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With warm weather finally approaching and two big upcoming May holidays (Mother’s Day and Memorial Day weekend), the bookings are flying in here at FlipKey and everyone is talking about their future vacation plans. In fact, two of our very own FlipKey travelers were in sunny Puerto Rico just last week. You can check out some of their beautiful beach photos on our new Instagram account – be sure to follow @FlipKey_Vacation for updates!

Because of the surge in travel, April was buzzing with traveler surveys as well as celebrity news thanks to Jay-Z and Beyonce’s recent trip to Havana and Tom Cruise’s astronaut ambitions.  We’re especially excited to start traveling again, so we have to ask: Did you book a rental in April? Where are you headed for the summer? We’d love to hear about your vacation plans!

Vacation Rentals of the Month

Vacation Rentals of the Month(From left to right:  Luminous Gerogia Home,  Lisbon Apartment with Stunning ViewsCasa Ladera)

Travel Trends

Chinese Tourists Now Biggest Source of Travel Spending
With a 40% increase from last year, Chinese tourists are officially the biggest spenders when it comes to travel. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, the total tourism income from China is $102 billion.

TripAdvisor Reveals Results of Fourth Annual Vacation Rental Survey 
What’s most likely to sway you to book a rental over a hotel? According to TripAdvisor’s newest survey, savings, last-minute deals, and more living space are just a few of the reasons why rentals are an excellent accommodation alternative.

Beyonce and Jay-Z’s Cuba Trip Part of Growing Cultural Travel Trend
Jay-Z and Queen B headed to Cuba to celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary in style. But, like any high-profile celebrity couple, they caused quite a stir with their visit and prompted both an investigation and a brand new song by Jay himself.

Travel Gadgets

New Apps Let You Take Vacations Shots Like a Pro
Instagram isn’t the only option for amateur photographers – check out USA Today’s list of photo apps that will make those vacation shots especially memorable.

Travel Stories

Tom Cruise Wants to Travel to Space and Meet Aliens Cruise’s love for sci-fi is no secret, but who knew he was so serious about traveling to space and chatting with a few aliens?

Tandem Pedals Power World Adventure
Instead of buying a house or having children, this couple took their tandem bike, named “Willie”, and rode across Europe, China, and the Middle East for a total of 25,000 kilometers.

Boston Marathon Explosions Attract an Outpouring of Help from City’s Residents
Following the tragic events of the Boston Marathon, thousands rallied to support those affected by offering a place to stay. The extensive list included e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and messages – some wrote that they would cook dinner or pay for a cab rides, but all offered a piece of home, rest, and comfort.

Travel Destinations

Travel Tips: Stay in a Converted Tobacco Factory in Tuscany or Try Camping the Old Fashioned Way
A tobacco factory in Tuscany? We think this estate would make for a wonderful, luxurious vacation (or honeymoon!).

What Are the Best Cities for Runners?
If you’re traveling to any urban environment, chances are you won’t have time to map out a run. That’s why these cities offer the best and most convenient trails for tourists.

9 “Roll & Go’ New Hampshire RV Adventures
A beautiful and unique New Hampshire family vacation. Check out Kathy Tully’s landmarks and favorite spots from her RV trip.

March was a big month in travel..and can you believe it? We almost missed it! The FlipKey Blog was out of commission for the month due to technical issues — we apologize if this caused any inconveniences and we’re happy to report that we’re ready to start blogging again.

For our first comeback post, we wanted to do a quick recap of all the travel stories we missed in the past four weeks. Hot topics this month included: Spring Break, Easter weekend, and National Passport Day. And, if you were anywhere near snow, rain, or a combination of both (we call it snain), travel plans for many were, unfortunately, delayed. Take a look at our top posts, stories, and photos of the month and let us know if we missed anything. Enjoy!

 

Vacation Rentals of the Month

rentals of the month March

(From top left to bottom right 1. Bourbon Ridge Lodge 2. SandCastle Pointe 3. Hideaways in the Hay 4. Disney Home with Private Pool and Sundeck)

 

Travel Trends

Spring Break Travel Trends: Beaches are No. 1

 

Travel Gadgets

Tote this Gear, and You’ll Be Traveling with Ease

 Best Travel Gear for Business Travelers (PHOTOS)

 

Travel Stories

Golden Age of Air Travel

Rodman: I’m Going on Vacation with Kim in August

National Passport Day is March 9th 

Extreme Weather Photos of the Week

 

Travel Destinations

20 China Travel Tips

Arctic Man: Travel Channel Sets Sights on Wild, Wacky Snowmachine Race

The 2013 Travel Awards (Outside Magazine)

7 Crazy Destinations for Cat Lovers (PHOTOS)

by Anis Salvesen of Tripping.com

Spring is here, and the world is ready to celebrate.  From festivals featuring massive fires to festivals involving countless liters of water, here are some favorite spring celebrations around the world.

Las Fallas

Every year, the people of the Spanish city of Valencia celebrate Las Fallas, a five day festival which features parades, fireworks, paella contests, and bullfights.  Giant papier mache figures known as ninots are displayed around the city.  The festival culminates in the burning of the figures, which are filled with fireworks and put on quite the captivating ending to a week of celebration.  The main celebration takes place from March 15th to March 19th.

Nowruz

Nowruz is often referred to as the “Persian New Year.”  The name means “New Day” and marks both the first day of spring and the commencement of the new year in the Iranian calendar.  It has a long, rich 3,000 year history and is also celebrated in parts of South Asia, Central Asia, Northwestern China, the Crimea, Caucasus and parts of the Balkans.   It is typically celebrated on March 21st every year.

St. Patrick’s Day

Though it’s only been an official public holiday in Ireland since 1903, St. Patrick’s Day is now celebrated  in most corners of the globe. A celebration of Irish culture, it’s typically marked by parades, parties and the wearing of the color green.

Holi

Holi

Photo credit:   AP Photo/Kevin Frayer

Holi is the Hindu spring festival of colors.  In most areas it lasts two days. On the eve of the festival, bonfires are lit and prayers are uttered.  The main day is celebrated with street parties and people throw pigment powder and water.  Holi is celebrated on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna. In 2013, Holi will be on Wednesday, March 27th.

Songkran Water Festival

Celebrated throughout Thailand (and other parts of Southeast Asia), the Songkran Water Festival in Chiang Mai is the most famous.  Songkran runs from April 12th to April 15th.  First everyone tosses old items out of their homes and burns them to avoid bad fortune.  Then offerings are made to Buddha statues, which are washed with perfumed water and paraded through the streets.  Everyone who ventures out is soaked by fellow revelers who use everything from buckets to water guns to soak anyone they encounter.

Which spring festival is your favorite?

Anis Salvesen is an avid traveler, polyglot and editor of the Tripping blog.  She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she enjoys outdoor activities, trying new restaurants and exploring the city.  If you’re headed to San Francisco, you can connect with her and other locals via Tripping’s worldwide community of travelers and locals.

From beauty to fashion to food, the entire month of February was consumed by one thing only: Valentine’s Day. Every year, the holiday is strategically placed as the 14th lands smack in the middle of the month — making it almost too easy for a complete takeover by 1-800-Flowers and Ferrero Rocher chocolate advertisements.

Are you a Valentine’s Day fan? Or perhaps a better question: does it even matter? Whether you celebrated with your significant other or not, escaping the holiday was not an option…and the travel industry was by no means an exception (sorry everyone!).

Vacation Rentals of the Month

February Properties Collage

Travel Trends

Expert: 9 Trends Shaping the Family Travel Season

Is A Dental ‘Vacation’ in Your Future?

 

Travel Gadgets

Desperately Seeking Slumber

12 Must Haves for Traveling with Kids

The Adventure-Proof Alpaca Carbon Fiber Travel Guitar

 

Travel Stories

The Pre-Lunar New Year Travel Crunch

The Best Worst Travel Pick-Up Line

Travel Can Improve Couples’ Sex Life, Survey Says

 

Travel Destinations

Argentina Travel: Rafting a Chocolate River in Wine Country

Adventure Travel 2013: The 30 Best New Trips

On a Roll with European Breakfasts

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The past few days have been a blur of snow, slush, and rain for us here in the Northeast. Thanks to the lovingly named “Nemo,” some of our latest activities have included digging out the car, walking (or rather slipping) through iced sidewalks, jumping over murky puddles, and, of course, complaining about it all to our friends, relatives, and really, anyone we come into contact with.

With that being said, planning a sunny spring break is a welcome distraction. Instead of shoveling snow, swimming in the surf is what we really want to tell our friends about. For those who are ready to take a break from winter as well, we present our spring break travel preview: check out the hottest destinations, accommodations, and budget-friendly resources.

On a Budget?

Before planning anything, here are some great resources to help save a buck:

Destinations

1. Cancun
This infamous spot still reigns king among spring break destinations. Take that senior trip you’ve always wanted and make sure not to forget some sunscreen, sandals, and a ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude.

2. South Padre Island
During March, South Padre Island is home only to hardcore spring breakers. Celebrity appearances are the norm and like Cancun, expect the parties to be wild both during the day and at night. Especially good for music-lovers!

3. Jamaica
If you’re looking for a mix of relaxation and partying, Jamaica is the place to visit. Relax at some of the world’s most beautiful beaches or visit the famous open-air bars.

4. Bahamas
With 18+ gambling and a generous supply of rum, it’s no wonder why the Bahamas continue to be a spring break hot spot.

5. Daytona
Daytona is a favorite among college students for being budget-friendly — most of the hotels in the area are already set up with student activities during the day and at night. A perfect destination that requires minimal organization.

If you’re looking for something more family-oriented, check out these spring break destinations from the Travel Channel!

Accommodations

While all-inclusive resorts and budget hotels remain the most popular accommodation types, we’ve included a few rentals in the destinations listed above that may peak your interest if you’re looking for a lodging alternative:

Cancun from $300/night

Casa Maya Playa:

Condo directly on the beach with granite stone bathrooms and king-size bedrooms

Cancun, 288424

South Padre Island from $300/night

Spacious Condo:

A beautiful condo minutes from the beach at a small price.

South Padre, 387070

Jamaica from $250/night

Shakti Home: 

A 2 bedroom cottage perfect for couples, families or those looking for absolute tranquility.

Jamaica, 229149

Bahamas from $300/night

Ocean Villa:

Includes a private pool. bar, and BBQ — all overlooking the beautiful ocean.

Bahamas, 382267

Daytona from $200/night

Oceanfront Luxury:

1,400 square feet with all the amenities you could imagine.

Daytona, 352991

 

 

Although the excitement of Christmas and New Year’s came and went with 2012, January 2013 was still a busy time for travelers. From Valentine’s Day getaways to Spring Break trips, everyone is looking forward to warm and tropical escapes, and perhaps a little romance. Bookings are on the rise and travel seems to be on everyone’s mind – especially for those of us trekking through the bitter cold every day (except for last Wednesday, when it was 70 degrees in Boston!). The New Year is already inspiring travel plans, and we can’t help but ask: Where are you all going and what will you be doing? What trends will 2013 bring?

To help answer that question, we’ve gathered a few of our favorite news highlights. Trips to Antarctica, wellness spas, sparkly new travel gadgets and much more seem to await us this summer. Here are our top picks in this year’s first edition of our travel news roundup:

Travel Trends

For Travel Savings in 2013, Go Retro
We loved this article by Frugal Traveler blogger, Seth Kugel. He gives some great tips on how to save even more this upcoming year by using a few old-school tricks.  As ultimate bargain-hunters ourselves, we think we’ll see these trends rise in popularity among the travelers here at FlipKey.

Global Travel Indicators for 2013
William Chalmers really gets the data down in this post about the next year in travel, and we like his comical, positive attitude. According to him, travelers are happier, safer, and savvier than ever. A great sign for all of us.

Travel Gadgets

5 Best Travel Gadgets from CES 2013
Phones, cameras, and watches for the avid traveler – all James Bond style.

Travel Apps that Really Help
Sorting through apps and trying to find what works while on a trip is more of a curse than a blessing. We suggest you take CNN’s word for it and give these apps a go.

Travel Stories

Lost Cat

Cat Lost on Vacation, Travels 190 Miles Home
A heart-warming cat story. Who doesn’t want to read this?

The Orbital Balloon: NASA Tests Blow-Up Space-Craft
Is space travel really within our grasp? Check out NASA’s new space hotel.

British Explorer Embarks on Antarctica Adventure
Known as one of the world’s greatest explorers, Sir Ranulph Fiennes embarked on an expedition dubbed “The Coldest Journey” on Monday January 7th, 2013. Fiennes will cross Antarctica during the winter, battling freezing weather, total darkness, and almost no chance of a rescue operation if things go wrong. According the article, the expedition is similar to a flight into space. The team hopes to better understand the effects of climate change by taking this dangerous voyage. We wish Fiennes and his team the best of luck and are in awe of his adventurous tenacity at the age of 68.

Travel Destinations

After 50 Years, Cuba Drops Unpopular Travel Restriction
“Exit permits” will no longer be needed for travel outside of Cuba. However, travel continues to be treated as a privilege and not a right.

The Most Underrated State for Adventure Travel
2,616 miles of trails, 3,100 miles of rivers, and a 7,900 ft. deep canyon – can you take a guess as to where this could be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Grand Wailea Resort and Spa

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

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For many of us, Thanksgiving is the best holiday of the season, if not the year. After months of working hard and adapting to the bitter cold, Thanksgiving is a welcome and much-needed break from our day-to-day. When it comes to the food, football, and subsequent naps, those few days off leave no room for regret. So, why not go all out and bring the family to one of our most peaceful, quaint, and cozy rentals? Get away from the noise and the crowded grocery stores. Buy your turkey early and enjoy true relaxation in the country, mountains, or even by the beach…

1. Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire
This beautiful lake cottage sleeps 7 (enough room for the kids and then some) and is close enough to town for those last minute grocery stops while remaining in quiet country.

2. Shaver Lake, California
This New England style home is beautifully maintained by its owners. With an open floor plan, the cooks aren’t stuck in just one room. The property sleeps 8 comfortably and  has a perfect dining room table for Thanksgiving dinner.

3. Charlemont, Massachusetts
For families with pets, this country cottage is a perfect choice. The property even includes access to Netflix and DirectTV. Football anyone?

4. Rockport, Massachusetts
 This stylish home by the sea comes with a fully-equipped gourmet kitchen as well as satellite TV.

5. Chester, Connecticut
Situated on 10 wooded acres and surrounded by 1000 acres of forest. Chester is A perfect location for absolute serenity and privacy.

6. Trenton, Maine
If you want to walk off the food, just take a 15 minute drive and Acadia National Park awaits.

7. Dolores, Colorado
A perfect retreat for outdoor enthusiasts – this property is close to several hiking trails and archaeological sites. Or, you could always sit and soak in the hot tub…

8. Ashburnham, Massachusetts
Located on 100 acres of rolling farm, a vacation here would be a true country getaway. Filled with orchards, blueberries, and plenty of wildlife, this rental is match made in heaven for that Thanksgiving dinner.

9. Ivanhoe, California
Nestled among orange and mandarin groves, all guests are provided with a well-stocked kitchen. The cottage even includes a continental breakfast made from scratch.

10. Santa Barbara, California
Centrally located, this rental is perfect for a Thanksgiving by the beach. Amenities included? Try a 42″ flat-screen TV, a private 2-car driveway, and even a Nintendo Wii console.

11. Indian Rocks Beach, Florida
A charming property between the beach and Disney World. Why not knock down two vacations in one?

12. Alden, Michigan
A romantic lakefront cabin perfect for couples or families. During the fall season the area is filled with activities like skiing and snowmobiling in case you decide to venture outside.

 

There’s something about live music that strikes a music lover’s soul. No matter what your taste may be, listening to your favorite musician or your favorite song live has the power to affect people on an emotional level. Just being in the same room as the musician and watching the music being created without auto-tune or editing is unlike any experience you can get at home.

Now imagine having that experience in a town that is known for its musical talents. Being around people who appreciate that music as much as you do takes it to another level. Strangers can become friends by the end of the night when you share a passion for the same music. And if the first venue you try isn’t for you, then there are plenty more down the street in music-invested towns.

What if your passion is for a particular style? Whether you’re a die-hard country cowboy or a jazz aficionado, we have good news for you: Across the U.S. are a myriad of towns that will fill your need to hear country, jazz, indie-rock or whatever genre suits your fancy. We took the liberty of compiling America’s top music destinations, along with rentals in close proximity to popular venues. Take a sneak peak at some of those properties below!

 

1. Philadelphia
Philly’s local music scene has exploded over the past years, most notably starting in the 80’s. From classical to R&B and Hip Hop, Philly has vibrant and diverse music tastes. Some well-known Philly musicians? Try Will Smith, Lisa Lopes of TLC, Chiddy Bang, and The Roots.

2. Nashville
Named by Rolling Stone as having the country’s “Best Music Scene”, Nashville is a must-visit. From the venues, to bars, to record and clothing stores, Nashville has it all for music lovers. Sleep, eat, shop, and listen in true rocker style.

3. Austin
Aside from having a great entertainment scene, Austin is home to many of the best music festivals. South by Southwest, Urban Music Festival,  and Fun, Fun, Funfest are just a few of them. And with nearly 200 venues to choose from, you might have a hard time finding places without musicians.

4. New York
New York’s music scene, much like the city itself, is a “melting pot” of music genres and styles. It also is the birthplace of salsa, hip hop, and disco. The city hosts numerous festivals, has hundreds of venues, and has some of the best musical theatre in the country. With this many options, it might be awhile before you get to sort through it all.