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Meg Bernazzani

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Meg Bernazzani is a Content Marketing Associate at FlipKey. Meg's favorite trip was an 11-day drive across the country from California to Massachusetts. In addition to visiting many of the states within the U.S., Meg has also traveled to 8 different countries. When she's not traveling, Meg enjoys cooking and spending time at the beach.

Is there anything better than knowing your whole family is happy? That can be a difficult thing to accomplish when you’re planning a trip with the whole family, but it’s possible to achieve. To do so, plan a trip to one of the top South Carolina vacation spots. From frolicking in the waves to fishing, boating or golfing, there are endless possibilities for enjoyment that will have everyone smiling. With so many incredible South Carolina destinations to choose from, we’ve narrowed it down for you.

Hilton Head

Wooden boardwalk leading to a Hilton Head beach on beautiful morning.

Wooden boardwalk leading to a Hilton Head beach on a beautiful morning.

It is no secret that Hilton Head is a favorite among the many South Carolina destinations that travelers flock to throughout the year. This island oasis offers 12 miles of uninterrupted beaches along the Atlantic Coast and countless paths, parks and preserves for families to explore. Here, the beach sands are so firmly packed that you can enjoy a range of activities by the ocean, including bike riding on certain occasions. Hilton Head is a haven for sports enthusiasts and one of the ideal beach destinations in South Carolina for families that love the outdoors.

The official beach season in Hilton Head lasts from April through September, and there is lots of room for vacationers to spread out since all of the Hilton Head beaches are public from the ocean to the high water mark. It’s important to note, though, that while the beaches are public, access to some is private. The town provides parking and access at only seven beach areas with paid parking available at all but the Islander’s Beach Park. Most of these beaches have lifeguards on duty from Memorial Day until Labor Day, and numbered markers in the sand indicate their location with respect to emergency responders, so everyone can feel at ease while having fun in the water.

If you’re staying in a Hilton Head vacation rental on the south end of the island, Alder Lane Beach Access is the most convenient. It is easily accessible by bike and offers a wide stretch of sound that is relatively uncrowded. This beach has restrooms, vending machines and has mats available to make it wheelchair accessible. On the northern end, enjoy Folly Field Beach. It’s known for being a quiet, safe beach with minimal undertow, and it is a favorite beach among surfers. Folly Field Beach also has lifeguards, restrooms and showers available to the public. If you’re looking to be where the action is, spend the day at Coligny Beach. It is the island’s busiest beach and lots of amenities, including restrooms, showers, water fountains, volleyball nets and a nearby outdoor bar can be found here. Lifeguards also rent beach equipment for those who come empty-handed.

Hilton Head is one of the largest South Carolina islands, so you won’t have trouble finding a beach vacation rental that will fit the whole family. Young and old will be happy at these beaches splashing in the surf, wandering through the dunes and walking along the firmly-packed sands. Visit any time of year as the water stays relatively warm year-round.

Murrells Inlet

A weathered boardwalk leads vacationers to a quiet Murrells Inlet beach.

Just five minutes north of picturesque Pawleys Island lies Murrells Inlet with its gorgeous Huntington Beach State Park, a blissful beach oasis for vacationers in search of sand and sun at their finest. There is a small admission fee that ranges from $3-$5 depending on age, which goes toward protecting and preserving the natural beauty of the beach. Here, beach goers can bask in the sun and frolic in the waves that wash over the three-mile stretch of sand at Huntington Beach State Park. The park is open year-round and stays open until as late as 10 p.m. during the summer months, so you never have to feel like you’re in a rush at this beautiful South Carolina beach.

For families, stick close to the beach’s main access points as all of the park’s amenities are conveniently located near this area. There are showers and restroom facilities available, as well as a well-stocked snack bar during the summer season. Picnic areas nearby provide the perfect place to snack without having to leave the beach or get the crunch of sand in your food. The main beach access is also located right next to the Atalaya Castle, a unique piece of South Carolina history that is worth exploring during a visit to Huntington Beach State Park.

A bit farther down the beach at the north end, vacationers can enjoy a spectacular day at the beach. This end of the beach also has restrooms and picnic tables, as well as paths that lead to a number of jetties that jut into the water at Murrells Inlet. Stroll along the beaches or wander through the park’s protected salt marshes to spot over 300 species of wildlife.

Even if you have to drive a short distance from your South Carolina vacation rental to reach Huntington Beach State Park, it is worth the drive because lifeguards are on duty here during the summer season. Not all of the nearby beaches are patrolled by lifeguards, so enjoy this added peace of mind during your South Carolina beach vacation.

Myrtle Beach

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Myrtle Beach vacation rentals are perfect for families looking for space and comfort during their stay.

Myrtle Beach isn’t just a city bustling with activity. It is home to one of the best stretches of sandy beach in South Carolina, and it is a vacation spot that is easy for families traveling with children to visit. Fly into Myrtle Beach International Airport and you’ll immediately be right near the action. Rent a car to get to your South Carolina vacation rental and stay right on the waterfront for ultimate convenience.

The star of the Grand Strand, a 60-mile string of beaches, you’ll find a seemingly endless stretch of brown sugar sands and beachfront activities in Myrtle Beach. The beaches can get crowded during the summertime when the weather is warmest, so look to visit during the off season or find a beach farther down the Grand Strand. The beaches are less crowded during off months, but the water will still be warm well into the fall. If you must go during the summer, go to Myrtle Beach State Park, a bit farther down the Grand Strand as it is worth the nominal entrance fee to have access to this quieter area. The shores here have an abundance of seashells scattered about, so kids can enjoy treasure hunting or decorating sand castles with the ones they collect.

Tourists and beach-goers spill onto the sand from the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk all day long and the beach is a great place for people watching. Lifeguards patrol the beaches daily during the summer season to keep swimmers and beach bums safe, and they provide beach-going wheelchairs free of charge at many access points. Some unique rules to be aware of during your stay include keeping away from sea oats as it is illegal to cut, break, or destroy these beach plants, no swimming 50 yards from the beach, and no jumping or diving from piers. While surfing, parasailing, jet-skiing and other water sports are permitted, there are designated areas for these activities, so as to avoid any issues with swimmers.

Myrtle Beach vacation rentals are perfect for families looking for space and comfort during their stay. This South Carolina vacation spot is more affordable than some of the quieter beach destinations because there are so many options to choose from. With high-rise condo rentals lining the boardwalk and cozy beach homes away from the main drag, there’s a place for every family.

Kiawah Island

A beautiful sunrise on Kiawah Island.

A beautiful sunrise on Kiawah Island.

Kiawah Island is a hidden gem off the coast of South Carolina that brims with endless possibilities the entire family will enjoy. Fly into Charleston and then rent a car to reach your cozy beach rental just over 20 miles away from the city. The atmosphere here is laidback which makes it a perfect place for a relaxed family vacation in one of the many nearby home rentals.

If you’re not staying in a condo rental with private beach access at one of the island’s resorts, head to Beachwalker Park to soak up sun and swim in the refreshing waters. You’ll spend the majority of your time here since it is the only public beach on Kiawah Island. It offers a variety of seasonal amenities that vacationers can take advantage of, including a snack bar, outdoor showers, and restrooms. Parking is limited to control crowds, so it’s best to walk or ride a bike from your Kiawah Island vacation rental to the beach. You don’t have to worry about toting beach gear around all day since you can rent beach chairs and umbrellas at this South Carolina beach.

Lifeguards are on duty daily from Memorial Day until Mid-August, and then only on the weekends through the end of September. The water is generally very calm, though, so you don’t have to worry about kids playing in the waves. Even your furry family members can join you for your beach day, since it is a dog-friendly spot as long as they are kept on a leash.

You don’t have to visit during the high season to enjoy the beauty of Kiawah Beachwalker Park, though. The Atlantic Ocean waters that lap the firmly-packed sands stay warm from April to October. If you’re not interested in swimming, just enjoy the unique view of both the ocean and the Kiawah River from your beach chair or a nearby vacation rental.

Isle of Palms

Sunset on Isle of Palms beach.

Sunset on Isle of Palms beach.

Just east of downtown Charleston, Isle of Palms is where family’s go to experience ultimate relaxation at some of the best South Carolina beaches. It is a Lowcountry hideaway accessible only by a bridge that connects the island to the mainland. Since it is only 5.4 square miles in area it is very easy for vacationers to get around. Golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation here, but you can also rent a bike or moped for easy island travel.

This South Carolina vacation spot was originally opened as a recreational playground tucked into the surrounding natural beauty, and not much has changed. The city has more than 50 beach access paths that vacationers can use to reach the beach and there is ample parking at designated lots. The shores of Isle of Palms have been repeatedly certified as Blue Wave Beaches, which means that the beaches meet specific criteria related to cleanliness, safety and access to the public, and help make it one of the best South Carolina beaches.

Front beach is open to the public and it is the most popular beach in the area. The beaches are wide here, and it is an ideal spot for swimming, sunning and sandcastle building. Just remember to follow the beach rules and fill any holes your kids dig back up with sand. The County Park is another great beach spot that is centrally located and easy for families to get to. Here, you’ll find lifeguards on duty as well as showers and restrooms. Soak up sun along the miles of pristine, wide beaches that line the island.

The shores of Isle of Palms aren’t just great beach destinations for vacationers, though. They’re also a haven for wildlife and the perfect place for vacationers to observe nature. The Isle of Palms beaches are particularly unique because many sea turtles make their way up the beach to nest during the summer months. Hundreds of eggs are laid on these South Carolina beaches and in the tall dunes each season. This is something to keep in mind during a visit as the turtle eggs are monitored by the Island Turtle Team and show not be interfered with if you spot an egg. Keep your eyes peeled for the occasional turtle sunbathing on the beach.

The small size of the island makes it easy to access all of the great things to do here, and a great place for a quick beach getaway. Staying in one of the many luxurious, family-friendly vacation rentals on Isle of Palms will mean you never have to be far from the ocean. Visit this South Carolina vacation spot from April to October when the weather and water are at their warmest.

Whether you’re looking to spend lazy days at the beach or to tire the kids out with fun seaside activities, there are plenty of South Carolina destinations to meet your needs. Book a vacation rental to visit any time of the year and enjoy spacious relaxation down south.

It's easy and fun to bike to the best beaches on Cape Cod

It’s easy and fun to bike to the best beaches on Cape Cod

Sitting in traffic just to find out the only beach parking lot is full doesn’t sound like a great way to start a vacation day, does it? Enter: the bicycle. Whether you’re an avid cyclist or a little wobbly starting out, biking is a great way to get to and from Cape Cod’s best beaches. With a total of 114 miles of bike paths, you can get just about anywhere on the Cape without the headache of dealing with traffic. While most of the beaches listed below have accessible parking lots, biking is the best way to reach them stress-free.

Trunk River Beach (Falmouth)

Near the southern end of the Shining Sea Bikeway is Trunk River Beach, a rocky barrier strand that serves as a perfect pit stop along the 10.7-mile converted trail. If you’re looking for a quiet beach away from the crowds and you love wildlife then this is the place for you. It is a relatively private stretch of sand along the ocean that is hidden from all except the bikers, skaters, and strollers following the bikeway along the coast. There are no lifeguards on duty here and no concession stands, which keeps droves of tourists away and the beach’s atmosphere calm. It is not very wide and the shore is rocky, so it’s best if you’re looking for a refreshing dip during your ride, or a peaceful place to enjoy nature.

Trunk River Beach is an excellent spot for birdwatching and fishing. Overhead, you’ll spot beautiful marine birds like osprey and heron gliding over Vineyard Sound while an abundance of fish swim in the sea. If you can, bring your fishing rod because bass gather at the mouth of the Trunk River feeding on herring that empty into the ocean here. Unless it’s foggy out, you’ll be able to see Martha’s Vineyard in full view while you enjoy activities on the beach.

The Shining Sea Bikeway winds through picturesque Cape Cod scenery and connects Trunk River Beach to nearby Falmouth destinations, like Surf Drive Beach and Nobska Light. From flooded cranberry bogs to scenic harbors and muddy marshes to private sands, you’ll see it all on your way to some of the best beaches on Cape Cod. Since the bikeway hugs the coastline from North Falmouth to the village of Woods Hole, the path is only a short distance from many Cape Cod vacation rentals.

West Dennis Beach (Dennis)

The Cape Cod Rail Trail offers many opportunities to veer off the bike path for a stop at a nearby Cape Cod beach. The trail winds through towns from Dennis to Wellfleet where there are many beach homes and condo rentals to choose from for your visit. At the beginning of the trail, make a detour to West Dennis Beach, which sits at the mouth of the Bass River, to see one of the premier Nantucket Sound beaches on the Cape. When you arrive, note that the east end of the parking lot is reserved for residents only, so you’ll want to lock your bike up on the west end of the lot before staking out a spot. The lot comes right up to the edge of the beach, so you won’t have to walk far to find a place to unfurl your towel.

While West Dennis Beach is one of the town’s most popular beaches, it rarely feels crowded because it is so expansive. The fine sand stretches for exactly one mile giving patrons plenty of room to stretch out. It is well-maintained and very clean, so it is a pleasant place to lay out, go for a stroll, or take the kids hunting for seashells that have washed ashore. The vast size of the beach is important, since one end of the beach is closed from time to time during the summer due to nesting piping plovers that can’t be disturbed.

Being on the ocean-side of Cape Cod, the water at West Dennis Beach is chillier than at the bayside beaches, but the calm waters make it a perfect place to swim. Families can feel comfortable with their little ones in the water as lifeguards are on duty during the day throughout the high season. If you’re more adventurous, try your hand at windsurfing here. There’s usually a good breeze, which makes it a great place to try the sport.

Out of the ocean, enjoy the well-equipped concession stand that is open during the day from Memorial Day to Labor Day. After eating, let the kids frolic at the playground next to the snack bar or fly kites from the jetty that juts into the ocean. Before heading home for the night, take advantage of the shower facilities and restrooms available to the public at West Dennis Beach.

Coast Guard Beach (Eastham)

There is no parking at Coast Guard Beach from mid-June to Labor Day, so it’s best to pick up the Nauset Bicycle Trail at Salt Pond Visitor Center for a leisure 1.6-mile bike ride to the beach. Located in the heart of the National Seashore, Coast Guard Beach is a favorite among Cape Cod beaches. It is where the Mayflower first sighted land in 1620, and today it is frequently recognized as one of the best in America. Here, the enduring Coast Guard Station looms over sunbathers lolling in the sand and the Cape Cod National Seashore, a park of the National Park Service, manages the beach keeping it in pristine condition.

Coast Guard Beach is patrolled daily by lifeguards during the summer season, so beachgoers can feel safe in the water. It is a prime spot for swimming and the cool temperature of the water makes for an invigorating dip on a hot day. Just be aware of strong ocean currents as you get farther out to sea. This beach is also one of the most popular spots for surfers looking to catch a wave. Here, the waves are more powerful than they are at other Cape Cod beaches and are shared by surfers and boogie-boarders alike. If you’re just wading in the water, don’t turn your back to the ocean as a wave might knock you off your feet.

The beach can get very crowded during the summer months, so for a change of scenery and a quieter area, walk down the beach in either direction. Along the way, you’ll see glacial sand cliffs and you can explore the golden sand that stretches as far as the eye can see. From the shore, scan the waters for seals. There is an abundance of them off the coast and kids can enjoy spotting them on a walk. If you do see seals in the distance, don’t get too close though because it could mean a shark is nearby.

When you visit Coast Guard Beach, bring your own lunch as there is no snack bar available. There is a picnic area, though, so you don’t have to worry about getting sand in your sandwich. In addition to packing snacks, make sure to bring bug spray since greenhead flies make appearances during the day beginning in mid-July. When you’re ready to leave, you can use the on-site restrooms and shower facilities, so you don’t have to track sand back to your vacation rental.

Head of the Meadow Beach (Truro)

Located near the tip of Cape Cod on the untamed Atlantic side, Head of the Meadow Beach is a secluded spot where tourists and locals alike can enjoy one of Cape Cod’s best beaches. Its two-mile long namesake trail leads bikers down a bumpy stretch of pavement past forest and towering dunes before ending at the beach. Here, patrons will find a wide stretch of unspoiled coastline that easily connects to nearby National Seashore beaches. It is well-maintained and clean, and it is much less crowded than nearby Coast Guard Beach. This is likely because beachgoers must trek down high dunes to reach the beach.

The water at Head of the Meadow Beach warms up in the summer making it a pleasant place for a dip, and in season, there are lifeguards on duty to keep swimmers safe. A bit offshore, ever-changing sandbars form throughout the day, and attract many swimmers and waders. The sandbars create a great environment for bodysurfing and kids love to play here. While bodysurfing is allowed, keep in mind that surfing is only permitted outside the main beach area.

At low tide, trickling rivers burrow through the sand forming smaller tide pools where kids can splash and frolic. Also at low tide, you can catch a glimpse of the wreck of Frances, which ran aground in 1872 and can be seen in the distance surrounded by an abundance of seals, dolphins, and whales. Head of the Meadow Beach falls within the area’s “ocean graveyard” where there have been more than 1,000 shipwrecks. If tide pools and shipwrecks don’t interest you, participate in a rowdy volleyball match using one of the nets set up for the public to use.

If you refuse to leave the beach covered in sand, this might not be the beach for you, though. Temporary restrooms are set up for the summer months, but no showers are available here. Additionally, you’ll need to bring your own snacks as there is no concession stand at this beach. Head of the Meadow Beach is all about its natural beauty, so you won’t find lots of amenities here.

Herring Cove Beach (Provincetown)

Herring Cove Beach is one of the best beaches on Cape Cod and is a popular stop for bikers along the challenging Province Lands Trail. It is a stunning strip of sand that emerges just past Provincetown’s undulating dunes, and it is managed by the Cape Cod National Seashore. Located at the knuckle of Cape Cod’s iconic arm-shaped peninsula, the gorgeous beach here is wide and seems to go on forever. If you can, book a vacation rental for June or early July and visit when this beach is less crowded. Otherwise, expect large crowds from mid-July through the end of summer here.

There are two parking areas at Herring Cove Beach. If you’ve brought your whole family, head to the bike racks and lot on the right side as it is closer to the beach and more convenient if you’re carrying loads of beach gear. This area of the beach is also close to the amenities available to the public, which include restrooms, showers, and a seasonal concession stand. If you’ve left the kids at home and are looking for an adult-oriented area, pack up your stuff and venture to the left of the parking lot. At the end of a long path surrounded by dunes, you’ll find a clothing optional beach that adults can enjoy. It’s a fun adventure if you’re not shy or afraid of a little nudity, but be prepared to be a bit far away from the rest of the beachgoers.

Herring Cove Beach is relatively rocky for those just looking for a stroll, but the water here is unusually warm and calm because it’s on the bayside. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer season and there isn’t much undertow, so it is a safe place for swimmers of all levels to spend the entire day. Stay for the breathtaking sunsets in the evening, and spot whales breaching and seals bobbing in the distance.

If an oceanfront rental isn’t in your budget, stay in a charming cottage or downtown condo rental that provides easy access to bike paths and quiet side streets for a scenic bike ride to the beach. With so many Cape Cod vacation rentals to choose from, pick the best beach for your stay and then don’t forget your bike!

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I want my wedding to be just like everyone else’s and as expensive as possible…said no one ever.

Your wedding day is supposed to be one of the best days of your life, and you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your own personal style or break the bank to achieve wedding day bliss. One way to meet such perfection is to rent a vacation home as the venue for your nuptials. Vacation rentals offer unique, cost effective solutions when it comes to the details that are important to you as you plan your momentous celebration.

To start, the sky’s the limit when it comes to location and an ideal setting for your wedding if you decide to book a vacation rental. This is because rentals come in all shapes, sizes and locations making it possible for you to turn your dream into a reality. Sites like FlipKey offer thousands of rental options ranging from rustic countryside farms to charming castles, so you won’t have to settle as you plan your big day. Picking a private vacation rental will ensure that you’re in your preferred location and that only invited guests are in attendance.bridesmaids_backyard_home

Once you’ve chosen the perfect vacation rental for your wedding, you’ll have the flexibility to handpick the vendors you want for your special day. That mouthwatering filet mignon from your favorite restaurant or the famous BBQ from a local establishment become possible meal options when you use a vacation rental as your venue. This is because you won’t have to go with more expensive options that a generic reception hall or bustling hotel might need.

Since most wedding-friendly vacation rentals offer affordable nightly and weekly rates you’ll save a buck or two that you can put toward a romantic honeymoon. You’ll likely need to book the rental for many days at a time, which will help you save on separate fees and charges that you’d typically rack up on rehearsal, ceremony and reception costs at a more traditional venue. The extra time on the property, especially before the ceremony, will reduce any last minute stress and give you time to put any finishing touches on the décor.

Finally, having the vacation rental for several days also means that the reception doesn’t have to end early or at a designated time. You can continue to dance the night away with family and friends for as long as you’d like. You and your wedding party can even crash at the rental saving money on costly hotel rooms. Vacation rentals offer all the comforts of a home away from home so don’t be afraid to take advantage of amenities like a gourmet kitchen or hot tub to keep the party going.

Keep in mind that not all properties have to feel like you are hosting your wedding at someone else’s home. From sprawling Cape Cod beach houses with room for the whole family to reconnect throughout the wedding festivities, to organic farms with rustic barns and a farmhouse for the couple to stay after a night of dancing under the stars and a bonfire, you can rent a property that feels authentic to your personal style.

If you envision your fairytale wedding to be unique, personal and affordable then start browsing vacation rentals for your perfect venue.

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I have always found the first step in planning a vacation to be the most difficult. That step is deciding what destination to visit. Once you’ve researched different locations and chosen your destination, the rest of the planning can be accomplished with the help of a comprehensive vacation checklist. Check out FlipKey’s below, organized by the different stages of a vacation – planning, traveling, and returning home.

Planning (3-9 Months Out):

  1. Once you’ve decided where to go, set a budget for your vacation. This sets the tone for the rest of your vacation planning.
  2. Research the location to find out what the best time to visit is, so you can pick your travel dates. Pay attention to the seasons and predicted weather patterns that could affect your vacation.
  3. Make sure that all forms of identification are current.
  4. Research flight prices on different travel sites.
  5. Request the time off from work.
  6. Book your flight. Booking in advance will save you money that you can put toward sightseeing.
  7. Research accommodations that meet your needs. For example, are you looking to stay in a vacation rental or at a hotel?
  8. Book your accommodation and confirm the check-in time.
  9. Arrange transportation from the airport to your accommodation or reserve a rental car.
  10. Schedule tours and excursions and print out tickets ahead of time for these activities.
  11. Print out your itinerary and travel documents and store in a folder for easy reference.
  12. If necessary, make sure to get any required vaccinations or shots before traveling.
  13. Arrange pet care ahead of time in case a visit to the vet is required first.

Planning (2 – 4 Weeks Out):

  1. Ask a friend or neighbor to pick up your mail or ask the post office to hold it while you’re gone.
  2. Email your itinerary to family or friends so people know where you can be reached in an emergency.
  3. Make copies of your ID and credit cards and add to your travel folder.
  4. Call your bank to let them know you’ll be traveling, so you don’t run into any issues using your debit or credit cards on vacation.
  5. Create a travel itinerary that includes an overview of your trip details as well as a daily plan of attack for seeing all the desired sights.

Planning (1 Week Out):

  1. Confirm your reservation and check-in/check-out time at your accommodation. Don’t forget to request early check-in if needed in order to coordinate with your flight arrival time.
  2. Fill any prescriptions needed for the trip, and purchase snacks that you can eat while you’re on-the-go.
  3. Call your cell phone provider to adjust your plan if additional coverage is needed during your trip.
  4. Read up about any baggage fees that the airline charges and decide about checking luggage.
  5. Buy quart-size baggies for liquids and other travel size items.
  6. Check the weather for an idea of what you will need to pack.
  7. Start putting aside outfits that you plan to wear on your trip. If you’re not going to wear it in the next week, it can go in your suitcase.
  8. Arrange return transportation. A smooth return home will eliminate some of the post-vacation blues and stress that can come at the end of a great trip.
  9. Withdraw a small amount of cash or get traveler’s checks to have on hand while you’re traveling.

Planning (1 Day Out):

  1. Set a timer for at least one light in your house. This will give the appearance that your home isn’t empty while you’re gone.
  2. Put on your out of office responder at work.
  3. Finish packing the baggage you plan to check. Don’t forget items, such as chargers, comfortable shoes, Band-Aids, sunscreen, a bag for dirty laundry or an umbrella.
  4. Put together a small carry on with the essentials just in case your baggage were to be lost. Carry on items like your folder with travel documents, medications, and a pair of underwear.
  5. Check in for your flight and print out your boarding pass.
  6. Take out the trash to avoid coming home to a smelly home.
  7. Unplug appliances (except the freezer) so you can be worry-free on vacation.
  8. Adjust the thermostat to keep air circulating, or program it to set and hold at a certain temperature.
  9. Check in for your flight and print out your boarding pass.

Planning (Day Of):

  1. Pack last minute toiletries.
  2. Check the status of your flight.
  3. Turn off all lights, set your alarm and lock the doors.
  4. Arrive at the airport with ample time to check bags and get through security.

While Traveling:

  1. Browse through guidebooks for your destination while you’re in transit.
  2. Keep your camera and phone charged each day to avoid missing out on a great photo-op.
  3. Bring a journal and jot down experiences and key moments as you travel.
  4. If you’ve brought a computer, upload your photos and caption them so you don’t forget the significance of each photo.

Upon Return:

  1. Unpack immediately. Don’t fall into the trap of living out of a suitcase.
  2. Pick up your pet.
  3. Wash all of your dirty laundry.
  4. Grocery shop and use the fresh start to get back into a good routine.
  5. Catch up on sleep.
  6. Print out photos and share your trip while the experiences are fresh in your mind.

The return of brisk air and the beginning of leaves fluttering off trees signal the time to start planning your winter on the slopes. With so many ski resorts to choose from in the northeast, FlipKey came up with a list of the top resorts to visit this winter.

Whiteface Mountain, Lake Placid Ski Resort / NY

Tucked away in the Adirondacks and offering breathtaking views, Whiteface Mountain is the highest ski mountain in the east with over 22 miles of skiing and riding. Boasting 87 trails, some of which have led athletes to Olympic victory, the mountain’s terrain has something for skiers at all levels. When you’re done with the ski slopes, see where miracles (on ice) were made during the 1932 and 1980 Olympics, visit the Olympic Jumping Complex, and experience firsthand what it feels like to slide down an icy track in a bobsled with a professional driver and brakeman.

Sunday River / ME

Sunday River is one of Maine’s largest and most visited ski resorts, consisting of eight interconnected mountain peaks. It boasts “the most dependable snow in New England,” so you can book your ski trip with confidence. The resort aims to open by Halloween and provide the best possible snow conditions all season. While there, keep an eye out for Eddy the Yeti, the legendary, furry animal that “roams” the mountain, or visit his cave on North Peaks at Sunday River. If skiing “the most dependable snow in New England” isn’t sweet enough, save your trip until later in the season so you can visit the Sugaring House to taste maple syrup and witness its creation.

Loon Mountain / NH

Touted as New England’s most accessible big mountain resort, Loon Mountain is only two hours from Boston, so you can be confident that you’ll spend your winter vacation doing just what you want – skiing and snowboarding – rather than traveling. The resort is family friendly and offers 61 trails for skiers, a tubing hill, and a variety of terrain parks for snowboarders, including the expanded Burton Lil’ Stash for kids. There are plenty of off-slope activities to keep you busy once you conquer the slopes, and you can find cross-country skiing, guided snowshoe tours, as well as a zipline adventure across the Pemigewasset River at the Loon Mountain Adventure Center.

Jiminy Peak / MA

Set on 170 acres of terrain in the picturesque Berkshires, Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort is the largest ski and snowboard resort in southern New England. Once your skis come off, explore the resort by taking a ride on the Mountain Coaster, which offers 3,600 feet of winding track through the woods. You control the Coaster’s pace so you can sit back and enjoy the scenery at a leisurely pace or get your adrenaline flowing at speeds up to 23 mph. If you plan to return throughout the season, buy a Value Card, which saves you money and time by offering discounts and allowing you to re-load the card online without waiting in line.

Killington Resort / VT

You can spend days at Killington Resort without experiencing the same trail or terrain twice, since the extensive resort consists of a network of seven different mountain areas. A Killington lift ticket also grants you access to nearby Pico Mountain so you’ll never get bored with more than 200 trails combined to choose from. If you’re 21 or older, unwind at the end of the day at the Motor Room Bar, which can be reached only by taking a snowcat ride up Bear Mountain. Enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres as you explore the mountain with no one but the groomers.

Attitash Mountain Resort / NH

At Attitash Mountain Resort, you will experience the “essence of skiing, snowboarding, and winter lifestyle.” If you still have a need for speed once the ski boots are off, take a ride down the Attitash mountainside on the Nor’Easter Mountain Coaster. Climb into a two-seater cart and take in as much as you can as you reach up to 25 miles per hour twisting and turning through the landscape. After, stay at the Attitash Grand Summit Hotel, the only slope side lodging in the Mt. Washington Valley, or enjoy many après ski options that the resort offers.

Jay Peak / VT

At Jay Peak, you can take advantage of both winter and summer sports while on your ski trip. Trade your boots and parka for a bathing suit, and bring your balance skills and adrenaline with you to the Pump House Indoor Waterpark. Here, you can apply what you learned in your ski lessons to your efforts riding the Double Barrel Flowrider, a cross between snowboarding and surfing, or keep up your fearlessness from descending the mountain’s 2,153 foot vertical drop when you take a ride on La Chute.

Stowe Mountain Resort / VT

Stowe Mountain Resort offers a unique respite from the soreness and exhaustion that can come from a full day of skiing. Sit back and relax while letting Siberian Huskies do all the work pulling you through the peaceful woods on a twilight dog sledding tour. The tours are suitable for all ages, and the energy and enthusiasm of the dogs will be contagious. Once you’re rested, head back to the slopes so you can tackle as many of the 100+ trails and 485 skiable acres as possible. Regardless of how you prefer to enjoy the slopes, you’ll find something for everyone at Stowe.

Scientists estimate that there are eight to nine million species on Earth. Varying in size and weight, and existing in an array of forms across the planet, zoos and aquariums provide a convenient opportunity to visit many of these species in their naturalistic habitats. With so many right at your fingertips in the United States, skip the expensive airfare and unrealistic safari costs and stick to visiting some of the best zoos and aquariums in the country. Here are some of our favorite for the next time your vacationing in these major cities.

Bronx Zoo (Bronx, NY)

Siberian Tiger cubs are pictured with an adult tiger.

Siberian Tiger cubs are pictured with an adult tiger.

The Bronx Zoo challenges you to find your inner animal while exploring its 265 acres of exhibits and attractions. Test your balance by standing on one leg like a flamingo or see if you can jump as high as a tiger can by following the zoo’s Animal Activity Trail, which teaches you how to move like an animal. When you need a break from practicing your balancing, jumping or crawling skills, take a ride on a camel and enjoy New York City’s most unique form of transit. If you’re there just to see the animals, plan on spending at least two hours and make sure to check out the most popular exhibits, like Tiger Mountain, Himalayan Highlands, Congo Gorilla Forest, and World of Reptiles. The Bronx Zoo is not only one of the best zoos in the United States, it’s also one of the largest metropolitan zoos in the entire world.

New England Aquarium (Boston, MA)

Rockhopper penguins can be seen at an exhibit at the New England Aquarium.

Rockhopper penguins can be seen at an exhibit at the New England Aquarium.

Before even entering the New England Aquarium, whet your appetite for marine life by visiting the 42,000-gallon harbor seal tank to the left of the entrance. The exhibit is exposed to the ever-changing New England weather, and here you can watch the seals swim, play and sleep in a naturalistic habitat. Once inside, say hello to penguins, turtles, seadragons and many other aquatic creatures. View an IMAX film, or embark on a whale watch to see whales, dolphins, sea birds and other marine life in their habitat – the Atlantic Ocean. You will receive a hand-stamp upon entering the Aquarium, which allows you to leave and return to the aquarium at any time that day so you don’t miss anything.

Zoo Miami (Miami, FL)

Visitors feed hungry giraffes at Zoo Miami.

Visitors feed hungry giraffes at Zoo Miami.

At Zoo Miami, you can come face-to-face with a variety of animals, including giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and more, during your trip here. Over 3,000 animals make the 740 acres of Zoo Miami their home, and visitors can easily spend days exploring the grounds. Walk the collective three miles of walkways, rent a safari cycle, ride the monorail, or take a tram tour to take advantage of all that the zoo has to offer. A can’t-miss activity is the daily feeding of Zoo Miami’s huge Greater one-horned Indian rhino. The rhino will eagerly step up to eat the fistfuls of food extended by visitors, and he’ll even allow them to rub his horn. Other sources of entertainment are the public parrot and giraffe feedings, the imaginative Playworld Playground for kids ages 12 and under, and Humpy’s Camel Rides. If you just can’t get enough of Zoo Miami, several different types of sleepover programs are offered, so you can sleep over in one of the buildings or camp out on the grounds for a truly unique experience. This zoo is open every day of the year, and costs less than $20 for admission. Next time you’re in Miami, a visit here is a must!

Monterey Bay Aquarium (Monterey, CA)

One of the tanks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium holds a giant octopus.

One of the tanks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium holds a giant octopus.

Psych yourself up for your visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium by watching any of their six live web cams set up to show penguins and sea otters, open-ocean animals, like sharks and tunas, as well as the calm of Monterey Bay. When you arrive, don’t miss out on seeing the world’s largest octopus and the world’s smallest squid shown in one of their dozen live exhibits of octopuses and their kin.  To avoid the crowds, try to visit in the fall and winter months or plan to arrive between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. during the middle of the week.

Smithsonian National Zoological Park (Washington, D.C.)

An orangutan makes its way across the O Line at the Smithsonian Zoo.

An orangutan makes its way across the O Line at the Smithsonian Zoo.

If you really want to feel like you are amidst the animals, visit the “O Line” at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Here, you will find orangutans swinging hand over hand from branch to branch or shuffling along cables traveling with total freedom of movement between their choice of location – right above your head! After traveling through the O Line, make sure to visit the rarest animal in the world, the giant panda, in its state-of-the-art panda habitat designed to mimic its natural habitat in China. Expect long lines when going to see the pandas, and make sure to smile for the camera since the public viewing area is also recorded on the live Panda Webcam. The best part about this zoo: the Smithsonian National Zoological Park is free to visit.

Saint Louis Zoo (Saint Louis, MO)

A green snake coils and stares from a branch at the Saint Louis Zoo.

A green snake coils and stares from a branch at the Saint Louis Zoo.

If you like sea lions then you will love the Saint Louis Zoo, which offers a magnificent 1.5 acre exhibit called Sea Lion Sound right in the heart of the zoo. It is the first in North America to offer visitors the experience of walking through an underwater tunnel right into the sea lions’ habitat as the animals swim all around them. Next, take a ride on the Emerson Zooline Railroad to quickly cover some of the remaining exhibits shown on this 1.5 mile narrated ride. Hop on and off the train when a particular exhibit piques your interest. Although admission to the zoo is free, there are fees for many of the attractions and buying a Safari Pass will give you full access to all of the amenities – including the Zooline Railroad.

Mystic Aquarium (Mystic, CT)

A little girl looks at a Beluga Whale in its tank at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut.

A little girl looks at a Beluga Whale in its tank at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut.

With many opportunities to get hands on with the aquatic life, the Mystic Aquarium is the place to be to see and actually feel a variety of marine creatures. Stroke a white-spotted bamboo shark, or let a sting ray glide alongside your hand in the touch pool, and feel the skin and scales of alligators and snakes in the Scales and Tails exhibit. The Mystic Aquarium is also home to the only beluga whale in New England where it swims in a one acre glacial habitat consisting of several interconnected pools, 20-foot-long underwater windows and more than 750,000 gallons of water.

Georgia Aquarium (Atlanta, Georgia)

A whale shark swims in the aquarium tank.

A whale shark swims in the aquarium tank.

The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta tops many lists of the best aquariums in the country. With so many educational experiences, fascinating exhibits, and entertaining events it’s not difficult to understand why it’s made our list, too. When you visit the Georgia Museum, enjoy wandering amongst impressive tanks of marine life, and make sure to check out the illusive whale sharks. This aquarium is the only institution outside of Asia to house this particular shark species. In total, the Georgia Aquarium contains between 100,000 and 120,000 fish and other sea creatures.

San Diego Zoo (San Diego, CA)

Lunchtime for a Giant Panda at the San Diego Zoo.

Lunchtime for a Giant Panda at the San Diego Zoo.

Over 3,700 rare and endangered animals call the San Diego Zoo home, and the animal population there represents more than 650 species and subspecies. With naturalistic habitats that range from lush terrain to jungles to arctic settings, the zoo sits on 100 acres of land. Here you will find endangered animals, such as the Giant Panda and Malayan Tiger, and you can watch them in person or via the zoos many live web cams. If you’re worried about crowds, or want to see what the animals do outside of the zoo’s standard hours, register for a Twilight Trek or Sunrise Surprise Stroll for a glimpse into the nocturnal animals’ lives and early risers’ habits. While most animals can only be viewed at a safe distance, some are available to get up close and personal with in the Petting Paddock.

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A survey conducted this year by the American Pet Products Association found that 68% of U.S. households have at least one pet. While this percentage has risen over the years, finding a pet-friendly vacation rental can still be a challenge for travelers who want to bring their furry companions along with them on vacation. As a result, owners who make their vacation rentals pet-friendly are able to maximize profits, and keep their properties fully booked.

Allowing pets helps owners attract a larger pool of travelers and expands the renting potential for vacation properties, which translates to nagging vacancies being filled quickly and year-round. Because of the difficulty many travelers face searching for pet-friendly properties, accommodating pets also opens the door to establishing returning renters who vacation in the same location year after year.

In addition to generating more income by filling vacancies year-round, a study conducted by the Foundation for Interdisciplinary Research and Education Promoting Animal Welfare (FIREPAW) found that pet-friendly rentals also have the potential to bring in 20% to 30% more rent than properties that don’t allow pets.

The greater profits are a combination of increased rent due to the greater demand for pet-friendly properties, higher security deposits, additional pet deposits and fees charged to protect owners in the event of a serious issue. FIREPAW’s study stated that most often there was limited to no damage done to a property by a pet, and the increased profits more than made up for any potential risks hosting a pet posed.

Here are some tips to ensure that the monetary benefits of allowing pets at your rental go straight to your bank account and not to fixing rare damages.

1. Get your old baby gates out of the attic and use them to block off areas of your home that you do not want pets to enter. Gates are a great way to set boundaries for visiting pets.
2. Lock up low cabinets where toxic cleaning supplies are, hide or cover loose cords, and move breakable items to higher shelves out of a pet’s reach.
3. Provide cheap, chew toys at your rental to keep pets happy and chewing on something other than furniture.
4. Supply a food and water bowl for pets so that your dishes aren’t mistaken as pet-friendly just because the rental is.
5. Include information about nearby dog parks or walking trails, and provide waste baggies for easy clean up. This keeps your property clean, and your neighbors happy as the pet can release its energy away from the rental.

In addition to taking the above measures to make your rental pet-friendly, always make sure that your rental agreement clearly spells out rules regarding the allowance of pets. Make any rental stipulations clear, and have a signed copy of the agreement by the traveler as a reference for any questions that arise regarding the pet.

Don’t overlook this opportunity to maximize your profits, and improve your travelers’ vacation by making your rental pet-friendly.

Have you ever wondered who you could thank for the ability to watch an instant replay of that game-changing play you missed when you looked away for just a second? Or who decided it was a good idea to insert wire into a brassiere to give everything some extra lift with the Wonderbra?

Every year on July 1, people across Canada light fireworks, host barbecues and attend free concerts to honor and celebrate some of these very inventions that their country has given us. This day is popularly known as their country’s birthday, or Canada Day. While maple leaves and the familiar Canadian twang might be the first things you think “aboot” when someone mentions Canada, it’s important to remember all of the many things – like instant replay and Wonderbras – that this country to the north has given the world. Here are some of FlipKey’s favorites:

Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup – This sugary syrup was first produced in Canada, and it is commonly used to add flavor or to enhance breakfast items, such as pancakes and waffles. The Canadian province of Quebec remains the world’s largest producer, and it accounts for about three-quarters of the world’s output.

bieber

Justin Bieber – Like him or not, this pop superstar hales from Canada. He is responsible for catchy hits like “Baby” and “As Long As You Love Me,” which will now likely be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

Poutine

Poutine – A cross between heaven and a heart attack on a plate, this dish is a cultural marker of Canada that has slowly infiltrated surrounding countries. Although variations exist, nothing compares to a traditional plate of the gravy and cheese curd topped French fries that Canada has to offer.

Molson Beer

Beer – To quote Canadian and Molson Brewery founder John Molson, “An honest brew makes its own friends.” Canada has taken these profound words to heart producing a variety of beers, including lager, ale, porter, stout, draught, and seasonal beers since 1786. Beer is the number one alcoholic beverage in Canada, in terms of production and consumption.

Ice Hockey

Present day Ice Hockey – The official national winter sport of Canada, ice hockey was born out of European stick and ball games and its popularity has grown immensely throughout the world. Canada gave rules to the sport, along with details of the length of ice and dimensions of the goals, which has helped hockey become a sport fans can enjoy for more than half of the year.

Canada Scenery

The scenic backdrop for movies like Titanic and Twilight – As Canada is the second largest country in the world (behind Russia), there are abundant, picturesque locations both on land and at sea that serve as the setting of many blockbuster films.

Insulin

Medicinal Insulin – Taken by people with diabetes, insulin is injected to help the body move sugars from food out of the bloodstream and into cells throughout the body. Without the work of Frederick Banting, a Canadian scientist and doctor, the understanding of insulin might still be undiscovered.

Walkie Talkie

The Walkie-Talkie – Canadian inventor Donald Hings created the portable radio, originally known as the “packset,” in 1937. It was quickly redeveloped to serve as an instrumental mode of communication during World War II.