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FlipKey Top 10

When it comes to indulging in a last-minute getaway, one of my favorite things to do is hop a red-eye flight to Fiji for a week of fjord hopping and relaxing on white sand beaches. At least I assume that would be one of my favorite things to do, seeing as I’ve never actually done it.

When it comes to a real last-minute getaway, nothing beats the great American road trip. Unlike a trip to Fiji, all it takes is hopping in your car and choosing a direction. At least that’s the theory… One thing I’ve learned in the past decade of road tripping is that it helps to have an awesome destination to look forward to—and the perfect FlipKey rental to relax at. So whether you’re a permanent resident of the Emerald City, like myself, or only visiting for a short while, I think you’ll find that a visit to the following list of destinations Is worth the price of gas.

Click on the destinations and images below to see all available FlipKey rentals in that location. Staying in a rental means extra living space, a full kitchen, and amenities like laundry or outdoor barbecue area.

Rearview shot of a couple reading a map while sitting in a car

Day Trips

Tacoma, WA (35mi, <1hr)

One of the top reasons to make the drive to Tacoma is to admire its world-renowned glass art. The Museum of Glass showcases hand-blown glass pieces from around the world and includes a glassblowing studio. The Museum District is connected by the Bridge of Glass and pays homage to the craft with more art, glass, and history, including installations by the native Dale Chihuly. Other cultural attractions worth stopping for are the Tacoma Art Museum, the Le May-America’s Car Museum and the Washington State History Museum. Although, Tacoma is rooted in the arts, it is ideally situated on the banks of Puget Sound and offers a vibrant, urban pit stop for road trippers. Shop in the historic Proctor and Stadium districts or stroll through the city’s parks and gardens. Explore the shores by kayak or boat to see the abundance of wildlife that inhabit Tacoma. If you’re looking for a nature wonderland where hiking boots aren’t required, then Tacoma is the destination for you.

See all rentals in Tacoma!

Fall City, WA (30mi, <1hr)

Fall City is situated within the scenic Snoqualmie Valley, an area just east of Seattle, criss-crossed with quiet back roads that carve paths through forests, mountains, and a network of streams feeding into the Snoqualmie River. On your drive in to town, you’ll notice totem poles scattered about Fall City, evidence that the town was originally home to the Snoqualmie Indian tribe, as well as the 130-year old Hop Shed where farmers brought hops to be transported to the Puget Sound. The massive Snoqualmie Falls is arguably one of the biggest attractions for visitors to Fall City. The 270-foot falls boasts magnificent views from the top and bottom and is an impressive site to see. Snoqualmie Falls isn’t the only attraction, though. Odds are you’ll find yourself sticking around to tour the wineries, hike the trails, and maybe even do some antique shopping.

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The majestic Snoqualmie Falls in Washington plunges into the water below.

The majestic Snoqualmie Falls in Washington plunges into the water below.

Ashford, WA (80mi, <2hrs)

Hidden amongst towering fir and cedar trees at the foothills of Mt. Rainier National Park, Ashford is a popular “base camp” location for those venturing deep into the Cascade Mountain Region of Central Washington. However, this enchanting area has plenty of natural wonders to offer the day tripper as well, including the nearby Alder and Mineral Lakes, over 300 miles of hiking trails, plus snowshoeing and sledding in the winter. Adjacent to Ashford you’ll find the small town of Elbe, where you can board the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad, which is by far one of most relaxed ways to take in the secluded back country of Mt. Rainier National Park.

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Leavenworth, WA (120 mi, 2hrs)

Leavenworth is unique in that the town offers visitors an authentic German experience, right in the heart of Washington State. Boasting a Bavarian village main street, replete with Tudor revival architecture, this mountain town plays host to monthly festivals, one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations in the United States, and an annual month-long Christmas extravaganza that has to be seen to be believed. While you might expect the hiking, biking, and skiing adventures waiting to be had in the surrounding Cascade Mountains, what you might not expect from this Pacific Northwest landmark is the 300 days of sunshine they receive every year!

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A couple drives down the road on a road trip in their red convertible.

Weekend Trips

Vancouver, BC (140mi, 2.5 hours)

Canada’s third-largest city, and one routinely featured on lists of the world’s greatest places to live, has been thrust into the global spotlight thanks in part to its young metropolis vibe, overall quirky appeal, and role as the host city for the 2010 winter Olympics. A melting pot of cultures nestled between city beaches and lush waterfront forests, this British Commonwealth is still very much forming its identity: something reflected in its eclectic art scene, diverse shopping districts, and laid-back hipster hangouts, all topped off with the myriad of outdoor activities right outside their door. Make Vancouver your destination if you want to experience both bustling city life with attractions like the Vancouver Aquarium and the Orpheum Theatre as well as a quiet, oceanfront setting that is home to a variety of wildlife, including fish, birds, and whales.

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Portland, OR (175mi, 3 hrs)

If you’ve never been there, you might be inclined to assume that Portland and Seattle are interchangeable from a destination standpoint, especially given the similarities in their cultural and natural landscape. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Where Seattle offers more of an urban flavor, Portland has a quaint, almost small town feel relative to its size. Although replete with museums, fine dining, and a vibrant night life, Portland provides a level of hospitality and accessibility to these attractions unparalleled anyplace else in the Northwest. While in the area, popular things to do in Portland include touring the Portland Japanese Garden, exploring the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, and browsing at one of the many Portland farmers markets. With so much to do and its laid-back, friendly atmosphere, Portland is a must-visit place along the Pacific Northwest.

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Sunrise view overlooking the city of Portland, Oregon

Sunrise view overlooking the city of Portland, Oregon

Friday Harbor, WA (100mi, 3hrs including ferry travel)

One of the main hot spots in the San Juan Islands, Friday Harbor has long been recognized as a top travel destination in Washington. Although relatively small, the island offers a dynamic landscape ranging from pebble-lined beaches, to lush valleys and mountain meadows. Since it rests in Seattle’s rain shadow and is often sunny when nowhere else in the Puget Sound region is, it is routinely referred to as “nature’s playground.” One of the top attractions here is orca whale watching in autumn, although many animals such as harbor seals, porpoises, and sea otters are year-round residents. To really get into the casual spirit of island living, enjoy an art tour, or of course, find your own little corner of paradise on one of the many pristine local beaches.

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Seaside, OR (195mi, 3.5hrs)

The North Oregon Coast is a place of great history, entertainment, and natural beauty. While scenic vistas and amazing day hikes can be found throughout the region, Seaside has really become the place to go for a wide variety of traditional “coastal” activities, such as bike tours, festivals, and fresh, local cuisine. Wander along the Tillamook Head Traverse Hike for impeccable views of the landscape and dine by the ocean to start your day. When you’re ready to hang on the beach, you’ll be delighted with how wide they are here, leaving plenty of room for sand castle building, cookouts, or even a round of beach volleyball. Make sure you also swing by Funland Arcade, the largest on the Oregon Coast, to take a ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl and feel like a kid again! Whether you’re on a romantic road trip or embarking on some family fun, Seaside has something for everyone in your car.

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Victoria, BC (185mi, 4.5hrs including ferry travel)

Green and beautiful year-round, Victoria offers an enchanting place for visitors to escape every day life. It is the oldest city in the Pacific Northwest, and here, new world experiences complement old world charm. Snap photos of the spectacular parliament building  and tour the opulent rooms inside. Nearby churches and castles showcase impressive architectural designs and interesting historical significance. Take a walk through the historic James Bay neighborhood or head to the boutiques on Johnson Street and Trounce Alley to purchase wares from local designers. The island has a mild climate throughout the year making it an ideal place for outdoor exploration. Whether you drive through the city, cycle one of the many trails or swim in the ocean, Victoria’s lush landscape can be enjoyed by all. Before getting back on the road, enjoy the time-honored tradition of high tea at the Empress Hotel National Historic Site of Canada.

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A young man sits down with coffee to plan his US road trip on a map.

Week Trips

West Glacier, MT (550mi, 9.5 hrs)

West Glacier is really more of a gateway destination, as it anchors the western entrance to Glacier National Park, offering an ideal location for lodging while exploring the surrounding area. A trip to Glacier National Park is without a doubt more rooted in natural beauty than it is commercial obligations. The views as seen from the historic Going-to-the-Sun Road are breathtaking as you cross the Continental Divide at 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass, and will undoubtedly stay with you forever. The town of West Glacier and the surrounding National Park play host to a huge assortment of activities for the outdoor enthusiast, including whitewater rafting, golfing, hiking, and horseback riding.

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San Francisco, CA (800mi, 13hrs)

If I was going to recommend travel to any major city in California, or the entire West Coast for that matter, it would have to be San Francisco. Most endearing about this city is that even when you partake in one of the more cliched tourist activities like exploring Pier 39 or climbing one of the 40+ hills, you still never know what to expect. Take a drive down the city’s well-known Lombard Street, one of America’s crookedest streets, before ditching your car to cling to the side of a vintage cable car. Explore the neighborhoods like the Upper Haight or the Mission to see the different parts of the city that make it so unique. From the Marina district, enjoy picture-perfect views of the majestic Golden Gate Bridge before people watching at one of the hip bistros nearby. San Francisco is a city teeming with outlandish free thinkers and lovable weirdos, yet it manages to quickly find a place in the heart of your average Joe.

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View of the Golden Gate Bridge giving drivers access to San Francisco

View of the Golden Gate Bridge giving drivers access to San Francisco

Lake Tahoe, CA (750mi, 12hrs)

Lake Tahoe is a haven for outdoor adventures year-round. In the summer, visitors can enjoy swimming, windsurfing, and boating on the picturesque lake, while the surrounding parks and trails beckon to hikers. Mt. Tallac Trail and Emerald Bay State Park offer magnificent views of the lake area while the Gondola at Heavenly provides a peaceful ride with incredible panoramic views. During the winter, strap yours skis or snowboard onto your car and enjoy the epic amounts of snowfall that transform Lake Tahoe into a winter wonderland. Hit the slopes at Northstar or Squaw Valley for a fun day in the snow. Other things to do in Lake Tahoe include making a visit to the Lake Tahoe Historical Society Museum or placing some bets at one of the 24-hour casinos in the area. Because Lake Tahoe straddles the border between California and Nevada, the area does also has a flashy nightlife scene and vibrant atmosphere. The area is perfect for a girls’ week away or a family getaway – it’s up to you!

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Las Vegas, NV (1,150mi, 19hrs)

Ah, Las Vegas. Some would say that no matter where you reside in this country, a rubber-meets-road sojourn to Sin City constitutes the ultimate road trip – a statement I’m very much inclined to agree with. Even if you’re not into the well-lit, nonstop party element Vegas is so famous for, you’ll find yourself easily charmed by its rugged beauty and frontier-inspired sightseeing opportunities. One thing is for sure though: going from Seattle to Las Vegas by car is a must-have experience. Cutting through the southern half of Central Washington, skirting the northeast corner of Oregon and the northwest corner of Idaho, then dropping straight down the eastern half of Nevada is an amazing journey that is nearly impossible to match. The ever-changing landscapes and classic roadside attractions encountered along the way make this trip completely worthwhile, even if all you do in Las Vegas is fill up your gas tank and turn right back around.

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Original post was written by Jay Ferris, a Seattle-based writer, husband, and father of three, whose penchant for outdoors-based travel is rivaled only by his dependence on a steady internet connection and spider-free existence. Follow him on Twitter at @jayferris.

Road Tripping

Steeped in history and filled with impressive attractions that have inspired awe in millions of visitors, Washington, DC is one of America’s most visited major cities. Yet, as someone from the MD/DC area, I had visited every historic site and every museum that you could think of by age 12. Road tripping became my solution to escaping the “same-olds” of the tri-state area. Here is a list of the top 10 road trip destinations that I have taken in the area. Some of these destinations make excellent day trips for visitors to the Capital, while others make great weekend destinations for locals looking to escape the city.

1. Annapolis, MD (40 mi, <1 hr)

Annapolis, the capital of Maryland, is only a short drive away and has a beautiful old town aesthetic. You can enjoy historic sites such as the Maryland State House or get into the thriving community theatre scene by catching a show performed by the Colonial Players. At night, check out the Annapolis Harbor and have dinner on the waterfront by candlelight!

2. Baltimore, MD (47 mi, 1hr)

An architectural masterpiece, Baltimore is filled with everything from 18th century structures to I.M. Pei’s modern masterpieces. My favorite area is the Harbor: home to the incredible Baltimore Aquarium and tons of fun places to grab a meal or a drink by the water. When it’s warm out, you should definitely go for a paddleboat ride for a sea-level experience!

3. Richmond, VA (100 mi, 2 hrs)

Discover history and adventure in nearby Richmond, VA. Here, more than 400 years of American history live on through magnificent architecture, monument-lined cobblestone streets, and world-class museums. Brave the gorgeous yet intense James River: the only urban setting with Class IV rapids. Rafting is just one of many outdoor activities close by. For more urban adventurers, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is constantly expanding its world-class offerings, and more than 900 restaurants make Richmond a foodie paradise.

4. Shenandoah Valley, VA (112 mi, 2.5 hrs)

Blanketed in shades of amber, gold, and green in the fall, Shenandoah is a mandatory road-trip destination for anyone looking for a slice of nature in the tri-state area. The Valley has many areas that are open for camping, as well as plenty of cabins for rent. Plan a visit to one of the pristine limestone caverns for sights that will truly take your breath away. The most famous underground adventures are the Luray Caverns, which also boast a mind-boggling hedge maze right outside the caves!

5. Bethany Beach & Rehoboth Beach, DE (134 mi, 3hrs)

South Bethany Beach is one of the best-kept secrets along the east coast. The friendly inhabitants of this tucked-away city will be happy to show you its picturesque boardwalk, miles of crystal clear waters along the beaches, great shopping and more. Most of the trendy boutiques and restaurants serving up fresh local seafood can be found along South Garfield Parkway, but there’s plenty to do across town as well.

A word to the wise: If you want to enjoy a relaxing beach vacation free of hordes of local teenagers, then steer clear of these destinations, as well as Ocean City, during the first half of June. When school lets out for the summer, High school students from the surrounding areas overrun the typically peaceful spot during “beach week.”

6. Ocean City, MD (153 mi, 3hrs)

Ocean City is a fun, family-oriented beach destination with an incredible boardwalk, fun nightlife, delicious seafood and more mini-golf courses than you can shake a putter at! My family frequented this beach for years, and I still have not managed to try every mini-golf course (not from lack of trying!). Ocean City can be a good choice for frugal travelers who don’t need to spend extra to stay in more posh communities like Bethany.

7. Philadelphia, PA (142 mi, 3 hrs)

Famous as the birthplace of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Philadelphia offers much more than just cobblestone streets and historical landmarks. Cultural, culinary, artistic and ethnic treasures abound in this city and its surrounding countryside. What makes Philadelphia so memorable are the unique blend of experiences that you have to discover in person. By day, explore four centuries of history and architecture, beautiful neighborhoods, and remarkable museum collections. After the sun sets, the city heats up with acclaimed performing arts, amazing dining and vibrant nightlife. And don’t forget: it’s worth the trip just for the city’s signature cheese steak!

8. Atlantic City, NJ (197 mi, 3.5hrs)

From New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse to deep-sea fishing, and everything in between, you can always find excitement in Atlantic City. Relax at one of the Atlantic City casino spas, go all in on the excitement of 24/7 gaming, experience the thrill of a full house, feel the sand between your toes or visit one of the many attractions in this historic resort town. Atlantic City also offers an extensive boardwalk, pristine golf courses, and a variety of water sports to enjoy on your road tripping adventure.

9. Pittsburgh, PA (255 mi, 5hrs)

Previously known as a blue-collar city responsible for half of the steel production in the states, Pittsburgh has truly transformed itself into a unique and exciting travel destination.  Whether its catching a game of one of the city’s three professional teams or checking out the top notch museums and fine arts centers funded by the legacy of Andrew Carnegie, the city truly exhibits a unique flavor. Pittsburgh has many public green spaces, parks and riverside trails maintained throughout the city’s hilly landscape. From many of these areas, walkers, joggers and bikers are treated to spectacular views of a skyline that’s scene sleek, towering glass and steel architecture is a dramatic departure from the days when the grey cloud of industry loomed over the ‘Burgh.

10. Raleigh, NC (256 mi, 4.5 hrs)

When you’re looking for the excitement and attractions of a great city, combined with the affordability, approachability and appeal of a classic town with authentic southern hospitality, look no further than Raleigh. Best known for its world-class museums, best-of-Broadway shows, Capital area historic sites, professional sporting events and shopping mecca status (nine major retail areas!), Raleigh truly offers a variety of entertainment all in one park-like, scenic setting.

Stargazing is among the oldest leisure activities. But as our civilization has grown, many of our cities have become too bright to properly admire the night sky. For the stargazing traveler, we’ve identified 5 towns that are far enough away from well-lit downtowns to afford stunning stargazing. Fortunately, taking in the night sky is a year-round opportunity; so pick a spot where you like the weather and just be sure to keep your head up after sunset.

South Lake Tahoe, California
South Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in the United States, is a spectacular stargazing locale. With views of deep blue water and pine-covered mountains, Lake Tahoe is the ideal location for constellation-hunting. Bliss State Park and Emerald Bay State Park are particularly choice settings for amateur astronomy. Don’t miss Northstar-at-Tahoe’s stargazing tours, led by the president of the Nevada Science Coalition.

Lahaina, Hawaii
“Overall, the grounds were meticulously maintained, the pool was lovely, the views were great, and the star gazing at night is not to be missed!” -Laub Family from Fairfax Station, Virginia reviewing Kahana Village #36

The Milky Way and Jupiter’s bands are both visible from this beautiful, remote island town. 2,300 miles from the U.S. Mainland, Hawaii has the darkest skies in America. Before sunset, tour the beautiful countryside on the Sugar Cane Train, Hawaii’s only railroad. At nightfall, enjoy extraordinary stargazing from Maui’s black sand beaches.

Moab, Utah
The American Southwest is famous worldwide for stargazing, and for good reason: the pink Western sunsets melt into big-sky starlight. For exceptional sky views, visit two of America’s most renowned National Parks: Arches and Canyonlands. Moab also features several excellent Jeep-rental outfitters, so grab one and take in the classic John Ford Western backdrop while star-searching. During the day, continue to embrace the great outdoors: Moab is renowned for its mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, and skiing.

Taos, New Mexico
“We enjoyed the use of the hot tub while gazing up at the stars, and the view from the front porch is magnificent.” – Beth from Albuquerque reviewing Casita Perdido

Taos is almost 7,000 feet above sea level and sports fantastically clear skies that are nearly entirely free of pollution. Explore Carson National Forest and keep your gaze upward—you’ll catch superlative views of Venus, Mercury, and several constellations: Orion, Gemini, and Taurus. Hike Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s highest peak, to bask in exceptional starlight.

Big Sky, Montana
All you need to know about Montana sky gazing is contained in Big Sky’s name. A very small town, Big Sky sports minimal light pollution and vapor-free skies. Check out dramatic Ousel Falls and look for Mars, which is outstanding in the Montana high country. Winter is your best bet; ski Big Sky’s uncrowded slopes by day and relax under the starry sky by night.

No matter where you end up, keep your eyes open while admiring the night’s beauty. You never know when you might get lucky and catch a glimpse of  a shooting star.

The leaves are already changing all across North America—don’t hesitate to finalize your plans before the symphony of color turns to winter white! For all of you fall foliage travelers, we’ve ranked the top ten best North American leaf-peeping destinations by comparing their autumn beauty with the overall appeal of their vacation accommodations and attractions.

Montreal1. Montreal, Canada Take in Montreal’s outstanding fall scenery while rafting the Lachine Rapids or exploring Mount Royal, two outdoor adventure opportunities in close proximity to the city. No large Canadian city can match Montreal’s vibrant culture—so come back downtown and enjoy the nightlife in the evening.

2. Stowe, Vermont Stowe’s fall foliage is spectacular. Convenient to Interstate 98, Stowe’s burst of autumnal color is just peaking—hop in the car or book your flight today to catch the leaves before they fall! Extend your stay to take advantage of this rustic resort town’s exceptional East Coast skiing accommodations.

Denver3. Denver, Colorado Denver, a city of more than half a million people, is often under-appreciated for its fall foliage. Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Denver is an exciting metropolis within close driving distance of the best autumn sightseeing the Western U.S. has to offer. Leaf peep while exploring Colorado’s nearby wine country or by catching a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater, one of the most famous outdoor venues in the United States.

4. Quebec City, Canada The capital of the province of Quebec is an ideal destination for taking in autumn’s awesome palette. Enjoy the panoramas of leaves while visiting nearby pick-your-own strawberry farms or Montmorency Falls, a waterfall almost 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls. Quebec City’s additional attractions include a rich French heritage and its Old Town section, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bar Harbor5. Bar Harbor, Maine Located on Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor is never prettier than during the changing of the leaves. Bar Harbor, famous for its pastoral setting and peaceful beauty, also includes the largest portion of Acadia National Park, affording dramatic views of Cadillac Mountain.

6. Logan, Ohio This small Ohio town sports exceptional leafy fall fireworks—especially at Hocking Hills State Park, which features multiple dramatic rock-shelter waterfalls. More unusually, Logan is also home to the last washboard manufacturer in the nation, the Columbus Washboard Company, as well as the annual Washboard Music Festival.

7. Lake Placid, New York Lake Placid’s stunning autumnal aesthetics can be richly appreciated by hiking: all 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks are convenient by car. Lake Placid was also the home of the 1980 Winter Olympics and the famous Miracle on Ice.Sedona

8. Sedona, Arizona Sedona features stunning sandstone sunsets and exceptional fall foliage. Enjoy the leaves by making a trip to Tonto National Forest or the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a church dramatically built into a rock face. Visit in October and you can also catch the Sedona Jazz on the Rocks festival!

9. Branson, Missouri This town is one of the best in the Midwest for choice leaf-peeping. Branson features two gorgeous lakes—Table Rock and Bull Shoals—both of which make an exceptional fall-foliage day trip. A visit to Silver Dollar City will please the whole family: it’s a popular theme park known to some as a Midwestern Dollywood or a far more kid-friendly Las Vegas.

The Bershires
10.  The Berkshires, Massachusetts No fall foliage best-of would be complete without the Berkshires. Attractive towns in the region include Pittsfield and Williamstown, Massachusetts. Pittsfield is worth a stop for the foliage displays afforded by Pittsfield State Forest alone. This bucolic town also hosts the Berkshires Museum, the cultural epicenter of the Berkshires, and can boast of being the place Moby Dick was written. While in Williamstown, enjoy the fall scenery during a tour of Williams College, the definition of the picturesque elite liberal arts school.

Don’t let autumn escape you. After all, leaf peeping is more popular than you may realize—and for good reason. In fact, fall foliage tourism is an $8 billion industry in New England alone, with visitors flocking from all over the globe.

With cold temperatures and a dearth of sunlight, January and February are the hardest months of the year for those of us who live in northern climes. Working hours and daylight hours tend to coincide, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) becomes highly contagious. The best cure for the winter doldrums: a change of scene. A weekend getaway can breathe life into the dark side of the year, keep up morale, and leave you with enough sunshine and happiness to ward off SAD for another week.

No matter where you go to escape, searching for last minute availability in vacation rental homes can be a great way to put together an affordable spur of the moment mini-vacation when you know that you just have to get away and relax. With that in mind, Here are some ideas for wicked winter weekends…

1. Ski the East

Within driving or train distance of New York and most states north of the mid-Atlantic, New Hampshire’s White Mountains and Vermont’s Green Mountains are home to the best skiing East of the Rockies. Piles of snow, small town charm, and New England tradition round out the experience and will keep you re-living your mountain retreat for the rest of the week. (Full Disclosure: this getaway makes the top of the list because this blogger skis New Hampshire almost every weekend and still can’t get enough).

2. Get the sled out

January is “Learn a Snowsport” month, and what cooler sport to learn than dogsledding? Imagine speeding across frozen terrain under the power of a team of huskies. You may not be ready to train for the Iditarod quite yet, but many dogsledding outfits, such as Winterdance in Canada and Husky Power Dogsledding in Maryland, offer everything from half-day tours and moonlight rides to multi-day adventures. For a weekend you can head to northern New England, Michigan, Canada, and many other snowy areas to join mushers and their dogs for the thrill of a lifetime.

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.

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!

With winter knocking on our doors travelers are starting to plan their escapes from hibernation, whether it be to the sun-soaked shores of Hawaii or the snowy slopes of Aspen.  We compiled a list of the top ten vacation rental destinations of September so you can start planning your great escape…

1. Gulf Coast of Florida: It’s no wonder why Florida’s Gulf Coast is a consistently popular place to vacation.  Famed for its iridescent beaches and a whole host of activities ranging from surfing and sun bathing to hiking and shopping, this is a fabulous spot for any group.

2. Outer Banks, North Carolina: These charming barrier islands draw a strong interest, and for good reason too.  With hoards of light houses, sleepy towns and feral ponies running wild, the Outer Banks make for an ideal family vacation.  Cape Hatteras is ideal for the adventurer, with its Diamond Shoals- the site of many demised ships. The snorkeling and scuba diving here are limitless.

3. Florida Keys: This chain of islands, which at the southern most tip reaches a mere 90 miles from Cuba, has an enticing laid back culture.  Key West is one of the most attractive islands here, with Duval Street maintaining the heartbeat in this eclectic island.  With Ernest Hemingway’s seven-toed cats running around the island, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the allure of the island.

4. Disney- Orlando, Florida: Mickey, Minnie, Pluto…where else but Disney?  Considered one of “the most magical places on earth”, Disney is a must for any child, regardless of age.  With numerous theme parks in the area as well as some of the best dining in Orlando, a trip to this central Floridian city is sure to please everyone in the family.
5. Paris, France:  Paris, the magnanimous capitol of France, serves as a cultural and financial leader in Europe while remaining one of the most visited cities in the world.  With a vast array of activities to tempt unsuspecting visitors, like strolling the Seine River, taking in the awe inspiring stained glass of Notre-Dame, or feasting on the delicacies that each quaint café has to offer, Paris certainly lives up to its reputation.

6. Oregon Coast: The Oregon Coast, stretching for over 350 miles, is a delightful treat for any sun-seeking family.  With the entire coast remaining public domain, there is endless opportunity for hiking, fishing, swimming, even just relaxing on the beach while seals frolic in the Pacific.

7. Gatlinburg, Tennessee: Gatlinburg serves as a doorway to some of Tennessee’s most spectacular natural sights.  With the Smoky Mountains and Pigeon Forge lapping at the outer skirts, Gatlinburg offers plenty of activities for the adventurous family including the tram that floats above the majestic Smoky Mountains.

8. Kauai, Hawaii: With its lush, diverse tropical beauty and its brilliant ability to withstand any major resorts, Kauai remains as one of the most sought after Hawaiian Islands to visit.  With the dense jade green rainforest in the interior and the crystal blue ocean lapping at the sandy white shores, Kauai’s immaculate natural beauty is worth the trip.

9. Maui, Hawaii:  Maui, the sister island to Kauai, has its own unique vibe that attracts its own breed of Hawaiian travelers.  With three volcanoes, some of which are still active, Maui beckons to be explored.  Take an early morning hike up the Kaleakala volcano for an unrivaled glimpse of what has often been called the most beautiful sunrise in the world.  Or spend the day sipping Mai Tais on the black sand beaches of Hana.

10. Aspen, Colorado:  With winter fast approaching and many ski resorts opening their chair lifts already, it’s no surprise that Aspen comes in at our number 10 vacation destination.  This city, which at its heart is a quaint ski town, has experienced a transformation over the past decade.  The contrasting dualities of the town make it one of the most exciting places to visit, plus the excess of fresh powder makes Aspen/Snowmass one of the best places to ski in the world.

When traveling with the family in tow, staying at a hotel is never an easy option. With the kids along side you for your travels, be sure to consider not only our top 10 family friendly destinations, but also the option of staying in a vacation rental.

With a vacation rental you have all the amenities of a home at your fingertips. Almost all of the properties on our site offer a full kitchen, so you won’t have to rack up so many pricey restaurant bills. Unwind or spend an evening playing a game in your rental property’s family room, common space, or back-yard.

So, with no further ado, here is this year’s list of FlipKey’s top ten family vacation destinations:

Orlando, Florida

A trip to Orlando is, perhaps, the quintessential family vacation. Between Shamu performing flips at Sea World and Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World sparkling on the horizon, kids won’t know what to do first. These resorts aren’t just great for the little ones; Orlando also has some seriously delicious dining. After a full day at the amusement park, relax with some gourmet eats at Emeril’s Orlando, or Jimmy Buffet’s chain of restaurants, Cheeseburger in Paradise. Once you’ve had your fill of theme parks, head to the Kennedy Space Center for a taste of real life thrills. Take a tour of a real rocket ship and the infamous grounds of the Apollo 13 flight center. Time it right and you might even be able to watch a space ship launch into the skies.

 

San Diego, California

One of San Diego’s most popular attractions is the world-renowned San Diego Zoo.  Bring your kids to see the zoo’s famous panda collection. After the zoo, head to Balboa Park and enjoy the beautiful botanical gardens, free IMAX movies, summer concert series, and over 14 museums.  With so many museums to choose from, you are virtually guaranteed to find exhibits that cater to the diverse interests of every family member.

Museums range in subject matter from science and air and space, to automotive, sports, and art museums.  Also, be sure to visit one of Balboa Park’s most child-inspired attractions, the Puppet Theatre, which is designed to seat over 200 people.  Wow, talk about puppets hitting the big time!  After the puppet show, take the kids

Paradise Islands, Bahamas

The Bahamas are a great place to escape to with the whole family. Located in the Caribbean Ocean, the beaches here are exquisite. The Atlantis Resort is a great way to spend an afternoon. Your kids will love the 9 water slides, aquariums, and a shark tank (really). And for the parents they offer a top-notch spa, and a casino. The best part about it is they offer day passes for families that are not staying at the hotel, so you can enjoy the facilities by day and your vacation rental by night (without the hefty price tag of lodging at the hotel). Once you’ve had your fill here, get in touch with your aquatic side by swimming with the dolphins at Dolphin Encounters. Prince George Wharf is a great place to go to check out the local cuisine and traditions. This market sells everything Bahamian from jewelry and clothes to baskets and food!

London, England

London, England is a great family destination, offering a glimpse of foreign culture without a language barrier. Taking in the sites from the second floor of a double-decker big red bus is an exhilarating way to check out the city. The Princess Diana Memorial Playground is a great place to let your kids blow off some steam. Your kids will love the life-size pirate ships and tee-pees (modeled after Peter Pan). Be sure to take sometime for yourself and unwind, head to Coffee and Crayons Café, a coffee shop that will entertain your kids with arts and crafts while you enjoy some time to breathe.

If you have a family of museum lovers, The Tate Museum is a modern art museum that will invoke the imagination of all. With familiar and unfamiliar works of art sprinkled throughout this gallery, your whole family will love the experience. The Globe Theatre, home to Shakespeare’s original plays, is a treat for children and adults alike. Here you can see some of the classics performed in the setting that Shakespeare envisioned. Check out Matinee shows for ticket savings, while introducing the kiddies to some culture.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

With zip lines that whiz you through the forest canopy, Jeep safari tours, sport fishing, and SCUBA diving, Puerto Vallarta is a great spot for the adventure hungry family. If you’re looking for some more excitement, the public squares hold fiestas that are open to the public and offer a taste of Mexico. Be sure to take some time to unwind on the beautiful ribbons of beaches that stretch along the coast. Puerto Vallarta has great festivals in the springtime, April and May specifically. May is witness to the month long Cultural Festival, where locals celebrate the customs and traditions of the region. With games, livestock, exhibits and local food, to the entire fam will be impressed and invigorated.

Ocean City, Maryland

This appropriately named city is a beach haven for families. With what has been dubbed the ‘best boardwalk’ that stretches for miles (literally), every turn holds a new surprise. Your kids will love exploring the entertainment here. Street performers, arcades, carousels and food stalls colorfully paint the picture. Be sure to get a taste of the salt water taffy, Fisher’s Carmel Popcorn and the French fries from Thrashers. The nighttime offers hoards of entertainment, too. Live concerts at dusk followed by bonfires on the beach at night are a great way to end the day. Late September in Ocean City is home to the Kite Festival. With colorful kites majestically blowing in the balmy winds, it’s a great way to send off the summer.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is a quirky funky town that is brimming with things to entice and inspire. Antoni Gaudi, Spain’s most well-known Art Nouveau architect, strongly influenced Barcelona’s identity with his natural designs and bright abstract colors that are sprinkled throughout the city. His Park Guell is a beautiful place to take the kids, with amazing views of the city plus jungle gyms. One you’ve seen the sites in the city, consider a day trip to Montjuic. Take the Montjuic Gondola, which departs from Barcelonita and provides you with amazing views of the city that rests below. You’ll arrive at the top of Montjuic, a mountain that borders Barcelona. Besides the breathtaking views (again!) of the city, you can check out Castle Montjuic. It is now a military museum that houses several canons that your kids will love to climb on. Top the day off by watching the fountains on Montjuic put on a night show, with lights, colors and music.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone Park is a great place for the family who’s looking for a nature retreat. Adventure out into the wilderness on horseback for some real fun. Or head downstream in white water rafts. Old Faithful is a natural wonder that is both beautiful and puzzling. Be sure to plan your visit so that you can witness this marvel. Cheyenne Frontier Days, a festival during July, is an exciting place for the kids. Take your kids to the festival and teach them about Native American life, amidst the rodeos, cook-offs and National Guard Air Show. Nighttime is just as exciting as the day. Share scary stories around a bonfire while smores melt in your mouth. Turn off all the lights for a view of the skies that is unrivaled. Stars twinkle while meteors flash across the sky.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Scoop up the kids and hop a plane to Myrtle Beach, SC where there is truly something for every member of the family.  Enjoy 60 miles of beaches, known as the “Grand Stand”. Once off the sand and in the ocean, there is no shortage of water sports to keep you busy.  Try snorkeling, surfing, fishing, parasailing, or even a sunset cruise. When you tire of salt water, head to one of the areas many water parks and glide down a giant water slide.

Once you’re back on dry land, be sure to play some mini golf, one of Myrtle Beach’s signature activities.  With over 40 mini golf courses and plenty of actual golf courses to choose from, Myrtle Beach will satisfy both the adult and youth golf players in the family.  On a rain day, hit Ripley’s Aquarium and gaze into the giant tanks to view Reefs and Sting Rays, or head to the Children’s Museum or Planetarium.

With the economy starting to make a slow recovery, the smartest travelers are taking advantage of what’s likely to be one of the last waves of recession-inspired travel deals and promotions. With our saving savvy travelers in mind, we’ve compiled a list of FlipKey’s top 5 bargain vacation rentals. We were pretty surprised with what we found, from the shores of North Carolina to Italian castles, a small budget can stretch around the world!

Best FlipKey Bargains:

1) “Akbuk Apartment,” Akbuk, Turkey: Experience an exotic culture without spending a fortune. This 6 person home will run you about $21 per night. Close to the shores of the Aegean Sea, this home will offer you sandy beaches to relax on and exciting adventures to encounter, with none of that buyer’s remorse.

2) “Hillcrest Holiday Apartment,” Jeffreys Bay, South Africa:This African gem is one of the least expensive deals out there, at $210 per week. Overlooking the warm waters of the Southern Ocean, this house offers one of the most unique experiences at a most affordable price.

3) “La Castellana,” Tuscany, Italy: Who says you can’t live like a king on a minimal budget? Not the people at La Castellana, who rent their 2 person apartment situated in the Castle of Orciatico for only $35 a night. Located in the heart of Tuscany, this 7th century apartment is sure to be a royal vacation.

4) “Egyptian Experience,” Sinai, Egypt: For the group looking to change things up a bit, this apartment located on the Red Sea is your answer. For $250 a week you can enjoy views of both the Sinai desert and the sea from your balcony. Walk the ancient sands and experience what is often considered the cradle of civilization to get a taste of adventure.

5) “Conched Out Apt,” Emerald Island, NC: For a mere $50 a night or $200a week, this quaint rental sleeps four comfortably and is located on one of the hottest destinations on the east coast: the Carolinian shore. Perfect for the cost conscious!