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Ah, Carnival… one of the most fascinating, exciting festivals that happens around the globe every year.  Nearly everyone has heard tales of the festivities, but have you ever actually experienced it?  With the economy beginning to slowly recover and vacation rentals hotter than ever, now is the time to pack your bags and head south to the anything-but-sleepy city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Brazilian Carnival is widely considered the most colorful and vibrant in all of Brazil.  With the Samba schools shaking their way down the confetti colored streets and Bloco parades proudly representing the different boroughs, there’s no escaping the infectious music and costumes that toe the hazy line of gaudy and profound.  This year from February 13th to the 16th the city will be ablaze with lights, sequins and an insatiable desire for fun.

The parade in the Sambodromo is the largest attraction at Rio Carnival.  Here various samba schools dance down the 700 meter long street from 8pm until sunrise.  Each Samba school has 80 minutes to jitter, twist, shake and twirl in front of 90,000 fans to win the Championship and is truly a spectacle.

Beyond Carnival, Rio de Janeiro is a sprawling, sultry city that fuses pure South American hospitality with a blazing passion for life.  The iconic statue “Christ the Redeemer” that towers over the city is a constant icon of beauty apparent throughout the entire city.  While Capacabana beaches soak up the blissful sun gringos and locals alike sip the sweet Caipirinha (lime juice).

Grab your sequins, book your vacation rental and head south for a truly magnificent experience

‘Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry… So, while you’re decking the halls and spreading cheer, don’t forget to take a moment to tend to your vacation rental business and thank the past years’ guests. With a new year comes a frenzied season of inquiries, rentals, and of course, revenue! So, be sure to start the New Year off right by sending some holiday greetings to past guests.

Sending holiday greetings and warm wishes is an excellent way to make an impression while reminding potential guests that your vacation home is a great place to spend a week. With so many possibilities for travelers to choose from these days, it is the small, personal touches like a holiday card that will make you and your property stand apart, especially if they had a pleasant stay their first time around.

Websites like shutterfly.com and modernpostcard.com allow you to custom create postcards and note cards, so you can put a dazzling photo of your home on the card to remind guests how inviting it is! Take a few moments to write out simple notes like “See you soon!” or “Wish you were here!” and your guests will really appreciate the gesture.

So get writing and spread the holiday cheer!

With the holiday season in full swing and 2009 quickly retiring, it’s time to start planning your New Year’s celebrations.  We’ve highlighted cities around the world that greet 2010 with a bang. So get your party hat, grab your kissing partner and book your vacation rental and get ready to head to one of these most sizzling celebrations!
Sydney, Australia– Australians bring in the New Year like no one else. The fireworks display over Syndey Harbor is the most watched fireworks spectacle in the world with 1.5 million people gathering to see the fierce pyrotechnics that dance across the dark skies. This year’s theme is “Awaken the Spirit” with the Syndey Harbour Bridge adorned with a large S (for Sydney) and crowds showing up wearing blue to represent Sydney.

Miami, Florida– This saucy city certainly knows how to celebrate.  With clubs along Miami Beach offering fiestas that go till the early morning, the night time sizzles, especially on New Year’s Eve.  Places like Mansion Nightclub and SOBE Live offer open bars and tunes to dance your heart out to.  Or if you’re looking for a more relaxed evening, head to Ocean Drive, dig your feet in the sand and watch the fireworks show over the ocean.

New York City, New York– The city that never sleeps shows you how it’s done.  With over a million people gathering in Times Square to watch the glittering ball drop, mark the end of one year and the beginning of another.  As the ball drops, take in the tunes of big name artists like Taylor Swift and Lionel Ritchie. With festivities like these, there’s no doubt that the next year will start off right.

Edinburgh, Scotland Hogmanay (New Years) in Edinburgh dates back to pagan times when people celebrated mid-winter with fire and light festivals.  Today the festivities are spread across several days with a torchlight procession on the 29th that weaves through the streets of the city planting seeds of excitement and ending in the burning of aViking Long boat. On the 31st people gather in the streets with the Edinburgh Castle standing guard over the city as fireworks blaze in the background.  Stages are set up throughout the city with music and dancing and at midnight after the kisses and hugs have quieted, people join hands and sing Auld Lang Syne, a song which has been sung for centuries.

Las Vegas, Nevada Las Vegas is dazzling 364 days out of the year, but on New Year’s Eve it is a full blown spectacle. With people dancing in the streets under the flashing lights and sparkling fireworks glimmering in the sky, there is no shortage of energy. If you’re well connected with the Hollywood type, get your tickets to one of the several parties hosted by the likes of 50 Cent, Eva Longoria, Nicole Ritchie and the Black Eyed Peas.

Travelers are depending more and more on reviews. In fact, reviews have become so important that not understanding the weight that reviews have on traveler purchasing decisions can prove a major disadvantage to any business.  Recently ehotelier.com interviewed the owner of an up and coming hotel in Buenos Aires, asking her how she survives in such a heavily saturated tourism market.  Her answer? Reviews on TripAdvisor.

Mariquel Waingarten of the Tailor Made Hotel recounts getting acquainted with TripAdvisor and what it has done for her business:

In the beginning, when we were on TripAdvisor I was scared, because you’re very exposed to good reviews and bad reviews. Fortunately, we’ve been able to get very good reviews, and the bad reviews that we received were actually really helpful. They tell us what to correct, and we like to take care of that. Sometimes people don’t tell you what’s wrong, and then it’s a surprise for us when they write it down on TripAdvisor.

Reviews, positive or negative, give vacationers piece of mind that they are not walking into a lion’s den.  Hearing evaluations from other travelers who have been in their situation will reassure them that yeah, maybe there’s no hairdryer but the service is unbeatable or that your property really is on the ocean…

Click here for the full article!

Listing your property on FlipKey and TripAdvisor allows you to market your property to millions (literally) of travelers who are looking to getaway and possibly stay in your vacation home.  With so many options out there for potential guests to choose from, it is essential that you take full advantage of your online listing and get booked!  The following is a list of the biggest mistakes that home owners make when listing their property…so go ahead, learn from their mistakes and get booked!

No Reviews: Guests love to hear about your property from fellow travelers.  Sure, they like to hear what you have to say about your property because, afterall, who knows it better than you?  But having three or four reviews about your property will make travelers more confident that it is what you say it is, even if a negative one slips in here or there.

Blank Calendar: What’s more frustrating than finding the vacation property of your dreams but checking out the availability only to find that the calendar is completely blank or nonexistent! Plus our widgets allow you to post your FlipKey calendar on your personal website, so you only have to update one calendar.

Less than 5 Photos: Photos are essential to travelers when making a decision about where to stay.  Not only do they legitimize your description but they allow guests to visualize themselves staying in your property.  Plus FlipKey allows you to upload unlimited photos… so click away, and remember a picture is worth a thousand words.

No Amenities: To bring towels or not to bring towels?  That is a question that guests should now have to ask themselves.  When filling in your listing, list anything and everything that your property has.  Not only does this makes it easier for guests to pack, but it is enticing to see the long list of supplies that they can walk home to!

If you find that your vacation rental‘s calendar has upcoming vacancies, you could be missing out on some serious revenue. With the holidays fast approaching, many travelers have their plans set in stone and are eagerly awaiting a lovely holiday break.   Meanwhile, some travelers purposely wait until the last minute so they can snag the best deals around, and that could mean your rental property!  We’ve compiled a list of some tried and true best practices to get your home booked at the last minute!

Use that Headline:  When perusing a list of properties, travelers who are looking to snag a last minute deal have one thing on their minds: great value.  By including a few words regarding your open availability for the holidays, or the fact that you’re running a special Holiday Deal, these travelers are more likely to book your property!

Reduce Your Rates:  Since it is last minute you shouldn’t expect to charge peak season rates, even if it is the holiday season.  Offer 15-20% less than your typical rate or offer a free night if travelers stay for 3 nights.  Be creative and be fair!

Include a Freebie:  To further entice potential guests into staying at your home for their last minute getaway, offer to include a gift certificate to a local restaurant, free with their stay!  This is especially attractive to the chef of the household, as it will alleviate the stress of cooking for one evening.

Enticing Photos:  Your thumbnail photo is the perfect opportunity for you to grab attention to the fact that your home will make a charming setting for a family’s holiday getaway.  Change the photo to a picture of your dining room table-set for a family.  Or try inserting a smaller graphic in the bottom of your thumbnail picture that calls attention to your discounted rate.  At the bottom of your photo, insert a graphic that reads “20% Off for the Holidays.”  Happy Bookings!

Phuket, Thailand– Even if we are entering their busy tourist season (January to June), prices in this Thai Island are ideal all year long.  With the Thai Baht equaling about 0.02 U.S. dollars, you can’t afford not to go here. Phuket offers visitors miles upon miles of squeaky white sand, hunter green interiors and quaint bamboo huts that will make you wish you never had to leave.

Istanbul, TurkeyIstanbul, the sultry capitol of the long gone Constantinople, is a whirlwind of a city.  Over 19 million proud, pleasant Turks reside in Istanbul, straddling Europe and Asia, making the city one that brims with ancient mosques, hip museums and some of the best food you’ve ever tasted.  But all this doesn’t come at a price, the Turkish Lira is at about 0.6 U.S. dollars, a solid exchange rate for a fascinating metropolis like Istanbul.

Washington D.C. While most travelers prefer to visit the capitol during its balmy summer months, a visit to D.C. in the winter is a refreshing break from the large crowds and sweaty lines.  A Mecca for museum junkies, military men and families alike make this city a perfect holiday getaway.  With the free museum entry to all the museums as well as off-season prices your wallet will thank you

Burlington, VT– This bohemian paradise is a ski lover’s winter wonderland.  From December to March, while most cities are deep in hibernation, Burlington comes to life, with rocking bars, sprawling parks and some seriously crisp mountain air.  Close proximity to Jay Peak, Smuggler’s Notch and Stowe Mountains make it an ideal home base for all levels of skiers and snowboarders.  Plus the small town prices won’t hurt your holiday budget.

Belize– Nestled into the foot hills of Mexico on the Caribbean shores; Belize offers the island lifestyle without the high prices.  With hoards of Mayan ruins, silver sandy beaches and the unreal “Great Blue Hole,” a sink hole surrounded by screaming colors of the tropical reefs, Belize is a truly divine destination.

Tybee Island, GA The off-season presents opportunities to stroll the serene beaches and towering light houses without bumping into hoards of other people.  Believe it or not, beaching it is still possible during the winter months. It won’t be scorching hot as in the summer months but with temperatures in the mid 70s throughout the winter, you’ll walk away with a full wallet and clear mind.

Egypt– One of the oldest centers of civilization, Egypt is a frenzied country anchored in tradition and dripping with ancient pyramids and crumbling ruins.  With the Nile running through it, giving the arid landscape a touch of vitality, this country offers some of the most remarkable sights.  With vacation rentals for as little as $40 a day and an equally enticing exchange rate, Egypt is a highly desirable destination this season.

Winter Park, ColoradoWith 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, Winter Park has some of the best skiing in the Rockies.  But part of this gem’s appeal is that it flies under the radar, in close range of Vail and Aspen it is easily overshadowed by the glitzier ski resorts.  Just outside of Denver allows for easy flights and while its still peak season at Winter Park, the prices aren’t super outrageous.

Montreal, CanadaAlthough you may be thinking that Canada in the winter is a massive ice cube, there are some serious perks to visiting this majestic city in the dead of winter.  Not only is Quebec’s old city a vibrant piece of ancient Europe that has been grafted onto the surface of north America, but these French Canadians know how to do winter right: with a formidable ice skating rink smack dab in the middle of the city, vin chaud (hot wine) to chase away those chills and some poutine (French fries, cheese and gravy!) to fill that tummy of yours.  Plus the Canadian dollar has been about on par with the U.S. dollar these days so you don’t have to worry about a terrorizing exchange rate.

St. Louis, Missouri– Head to the Gateway state for a true slice of Americana.  St Louis offers a whole range of free activities for the inexpensive vacations from free entrance to the St. Louis Zoo, St Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Musem and the St. Louis Science Center.  There’s also a surprising amount of breweries here where one can get a taste of that good old Budweiser or the lesser known Schlafly Beer.  Regardless of what you choose to do here chance are, it’ll be free!

For the second year in a row FlipKey has been recognized as a leading force in the vacation rental website arena. In 2008 we were recognized as the Best Vacation Rental Website by Travel + Leisure magazine, a major milestone in our first year.
This year we were honored with the title of ‘Best Website to Get the Skinny on a Vacation Rental’ in Travel + Leisure’s annual ranking of Top Travel Websites. This title can be attributed to lots of hard work from our team at FlipKey as well as our ever growing database of over 100,000 verified guest reviews by the people who have ‘been there, done that.’ Our collection of traveler testaments are indeed proving to be an incredibly valuable and essential tool for other travelers as they plan their future trips both near and far.

Traveling is one of the best ways to experience new traditions, to get lost in another culture and encounter new things.  But experiencing a new culture doesn’t mean you have to hop a plane and fly across the ocean. Many times our neighbors in nearby states have their own quirks and distinct cultures that make a visit well worth the trip.  Traveling to festivals provides the perfect opportunity to not only kick back and have fun, but to also experience, first hand, the spirit of a different community, right here in your own country.

Here are some winter festivals to help heat up the upcoming long, chilly, winter months ahead:

Festival Name: New Year’s Eve in Times Square

Where: New York City

When: December 31st, 3 p.m.

While New Year’s Eve is  celebrated throughout the world, New York City hosts one of the largest parties to ring in the new calendar loud and proud. Roughly one million visitors gather for New Years Eve in Times Square every year, where they listen to live music, watch the ball drop at midnight and give kisses to loved ones while a ton (literally) of confetti flutters about.

New Year’s Eve in Times Square began in 1904 when the New York Times moved to Times Square and wanted to celebrate the completion of the Times Tower.  With fireworks blazing and excitement buzzing, the first New Year’s Eve was a wild success.  In 1907 the fireworks were banned, thus the birth of the brightly lit ball that drops from 1 Times Square at 11:59 every December 31st. Recently the ball was replaced with a Waterford Crystal ball that is twice the size and creates 16 different colors, turning the building into a colorful, glowing kaleidoscope.

With stations like MTV and ABC airing the festivities, people from around the world tune into to celebrate the ball drop.  Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve show has been a staple in this American celebration.  Since 1972 he has hosted live coverage of the party in Times Square, with various musicians helping him rock in the New Year.  In recent years Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Fergie and Lenny Kravitz have been featured on Clark’s show, performing their music and giving commentary.  Even past presidents turn out to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Times Square, with Bill and Hilary Clinton hitting the button to drop the ball at the 2009 celebration. The festivities are so elaborate that it’s hard not to get excited about the things to come and say goodbye to things past.

What: Sundance Film Festival

Where: Park City, Utah

When: January 21-31

The Sundance Film Festival has become one of the most prestigious film events in the world.  With major celebrities attending the festival ranging from Spike Lee to Uma Thurman and Paris Hilton to Russel Simmons, it’s possible you’ll rub shoulders with the best and the brightest of Hollywood.

In fact, it is the largest independent cinema festival in the U.S., allowing smaller yet talented filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their work. The Sundance Film Festival was born in 1978 when Robert Redford, a Utah resident, decided to shed a national light on the importance of independent American films while allowing filmmakers to compete. The festival has been a wild success ever since with many films and directors ricocheting into mass appeal due to the festival.  Movies such as Garden State, Motorcycle Diaries, sex, lies, and videtape, Donnie Darko, and Clerks have all gained cult following while directors such as Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson and Jim Jarmusch have gone on to direct major box office hits.

Tickets to this season’s Sundance Film Festival are hot, but starting today you can have a chance to score one of the remaining tickets by heading here where you can purchase a festival pass or individual movie tickets.  No doubt the after parties will be hopping too, but you’ll have to cozy up to Uma to get the invite.