Travel Misc

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As a business traveler, you’re probably accustomed to staying in large, chain hotels with standardized rooms and amenities.  Whether you’re in Boston or Barcelona, it all feels the same.  But have you ever thought about trying something different?   Here are our top five reasons for choosing a vacation rental for your next business trip.

  1. Live like a local.  Have you ever glanced out a cab window as you’re passing through a charming neighborhood and wondered what it would be like to live there?  Why not rent an apartment in that neighborhood and find out!  Odds are, you’ll enjoy being away from the hustle and bustle of the conference hotel or convention center and you’ll feel like you really got to know the city.
  2. Bring your family.  It’s frustrating when you travel to a great destination but have to leave your family behind.  Staying in a vacation rental offers an affordable way to extend your business trip into a family vacation.  Avoid the costs of multiple hotel rooms and enjoy amenities such as a kitchen, free wifi and enough space to spread out.
  3. Pack light.  Many vacation rentals have a washer/dryer unit in the apartment or offer access to a laundry room in the building.  Avoid extra fees and the inconvenience of checked luggage and pack only what you need for a few days.
  4. Enjoy your own private meeting space.  Rather than meeting with your colleagues in a noisy hotel lobby, take advantage of the private, quiet living room in your vacation rental.  Stock the kitchen with snacks and get your work done without the interruptions and distractions of meeting in a public place.
  5. Book through a reputable agency and get exactly what you want.  Most cities have agencies that represent a broad range of vacation rentals and can offer guidance on location, budget and amenities.  You’ll end up with accommodations that meet your needs and memories of a great stay!

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Choosing a vacation rental over a hotel can be a great way to “live like a local.”  But with thousands of vacation rentals by owner listed online, how do you really know what you’re getting?  There are no guarantees in life, but there are certain steps you can take to find great vacation rentals and avoid any unpleasant surprises.

  1. Find a local vacation rental agency that represents properties in the specific area you’ll be visiting, and make sure the agency inspects all the properties they represent.  Booking a vacation rental property through an agency offers assurance that the property will be clean and well-maintained.   You’ll also be able to choose from a greater selection of vacation rental homes and apartments.
  2. Research your destination before you book anything.  If you’re planning a beach vacation, how far will you have to walk to get to the beach every day?  If you’re visiting a city, make sure you book a vacation rental apartment in a safe neighborhood, near the sites you want to see or accessible to public transportation.
  3. Pay attention to square footage!  City apartments in particular can be tiny, even if they offer two bedrooms.  Figure out how much space your family really needs to be happy on vacation.
  4. Determine what things are essential for your comfort and convenience.  Amenities offered in vacation rentals by owner can vary greatly, so consider whether you’ll need features like high speed internet access, cable TV, central air or a full kitchen.
  5. Before you book, make sure you’ll have 24 hour access to help in case of an emergency.  If the property owner isn’t local, they should have a property management service available. This is another good reason to book through a vacation rental agency.  When the water heater bursts in the middle of the night, you want to know who to call!

For more tips on how to successfully find vacation rentals and avoid vacation rental scams, check out this helpful article:  http://www.inman.com/buyers-sellers/columnists/tomkelly/5-tips-safely-book-a-vacation-rental.  With a little research and planning, you’re sure to have a great vacation!

Boston area colleges are gearing up for the return of students. Some incoming freshmen and upperclassmen have already started to unpack their belongings in their new dorm rooms or Boston area apartments. Others will be joining them this week and next. The best advise to those visiting Boston during this period is to plan.

  • Plan out your drop off strategy as parking is always at a premium. Most universities provide detailed instructions for this stressful event.
  • Plan out your dining options as Boston restaurants are likely to be packed as well. If there is a particular restaurant you would like to try, make a reservation. Restaurant week is winding down so there may be a bit more availability. Try opentable.com
  • Look for discounts on sites like Groupon.com for things to do, restaurant deals, and more.
  • Leave a few days to take in the beauty of the city of Boston and breathe a sigh of relief. You can lots to do by visiting bostonusa.com and massvacation.com
  • Plan your return trip. Parents’ weekends tend to book up quickly so make your Boston travel plans to return to the city. You can visit our site for Boston vacation rentals , Boston B&Bs, and many Boston accommodations at bnbboston.com

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Recent storms have blanketed Boston with snow and have been a bonanza to nearby ski areas.  If you’re staying in Boston this weekend and want to squeeze in some skiing, you won’t have far to go for some of the best conditions of the season!  Here are a few easy day trips from Boston:

Blue Hills Ski Area
Canton, MA
www.ski-bluehills.com
The closest ski area to Boston, Blue Hills is about a 20 minute drive from downtown.  They are reporting a 34”-56” base and almost all trails are open. 

Nashoba Valley Ski Area
Westford, MA
http://www.skinashoba.com
Nashoba Valley is an easy 45 minute drive from Boston, located right off I-495.  They have a 32”-36” base and all trails are open.

Wachusett Mountain
Princeton, MA
http://www.wachusett.com
Wachusett is about an hour’s drive from Boston.  As we mentioned in a previous blog post (12/9/10), skiers can also take the ski train from Boston’s North Station.  Wachusett is reporting a 45”-65” base and all 22 trails are open.

Mount Sunapee
Newbury, NH
www.mountsunapee.com
Billed as the “closest big mountain skiing to Boston,” Sunapee is a 90 minute drive from downtown. They have a 32”-48” base and all trails are open.

Loon Mountain
Lincoln, NH
www.loonmtn.com
Just a little farther away, Loon Mountain is a two hour drive from Boston.  They are reporting a 14”-30” base and have 51 trails open.

Don’t worry if you left your skis at home – equipment rentals are available at all of these mountains.  So bundle up (It’s going to be cold this weekend!) and enjoy some great New England skiing!

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As winter settles in around the country, many of us are starting to dream about our next vacation.  Just about any getaway sounds appealing at this time of year, but not every vacation is right for every traveler.  Here are some great tips for planning your perfect vacation!

Fifteen Commandments of Vacation Travel

By Sandy Soule, PAII

 We all know people who come back from a vacation feeling on top of the world, and others who seem vaguely disappointed. Here’s how to put yourself in the first category, not the second.

 Know yourself. A successful vacation is one that works for the person you are, not the person you think you should be. Confirmed couch potatoes who resent having to walk from the far end of the parking lot will not find true fulfillment on a trek through the Himalayas. If privacy is a top priority, a group tour or communal lodge will turn fantasy into frustration. Acknowledge your own comfort levels. Are independence and flexibility top concerns? Or being structured and secure? How essential are the creature comforts when it comes to sleeping, eating, and bathing? Would you rather have one week of luxury travel or two weeks of budget food and accommodation? And remember that while your personality doesn’t change, your needs do. The type of vacation you plan for a romantic getaway is totally different from a family reunion.

Know your travel companions. Adjust your plans to accommodate your travel partners. Whether you are traveling with friends, spouse, children, and/or parents, you’ll need to take their age, attention span, agility, and interests into account. If you’re traveling with the kids, balance a morning at an art museum with an afternoon at the zoo; if you’re spending time with elderly parents, make sure that they can stroll a country lane while you go rock-climbing; if your group includes skiers and non-skiers, pick a resort that has appealing shops and off-slope activities.

 Plan ahead: anticipation is half the fun. Enjoy the planning process. The more you know about an area you’re going to visit, the more fun you’ll have. Check out destination websites; skim a guidebook; read a novel or watch a movie set in the region; talk to friends who have been there recently.

 Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Keep your itinerary in line with the amount of time and money available. Focus on seeing a smaller area well, rather than trying to cover too much ground and seeing nothing but interstate highways. Don’t over-program; allow yourself the luxury of doing nothing.

 Avoid one-night stands. Plan to stay a minimum of two nights everywhere you go. A vacation made up of one-nighters is a prescription for exhaustion. You will sleep poorly, spend most of your time packing/unpacking and in transit, and will get only the smallest glimpse of the place you’re visiting.

 Travel off-season. Unless your vacation dates are dictated by the school calendar, off-season travel offers many advantages: fewer crowds, greater flexibility, reduced costs, and a more relaxed atmosphere. Learn to pick the best dates for off-season travel; typically these are the weeks just before and after seasonal rates change.

Book well ahead for peak season travel. If you must travel during peak periods to popular destinations, make reservations well in advance for the key sites to avoid aggravation, extra phone calls, and additional driving time.

Take the road less traveled. Get off the beaten path and leave the crowds behind. Instead of booking a room in the heart of the action, find a quiet getaway tucked in the hills or in a neighboring village.

Ditch the car. You’ll need a car to get most destinations, but once you’re there, get out and walk. You’ll see more, learn more, experience more at every level, while avoiding crowds at even the most popular destinations.

Hang loose. The unexpected is inevitable. When your plans go astray (and they will), relax and let serendipity surprise you. And keep your sense of humor in good working order. If possible, travel without reservations or a set itinerary.

Carpe diem–seize the day. Don’t be afraid to follow your impulses. If a special souvenir catches your eye, buy it; don’t wait to see if you’ll find it again later. If a hiking trail looks too inviting to pass up, don’t; that museum or outlet mall will wait for a rainy day.

Don’t suffer in silence. When things go wrong–an incompetent guide, car troubles, a noisy room–speak up. Politely but firmly express your concern then and there; get your room changed, ask for a refund or discount, whatever. Most people in the travel business would rather have you go away happy than to leave grumbling.

Remember–being there is more than seeing there. People travel to see the sights–museums and mountains, shops and scenery–but it is making new friends that can make a trip memorable. Leave a door open to the people-to-people experiences that enrich travel immeasurably.

Don’t leave home to find home. The quickest way to take the wind out of the sails of your trip is to compare things to the way they are at home. Enjoy different styles and cultures for what they are and avoid comparisons and snap judgments.

Give yourself permission to disregard all of the above.  Nothing is immutable. If you find a pattern that works for you, enjoy it!

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Blog of Note: Quirky, irreverent, and sometimes racy, http://hackingtravel.com covers travel from the perspective of a once silver spooned blue blood who’s lost his fortune but not his wanderlust. It’s fun reading. Some of their posts make me just drop into my imagination. Some of their posts almost bring the smell of Belgian waffles from belgium into my room. Take a glance at http://hackingtravel.com