Category Archives: Vacation Rentals

24 hours in Milan, Italy

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Milan was the very first Italian city I visited 28 years ago. I had visited the country for the Christmas and New Year holidays. I remember how cold it was and often even gray, but I also remember being incredibly impressed by the stylish people, many of whom reminded me of those I saw along 5th Avenue in NYC. I was also really captivated by the architectural beauty of the city, the cobblestone streets reflecting an older time and how it all fit so beautifully with the cosmopolitan flair of the city life. Spending the winter holidays in Northern Italy was a highlight in my life as a young traveler.

On my most recent visit, this time with husband and kids, I only had one full day to share as much as I could with my family, since it was their first time in the city, and reconnect with the city that had so impressed me years ago.

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Two beautiful days at Lake Como, Italy

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One of the highlights of our road trip through northern Italy was our stay in Lake Como. Most of our stops were in the Lombardy region, where there are lakes galore. Lake Como, the third largest lake in Italy and one of the deepest, is heavily visited by locals and tourists alike, especially during the summer months. Finding a place to stay can be difficult, and though parking is difficult, finding a home rental – our choice for this stay – was even more so.

We lucked out because we arrived just before the travel season had really kicked-off. We also arrived on a weekend, finding a parking spot just down the hill from our apartment rental that didn’t need us having to pay or move our car during our entire stay.

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Vacationing on Le Boat

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This year has been full of amazing road trips adventures. I have always said that one of the reasons I enjoy road trips so much is because of all the things you can see that you wouldn’t otherwise were you on a plane. The road trip through the Southwest that I took with my girlfriends on an RV was a great way of turning the fun of road tripping and camping into one fun experience with friends.

While in France, and in between road trips, I took the experience to the next level with Le Boat. Le Boat are boat vacation rentals that you can sleep in, cook in, hang out in – much like an RV – except your journey takes you along the canals of the European destination of your choice. On this trip, some friends and I ventured through most of the Canal du Midi taking off near Carcassonne, for a taste of the life on a boat.

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Family Vacation Destinations in France

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In my hope to help you plan your own family vacation through France, I have shared details of our own trip.

So far, I’ve shared tips on how to rent a country home in Renting a GÎte in France. Then I’ve shared tips and lessons learned while Planning a Family Vacation in France.

In this post, I want to highlight the fun places we visited during our trip.

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Renting a Gîte in France

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When my husband and I decided to vacation in France with the kids, we knew immediately that we would want to rent a house or large apartment.

As our family gets older and with all of us wanting more space, vacation home rentals are just the way to go. They are also huge money-savers from not having to eat out all the time, be entertained all the time just to get out of the hotel, and the needing an extra hotel room to accommodate the kids.

When it came to lodging during our week at the Midi-Pyrenees, we had several options: hotels, many of which would need more than one room to accommodate my large family, an apartment in the center of the city, or a gîte. I chose a gîte, which was the most costly upfront, but eventually balanced out in what we saved from not having to eat out every night, especially in Toulouse which is pricey.

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Getting to Know The Lake Tahoe Region

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“Lake Tahoe is not a town, it’s a region in both the states of CA and NV.”

This was one of the first lessons I learned upon arriving to the area as a guest of the Squaw Creek Resort. Like most people, I didn’t really understand the geography of the area and, like most people, I had limited knowledge about how diverse the region was, or even that extends beyond the limits of one single geographic landmark. I flew into Reno, NV, which most people use to get to the area by plane, though I’ve heard Amtrak is also a fabulous choice if driving is not an option.

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My Go With Oh Dream Apartment in Rome

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My family and I are talking about taking a big European vacation next year and the research and planning has already begun. One of the places that we have been wanting to return to is Rome, because after our visit this past summer it has remained one of my teen’s favorite European destinations, even though when we went we had only a few pennies in our pocket.

I think that because we didn’t really get a chance to experience Rome to its fullest and because my husband has never been, it remains is on the top of our list.

So of course, when my friend Sara from Go With Oh told me about a contest they are hosting, called Be Our Guest Tester, that required me to pick an apartment in any one of their markets and then talk about why I chose it, I thought it would be fun, especially since I am already planning a trip anyway. In sharing my dream stay with you, I am entered for a chance to win 1000€ towards my stay. 

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Taking it Easy in San Francisco, CA

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Of course during our 2013 road trip, we had to stop in San Francisco, but by the time we got there we wanted nothing more than to take it slow, keep the activities to a bare minimum, and try simply to enjoy the sites without forcing ourselves into traffic – which as far as West Coast traffic goes, started in San Francisco for us. We felt it immediately as we tried to maneuver our Yukon Denali through the busy city streets. The public transportation system is supposed to be really good in San Fran, everyone told us so, but without really know where to get buses, how long the waits for them were, and not really wanted to deal with the traffic and crowds, we just didn’t even try.

Yes. We were that tired.

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Top Family-Friendly U.S. & International Spring Break Destinations

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It’s Spring Break – almost. Any plans? Well, if you’re like me, you are still trying to figure it out, still waiting for that great deal to that fabulous place.

Well, I just got some great news for Airbnb! They have been gaining popularity among travelers like crazy, and for good reason. They continue to offer some of the best lodging options both here in the states and internationally and travelers I have met overseas using their services are singing their praises.

Airbnb looked at what destinations are trending for Spring Break this year and they were interested to see a number of unexpected destinations topping the list, compared to last year. Following is a list of the Top 5 Family Friendly Spring Break Destinations in the U.S. and the site’s Top 6 International Destinations. Beside each destination, we’ve highlighted a unique space travelers can experience in that destination. Spaces range from a historic townhome and custom-built log cabin to a beach condo and a retro modern city apartment.

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Things to keep in mind when renting a vacation home

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Recently, I shared with you the wonderful experience I had renting a vacation home when traveling to Paris with my son.

I was lucky because my experience was pretty flawless from beginning to end. For those of you thinking about choosing the path of vacation rentals by owners for your travels, I have some tips on what to keep in mind so that your experience is a positive one as well.

When I started my search, I relied on the Internet, however, I made it a point to avoid classifieds and free listings. Instead I decided to put my trust, and a bit of extra cash, in using a rental agency that specializes in such types of transactions.

But for most of it, even with an agent with whom I interacted mostly over the phone and via email, I relied on Google and other websites for images, searched for reviews not only of the area I was looking to rent in, but also of the agency I was using.

This wasn’t available when I first rented the flat in Paris, but these days I also rely heavily on online maps, such as Google map, for street views and at least an exterior view of the building/home and its immediate surrounding area. Also, check the website for the area, often provided by the destination’s tourism agency, as this can tell you anything from what to do, eat, and enjoy there, and whether it is family-friendly or not.

From the agent, you should always ask for references, not only for their agency, but also for the property you are looking to rent. Always ask for a copy of a checklist of what is included in your rental, from amenities to furnishings.

If the rental agency doesn’t immediately provide you with more than just a couple of pictures for the interior of the property, insist that they send you some. One picture or two is not enough to give you a good image of the place the could make, or break if not careful, your vacation stay. If it’s listed as being on the beach or a lake for example, ask to see pictures of that.

When you enter your vacation home or flat, make sure to take pictures of anything that may be damaged in anyway. You want to make sure to point these out to the rental agency right away, either via phone or on the checklist they provide you at time of entry into the premises.

Sometimes, you can get away with not being in the neighborhood you want due to cost, but end up getting a much better deal in a neighborhood that’s just as nice, if not better, for a lesser price.

As is the case here in NYC, most visitors want to stay in trendy places such as Greenwich Village or Soho, when the truth is, these are easy to get to from pretty much any other area in Manhattan, and there are locations a bit further uptown that would not only be less expensive, but bigger and even nicer. Ask the rental agency for options.

Be wary of “amazing” sounding pitches of the property. “Close to all attractions!” or “10 minutes from the beach!” can depend a lot on whether you are walking, taking public transportation, or renting a car.

Never, ever take anything for granted. Ask a lot of question, ask to see a lot of images both of the premises and of the surrounding area, be clear on what your expectations and specific desires for your vacation home are (noting of course that this might add to the cost), and be willing to compromise on location for another that might offer something different, but just as good if not better.

Lastly, though the process sounds like it might be a lot to take on and maybe even a bit daunting, rest assure that especially throughout the years, the process has gotten much easier and there are many great options out there to choose from. It really can be one of the best vacation lodging decisions you ever make.

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