Kid Friendly Vacations

Prudent Baby 8

While searching the internet for topics to write about, looking for something new, cool and informative, I stumbled across a great blog on prudentbaby.com. Reading the blog, I thought, what a great article to share with my readers who have children! I flashed back to my younger years, planning my family’s vacations. No matter where you’re going, how you’re traveling or where you’ll be staying … if the kids aren’t happy … nobody’s gonna be happy!  I had it easy, just one child.  My daughter Dawn didn’t care where we went as long as we stayed in a hotel that had a pool.  Back in those days a vacation meant either driving cross-country to visit relatives or traveling to a kid friendly destination like Disneyland, Sea World or the beach. Budgeting the cost for hotels and three restaurant meals a day on top of travel expenses, entertainment and incidentals limited our vacation choices. I don’t know how long vacation rentals have been around but I do remember as a child, maybe or maybe not fifty-something years ago (am I giving away my age?), my family would rent a summer house at Topsail Beach in North Carolina.  I don’t know how we rented it but I do know that until recent years, vacation rentals have not been widely known or available. Hotels were just about the only option. These days vacation rentals are everywhere and parents are finding that staying in a vacation home is not only more affordable than a hotel but so much easier when kids are involved; from preparing meals at home to separate bedrooms and play space. Shared vacations with family members or friends can be so much fun and very affordable when expenses, planning and entertaining the kids are split. 

If you have children or grandchildren I’m sure you will enjoy the following blog.  Vacation Rentals of the Desert (www.vacationrentalsofthedesert.com) offers many ideal properties for family vacations and we would be happy to help you plan a family get-away.  We offer multiple condos within very close proximity, many side-by-side, and large private homes with pools suitable for entire families.  If you are looking for a location outside the Palm Springs area I recommend searching http://www.discovervacationhomes.com/.  Discover Vacation Homes is affiliated with the Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA).   The VRMA requires their members to maintain high standards and ethical business practices.  Their website provides a comprehensive list of professionally managed and accredited vacation rental companies; a safe source for vacation properties throughout the U.S. and beyond.   Vacation Rentals of the Desert is a proud member of the VRMA.

Prudent Baby
May 8, 2014

10 Tips for the Best Family Vacation Ever

 

Prudent Baby 1

The accommodations which inspired this article were provided by DISCOVER Vacation Homes and PointeWest Properties – Vacation Rentals and Sales.

Jaime and I both love to travel. We love to travel alone, we love to travel together, we love to travel with our daughters, and even our husbands, it’s true! The one type of traveling that takes some special planning to pull off successfully is traveling with many small children. As a mother of three children (ages 3-6) I’ve managed to pull off happy and even lightly relaxing family vacations and so I have some hot tips to offer before you head out by plane, boat or car this Summer. We have to stick together, us mothers of three. Here’s the scoop…

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1. You don’t have to go far to have an adventure.
I can’t wait to show my kids the world and often dream about taking my artist Clare to Paris, my gastronaut Quinn to Japan and my busy boy Gordon to hike Machu Picchu but in reality they are most delighted by simple experiences. On a recent long weekend at a beautiful ocean-front vacation rental in nearby Galveston, TX, their favorite memories were flying kites on the beach, visiting a new zoo, and sleeping in bunk beds. I love that I have the means and ability to make them happy, to give them simple adventures and memories that we can share together as a family and so, Paris can wait.

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2. Safety in numbers
Consider joining up with another family or the grandparents for a vacation. More adults means more hands for occupying busy kids on outings or at bedtime. It also gives you a built in babysitter for a vacation date night. Just make sure that grandma gets some down time too.

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3. Take turns on parent duty

If it’s just you and your husband plus the littles, urge each other to take a break off on your own while the other is on kid duty. Grab a book (remember those?) and an icy drink and head to the pool without worrying about playing lifeguard.

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4. Keep the routine
While this is most important for the napping set, parents often forget that kids find comfort in consistency, especially in an unfamiliar environment. Try to keep meals and bedtime on their usual schedule. Be sure to bring familiar toys, blankets and pillows (especially if you are driving and have space) plus nightlights, bedtime stories, movies and music.

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5. Give them space
We’ve had some great road trip vacations where we have stopped in cozy motel rooms for a quick night’s rest before another day of travel but if you are settling in at a destination for more than a day or two, searching out accommodations with bedrooms, a kitchen and private outdoor space will give the kids the room they need to relax, play, and make a mess, and protect you from hiding in a hotel bathroom with a bottle of wine so as not to disturb the children. This is the beautiful and luxurious condo that we selected through Discover Vacation Rentals.

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6. Don’t sweat what you forget
Whether you need to pack light, forget something important, or spot the perfect vaca essential on the beach, remember that you can usually shop near your destination or order Amazon prime/Zappos and have items delivered to your vacation home. I’ve ordered a a beach tent , A giant inflatable whale , a second copy of a lost paperback, and running shoes. There’s something about the ocean that makes me want to exercise, I have to take advantage.

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7. Cook, but not every night.
For a large family, restaurant bills can eat up a vacation budget quickly. Plan easy to prepare meals like BBQ fare, spaghetti dinner and robust charcuterie plates. Pick up sandwich fixins, favorite drinks and snacks, and breakfast basics at the beginning of your trip for easy, low-effort, low cost eating. Be sure to set aside a few dinners out to experience the local specialties and get a break from the dishes. You are on vacation after all.

8. Keep things interesting with small surprises
This one comes from my husband’s childhood. If you are traveling multiple days, stock up on a small wrapped gifts, one for each child for each day in the car. They open their new toy or activity each morning so they have something fresh and interesting to play with in the car each day.

9. Save technology for the witching hour
I will not apologize for using ipads, iphones, and DVD players to keep my children quiet in the car on a lengthy trip. They are beautiful little rectangles of magic and I love them. I will recommend that you save them for early afternoon when everyone starts to go a little ca-raaazy. It’s the perfect time to hand over the gadget for a few extra hours of driving peace. If you use up your secret weapon in the morning, you will have nothing in your arsenal when the madness begins, and it will begin. It will.

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10. Don’t over-pack your days or even your week.
I often hear kids, my kids, other kids, ya know, kids, return from vacation reminiscing about their favorite memory of the trip. It’s always something like making friends in the pool, collecting shells, eating ice cream, going for a matinee, or finding a quarter on the sidewalk. I always have to remind myself that my efforts to make the most of a trip by packing the days with a full schedule of expensive, rushed activities never turns out well. A day with one activity or nothing at all but a walk and some puzzles can be the best day of all.

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Posted By Jacinda …. prudentbaby.com

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Make Cents?

Piggy Bank Savings Female Half FilledThis week we finally got out our Vacation Rentals of the Desert Summer Newsletter.  Thank goodness that’s done and in the mail.  A surprising amount of work goes into these newsletters. There is so much to say in so little space … review of the past rental season, forecast of the upcoming season, the politics and news of the vacation rental industry and a few helpful money saving tips for our vacation rental owners.  In this week’s post I have shared some of the newsletter with you!

 

Please consider the following tips and how they may help you save $$$$ ………

 

Internet: These days all vacation rentals should offer Wi-Fi internet. Tablets, iPads, and book readers such as Nooks and Kindles require Wi-Fi since they cannot be plugged into an Ethernet system. Most internet providers will include a Wi-Fi modem … for a fee. Did you know you can save yourself the monthly rental fee by requesting only internet service than purchasing your own Wi-Fi modem? The cost of a modem is about $50 to $60. If you are uncertain about what you need I have found that Best Buy has sales staff that can help you chose the correct modem and explain the simple installation.
Save monthly rental fees by purchasing your own Wi-Fi modem.

Cable, Internet & Telephones: Many cable services offer a “vacation” hold on their services, predominately in “seasonal” areas. If your vacation rental home is typically unoccupied for months at a time then you may want to see if your cable provider gives you the option to temporarily turn off your services or put them on a vacation hold. You will want to ask if there is a disconnect/re-connect charge or any other restrictions.
Reduce or eliminate cable, internet and telephone bills when unoccupied.

BBQ: A natural gas BBQ is always the least expensive in the long run. Many BBQs come set up for propane, but did you know that many can be easily and inexpensively converted to natural gas. Propane tanks will run out. This always happens in the middle of cooking and your guests will not be happy. Even if you have a spare tank of propane, it is an added hassle for your guest. Many times the guest will change the tank but not let anyone know, so the next guest will be very upset when they change an empty tank for another empty tank.  Believe me, I’ve received many angry after hours calls from guests whose dinners have been ruined due to the propane running out in the middle of cooking their dinner. If your property is with a vacation rental company you are looking at a charge for someone to pick-up, exchange, deliver and hook-up a full propane tank. This takes time and usually results in very cranky guests. Would you like to be the one who delivers the propane tank to the guest with the spoiled steaks? It is almost impossible to distinguish a full or empty tank. Also consider the time and cost of repeatedly changing the propane tank. If you have charcoal consider this: beer, cocktails and lighter fluid. To my mind it’s not worth the risk.  Propane is better than charcoal but natural gas is your best choice.
Save the time and cost of replacing empty propane tanks.

Pillow & Mattress Covers: Protect your bedding and your guests … cover, cover, cover! Open mouth sleepers can destroy a pillow in one night! People drink coffee in bed … and breakfast in bed is a wonderful treat … but accidental spills, not so wonderful. It’s pretty gross when changing the sheets to find stains on the pillows or mattress … your imagination will go wild. So your guests go to change the sheets and …. ewww! Short of replacing all pillows between guests, owners should cover bed pillows with quality pillow protectors … even the extra pillows stored in your closet. When purchasing the pillow protectors you want to look for “water resistant,” NOT plastic covers. Plastic is very uncomfortable, hot and noisy. Also a good quality mattress cover will protect and extend the life of your mattress. I suggest washing pillow and mattress protectors between guests AND since you have protection for your pillows purchase quality pillows. You don’t need to spend a fortune on pillows and certainly I would never recommend feather pillows (many people are allergic), but nice, comfortable pillows will be appreciated by your guests. We have noticed that guests are more apt to book a return trip to a property that has comfortable beds.
Save the cost of constant pillow replacement.

shut off valveWater Shut-Off Valves: Many homes are equipped with water shut-off valves on the exterior of the property. The valve is installed to turn off only the water inside the home leaving the exterior landscape sprinkler systems to operate normally. Shutting off the water inside your home when unoccupied will give you added protection against leaks and floods. A water shut-off valve can be installed on most properties. A handyman or plumber can assess your property to see if this feature can be added.
Save the cost of possible flood damage.

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words!

FlipKeyThis week I am sharing a post by fellow blogger, Chelsa Tyler. Her recent post on the importance of “great photographs” should be of interest to all vacation rental owners. Chelsea Tyler writes “The FlipKey Bog,” which is the vacation rental arm of TripAdvisor.

I have personally taken thousands of property photos … and I’m not half bad at it … but should you settle for “not half bad” when you are marketing a product that has the potential to generate thousands of dollars? Vacation Rentals of the Desert encourages their owners to invest in professional real estate photos. Time and time again we have noted as much as a 50% increase in bookings on properties with “great” professional photos.

Be sure to clean and stage your property before taking the photos. Turn on all lights, open blinds and patio sliders, set the dining room table with plates, silverware and wine glasses, if you have cushions for your patio furniture, put them out, throw a couple of blow-up toys in the pool, turn down the beds, store away all personal items and toiletries, close the toilet lids.

Following is an excerpt from the May 5, 2014 FlipKey Blog titles “How to Create a Quality Listing for Your Vacation Home.    Click here to read the entire article.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words Dollars!

When it comes to listing your property on any website, we can’t stress the importance of great photos enough! The variety and quality of your photos could make a big difference in your rental income. In our experience, photos are the most influential way to get a traveler to click on your listing and ultimately book. Even if your home is small, old, or nothing fancy, a bad quality photo will only amplify any imperfections that the home may have. What does it mean to take a high quality photo? First, you don’t have to have a super expensive or fancy camera to do so – what’s more important is that you understand the camera that you have available to you. The most important feature of a quality photo is size. To take a high resolution photo, set the camera’s resolution to the highest number possible. Uploading large photos to your property page is the best way to avoid those grainy, pixelated, and borderline unrecognizable photos that are so often ignored by travelers.

Unless you’re a professional photographer with lots of experience, stick to using the automatic focus setting on you camera since poor focus is another frequent cause for bad photos. Experiment with the lighting in your home to find the best balance for your photos. Similarly, experiment with the framing and position from which you take your photos to get a good variety of angles. Take picture of both the home’s exterior and interior and label your photos with captions about where in the home you took the photo to give the traveler a better idea of the property as a whole.
Remember, just taking photos of your home as is doesn’t always put the best foot forward. Make sure that the home is clean and free of unnecessary clutter before going on a photo spree! Most of all, have fun with it! Get creative and enjoy showing your favorite parts of your home to potential renters.

 

 

Chelsea TylerChelsea Tyler is a Marketing Associate at FlipKey. During her time studying literature at Colby College, she traveled to Paris, France where she spent six months learning French and falling in love with the city. When she’s not writing for the FlipKey blog, she can be found sipping red wine, eating her weight in cheese, and loudly critiquing new film releases.

 

 

ear-restaurant-caffeeNOTE:  Vacation Rentals of the Desert is a member of FlipKey and are recipients of the TripAdvisor Award of Excellence for 2013 and 2014.  All of our managed properties are listed on the FlipKey website.

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Girlfriend Retreat !!

c226729a-2578-476a-b1d0-514c4474fc5e.1.10Hey…I missed ya’ll last week!

Well … maybe just a little.

This past weekend I took a vacation … a “girlfriend weekend” at a vacation rental at Lake Arrowhead. This was my very first experience actually renting a vacation home.  After almost 19 years managing vacation properties it was time to turn the tables. The photo above is a picture of the lake taken from our Lake Arrowhead cabin’s wrap-around porch.

The owner of one of the properties I handle in Palm Springs also has a vacation cabin in Lake Arrowhead. Personally knowing the owner, I felt comfortable renting the cabin for a short weekend trip. With my girlfriend Lori from Redlands and Lynn from Carlsbad, we headed up the mountain on Friday afternoon to spend a weekend of shopping, girl-talk and catching up on each other’s lives. The three of us met and worked together at an advertising company in Orange County in the mid-90s. Over the years we have stayed in contact and our families have grown close, but getting together for large family gatherings over the holidays and during special events left little time for the three of us to connect as girlfriends. Sometimes we get so involved in the “business of life” that we lose track of time and the friendships that we’ve forged along the way. See my post May 11, 2014 “Plan a Destination Event for Family or Friends.”

So Friday afternoon we rendezvoused at Lori’s house in Redlands, piled into her SUV and up the mountain we went … leaving temperatures of 100 plus, heading for the low 80s with a breeze off the lake … heaven! Once we found the cabin, we quickly unpacked the car and explored our weekend home. It was absolutely perfect! Three bedrooms, two baths, a spacious and comfortable great room with fireplace, a large flat-screen TV … and a fantastic view of the lake from every window and French door. Once settled we took inventory of the kitchen supplies, salt, pepper, aluminum foil, etc. then headed to the grocery store in the quaint village of Lake Arrowhead.

Over the weekend we had dinner out at an excellent Mexican restaurant overlooking the lake, shopped and purchased souvenirs (for me, a picture of a cow for our kitchen much to my husband’s chagrin … yes there is room for one more picture honey), a movie at a theater in Blue Jay (“Maleficent” in 3-D … great girlfriend movie), cooked, relaxed, drank wine, talked and even caught an old Audrey Hephurn movie on TV. We caught up on each other’s lives … for the most part, shared our accomplishments and told more than a few secrets. We had a fabulous weekend and vowed to make it an annual event.

Discoveries I made as a 1st time vacation “renter”   ….

1) Shop for groceries and supplies AFTER you take assessment of the supplies at the property.

2) Be sure to write a review on the property. This is HUGE for the property’s success. If the property is managed by a vacation rental company, you may have to write your review in the form of an email sent directly to the company. You may want to ask whether the company will send you a “review request.” If you are renting directly from the owner (VRBO or any rent-by-owner site), you will need to go to the on-line listing to post a review.

3) If you have minor suggestions for the property … consider putting your ideas in a separate email … not in the review. Depending on how the review is scored, noting the lack of insignificant items such as coasters or a flashlight, might bring the rating down. If the property was absolutely perfect “except” you wished there had been a cookie sheet … perhaps a separate email with your “suggestions” would be more helpful.

4) Our experience would not have been the same in a hotel. Being in the “business” I already know this … but here is a great opportunity to drive home this point! Three grown women sharing one room and one bathroom would have been cramped unacceptable … three separate rooms would have been expensive. Visiting would have been uncomfortable and eating every meal at restaurants … costly! At our vacation cabin we had the luxury of relaxing in our PJs till late morning and visiting in a comfortable living room setting or on the porch overlooking the lake, the pine trees and at night, the stars. We had loads of fun and saved costs by cooking most of our meals in the fully equipped kitchen, then stashing dirty dishes in the dishwasher. We relaxed and had wine without having to draw straws for who would be the designated driver. When planning accommodations for more than one … consider a vacation rental !!

5) Don’t wait for someone else to suggest a family or friend get away! Lori, Lynn and I have been friends for over 23 years and this is the first time we have gone away on a “girlfriend only” weekend. Was it worth the cost? Oh heck yeah … absolutely. Split three ways …. about $200 each! We had a blast and created memories to last a lifetime … it was a bargain.

Hey Lori and Lynn … 358 days and counting!

Oh … and here’s my cow!

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