What You Need to Know about Vacation Rentals before You Go

That time of the year is finally here. You know what I'm talking about, the one or two weeks you get every year to escape from "real life" and just be you. Relax, eat and drink well, enjoy your family, catch up on some much needed sleep. But, before you pack up and head out, rethink the all-too-normal hotel stay. Believe it or not, you have options, one of which is the vacation rental.

Would not it be nice to leave your own home, arrive in your destination city and settle into a "home away from home" for your next vacation? That's what vacation rentals are all about. These are homes waiting to be rented out by people on vacation. Each vacation rental owner will have different criteria in what type of renter they are looking for, each vacation rental house will vary in amenities, and each price will be dependent on the time of year and the length of stay. So, it sounds like a great idea, but how do you figure out how to make it all happen? Not a problem. Below you will find answers to frequently asked questions regarding vacation rentals. Read on, my friend, your next "home away from home" vacation rental is right around the corner.

Frequently Asked Questions on Vacation Rentals

What are the advantages of a vacation rental?

Do you ever wish your hotel room had just a little more personality? Yeah, I thought so. Well, renting someone else's home for your vacation might just be the thing you're looking for. Usually offering larger living spaces than hotel rooms, these vacation rentals are all about living like you were in your own home. They offer greater privacy than hotel rooms and most rentals have a kitchen area for cooking, which in the end will save you money if you prepare some of your own meals.

You'll enjoy several rooms, and maybe even different levels, instead of one big room where the whole family sleeps. Many owners will leave information on things to do and see in the local area. Vacation rental homes are clean, friendly, comfortable and inviting. This is because many of them are not just rental homes, but also function as the owner's own residence for part of the year.

A majority of vacation rentals tend to be cheaper on a per night basis than their hotel. By renting directly from the owner you will avoid taxes, tips and other external charges. However, there is a wide variation among others based on a number of factors (see How Much Should I Expect to Pay below)

What are the drawbacks of a vacation rental?

Of course, there's always the other side of the coin. As vacation rentals are not usually monitored by a central managing company, you'll only know what you're getting yourself into when you actually arrive to your rental. Many owners require pre-payment, or at least a large deposit fee, before arriving. Therefore, if things are not the way you anticipated after arriving, or if you find your dwelling unacceptable and decide to head to a local hotel, you may lose any money you prepaid. This is also true for last minute cancellations. There is not usually a refund. You always run the risk of getting less than you expected, but, it's rare.

Most times, vacation rentals tend to be cheaper than an average hotel room per night. But, not always, so make sure you are comfortable with the price you will be asked to pay.

Another disadvantage to vacation rentals is the lack of a managing member on site to deal with any problems that you may encounter with the home or during your stay in general. Most owners get around this by having a list of emergency numbers, utility companies and other such items available to the renter should they need anything.

What amenities are included in a vacation rental?

Since every rental is owned by a different owner, each will include different amenities. Some come with swimming pools, hot tubs, others with golf packages, and horse stable privileges. In cities with tourist attractions, some owners include tickets to local attractions.

Most vacation rentals come with the essentials: TV, equipped kitchen, towels, linen, and everyday appliances, but it never hurts to ask these questions when searching for the perfect place. Be sure to understand exactly what you are paying for before sending in the payment.

What types of rentals are available?

Pretty much any type of dwelling that you would want to live in during your vacation is available somewhere. From studios in downtown Manhattan to a villa in the south of Spain, you'll be able to find what you're looking for. The range of available options is mind boggling. Additionally, each week, month and year there are new possibilities as owners put their homes up for only certain weeks or months of the year, the choices are constantly changing.

Are vacation rentals only available in the US?

Vacation rentals are available worldwide. They can be found in every state of the US and almost every country in the world. Do not be fooled by their different names, though. Vacation rentals are also known as holiday cottages, tourist rentals and holiday rentals. If you are looking for one in Europe, the Italians call them agriturismi, while the French say gites. If you are in Germany you will be looking for ferienwohnungen (yep, try to say that three times fast with a bratwurst in your mouth!)

Regardless of what you call it, though, a vacation rental is a great option for those getting ready to take a few weeks off from reality and enjoy the good life a bit.

How do I find a property?

There are several ways to go about finding the perfect vacation rental for your next trip. Check with your local travel agent to find someone in your area that specializes in finding owners and renters and getting them together. Another option is the yellow pages. Finally, there is a wealth of information on the Internet. Type in a search for "vacation rentals" and over 13,300,000 websites can be found just on http://www.google.com alone. Some websites only list vacation rentals in the United States while others specialize in vacation rentals worldwide. There are some sites that will allow the potential renter to look for a residence by specific search criteria such as a particular destination, certain number of bedrooms and types of amenities that are included in the property.

Most of the vacation rental services on the internet are only the "go-between" or the "classified" section of the newspaper. They take no responsibility for the truth or correctness of the ads that are listed on their sites. So, do your homework by making phone calls, speaking with the owner and asking specific questions. Make sure you feel comfortable with the answers, if not, move on to the next rental, there are plenty.

If you're not comfortable with the whole renter / owner thing, there is another way to rent a vacation home. Some companies exist that strictly buy and rent out homes to vacationers. They offer a bit more security so that you feel you are really getting what you bargained for (although nothing is ever 100% fool proof). Additionally, sometimes these agencies will give you cancellation insurance. In other words, if you cancel before arriving, they may be able to refund a portion of your deposit or payment instead of keeping it as most owners do if a cancellation occurs. With some agencies you'll find that you pay a higher price than going directly to an owner. This is how the agencies make their profits. There are always pros and cons to each scenario. Ensure you know which one works best for you.

How much should I expect to pay?

This is a tough question to answer. The amount you pay will depend on what country or state you are visiting, number of days you are staying, and type of house you are renting. Some owners offer package deals including tickets or sightseeing events along with the rental, others include bonus days if you stay for a certain length of time. There are other owners who may offer free or add-on house cleaning service with your stay while some go to great efforts to ensure you have everything you need, even additional items such as a crib, highchair or wheelchair. Each vacation rental will be entirely different from the next. Your best bet after deciding on your destination is to review multiple rentals to determine which is better suited to your needs and overall budget.

Are there any hidden fees?

Hidden fees usually only emerge after you have arrived. These may include extra for phone calls, house cleaning service, extra person fees, excess heat and air-conditioning bills, pet deposit, computer access … etc. Again, be extremely thorough when interviewing the owner of your prospect vacation rental. Ask about any "extra" fees, or if the house is "all-inclusive". Do you have free access to all the pantry and food items? How about the laundry supplies? All utilities? It never hurts to ask!

Vacation Rentals

In summary, cover all bases by asking lots of questions. Getting your agreement in writing is also a very smart idea. After these basics are out of the way you will be ready to take off for your home-away-from-home vacation rental. Try one this year and see for yourself that vacation rentals can be a fantastic means to really getting the full enjoyment out of your next vacation.

Play Games at My Wedding Reception?

You can add spice to your wedding reception and have great fun doing it by playing games! Of course, you’ll still have that first dance with your new spouse to the tune from when you first met. And, you’ll still get to eat from each other’s fork when you cut-the-cake.

While the bride may play games at her bridal shower with the other “girls”, games are not reserved for showers only. You can use games to encourage conversation among your guests. Games can also help in cases where you want a fully enjoyed reception, yet there are religious or other reasons for limiting your dancing or music.

There are basically three types of games that work at a wedding reception. They are: Games for Everyone, The Joke is on the Bride and/or Groom and Outdoor Games (of course for an outdoor wedding).

Games for Everyone

Pass the Buck – Play musical dollar at each table. Whoever is left holding the $1, wins the centerpiece.

Switch the Shoes – The bride and groom may hold up a shoe or garment belonging to the opposite spouse in answer to a what-if question on how they will act in married life.

On the Spot Art – Each guest is given a paper and pen and asked to draw another random guest. This works best when they don’t know beforehand the guest being drawn.

Guess the Truth – Guests are asked multiple choice questions that have been previously asked of the bride and groom. A show of hands will see how many guests are on target.

On the Spot Poetry – Each guest is given a piece of paper and a pen. The paper has the start of a poem like “Sally and Mike met at the fair…” The guests complete the poem.

Games where the Joke is on the Bride and/or Groom

*If you are the bride or groom, let your best man or a bridesmaid read these

Give Back the Keys – (This only works if the bride and groom do not yet share a home) The bride and groom is each given a basket. Announce that “Anyone who still has her house keys must give them back.” Lots of guys get up and drop keys in her basket. Only one guy and the groom’s aunt return keys to the groom’s house.

Guess the Bride – Blindfold the groom and present him with 5 barefooted persons. He must guess which feet belong to the bride. Choose anyone but the bride to be among the 5 persons. In fact, this is really funny if they are all men.

Guess the Groom – Blindfold the bride and ask her to feel 5 men’s faces to guess which belongs to the groom. Choose anyone but the groom to be among the 5 persons.

Outdoor Games

What you play will depend on where the wedding is and how the guests are attired. A game like croquet is easy to set up in a park or large backyard and is possible in semi-formal clothing.

If the wedding is very casual, a park with large grassy area may be great for Volleyball or a huge circle of folks passing a Frisbee. And limbo – with the right music – is great almost anywhere, especially for a Caribbean or beach themed reception.

4 Ways to Target Mobile Micro-Moments and Boost Your Sales

The goal of every brand is to create a strong bond with customers whenever they need them. Keeping your brand visible before your potential customers during various micro-moments is crucial for your brand success.

Micro-moments refer to a short term of attention any potential customer uses on a mobile device in order to buy, search or watch something.

Mobile is no longer just a tendency and micro-moments are here to stay. Here are some effective ways to target mobile micro-moments and boost your sales:

1- Identify the Right Micro-Moments For Your Brand

As per Cassandra Wesch, Founder of the digital media agency, Upward Ecommerce, “Identifying opportunities to share relevant micro moments with your customer make it easier, faster, and more fun to connect with your brand”.

For a hotel owner, it would be great if the customers are able to check in immediately without having to wait in the queue.

From the customer point of view, the micro-moment happen when they are traveling and wanting to get into a hotel room without having to wait in line to check-in.

Well, you can do just that with the help of Starwood app. The customers are able to check-in right on the app.

As soon as the customers enter the hotel, the beacons recognize that the customer is there. Verification is done with the help of a fingerprint (if you’re on an iPhone), the app provides a room number, and then you simply hold your phone up to the entranceway and can go right into your room. That’s an amazing way for a brand to help the customers in a micro-moment.

2- Your Brand Should Be Seen Whenever the Potential Customer Needs You

As a brand, being present in all phases of consumer journey, not just when someone is ready to buy, is where the biggest opportunities exist. Google has defined four micro- moments that represent the full user needs.

I want to know moments – The consumer is exploring and researching but not yet in the purchase mindset. They are looking for useful information, education resources or an inspiration.

I want to go moments – Consumer is searching for a local business or considering buying a product at a local store.

I want to buy moments – The all important buy moments are when shoppers are ready to make a purchase and may need help determine what, how, or where to buy.

I want to do moments – These refer to moments when shoppers are looking for help getting something done or learning something new.

3- Mobile is the New Shopping Assistant – Your E-Store Must Understand This

Americans are shopping online, allocating their shopping budgets to browsing, expanding a regularly of five hours per week purchasing online.

The telecommunication company sprint discovered that one in four people who click on their mobile search ads actually end up being physically present in a sprint retail store.

As a business, you need to get your website mobile friendly and have an app that will help you to connect with your customers in real time.

It is essential to find out the different mobile search queries that the potential customers are using while locating your brand and further optimize your business presence in order to reap in more sales.

4- Deliver Relevant Messaging and Tap Into the Power of SMS Marketing

In this age of mobile connectivity, it is important to leverage the power of SMS marketing to improve your business visibility and increase sales.

8.6 Trillion text messages are sent every year on average and such messages are read within 5 seconds. This is a tremendous opportunity to explore where people are able to read your message within seconds of receiving it.

Tools like TextMagic are excellent in automating the SMS efficiency and reach. You can easily build one to one dialogue with your customer using dynamic inbound SMS messages.

While sending messages, it is recommended to follow the below tips:

Segment your audience and send the right message to the right customer.

Send messages that have time bound deals which are set of expire soon. This will drive instant actions.

Send triggered messages based on the action of the user. For example, if the customer has placed some items in the shopping cart and didn’t ordered them then you can send a triggered message with a special discount in order to persuade the customer to make an order.

Mobile is no longer in its teens. Your brand must understand the real power of mobile micro-moments and must ensure to be present at all times depending on the needs of the customer.

Offshore Translation Agencies – Reducing Your Translation Costs

Naturally, the language centers are aware of the existing cultural differences and the possible difficulties that may arise during the process of negotiations.

The offshore translation agencies usually cooperate with other language agencies, and they will gladly assist you in finding a translator of a certain language, if they cannot offer the services of the translator themselves. Besides the quality of translations, offshore translation offices can offer cost-reduction options, just like many IT outsourcing services due to their location in low-economy countries.

As for the most common services, provided by offshore translation services, this is first of all translation, interpretation, localization, reviewing of documents in various languages. Most translators specialize in a certain area of knowledge, for example, engineering, software and IT, advertising and marketing, economy, finance, tourism, medicine and many others.

The jobs, outsourced to offshore translation offices, can be performed in a short period of time, or they can be done in a few hours. The ready made projects are forwarded to the customer using the most modern techniques, available today. Also there is a chance to communicate with an employee of an offshore translation agency, using all the possible means of communication.

The rates for the translations can be more than competitive if compared with the rates in, say, America. The rates are usually based on the per-word model; however there are offshore translation agencies, which prefer the per-page model (usually 1800 characters). You can also request a quote per book or article.

Offshore translation agencies are very handy if you plan to visit the country, in which it is located. If you are in need of a language assistant, you can also make a request to an offshore translation agency. Consider employing an offshore translation agency and see how you will benefit from it.