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Monthly Archives: November 2013

The second installment of The Hunger Games franchise entitled “Catching Fire” premiered November 22 in theaters across the US. This extremely popular book series has captured the hearts and minds of all ages, and has bled into popular culture at all turns. It also launched the careers of both Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence.

The country of Panem (where the story is set) is split up into 12 districts, each with its own exports, and each existing to serve the needs of the wealthy Capitol. The districts are in chronological order starting with District 1, which is the wealthiest and closest to the Capitol. District 12 is farthest away and exists in abject poverty. After the First Rebellion, it is rumored that District 13 was bombed and completely destroyed. As a further penalty for rebelling, the “Hunger Games” were created, but that’s another story for another day.

puget sound wine

When we think of wine, often times we imagine exotic, European locations where dew drips off a perfectly ripe grape and old women stamp with their bare feet to squeeze out the juices. While that may be true (and a nice Hollywood stereotype), there are still many beautiful regions for wine production right here in the United States. Today we are featuring one of the regions that made our list of Top Wine Travel Destinations, the Puget Sound in northwestern Washington state.

By Clotilde Dusoulier

During the holidays, an estimated 68% of your brainwaves are devoted to thinking about chocolate. I just made this up, but I bet that figure is pretty close to reality. And if you’re going to do any traveling this season, what better opportunity to seek out the best local artisans – especially if they’re bean-to-bar operations that allow you to take a peek at their manufacturing process. Here are some of our favorites, in the US and beyond.

THEO Chocolate

Where? Seattle, WA

THEO

An American pioneer in sustainable and fair trade chocolate, Theo makes bean-to-bar chocolate in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. They are committed to changing the world one chocolate bar at a time, and their range includes limited-edition bars whose proceeds support various nonprofit organizations, so you can feel extra good about that bar of sea salt dark chocolate you’ve inhaled. The holiday selection – Nutcracker brittle! Peppermint stick! Gingerbread spice! – makes splendid stocking stuffers. One-hour factory tours are offered daily, led by enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guides who will tell you all about the chocolate craft and its social and environmental implications, with lots of samples thrown in. Same-day online reservations are recommended.

The FlipKey team is excited to be attending the 2nd European Seminar hosted by the Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA) on 9-11 December 2013, in Bruges, Belgium.If you’re a professional rental agent looking to grow your business and would like to interact with some of the most influential minds in the holiday rental industry, book your flight to Bruges! Join FlipKey representatives and other industry professionals from Europe and beyond for this two-day event with more than a dozen new education sessions specifically for holiday rental professionals.

The event will offer more than a dozen informative educational sessions and many opportunities to network with industry professionals to share ideas and best practices. General sessions include The Future of Search and Travel presented by Roel Naessens from Google and more. Additionally, five concurrent sessions will cover a variety of topics from branding and marketing to the impact of mobile and social media on the holiday rental industry.

Check out a a full list of presenters and session topics here, and click here for more gorgeous photos of Bruges.

FlipKey’s own Koryn Okey (@korynokey) will be presenting on Five Ways to Get Your Properties Noticed Online during a Wednesday morning session!

One hundred percent of 2012 attendees said they are likely to recommend this event to a colleague. Don’t miss this opportunity to join industry leaders and suppliers at this seminar. Just one tip, one new resource, or a single connection during this event can make or save your company money.

Don’t delay!  Register now for the 2013 European Seminar. Your industry peers will be in Bruges this December – we encourage you to be there, too!

For more information visit www.vrma.com  or contact Jill Curtis, Director of Membership in the U.S. by phone at +1 (317) 454-8315 or email membership@vrma.com.

Meet Walter, our FlipKey featured owner! He’s shared some tips below that have helped him successfully rent out his Myrtle Beach condo for over ten years.

Prompt Customer Service

One of the main things that helps to differentiate his homes from the competition is the experience he provides with prompt customer service and his determination to resolve any issues.

Promote to Past Guests

Along with excellent customer service to keep renters coming back, Walter has also capitalized on his ever-expanding rolodex of past guests by sending them mailers and reminding them of their relaxing stay in his homes.

Walter’s Wisdom

The last piece of advice that Walter has left us with is the reminder to “Price your unit fairly, respond to complaints the way you would want someone to respond to your complaints. Always leave the customer feeling like you are truly concerned and want them to come back.” Great advice from a vacation rental veteran!

View Walter’s listing here.

On November 14th, thirteen FlipKey members strapped on their hairnets and volunteered their time to prepare meals at the Community Servings facility in Jamaica Plain. As part of “FlipKey Gives Back” month, an annual program created by the company this year, FlipKey plans to help its greater community by volunteering and donating to some select Boston-based organizations.

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In deciding which non-profits to contribute to, Community Servings was an easy choice for the FlipKey team. Each week, the Community Servings kitchen prepares and delivers 7,500 meals to the critically-ill and homebound in Massachusetts. The individuals benefiting from this program all lay in a critical stage of a life threatening illness and are unable to shop or cook for themselves. 95% of these individuals are also living at or below the poverty level, making proper nutrition that much harder to maintain. By providing something as simple and necessary as a ready-to-eat meal, Community Servings helps to make life a little bit healthier and easier for these individuals.

The holidays are a busy time for travelers and property owners alike. Prepare for the holiday season by considering these tips so that you can impress your guests while taking advantage of your own holiday plans!

Fall Seasonal Touches

Be Festive!

Get in the spirit and share those holiday comforts that you enjoy in your own home with your guests! A simple wreath on the door, gourd centerpiece on the dining table, or autumn scented candle in the living room is an inexpensive way of showing your attention to detail and can get your guests in the mood for the season. When decorating your property look for simple autumn or winter themed decorations. Take this opportunity to have fun and get creative with your surroundings! If your property is in a region with particular fall or winter foliage, incorporate it in the home to give your renters a closer connection with the new surroundings. If you use physical keys for your property, consider sending them in a holiday wrapped box to get renters extra excited about renting with you.

Add a Personal Touch

In the vacation rental world, personalization is key to set yourself apart from the competition. Offering rental deals during the holidays is a great way to draw attention to your property. Consider including a gift card to a local restaurant or shop with your guest’s holiday reservation and present it as a gift upon their arrival. In light of the gift-giving season, having something tangible to give to travelers can be more special than simply offering a seasonal discount. If a gift for each booking is out of your budget, something as small as a signed holiday card can be a great way to welcome guests to your home.

Be Well Informed

Although not always the case, chances are that you know more about your rental area than the traveler that has rented your property, so use this knowledge to better include them in your greater community. No matter how large or small your town may be, it is almost guaranteed that it will host some combination of holiday events that are open to the public such as light shows, concerts, festivals, and specialty theater or sporting events. Use this special season to your advantage and learn everything you can about what your surroundings have to offer at this time. Leave a brochure or a simple collection of community event information in your home for guests to use as a reference. If you feel comfortable, consider asking your travelers what their favorite fall and winter activities are so that you may focus your research in one direction.

Plan Ahead

In order to ensure that your own holiday plans will be stress free, be extra careful about updating your calendar and property functions for your in-coming holiday guests. The better prepared you are for the needs of your renters, the less they will need your assistance while you’re celebrating with your own friends and family. Go the extra mile and try to anticipate the needs of a holiday traveler. If you don’t already, consider leaving a guide in your home that includes the locations of shops for great last minute gifts, stores with gift-wrapping services, or restaurants that are guaranteed to be open during the holiday period while most are closed.

Avoid unnecessary stressors by incorporating these tips prior to your guests’ stay this holiday season. You’ll thank yourself for the preparations made and your guests will take delight in the outcome they produce. Happy bookings!

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by: Kelly O’Reilly

Insta 2These days, it’s safe to say that a vacation doesn’t actually happen unless there’s some social media proof posted along the way—right? Whether it’s with Instagram shots of your toes in the sand, or a constant stream of Tweets to keep your friends back home updated on your adventures (or at the very least, a little jealous), travelers have an increasing desire to stay connected abroad. You can’t just power up post-Customs without connecting to a new network with new—and often hefty—roaming charges.

There are several options to keep the charges in check, and we’ve put together a quick guide to understanding international data, how different carriers set up their rates, and how you can get the most bang for your buck abroad.

Steps needed to take when traveling

While you have lots of options and a variety of potential limitations, getting yourself set up with international data can be simple if you take the proper steps before you leave.

Step #1: Check the network and bandwidth on the make, model and carrier on your phone against what’s available in your destination.

by Megan Eileen McDonough

Travel goes way beyond the sights and sounds of a destination. Eating is something we all need for survival anyway and luckily, it’s also an excellent opportunity to experience local culture. While Foodspotting and other discovery apps are helpful in hunting down trendy restaurants and hole-in-the-wall joints, there are even more resources for experiencing cuisine the local way.

NessNess

Restaurant reviews are definitely helpful to potential diners but personalized suggestions are even better. Ness gives users instant restaurant recommendations based on their tastes and preferences. As soon as you sign up as a user, the platform asks you to rate ten restaurants and basically, the more restaurants you rate, the more accurate your recommendations will be. From a user perspective, the interface is easy to navigate and allows you to create beautiful lists of new restaurants you love or old favorites. Like most other apps, you can connect quickly through Facebook.

LocalEats

When traveling within the US or internationally, try using LocalEats to find your next dinner spot. The website and app ($0.99) allows users to search for nearby restaurants, view restaurant deals and get driving directions, among other services. Perhaps the best thing about LocalEats is that absolutely no chain restaurants are included in their inventory, making it even easier to discover local restaurants you might have otherwise overlooked. Other features include scheduling a taxi for pick-up and drop-off and searching by the type of cuisine, price, neighborhood and amenities.