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Tips to Ensure Vacation Rentals Don't Disappoint

23.03.2010 In: World travel news
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Here are a few tips from the Better Business Bureau, travel experts and seasoned renters to make sure you don't get burned when you rent a home for your vacation.

—Get a written agreement spelling out terms and conditions. Never wire money or write a personal check. Plastic is the way to go because your credit card company may offer some protection. If you can show that promised goods and services were not provided, you may be able to get a refund.

—Don't trust an owner who will only communicate via e-mail, and don't hesitate to pick up the phone to ask the owner/property manager detailed questions or even request more photos than those displayed in the online ad.

—Find out how you'll get back your security deposit, if there is one, and what it covers.

—Ask friends for recommendations. If you decide on a house or condo belonging to a stranger, ask for references from others who have stayed there.

— If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In most cases, you get what you pay for.

—Plug the property owner and address into a Web browser and see what comes up. You may discover complaints from previous renters. Make sure you're dealing with the real property owner. Scammers can steal information to create phony listings.

—Seasoned renters suggest negotiating with owners/managers on price if vacancy rates in the area are high. You can also inquire about perks to sweeten the deal, like free tickets or discounts to local activities.

—Be skeptical of glowing online reviews, especially if the reviewers are anonymous.

—Ask the owner/property manager to define nebulous terms like "oceanfront property" and "5-minute walk to the beach." Make sure you're clear on such things as how far the house is from the center of town.

—If the owner doesn't live in the area, find out if there's a local caretaker who can deal with problems like blown fuses or an overflowing toilet. Find out whom to contact in case of an emergency.

—If you have physical limitations, ask about handicap accommodations including elevator service. Everyone, with or without disabilities, is likely to want to know about noise levels, air conditioning and heating, and mattresses.

—If your group plans big communal meals, make sure there are enough pots, pans, utensils and table service. Inquire about essentials like coffee makers, cutting boards and good knives.

—Ask what the cleaning fees will be, and try to determine whether any fees have gone unmentioned. Pauline Frommer of Pauline Frommer travel guides notes that in some European countries you may have to pay extra for electricity or other utilities. Ask about phone service, Internet and Wi-Fi.

—If possible, visit the property before renting it.

—If a property doesn't live up to its billing, document problems with pictures or videos. Complain immediately to the owner or property manager. Keep receipts. Compile a meticulous record of all transactions and what went wrong. If you believe you've been a victim of fraud, you may be able to seek recourse in court. Check your state's consumer protection laws to see what you may be entitled to and whether there are deadlines for filing.

-- By ANN LEVIN For The Associated Press

Cruise Insurance: Natural Disaster and Protection

19.03.2010 In: Travel tips
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With recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, bad weather and rogue waves impacting cruises, and hurricane season rapidly approaching, you might be wondering how to protect your cruise vacation from a natural disaster or other unforeseen event. Cruise Critic always recommends buying third-party travel insurance when you're paying for a cruise and associated travel in advance -- but do you know what's covered and what's not?

We spoke with some insurance agencies to get you all the latest information on just how insurance works when disaster strikes.

What's Covered?

"Travel insurance doesn't cover state of mind -- just events," says Dan McGinnity, vice president of Travel Guard. If your flights or cruise are canceled or delayed, and you need to make alternate arrangements or are...

Trips to wow the kids

17.03.2010 In: Travel tips
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Explore the first national park!
Established in 1872, Yellowstone is the mother of the national parks movement worldwide (nps.gov/yell, admission $25 per vehicle, good for seven days). Spread across the borders of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, the reserve attracts some 3 million visitors annually, all with geysers and bears on the brain.

To dodge the crowds—and keep your antsy crew fully engaged—you need a game plan. First, avoid the daily traffic jam at the park gates by shelling out a little extra to stay in the center of the action. Park vendor Xanterra rents cabins for four with private baths (travelyellowstone.com, from $70 in summer).

Be sure to sign up for some of the free Junior Ranger Program activities, geared to kids ages 5 to 12, and to interested parents (nps.gov,...

Travelling this Year

Consider the costs. Airfares have gone up approximately 9 percent in the last year and are likely to continue a progression toward higher prices as fewer people spend the money to travel and certain flights are at far less than capacity. The problem is only partially due to the airlines themselves. Taxes and fees account for approximately 25 percent of the price of a ticket. Luckily, as taxes have increased over the last ten years (from 11 percent to 16 percent), airlines have been able to reduce certain fees so that passengers have been able to avoid feeling the pinch. However, that is all likely to change.

Current domestic travel taxes are $10.70 per segment plus an additional 7.5 percent of the fare price. There are currently several bills on the table that would raise the taxes and...

Travel 2010: Shanghai, Vancouver, Mexico, Orlando

Forecasts for 2010 predict that more people will be traveling, but the numbers are still well below what they were before the recession. Still, if you can afford to get away, interesting events will drawing visitors to destinations around the world, from Shanghai to South Africa to Orlando.

And here's a surprise: Mexico is turning up on some top 10 lists for 2010, despite the swine flu epidemic and worries over drug violence.

DESTINATIONS: Several destinations will be in the tourism spotlight in 2010 thanks to headline-grabbing events, including the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Feb. 12-28; the FIFA World Cup soccer games in South Africa, for a month beginning June 11; and the Shanghai World Expo, May 1-Oct. 31, a 21st century world's fair that organizers are hoping will...

Animal Travel Safety: Protecting Your Pet in the Air

04.03.2010 In: Travel tips
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To the baggage handlers loading Buddy's kennel onto American Airlines Flight 1526 from Fort Lauderdale to Chicago's O’Hare Airport last November, the four-year-old pit bull seemed sedate, but otherwise in good health.

But when baggage handlers in Chicago pulled him off the plane, they made the heartbreaking discovery that Buddy had passed away. A veterinarian examining Buddy found no cause of death, and the case was closed, according to a Department of Transportation Pet Incident Report.

Unfortunately, Buddy's tragic story is not an isolated incident for pets traveling in the baggage hold of an airplane. From November 2008 to December 2009, a tally of DOT reports revealed 27 deaths and seven injuries of pets on domestic airlines.

The Humane Society of the United States warns...

Wyndham buys British vacation property renter

Hospitality company Wyndham Worldwide said Monday it agreed to acquire Britain's Hoseasons Holdings Ltd. for $60 million.

Wyndham, in Parsippany, said it made the acquisition through its European rentals business unit. HgCapital and other individual owners sold Hoseasons, a provider of vacation rentals for more than 15,000 villas, cottages and boats in seven European countries, to Wyndham.

Wyndham’s European vacation rentals business includes such brands as English Country Cottages, Landal GreenParks and Canvas Holidays, with more than 60,000 properties across more than 20 countries.

Wyndham said it hopes to secure regulatory approval before end of the first quarter.

Vacation rentals vs. hotels: How you could save big on your next trip

01.03.2010 In: World travel news
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By Sarah Pascarella, SmarterTravel.com
I've talked up vacation rentals quite a lot in the past. They're an outstanding value, often providing more room and amenities for your travel dollars than a typical hotel. Rentals can be found in all corners of the globe, from ski destinations to world capitals, spring break beaches to secluded shores. They come in all shapes and sizes, from condo rentals to cozy cabins, sprawling chalets to city apartments.

Fully equipped kitchens allow you to cook some or all of your meals, thus saving money over pricey restaurants. Larger spaces enable groups to travel together and split the lodging costs, offering more affordable per-night rates overall than hotels. The trade-offs? No room service, no daily maid service, and no concierge (for the most part)....

Cabin owners rebel against new rental regulations

01.03.2010 In: World travel news
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ISLAND PARK — As of late Friday, Feb. 26, twenty-eight vacation cabin owners had filed paperwork with Fremont County protesting regulations the county commissioners recently imposed on people who rent their cabins on a short term basis.

They each filed a form provided by the state Attorney General’s office titled, “Request for Taking Analysis.”

The owners claim that the county has violated their private property rights and right to earn income by requiring that they comply with a long list of regulations, and pay annual fees, before they can rent their cabins on a short term basis.

The vacation cabin rental business is huge in Island Park and brisk in other areas of the county. Dozens of cabins are advertised on the internet, and several businesses, including Realtors,...

Cottage rental tax going on Del Mar ballot

DEL MAR — Del Mar voters will soon be asked to decide whether people renting beach cottages should be responsible for paying the same tax paid by guests staying in local hotels.

If approved, the change would raise an estimated $181,000 annually to help the city pay for beach and park maintenance, fire safety and law enforcement.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday to place on the June 8 ballot a measure that would extend the city’s 11.5 percent hotel tax — known as a transient occupancy tax — to vacation rentals of houses and duplexes. The existing tax applies to stays of 30 days or less in multiunit properties, such as hotels, rooming houses, apartments and condominiums.

The ballot measure will require a simple majority to pass.

Del Mar Mayor Richard Earnest...

Zimbabwe hopes to offer haven for the World Cup-weary

Zimbabwe's ailing tourist industry is hoping to restore its health by luring South African holidaymakers eager to escape the football madness of the World Cup.

The world-famous Victoria Falls and rich game parks once made Zimbabwe among Africa's top holiday destinations.

A decade of political unrest and economic chaos scared off most tourists, with arrivals plunging from 1.4 million in 2000 to 223,000 in 2008.

Over the last year, Zimbabwe has begun clawing its back toward normality, abandoning the local currency left worthless by galloping hyperinflation and forming a unity government that has curbed the political violence.

Now the government and private companies are pinning their hopes on South Africa's hosting of the football World Cup to change the country's fortunes, with...

Congress tries to attract foreign tourists to US

Millions of foreign tourists are shying away from U.S. destinations, a trend that Congress hopes to reverse in a travel promotion act it passed Thursday.

The Senate voted 78-18 for the legislation, which sets up a nonprofit corporation for travel promotion tasked with assuring potential visitors that they will be welcomed, helping them with paperwork and informing them of the many American places of interest outside the usual tourist destinations. It now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Obama voiced support for the bill during a recent trip to one of those tourist destinations, Las Vegas, to show solidarity with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who faces a tough re-election campaign. Reid has been a chief backer of the legislation.

Costs for the program...

Vacation Rental is Rising in Terms of Popularity in the Travel Industry

01.03.2010 In: World travel news
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There’s no place like home. Even the most luxurious hotel cannot give you that homely feeling. No hotel bed is ever comfortable enough, regardless of how highly rated, or how high priced the hotel is, because it feels like a hotel, not home.

Many travelers prefer the homey environment of a home rather than a hotel, motel or inn. This is why “vacation rental” is rising in terms of popularity in the travel industry. It basically means renting out a fully-furnished house or condominium room for a predetermined period of time. This type of accommodation is adequately equipped to ensure a comfortable stay away from home for travelers.

Compared to most hotels, vacation rentals offer more space for the guests and more amenities. In addition, there is generally a fully functional...

Make Your Valentine's Day Travel Plans Sweet Ones

04.02.2010 In: Travel tips
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Seeing the World Through Chocolate

For those of us from Chicago, chocolate has long been associated with the Marshall Field family and store. Frango mints are as synonymous with Chicago as Ghirardelli is with San Francisco. While the State Street Marshall Fields store has long since been bought out by Macy's, romantics can still find Frango mints (those succulent chocolate squares with a hint of mint) for sale. While Chicago waved a fond farewell to their flagship department store, the chocolate lives on. For those who can't afford anything more than a staycation this year, a box of Frangos still goes a long way.

However, for those who want to indulge their loved one in a romantic escape, either at Valentine's day (or later), there are a few other spots worth considering.

If...

Romantic Travel Tips

04.02.2010 In: Travel tips
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Romantic Travel Tips

How can you make your trip more romantic? Any trip can be a honeymoon with the right frame of mind. Here you'll find stories to help you bring the magic of romance to any trip, whether it's a weekend in a local hotel or a once-in-a-lifetime getaway.

In-Depth Articles

Romantic Travel During High Security Times These days, all you have to do is pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV and the worries begin. Endless security concerns can make even the most dedicated traveler a little anxious. How can you make sure you have a romantic--and safe--trip during these high security times? Includes sections on pre-trip preparations, trip cancellation insurance, flying with security in mind, and staying safe when you arrive.

Are the Two of Your Traveling with Your Pet?...
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