Best motorcycle routes in the West

head-out-on-highwaySummer definitely brings out the motorcycle enthusiasts and they are very passionate about which routes offer the most for their rides. I learned this little fact while at a recent barbeque where I overheard a group of my friends getting louder and louder; their debate was where the best motorcycle routes were and where to stay.

One of my friends described his favorite ride as being along highway 19A on Vancouver Island, Canada. He specifically mentioned the stretch of highway from Nanaimo to Campbell River, located on the North end of the island. He felt it offered some of the most beautiful views and most importantly, there was hardly any traffic. His favorite part of this particular ride? “On my way back to Nanaimo, there’s a wicked ice cream stand in Bowser.”

Nanaimo, BC motorcycle route

The great room faces the Georgia Strait. Unit ID 208342

One of my personal favorite motorcycle routes is along the coastline on Chuckanut Drive, Route 11, in Washington State. It is absolutely stunning, especially if you’re the passenger since the road is extremely twisty and narrow. If you want to be off-the-beaten-path and away-from-the-mundane I-5 freeway, then take this short drive and step back in time. There are plenty of pullouts to stop to enjoy the view overlooking the San Juan Islands. You will pass limestone cliffs, waterfalls and ride over beautiful bridges covered in moss. And you could even continue on down the coastline and make your way to Oregon and down into California.

Washington motorcycle route

Gorgeous sunset from Unit ID 203533′s deck

A couple of my friends who are diehard tour bike lovers said one of their favorite rides is their Hot Springs trip. Having done this trip at various times throughout the year, in their opinion the best time to go is mid-September. School is back on, there is less traffic on the roads, and the temperature has cooled down enough but it is not too cold. They like to follow Hwy 6, from Vernon, BC, passing through Cherryville, taking the 10 minute ride on the inland ferry across the Upper Arrow Lake and stop and camp at the Nakusp Hot Springs. The next leg of their trip is to cross over into Washington, then pass through the top part of Idaho, next over into Montana and then after 9 hours, finally reaching their destination of Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. Did I mention they were diehards?!

Idaho motorcyle route

Old Schoolhouse – Unit ID 20779

Lava Hot Springs motorcycle route

World famous Lava Hot Springs!

 

 

While these are just a few of the many, many, yes, MANY rides that were shared with me, I could keep going on and on with all the great routes that my ‘two wheeled’ friends rave about.

Ultimately, I think Ernest Hemingway said it best: “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

If you have a great motorcycle route to share or plan on taking, we would love to hear about it!

The great (vacation rental) outdoors!

Victoria, BC #204148

Victoria, BC, Canada – ID 204148

Love a sizzling BBQ on the patio? A soak in the sun in comfy lawn chairs in the backyard? So do your guests.

Often overlooked, the outdoor area of your vacation rental is a big selling point and can be the deciding factor for a guest when choosing a rental. Depending on the location of your vacation home, guests might be looking for that private hot tub on the balcony of a ski property or the clean pool outside a summer rental.

Here is what we recommend:

  • Include high resolution pictures of the outdoor area of your rental in your property listing. Guests want to imagine relaxing or playing there!
  • Show the main features, such as a BBQ, pool, lawn area, outdoor furniture, kids play area, maybe even a glass of wine on the table or hiking trails on the property. Offer everything that makes your property unique.
  • Photograph (or describe) the outdoor area at different times of the day, for example when it is used for a big family breakfast, a shaded retreat on a hot day or at night star gazing.

Once you have set up and promoted the outdoor area of your vacation home, consider the tips in this article to keep it clean and welcoming. Details such as candles and lighting can make a big difference!

As always, we invite you to share your experiences and recommendations here!

5 tips to travel light and organized

It sure is quite a hassle to carry those oh-so-big bags and carry-on’s while traveling. You don’t realize it when you pack them, but you will have a better travelling experience without those heavy bags, whether you travel to one destination or multiple. Yes, I know it is rather exciting to pack for your next travel adventure and sometimes, we cannot help but go overboard. The most experienced travelers will tell you that it is so much more convenient, not to mention smart, to bring only the essentials and travel light whenever you go out of town.

Here are a few travel packing do’s and dont’s that I bear in mind every time I have to pack for our family vacation. Mind you, the rules never change whether we are going away for a quick getaway or a week-long trip to a far-off place. Read on to learn something you might find useful for your next trip.

Flipflops pack small and light!

Flipflops pack small and light!

  1. Love ‘em flip flops. These lightweight shoes are such space savers in your luggage and the ideal choice for travelers. In most areas, they are fashionable enough that you can wear them either with casual beach attire or with some nice dresses and slacks. Beautiful accessories will complete the look. These days, slightly more substantial light shoes such as Sanuk or Tom’s are available that are just as thin and easy to pack.
  2. Keep things organized in resealable bags

    Keep things organized in resealable bags

    Re-sealable bags do the trick. If you aim to keep everything organized when you are travelling alone or with your family, then those nifty re-sealable bags will be your best friend. These bags make organizing your clothes, toiletries and other travel essentials easy as pie. If you are a mom with a number of children, you can neatly pack each of your brood’s stuff in separate bags so they can easily retrieve them later. Packing before going home is also easy with these clear and labeled bags. The newest addition to this are compressible clear bags that do not let the air bag in after it is squeezed out, therefore saving a lot of space.

  3. Encouraging bigger children to pack their own bags. It will be of much help if you let in the children on the packing chores. If they are bigger, you can even inspire them to bring their own backpack to travel. They can stuff it with items that might come in handy while you are aboard the plane or train, like a book or a plushy to keep them entertained, or packs of snacks in case they get hungry while on the road.
  4. Do not over-pack. Easier said than done, I know. It might be overwhelming to pack especially for a travel adventure you have been dreaming about for a long while. You might want to bring as many items as you can fit in your duffel bags. But, trust me, you will only end up having a hard time carrying those over-packed bags. So be smart and create a list of the stuff you really need to bring so you can be sure that you are only bringing the essentials. If possible, try to live off this lot for a few days to find out what you use and what you don’t use – Haven’t we all packed extra shirts or pants that we rarely wear at home but thought would be great while on vacation? Chances are if you don’t wear it at home, you won’t wear it on vacation. While you are at it, do not forget to include your camera, your mobile phone charger, vitamins and med for the kids and your wallet on the list.
  5. Make an itinerary. Once you are at your dream travel destination it is easy to get excited and eager to explore as many things as you can. It is best that you do your research in advance and create a list of the places to visit and the things to do when you get there. Being organized even while traveling will allow you to enjoy your vacation to the fullest – minus the stress and the headache.

Touching on the destination and activity trends …

If you haven’t already done so, now is a great time to review the travel trends and predictions for 2014, and update your property listings and descriptions to reflect them.

Two of the more comprehensive reports are listed here. First off, Trip Advisor’s travel trends for 2014 give you a good idea about where people are planning on going, what their long term plans are and how much they are going to spend. For example, travelers from Europe and North America stated that they are going to spend less on vacations this year. With vacation homes being more affordable than hotel stays, especially for longer trips, now is a good time to incorporate this into your vacation home promotion.

Travelers also plan to take trips within their own country more, a great marketing approach to advertise your vacation home nationally.

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach

The results of the Summer 2014 survey, also by Trip Advisor, shows that 22% of US travelers are planning on renting a vacation home for their summer trip. That is great news! Further, respondents listed the following as the top activities:

  • Swimming / watersports – 49%
  • Visiting a historical event or sight – 49%
  • Going to a park or national park – 46%
  • Sightseeing tours – 46%

If your vacation home can cater to those activity needs, make sure your pictures and writeup reflect that. With a reported 66% of US travelers vacationing domestically, and Myrtle Beach topping the list of destinations for the summer, it is time to get those travelers booked into your beautiful vacation home!

A Remedy for Hotel Room Cramps

Does the thought of staying in a cramped hotel room with your entire family (husband and 4 kids) make you think twice about traveling? A friend of mine is looking to go to Vancouver for a few days to visit her working husband. He is currently living with three guys in a one bedroom apartment to cut costs while away from his family. The guys all live in small rural towns and are just in Vancouver to make some money to send home. Six to eight months of hard work can keep their families going for awhile but the kids need to see their dad occasionally too so a family vacation in Vancouver is in order.

Cramped hotel room“There’s just no room to relax with everyone in one hotel room,” my friend said. “Sleeping in the same room, let alone the same bed with the kids makes the odds of getting a good night’s sleep a million to one. Not to mention the fact that you constantly have to quiet the kids so they don’t disturb the neighboring rooms, stop them from shouting while they’re running up and down the hallways, and having to go out or get take out for every meal. Vacations cost a small fortune these days!” Being in the travel industry I have to agree. It’s difficult enough to find a hotel room that can sleep six so my friend would most likely have to find two rooms side by side, thereby doubling the price.  With an average nights stay running $189 per night for an economy twin room, that’s $378 for her family per night. Finding adjoining rooms is not always possible either which can create even more challenges.

Most hotels in the larger cites also don’t come with kitchenettes, so going out to eat or ordering takeout would be required. Breakfast, lunch and dinner add up fast for a family of six even if you do buy some snacks at the local grocery store. If you’re staying in a big city downtown, sometimes just finding a grocery store can be a difficult task. That’s when I suggested taking at look at vacation rentals instead. You can rent an entire house for practically the same or less than those hotel rooms.

On OwnerDirect.com for example, a 4600 sq ft square foot 4 bedroom house in North Vancouver, only 15 minutes from Vancouver’s downtown is going for $390 per night and can sleep 8. It is a primary home, so is fully furnished and equipped with all the amenities you may need, coffee maker, wireless internet, 21-inch flat screen TV, playstation, BBQ, full kitchen, treadmill, private hot tub and heated pool, and is child friendly. A much more comfortable solution to staying in cramped hotel rooms.

North Vancouver Exclusive Home -

North Vancouver Exclusive Home – ID #202309, Sleeps 8

If they wanted to be right downtown Vancouver, a 1 bedroom apartment that can sleep up to 4 goes for $165 per night. It’s got a full kitchen, living room, bathroom with bathtub, queen and double sofa beds, LCD television, internet connection, and the building offers a common room with games. Hotel rooms at $300 per night would end up costing $1200 plus tax and most likely wouldn’t have a kitchen or living room.

Downtown Vancouver Condo

Downtown Vancouver Condo – ID #141190, Sleeps 4

For larger groups or families, vacation rentals offer so much more than small hotel rooms can. There is also the possibility that owners will offer discounts for children under a certain age. Thanks to the Internet, the travel industry is competitive which means better value and lower prices can be found if you know where to look. If you’re still not convinced, see our Top 10 Reasons a Vacation Home is Better Than a Hotel.

Honour that view with clean windows

Clean WindowsWhether your property looks over the snowcapped Rocky Mountains from Canmore, the skyline of New York City or the azure ocean in Mexico, you want to make sure that this view is framed by sparkling clean windows! As a guest, it really puts a damper on the much-anticipated relaxation when one has to look through dust and dirt from months or even years of rain and wind.

For that reason, we collected a few recommendations on how to make sure your guests get to enjoy the best view you have to offer. Clean windows do not have to mean hours of strenuous work with toxic chemicals! The consensus is that it doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming when you follow a few rules (and have a few tools handy). Natural solutions such as vinegar are much more environmentally friendly and easier on the budget than harsh chemicals. And there is lots to learn from the professionals who do this every day. Time to invest in a squeegee!

How to get sparkling windows for vacation rentals

No more newspaper, rubbing and elbow grease

Martha Stewart’s Window Washing How-To

Tutorial on how to clean windows with vinegar – our favourite!

 

Things To Do on Vancouver Island

I spent close to a third of my great Canadian adventure on this island. From Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, it takes about 2 hours via ferry to reach Nanaimo. It was technically my first stop on the island but I did not get to see much on the first day. My group headed straight to the city of Parksville, northwest of Nanaimo, where we stayed for about a month.

Things to do in Vancouver Island

Port in Departure Bay, Nanaimo

The first thing we did the next day was to load up some really cool bikes into the back of the minivan and drove to Rathtrevor Park. Like any other curious traveller, I had already looked up the place online before getting on a plane to fly to another continent. Checking out Rathtrevor was in my things to do on Vancouver Island. I just wasn’t sure how I’d be doing it. The photos on the internet were alright. I knew there was going to be a beach, lots of trees and a nice looking campground.

rathtrevor

I was not prepared for such a breathtaking bicycle ride through a very green yet very old forest. That alone was worth adding it to my things to see and things to do on Vancouver Island. I simply could not resist stopping every minute or so to whip out my phone and take a photograph of what my eyes were seeing. I was far behind my friends but I had a really good taking a slower pace and eventually catching up. I met a lot of people jogging and walking along the way. I would not mind doing that everyday either if I had Rathtrevor close to home.

It was close to Thanksgiving and I had never seen pumpkins that many and that large in my entire life. They were in farms, they were in groceries, they were in their liquor and they even put them in coffee. My first taste of a pumpkin spiced latte was excellent! Now that I think about it, I do not recall ever getting bad food on the island. I had a sandwich from a local Subway franchise, Chinese food from a mall in Nanaimo, and soup in a Vietnamese restaurant. The latter was probably the first time I had to wait to be seated. Everything is just so fresh that I cannot imagine any cook mucking it up.

There was this one place called Coombs that was a 30 minute drive from where I was staying. I can honestly say that I have never seen goats grazing on the roof of a restaurant before. We bought some corn and potatoes. I was told that the ice cream was a must try and so I did. I cannot remember a moment in my life being as happy with a wafer cone, ice cream and fudge.

Things to do in Vancouver Island

One of the many things to see in the Coombs Country Market.

Another unforgettable stop was the Morningstar Farm. I love cheese. A visit here should definitely be on any fan’s things to do on Vancouver Island. I got to taste plenty of them along with one of their fruit wines. It is so great for children as well. I saw the effort they put into making the experience more interactive for people of all ages. In the end, I brought home the cheese with a kick since I like heat on my taste buds as well.

Things to do in Vancouver Island

There are plenty of cheese options.

On a good day and with the tide low, we headed out to Nanoose Bay to pick up clams and oysters. I did not have a license so I only got to watch others work on filling up their tiny buckets. Getting that license will likely appear on my things to do on Vancouver Island list the next time I visit. The water was ice cold compared to anywhere in Southeast Asia. I ended up hopping or running across streams as fast as I could. It was an awesome experience that I hope to do again soon. There’s so much more to write about but I think I’ll save the rest for another story.

Details do make a difference – Pay attention to delight your guests!

snackDetails matter when preparing your vacation home for guests.

Sometimes those details are noticed consciously, such as an inviting bed with the corner of the comforter folded open, a welcome basket of treats or a cozy blanket draped over the couch. Sometimes, details incur subconscious reactions, such as a fresh (non-chemical) smell in the air or the sun streaming through open curtains when your guests arrive.

couch

Eva Whitney has put together a short article with more great examples of where details matter, such as the folding of towels or neatly arranged dishes.

Do you want to share your experiences with “details that matter”? Where do you go the extra mile to make your home inviting for your guests, and which “attention to detail” has received positive feedback from your guests? Share your comments with our owner community!

How to leave your heart (and much of your liver) in San Francisco!

Is there anywhere else on earth you can witness the grandeur of the sun, the surf, and the mountains like you can in California? Did I say witness? I meant becoming a card-carrying member of Club California, an organization devoted to amazing food, unbelievable wine culture, and a something-for-LITERALLY-everyone lifestyle. It’s no wonder the state is a bucket list destination for so many of us. And if you have a particular affection for the fruits of the vine, there’s no place to worship like Napa, Sonoma, and San Francisco. (Note, the locals definitely do NOT call it Frisco! If you must abbreviate, go with San Fran.)

California wine country is so much more than just wine. Sure the area produces some of the world’s most expensive and sought-after appellations, but visitors can also hike, cycle, horseback ride, and hot air balloon. And there’s no shortage of shopping, dining, music, zip lines, and spa treatments (it *is* California after all!). Oh, and a head’s up. Napa is bigger and gets most of the press, so you can be forgiven for thinking it’s “all that.” But the truth is, Sonoma County produces more grapes.

The dilemma for most of us is how to visit Sonoma (or Napa for that matter) and not also make the pilgrimage to the City by the Bay? Because, let’s face it, you cannot possibly do one and not the other. To me, the answer is clear. Do both! If you’re planning a wine touring adventure this year, make San Francisco your home base This will give you the very best of both worlds: A one-of-a-kind city escape and an over-the-top wine tasting extravaganza. Or, park yourself in Wine Country and make day trips into the city. Either way, you’re in for a win-win experience!

If you’re thinking of making the City your home base, and you’re travelling with a posse of friends, consider staying in this architectural masterpiece situated high in the Berkeley Hills. With room for 12, this home sits on a hidden oasis of private terraced gardens and all three levels offer stunning views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Contemporary design, unique artwork, and redwood decks will truly make you feel pampered. And, it’s less than an hour’s drive to Wine Country. So pack a picnic and head out to St. Helena, Sonoma, and Calistoga.

If you’re not travelling with such a large group but you still want over-the-top luxury, treat yourself to the extravagance of this beautiful home in the highly-desirable Telegraph Hill neighbourhood. A private elevator will whisk you from the parking garage into your penthouse suite where you will be greeted with panoramic views that stretch from the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to the Ferry Building. You can stroll to most of the City’s tourist hubs including Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, Chinatown, Coit Tower, and Lombard Street. And given the views and proximity to so many local attractions, you can be forgiven if your wine tastings are limited to whatever you purchase at Trader Joe’s to enjoy on your jaw-dropping terrace.

Just outside of the Bay Area (and by “just outside,” I mean just outside the fog belt that can blanket the city), you’ll discover this magnificent Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors in the kitchen/living/dining room open out onto a 50 ft wide natural atrium that leads to the pool and outdoor kitchen. If your occasion demands some serious WOW factor, this is it! And, because it’s just outside the city, you are ideally situated between the best of both worlds: 20 minutes from everything the city has to offer and just 45 minutes from wine country.

If your heart (and your liver!) are set on staying in wine country proper, we’ve got you covered. How about a 5 bedroom villa in Sonoma, the very heart of wine country? Imagine you and 8 of your closest friends luxuriating on a private estate with your own pool, spa, vineyards, and wildlife. Yet, you’re literally minutes from downtown Sonoma and its shopping, dining, wineries, and nightlife. And if you happen to visit in the fall, you just might be treated to the spectacle (shown in the photo) of the vines trooping their colours in an unforgettable rainbow display.

Perhaps you find Sonoma a little sleepy and Napa is more your thing…consider this historic “Painted Lady” situated in the heart of downtown Napa. Built in the 1880s, this home looks as if it was magically transported from “Postcard Row” along Alamo Square Park in San Francisco. But it’s not in the City, and that means there’s room to stretch out. In fact, the home is nestled in its own enchanted forest featuring a Japanese garden and gazebo. Did I mention that guests of the Purple Victorian enjoy free and discounted wine tastings? Could there be a more perfect place to sip and savour the fruits of the Valley?! If you find one, PLEASE let us know!

The results are in!

Thank you to all respondents for sharing your thoughts and preferences with us!

As many of you know from our previous posts and maybe because you also received the newsletter: We conducted an online survey to determine specifically what guests are looking for with regards to communication with hosts, amenities and kitchen supplies.

Results

Communication

Pre Stay Communication

Communication: Pre-stay phase

Respondents stated that it is important to them to receive email responses from the hosts within 24 hours (58% of respondents). It is critical to 51% of respondents to get responses within 3 days in the pre-stay phase (inquiries, booking, instructions). Phone calls during this phase are important to 43% (critical to over 15%). Text message contact and mailing of documents do not seem to be as critical (see graph). Interestingly, the text option received the highest number of “do not care” responses.

During a guest’s stay, email communication becomes critical for a larger number of guests (54%), and so does availability over the phone (40% critical, 48% important). It appears that guests trust that any issues can be sorted out over the phone. It does not seem as critical to them to have a manager on site.

During Stay Communication

Communication: During guest’s stay

Amenities

Well, we sure can’t live (or vacation) without our WiFi toys anymore, or so it seems. Free WiFi access tops the list of expected amenities at a vacation rental (87%). This is followed by a washer/dryer (78%), an outdoor sitting area (73%), Cable TV (72%) and a BBQ (52%). Check out the graphic below for ratings of other amenities. To make your rental more attractive, consider adding one or more of options that are rated high, therefore improving your bookings over your competitors.

AmenitiesKitchen equipment

Lastly, we asked respondents about the items they expect to see in your vacation rental’s kitchen. Not surprisingly, generous cooking equipment with enough pots and pans, a microwave and dishwasher is requested by a high percentage of respondents. Since vacationers also love to enjoy a glass of wine when relaxing, make sure to stock wine glasses in your kitchen (72% expect those). As evidenced in the graph below, other items are a lot more “optional” but could make the difference that sets you apart from another rental in the same area (e.g. invest in a butcher block or coffee grinder). I have found that those details can make a big difference; for example, I always ask if I have to bring my own coffee grinder and always opt for the rentals that have one, especially if I have to fly to that destination.

KitchenPlease share your thoughts, questions or comments on this with us.