucci biscuits and a glass of Chianti.

Silvia Pe is an Italian travel enthusiast, compulsive reader and sea-dependent! She works in the tourism field and runs the blog CharmingItaly.com, in which she shares information about Italy.

Here in Boston, city-dwellers are benefiting from new, automated technologies. We can beat the heat by setting our thermostats to activate while we’re miles away, we can hail a taxi by clicking a few buttons on our phones and we can pay for lunch by holding them up to restaurant’s readers. Though the vacation rental industry values relationships and personal interactions, we can still draw on emerging technologies to create a more seamless booking experience.

Accepting online payments has long been a vision of ours. In the past few months, we’ve built a platform that enables our clients to accept credit card payments from within their FlipKey listings. We’ve tested it, and are nearly ready to offer FlipKey Payments to property managers.

This tool offers travelers the gratification of confirming and paying for their stay immediately, removing one of the barriers that sometimes turns them to hotels. Online payments are secure: once the customer’s credit card is authorized and the traveler checks in, the money is placed in your account, eliminating the financial risk and fees of bounced checks. What’s more, online payments offer fraud protection and assures consumer confidence. For these reasons and more, we believe FlipKey Payments are a needed, practical solution for the vacation rental industry.

Stay tuned for an announcement about how you can integrate this development into your FlipKey listings. As always, we welcome your feedback about this new feature!

An analysis by Frank Langston, President of PayByGroup

Property managers lose bookings every day — most of the time without knowing it’s happening, much less why. At most, vacation rental managers may know someone visited their website or saw their FlipKey listings, but they don’t often have good insight into why there was no booking.

In response, PayByGroup interviewed over 200 travelers to understand their vacation rental booking choices. We then created a service to overcome a consistent hurdle: getting real commitment from family and friends.

The problem starts with coordination –how do you get family and friends on board if you don’t have a property locked down? But how do you choose a property before you know who is coming? It’s a classic chicken-and-egg problem and the all-too-frequent solution is the easy way out: the trip doesn’t happen.

Our research demonstrates that the solution is to enable group members to commit financially without being charged until the rest of the group has committed as well. To do this, PayByGroup tracks the entire booking party and provides easy access to information about the group’s booking progress.

That’s the beauty of it: once the fear of forfeiting upfront money is eliminated, bookings come together quickly and easily.

PBG Payments Completed

In this case, a pain for travelers is an opportunity for property managers to convert more bookings, to capture detailed information about who is staying in their homes and to provide a valuable service that adds convenience for their guests.

When you make your guests lives’ easier, you help your business. The secret is finding hidden barriers – like the challenge of getting commitments — that keep bookings from happening and then using innovative solutions to eliminate them.

Visit PayByGroup.com/FlipKey to learn more. Property managers that sign up by July 30th will receive a FREE $100 Amazon Gift Card. (You can also reach us at 1-855-729-2947, ext. 2 or email merchants@paybygroup.com and mention this FlipKey Spotlight.)

Guest blog post by: Anthony Dodd, Channel Relationship Manager at Kigo

 

We get asked for tips and inside tricks here at Kigo all the time, so we rounded up five of our best ideas to help you maximize bookings. Some are new additions to obvious solutions; others are from feedback we’ve had from our agencies. So, our top five…..

Gmail

For smaller operations or individual owners, Google Mail is a great free tool to manage your email contacts. Its range of plugins and tool make it a real time-saver for vacation rentals agencies and owners. Tools like Boomerang (where you can automate the re-sending of emails to keep inquirers attention) and Canned Responses (where you can save a selection of template responses to inquiries to quickly respond) are just two great examples of the hundreds available that can really save you time and make sure that your inquiries are not going unanswered or leads going cold.

MailChimp

For larger operations, MailChimp is an excellent solution. Free for your first 12,000 emails per month, the fantastic selection of templates, and the ability to add your own designs give so much scope for personalization. You can harvest emails by embedding a sign-up form in your website and automate emails following actions on your site and in previous email campaigns. All this comes complete with a detailed, granular analytics package to monitor your emails’ performance and automated postings on your various social media accounts. With great free options and affordable, scalable paid solutions, MailChimp is a great product for your email marketing.

Website

This is not exactly news to most of you, but it’s crucial to have a website for your vacation rental agency or property. From WordPress and Blogger to professional design agencies, having something to refer your customers to is always a big plus. It verifies your agency in an age where customers are ever more vigilant regarding fraud, gives you a showcase for your properties and helps you to establish a brand, all of which will help you to boost your bookings.

Google Analytics

One of the finest pieces of analytics available, Google’s free analytics package is a great way to monitor your sites performance. From an overview of which keywords are driving the highest number of visitors to your site, all the way to the granular details of how individual pages are performing and how long each visitor spends on your site, all the data is exportable, instantly assessable and segment-able. To get vital data on your site performance and how you can improve your site in a variety of ways, Google Analytics is a great tool.

Channel Manager

Managing your vacation rental properties through various online channels is always a rewarding experience in terms of bookings. But it can be time consuming and difficult to keep your own site up-to-date in addition to all the listings you have on great portals like FlipKey. Using a channel manager simplifies this process; all your availability data, pricing, and property details and photos can be instantly synced with your vacation rentals website so that every channel you market with is constantly updated in real time. Saving you time and money while streamlining your vacation rental business, a channel manager is a fantastic tool for your vacation rental business.

Kigo offers a Channel Manager option as a part of their vacation rental software package. Linking your vacation rental properties to Flipkey is made effortless through Kigo’s channel manager, with all data synced in real time. Contact us today to find out more.

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by Cara Giaimo

1. Never Trust A Muppet

Travel is a disorienting experience. Jet lag, cultural changes, and the intoxication of new experiences all combine to break down your defenses exactly when they should be at their peak—and scammers with a loose definition of “tourist economy” are waiting to take advantage. Lehua Gray is an experienced traveler, but she had hardly landed in Turkey when she made her first rookie mistake: “I handed the taxi driver a 50. He took it, then immediately handed me back a 5 and claimed that I had really given him a 5.” Unable to prove her side—or argue in Turkish—she had to swallow the loss.

Vultures like this circle every city, from the professionally clumsy New Yorkers who bump into you and then demand compensation for their broken glasses/bottles/bones, to traditionally garbed “Maasai warriors” in East Africa who will gladly pose for a picture and then charge you for it afterwards. Confusion is a scammer’s best friend, and clarity and awareness are great antidotes. “I should have declared “Here’s a 50!” while handing it over, and made sure I held onto it for a moment while it was exchanging hands,” explains Gray. Victims of the broken-eyeglass trick can ask for proof, or draw public attention by being loud or moving into a crowd. A scammer can’t scam you if you don’t let him.

2. ATM = Alertness-Testing Machine

Engineer and amateur photographer Mike Raskin was enjoying his last day of what had been an amazing two weeks in Belize—saying goodbye to the local town, toting a full camera and a happy heart. He realized he needed some cash for his trip home, so he did what any good American would do—stopped at an ATM. He was drawing the bills out of the slot when his head exploded with pain; when he came to, he had no cash, no camera, and a lump on his skull the size of a hammerhead. “I let my guard down at just the wrong moment. It had been an amazing trip, and now all my memories of it are tainted,” Raskin laments. “I was bummed about the money, but those photos were priceless.”

Awareness while traveling is always vital, but be especially careful at hotspots like ATMs—most cash dispensaries come with their very own goons. If you really need paper money, try to get your fill during the day, at an actual bank or, failing that, an indoor kiosk (ask to go in alone). Bring a buddy who can keep a lookout for you; if you’re traveling solo, treat the mirror above the machine like another pair of eyes. And make sure to shield your PIN from snoops—if someone nabs that number, they can steal from you over and over.

3. The Real Reason Men Never Ask For Directions

SicilePhoto via StrayOutDoors.com

Writer Eddie Nicalou was “totally lost in Madrid, with a 13:44 train to Toledo I was already running late for.” Hoping to disprove that old stereotype about American men never asking for directions, “I whipped out my map in the middle of a public square, stared at it slack-jawed, and started asking random passers-by where I was. A friendly local was happy to have a nice long conversation about where I was going—and his buddies were happy to rummage through my backpack while I was distracted.” Nicalou learned a valuable lesson, but it probably wasn’t worth all the traveler’s checks he lost.

Actually getting lost is dangerous enough, but even looking lost can make you fresh meat for thieves. Avoid the dunce cap by figuring out your route beforehand, in the safety of your hotel lobby or hostel kitchen. If you must, ask for directions in a shop, a restaurant, or another place where a question-studded interaction between you and a local won’t mark you as an easy target.

4. Your Own Worst Enemy

Life happens sometimes—at some point everyone forgets to lock up, misplaces his keys, or leaves her license at the bar. But when you’re not at home, little mistakes can blow up into life-threatening disasters. American artist Matt Cosby had driven up to Montreal for a three-day music festival and accidentally locked his only set of keys in his car—along with his luggage, cell phone, computer, and wallet with identification and all the money he had. Left completely without resources, Cosby spent the next 12 hours “dressed in multi-colored light-up festival craziness, going from cafe to cafe to ask strangers if I could make just one call or send just one email, pretty please?” Thanks to the kindness of Canadians, he eventually procured a hot meal, a floor to sleep on, and a morning appointment with a locksmith. “But I could have easily ended up getting my car towed to who knows where, being stuck in the country, or even freezing on the street.”

Avoid mishaps like this by keeping your necessities on your person at all times. An under-the-clothes money belt can easily fit a photocopies of your passport/license/AAA card, a sheet of necessary phone numbers (your hotel, a reputable cab company, your country’s embassy, and any emergency contacts), disaster cash, and some coins in case you need a pay phone. Nestle it right up against your skin and it’ll be safe from pickpockets, weather, and your own forgetfulness.

5. Hotel Room Hacks

Last July, America’s favorite quiz show host Alex Trebek was sleeping peacefully in a San Francisco hotel room when he was rudely awoken—not by a buzzer, but by the sounds of an invader rifling through his stuff! Before you can say “Daily Double,” Trebek, wearing only his skivvies, was chasing the burglar down the hall and into the arms of hotel security. Trebek managed to recover the stolen items, which included cash and jewelry, and solve his own million-dollar question—invader Lucinda Moyers was identified, charged with burglary, and hit with a restraining order—but our hero was left with a ruptured Achilles tendon and lots of bruises.

Hotel burglaries are on the rise. According to the Crime Doctor, robbers will follow victims to their hotel rooms “based on the value of the car they were driving or the jewelry or clothes they’re wearing” (or, you know, because they’re famous television stars). Hotels attached to casinos are particularly meaty targets for burglars. If you’re worried about being robbed, try to get a room on a higher floor, always double check before you open the door for anyone, and take advantage of the hotel’s room safe. Also, if you’re vacationing in the Southwest, make sure your hotel isn’t one of the many that contain easily hackable electronic locks (a bug that, months after Forbes broke the story, still hasn’t been fixed).

6. Home Sweet Home

GingerMermaidPhoto via GingerMermaid

While you’re off who-knows-where having crazy adventures, your home is waiting patiently for you. Want to make sure your eventual reunion is more like a romantic comedy and less like a horror movie? A few simple tips will help you safeguard your castle while you’re roaming the larger world. First: even though it’s hard, don’t brag about your exploits on social media. I know you want to Instagram that swordfish you just landed in the Keys, but that just lets burglars know that your house is empty—and encourages them to go land your flatscreen in return. Second: use your neighbors! Fred and Martha next door will be glad to take your mail in, move your car, and keep your house looking lived-in, especially if you offer to bring them back some of that local Swiss chocolate. Finally: think about investing in a home security system. Something watching over your house, especially something that comes with 24/7 monitoring and text alerts, can give you peace of mind no matter where you are.

This guest post was written by Cara Giaimo, a blogger for SimpliSafe. When she’s not chasing Alex Trebek around in his underwear, you can find her drinking too much coffee, running off that same coffee, or changing the world one blog at a time. SimpliSafe Wireless Home Security is making its way to the top of its industry.

by Dave Seminara

I had come to London to cover the first week at Wimbledon and though I had been to the city many times before, it was my first time staying in an apartment. For about the price of a mid-range hotel, I found a lovely one-bedroom apartment on the third floor of a classic Georgian style London walkup on Flipkey.

When I turned up at the doorstep of my flat in Nevern Square in London’s Earl’s Court neighborhood, I was soaking wet and I smelled like a sewer rat. I had tripped over a mooring post while walking along Regent’s Canal, near the Camden Lock market, and watched helplessly as my bag, carrying my DSLR camera and iPhone, plopped into the water and began to drift away, like a rubber ducky coasting over Niagara Falls. I dove into the murky water with all my clothes on in the hopes of salvaging my precious cargo and emerged soaking wet and a little smelly. As I bounded up the stairs at 2 Nevern Square, I felt quite pleased with the fact that I was checking into an apartment with a washing machine, rather than a hotel room.

A young man named Steve welcomed me into my new home for the week, a gorgeous one-bedroom apartment in a quintessential London neighborhood just steps from a picture perfect green sanctuary and a tube stop, and explained how to work all the unfamiliar equipment and appliances. As soon as he left, I wished I’d written down his instructions, but as I stripped my wet clothes off and fussed with the washing machine, I felt that odd sense of accomplishment in figuring out how things worked in another country.

It took me some time to figure out how to lock and unlock the door to the apartment, but once I had it down pat, I loved the act of crouching down to double bolt the second lock, which was bizarrely located about six inches off the ground. And I adored the tall windows and high ceilings in the apartment and the odd collection of signs and notices in the first floor common area- “No Free Newspapers, Please!” was my favorite.

I am not a nosy person but one of the things that I liked about living in this apartment was having the opportunity to imagine who lived there. Some of their cabinets and closets were discreetly sealed off from public view but their book collection was displayed prominently and when I saw titles by Noam Chomsky, Jane Austen and Niall Ferguson on the shelves, I felt like I almost knew the owner.

Steve gave me a local iPhone to use as part of the typical package that goes with the apartment. I had seen this in the advertisement but it didn’t register since I have my own iPhone. But since mine was on the fritz, the free loaner was like manna from heaven. The apartment came with toiletries, a box of chocolates and some tea, plus an iPhone app that contained recommendations for local restaurants and businesses.

Every night on my way home from Wimbledon, I stopped off at a pub at the top of my street called Earl’s Court Tavern for a pint of beer and a bit of conversation. When people I met asked where I was staying and I was able to reply, “In a flat just on the square there,” I felt legit. I was not a tourist, you see.

On my last morning in London, a soft, golden light bathed the rain soaked streets in a pink, ethereal glow that made my imminent departure all the more difficult to swallow. I had just discovered a second supermarket just steps from the apartment, another pub that looked inviting and a kebab shop I wanted to become a regular at. Was it time to go home already? My iPhone and camera had spent 4 days soaking in piles of rice inside zip lock bags, a common cure for water damage. It cured my camera but not the phone.

I lost a phone in London but what I gained was this: a sense of what it’s like to live like a Londoner, if only for a week.

Dave Seminara is a journalist and former diplomat who contributes to The New York Times, Outside, ESPN, and a wide variety of other publications and sites. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveSem