Are you a Tough Mudder?

I recently received an email with a video clip of a Tough Mudder event. My heart was pounding, watching the incredible footage of people tackling the world’s toughest obstacle course. I could feel my adrenaline pumping and noticed my mind saying “this would be so fun to experience”. For those who don’t know, Tough Mudder is a 10-12 mile hardcore obstacle course designed by British Special Forces to test your strength, stamina, mental grit and team camaraderie.

The endurance courses involve a variety of rough terrain including mud, fire, 12 foot walls, icy water and 10,00 volts of electricity. This is not a race to be attempted alone … it truly is about pushing yourself to your limits, both physically and mentally as well as working together as a team to support each other through it. Savour the sense of accomplishment after pushing yourself and teammates through challenging terrain and extreme obstacles.

Events are held throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Australia,  New Zealand, Japan and South Africa. In 2012, roughly 500,000 people worldwide participated in a total of 35 events, making Tough Mudder the world’s fastest-growing endurance adventure series. Are you a Tough Mudder?

Springtime in Europe

Springtime in Europe

 

There are many benefits to vacationing in the springtime, especially springtime in Europe. It is low season, so there are less crowds and more affordable prices. It is also a period where the temperature starts to get warmer, the days get longer and everything is reborn and alive again. Go for a hike, get to a beach or stay in a villa overlooking the mountains. There is much to explore in the great world of ours. If you are planning on holidaying in Europe, consider one of the following destinations to fully enjoy springtime in the Old World:

Amsterdam, Holland

Amsterdam may be one of the few European cities where spring is one of the busiest times of the year. Famous for its Dutch tulips and festivals, you will thoroughly enjoy Amsterdam in the spring. Try to time your holiday during 2 of the biggest holidays in Holland: Queen’s Day and Remembrance Day. April 30th is Queen’s Day, a national holiday to celebrate the country’s (former) Queen. This holiday is like the Mardi Gras of the Netherlands, welcoming up to 2 million visitors annually with non-stop parties and live music in every part of the city. Another interesting aspect to this holiday is the city-wide free market rummage sales. Less than a week later, on May 4th , is Remembrance Day followed by Liberation Day on May 5th. Grab a coffee, kick back and relax at one of the many patios or parks, and enjoy some good old fashion people watching. Very entertaining!

Seville, SpainSeville, Spain

Seville is an incredibly romantic European city with its ancient history and rich detailed architecture. Enjoy exploring this city filled with beautiful fountains, gardens and exquisite tiling.  Spring is a special time of year in Seville: Two of the city’s most important events take place during that time. Semana Santa is a religious festival but also includes lots of celebrating into the wee hours of the morning. This is followed by the Spring Fair, also known as “the Feria”. This is a full week of celebration, parties, dancing and drinking with many late nights or all-nighters if you are up for it. Flamenco dancing also originated in the region of Andalusia, which is a combination of singing, song and dancing. Enjoy an authentic flamenco show at the Museo del Baile Flamenco (Flamenco Museum) or at one of the city’s dinner shows or bars.

Algarve, Portugal

Spring on the Algarve in Portugal is a wonderful time to visit with stunning scenery, vibrant wildflowers and plenty of activities to engage in, most notably golf. It is warm and one of the sunniest places in Europe during the spring. Great weather, scenic landscapes combined with fewer crowds and good value for your money make the Algarve a destination to be experienced. There are a couple of holidays celebrated in the spring including Liberation Day on April 25th , complete with fireworks and live entertainment throughout the region. Olhao’s Clam Festival is also held from late March until early April. Music lovers won’t be disappointed as the Lagos Jazz Festival is held during April as well.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic, is a magical place to visit anytime of the year. But spring offers a variety of activities to enjoy, including the Prague Spring International Music Festival. This event showcases a variety of performing artists, symphony orchestras and chamber music from around the world. Enjoy Easter markets in the Old Town Square as well as in Wenceslas where you can purchase handcrafted Easter goods, enjoy traditional food and a variety of local music performances. Combine your sightseeing with athleticism by entering the Prague International Marathon also held in the spring.

Top Honeymoon Destinations

Top Honeymoon Destinations

For many couples, your honeymoon is an opportunity to take that trip of a lifetime. And what better way to celebrate your new union than to make some of your dreams come true? If your list is anything like mine, LONG, it may be hard to narrow down where to go. We have made a short-list of must visit places. To fully enjoy your honeymoon, consider a vacation rental for your stay, offering the utmost in amenities, flexibility and most importantly, privacy! Choose from a flat rental in Europe, an ocean-front vacation home rental or a trendy urban condo rental in the city.

Florence, Italy

Florence is the “City of Renaissance” and for good reason, offering plenty of romanticism and charm with stunning palaces, noteworthy museums and plenty of historical architecture and churches. In fact, Florence is one of the few cities in the world where the entire historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But the beauty of the city is also in in the simplicity. Wander through these historical streets enjoying the local neighborhoods, savour Italian coffees or gelato while people watching in one of the many piazzas or visit one of many markets and barter with the locals.

Maui, Hawaii

While Maui is physically Hawaii’s second largest island, it only has a population of just over 130,000 making it an ideal location to still enjoy paradise without the crowds. Maui offers over 80 beaches and in the winter months is home to one of the best places to whale watch in the world. Enjoy special intimate moments with your partner and watch the sunrise on top of Haleakala Crater. Or add some thrills into the mix, rent a car and explore the road to Hana with over 600 windy, crazy curves and 54 picturesque bridges. Be sure to bring your camera for some spontaneous photo ops as this is one of the most breath-taking drives in the world.

San Francisco, California

Many love songs have been written about San Francisco. You’ll be sure to fall in love with this city that offers first-class dining, culturally diverse entertainment and interesting neighborhoods, landmarks and scenery. There is much for you to explore and experience. While it is a wonderful walking city, no visit is complete without a ride on the infamous cable cars. If you have the time, rent a car and enjoy the 2 hour scenic drive to Napa Valley. On the way be sure to appreciate the architectural wonder of the Golden Gate Bridge and views of San Francisco.

Costa Rica

Looking for an adventurous honeymoon that will leave you with memories for a lifetime? Make sure Costa Rica is high on your list. This is a destination that truly offers something for everyone. There is so much to see and experience, waterfalls, wildlife, surfing and diving, ziplining, ATVing, deep sea fishing, white water rafting. Enjoy the natural unspoiled beauty of the area whether you choose a mountain holiday, rainforest eco-retreat or an active beach vacation.

Paris, France

Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra both sang about it and you too, will fall in love with Paris. This is one of the most romantic cities in the world and what better place to celebrate your new journey together? Enjoy views from atop of the Eiffel Tower, be inspired visiting any of the museums and churches. Pack a picnic and spend a lazy afternoon in one of the many parks and gardens. Take a romantic cruise along the Seine River or just wander these ancient streets enjoying all that this fare city has to offer.

Where would your dream honeymoon be?

Ready for some sun? Our 2013 Top Sun Destinations

“Palm trees, ocean breeze, salty air, sun kissed hair. That endless summer, take me there.” ~ Unknown

Done with snow, slush and sleet? Ready for sun, sand and sea? Here are our 2013 Top Sun Destination picks:
Maui

Majestic Ulua Beach is especially great for snorkeling, scuba training and standup paddle boarding. Stay at Property #204620 in Wailea for nearby access.

Maui, Hawaii – Maui, which was named for the demigod who stood on the rim of Haleakala Volcano and snared the sun, has been a favorite of many “mainlanders” for their sun vacation. Maui offers visitors palm-shaded beaches, lush rain forests and quaint towns to explore, all in a sunny, warm climate.  Owner Direct has created a list of top things to do in Maui when visiting.


Imagine yourself here! The infinity pool is waiting for you… at this fabulous oceanfront condo in downtown Puerto Vallarta. Property #202835

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – Puerto Vallarta is an authentic tropical beauty: This charming coastal city is a place where visitors can experience the beauty and traditions of Mexico while enjoying the comforts of a vacation rental. Whether you wish to visit the open markets, enjoy water sports, fish or go on a variety of excursions, you will find many things to love about Puerto Vallarta.


Enjoy this Mickey Pool in the Disney World Area, Kissimmee, FL at Property #115580

Disney World, Florida – Who can resist the reliable sunshine, the exciting theme parks and the joy of spending time with friends and family enjoying it all?  More than 90 attractions await in the Orlando are, including Walt Disney World, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Kennedy Space Center, Magic Kingdom, MGM Studios, SeaWorld, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens and Discovery Cove.


Wake up in this luxury condo in tropical Costa Rica Property #202094

Costa Rica – Relatively undiscovered until recently, Costa Rica is rapidly growing in popularity and offers a wide range of holiday experiences. It is an area of variable terrain, from rain forests to volcanoes, rivers to pristine beaches. Eco tourism is quickly becoming more prominent and the climate in Costa Rica is tropical year round. Hard to beat!


Relax and unwind in a gorgeous newly remodeled 3 bedroom, 2 bath luxury casita in Scottsdale, AZ. Property #205176.

Scottsdale, Arizona – A fantastic choice for both single and family vacations, offering over 330 days of sunshine each year, this city offers visitors a chance to relax or take part in many desert adventures that await in the area.

What are you waiting for? Search for a sunny vacation home on Owner Direct today!

Travel Top Blogs

Top 5 Spring Break Vacation Ideas for 2013

The time to think about Spring Break is coming up! The kids are growing up quickly… it’s time to plan a trip. Traveling creates wonderful memories for years to come, is educational and most of all, fun! Here’s our list of top 10 Spring Break family destinations.

Orlando, Florida #204736

#1 Orlando, Florida – Is this a surprise? With so much to do in the Central Florida area, including Walt Disney World, Epcot Center, MGM Studios, Universal Studios,  Daytona International Speedway, the Kennedy Space Center, Cypress Gardens, Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens and Gatorland, Orlando offers fun for the whole family.  Are Disney World ticket prices really getting more expensive over the years? We’ve done a cost comparison of Disney World ticket prices vs. gas prices over the years.

Perdido Key, FL #103071

#2 Other Florida Locations – Known as the Sunshine State, Florida has many world-renowned beaches along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Florida became a popular winter tourism destination for sun-seekers from colder climates over a century ago and has gained even greater popularity since.

Whistler, BC #203444

#3 Whistler, BC - Famous for hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler has been a favorite ski and snowboarding destination for decades. Whistler is consistently ranked as the number one mountain resort in North America: With two spectacular mountains, world-class skiing and boarding, four championship golf courses and a wide array of shops, restaurants, vacation rentals, chalet rentals and accommodations there is plenty to keep a visitor busy, all year long. Add to that the spas, hiking and biking trails, and you might not want to leave.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina #204478

#4 Myrtle Beach, SC – With a subtropical climate and white sand beaches, Myrtle Beach has always been a hot Spring Break destination for the college age. Spend your days at the beach enjoying the entertainment or at a beach house overlooking the Atlantic.

Kailua Kona, Hawaii #202679

#5 Kailua-Kona, HI – Located just 15 minutes south of Kona International Airport, historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona) is a lively seaside town in the heart of the sunny Kona Coast. It is a charming oasis of green amidst a volcanic and relatively barren landscape. A perfect vacation spot! The main oceanfront road, Ali’i Drive, offers a variety of the village delights; there are various shops and malls as well as some of the finest pacific island restaurants.

Even as SpringBreak approaches, there are always very affordable last minute vacation deals if you have some flexibility.

It’s time for a little Luxury

“Luxury”  – The state of great comfort and extravagant living.

It’s time for a little luxury, you deserve it. With the right group of friends and family in a luxury vacation home rental, the memories can last a lifetime. Here’s some select ones that look fabulous.

10,000 sq ft Acapulco Mansion ID# 79242

Acapulco, Mexico 4 bedroom villa. The villa is a Spanish Colonial architectural work of art. This spectacular mansion was home for nearly twenty years to the world renowned singer and romantic icon Julio Iglesias until 2005. It is the only privately-owned villa located atop a mountain on the grounds of the world famous Villa Vera Hotel Spa and Racquet Club. Guests of the villa will enjoy all the amenities of Villa Vera including the hotel pool, bar, restaurant, room service, gym, spa, tennis courts, racquet ball courts and concierge service.

While the Villa affords total privacy, it is situated in the heart of Acapulco, so that you are never more than a stone’s throw from all that this incredible city has to offer. Many fine restaurants, clubs, and shopping are within easy walking distance.


Pigeon Forge Cabin Rental Specializing in Large Group Rentals ID# 203652

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee cabin rental specializing in large group rentals. Bring all of your guests to our lodge for your Wedding, Family Reunion, and Church Retreats. Located just minutes from local dining and attractions in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Wears Valley; all of your guests will praise you for putting this years function together. This is the largest Pigeon Forge cabin in east Tennessee. With over 11,000 sq feet of indoor space which makes this the perfect family reunion vacation rental facility. A Smoky Mountain cabin that has 9 bedrooms, 21 seat movie theater, arcade, complimentary high speed internet and a private setting. These amenities made this lodge the most original and luxurious log cabin in the Smoky Mountains. Located just minutes from Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Tennessee, we have all the amenities you would find in any 5 star luxury resorts around the world.


Chateau Médiéval in the South of France ID#72267

In the heart of France’s Minervois region, nestling at the foot of the Black Mountain, lies the village of Agel. Its Château is one of a line of fortified castles where the vassals of the Count of Toulouse resisted the Albigensian crusade in the 13th century. This superb medieval castle dates from the 12th century onwards, and consists of the main building, four towers and a dovecote. Its extensive terraced gardens covering 2 hectares (5 acres) offer extensive views over the Cesse valley and the Pech mountain: the ideal setting for a quiet walk or a relaxing dip in the swimming pool.


Luxurious Mountain Home with Unforgettable Views in Ruidoso Downs, NM ID#200950

The beauty and uniqueness of this new million dollar plus mountain log home in Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico and the view it offers can not be captured in photos. Located on top of a mountain ridge 14 miles from downtown Ruidoso, this beautiful home sits in the middle of 1000 acres populated with mule deer, elk, turkey, jackrabbits, and even an occasional mountain lion. The view from the 800 sq ft deck takes in three different mountain ranges, including 12,000 ft Sierra Blanca, and houses a hot tub for your romantic evening. This is the ultimate home away from home for your vacation any time of year. Winter brings skiing at Ski Apache, spring and fall are perfect for hiking and biking in the LIncoln Naitonal Forest, and summer fun is easily found at the Ruidoso Downs racetrack, home of the famous All American Quarterhorse Futurity. In addition, The Inn of the Mountain Gods has a full Vegas style casino and great dining year round, as well as one of the many golf courses found in the area.

We have many more listed on our Featured Luxury Properties page and on our Luxury Vacation Rentals pinterest board. Now the question is where do you want to indulge?

What’s your holiday plans for 2013? Sun or Snow?

As the New Year makes it’s entrance, it’s time to focus on what’s important: Creating memories with our loved ones. And what better way to do that than with a fantastic vacation.  What is it going to be this year? Sun or Snow?

San Jose del Cabo #203690

Beachfront Private Home in Los Cabos, Mexico with Pool and Jacuzzi #203690

Sunny destinations offer a break from the cold winter weather. Glorious beaches, turquoise waters and tropical paradises await. Some of the more popular destinations are Hawaii, Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean, Canary Islands, Sicily, Portugal, Thailand, Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia. With winter average temperatures in the mid-twenties °C at most of these locales, the winter blues can easily be chased away.

Mont Tremblant #117956

Amazing luxury log home with on site spa & restaurant in Mont Tremblant, Canada #117956

Ski destinations are also popular this time of year. Whistler, BC hosted the 2010 winter Olympics and is a fabulous family destination full of activities for the non-skiers as well. Other popular ski destinations are Mont Tremblant Quebec, Sun Valley Idaho, Park City Utah, or the South Alps of France.

Winter doesn’t have to mean long months indoors. Get creative and find a vacation rental in a fun location for your group. What are your holiday plans for 2013? Will it be sun or snow?

Season’s Greetings

In warm appreciation of your support during this past year, the team at Owner Direct Vacation Rentals would like to wish you a very happy holiday season and the very best in the new year.

The Sun is Shining in Mexico

If the winter doldrums are starting to take their toll, a trip to Mexico may be in order. Mexico offers everything from beautiful sandy beaches to exotic tropical rain forests. It is a popular tourist destination and a fantastic winter getaway. The most popular destinations are Cancun, Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas.

If you are planning on visiting one of these sunny destinations, here’s some info on some Mexican events and festivals going on for 2013.

Cancun

Besides the many fishing competitions along the enviable coastline, other notable regional festivals include the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival which runs March 14-17, 2013. There are 30 exciting events over 4 days with a line-up of Celebrity Chefs, Star Wineries & Spirits. The Summer Solstice  festival is in late June at the world-famous Chichen Itza ruins. The Cancun International Film Festival (CIFF) runs in mid-November with screenings of both Latin American and international films at various cinemas throughout the city.

Cozumel

Some of the Cozumel’s  largest festivals are the February Cozumel Carnival where you’ll likely be overwhelmed with the free entertainment on offer, the International Billfish Tournament in early March which is one of Cozumel’s most popular fishing competitions, and Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) where this national holiday includes many celebrations, street parties and impressive fireworks displays.

Puerto Vallarta

There are always things to do in Puerto Vallarta and among them are the Vallarta Bird Festival from March 7-10, 2013,  the May Day Parade (May 1st) where the Malecon area offers the main festivities, and Fiesta del Mar (Sea Fest) throughout November with various events held along the Marina Boardwalk including jet ski racing, art exhibitions, beach games and a large boat show. Whale watching season starts mid-December to March where huge humpback whales can often be seen off Banderas Bay.

Mazatlan

Mazatlan’s International Carnival (Feb 7-12th) is a spectacular event where local, national and international participants take part in a 24/7 fiesta. Activities include a parade, live music, folklore, dance and entertainment.

Acapulco

Some events worth enjoying are the Holy Week (Semana Santa) celebrations in early April, the Acapulco Music Festival (Festivales de Acapulco) in mid-May, and the spectacular cliff diving shows (La Quebrada) where brave and foolhardy locals jump from the top of high cliffs, diving some 30 meters / 100 feet into the waters below.

Cabo San Lucas

Filled with exceptional nightlife and endless beach fun during the day, Cabo San Lucas is a perfect sun-filled getaway destination. One of the most significant local celebrations is Dia de San Lucas (Oct 18th) where street parades, open-air concerts, food and street vendors all gather around downtown. The Easter Festival in early April is centered at various venues around the city and includes music, dancing, eggs stuffed with confetti and a religious parade.

Ski Season is Here!

Enjoy it in a Ski Condo….

Now is a great time to book a ski vacation! The resorts are opening and there is lots of snow in the forecast for this winter. A variety of rental accommodations are available for you to enjoy after a day of skiing, tubing, skating or tobogganing. Take your family or friends, and enjoy relaxing in front of a cozy fire or soaking your muscles in a hot tub. Owner Direct can help you find the right cabin or condo for your needs. Here are some tips for some of our favourite resorts.

Big White Resort

Big White, famous for its ‘snow ghosts‘ and light fluffy powder, offers plenty of lodging options on the mountain but you can also choose to stay in Kelowna to enjoy the city amenities.  To get the most value out of your ski holiday at Big White:

  • Purchase multi-day tickets and save $10/day. Prices also include night skiing.
  • Redeem your Air Miles for a lift ticket (with no blackout dates) 525 air miles get you one full day lift ticket. Pretty sweet deal!

The Okanagan is famous for its delicious wines so why not plan your ski holiday around one of two wine tastings events at Big White: Big Reds takes place December 7th and 8th, while Big Whites takes place March 23rd. Both events offer a selection of locally inspired appetizers.

Whistler-Blackcomb Ski Resort

Rated one of the top ski resorts in North America, Whistler-Blackcomb should be on every skier’s list to experience at least once. Vacations can be expensive and we all like a deal so here are few tips on how to save:

  • Purchase an Edge Card (available only to Canadians and residents of Washington State). These are preloaded passes available for 1, 3, 5 or 10 days of skiing during the 2012-13 season (with no blackout periods) at discounted prices.
  • Alternatively pre-purchase your ski passes and save. Savings depend on the length of the ski pass and when you are skiing. For instance, purchase an 8 day ski pass good until December 14th and you would save 27% off the regular price.
  • Kids under 6 ski free!

Park City

Park City, Utah is famous for its epic snow and first class service. When planning your Park City ski holiday, there is a variety of rental lodging mountainside as well as in nearby Salt Lake City. Park City Mountain offers a variety of ways to save. One of the most original allows you to convert your boarding pass into a same-day lift ticket. This applies to Park City Mountain as well as Deer Valley Resort and the Canyons Resort.

There are a number of prestigious events held throughout the season, which you may want to consider when planning your trip:

  • SkiFest, where you can enjoy skiing with Olympians, TV & film stars,  takes place Dec 8-9th.
  • For more celebrity spotting visit during the Sundance Film Festival, January 17th – 27th.
  • Freestyle World Cup, a premier ski event including aerial and mogul competitions, will be held January 30 to February 2, 2013.

Mont Tremblant

Enjoy some of the best skiing east of the Rockies at Mont Tremblant, about  90 minutes from Montreal, Quebec. There are a variety of ways to save. If you won’t be a frequent visitor to the mountain consider the following offers:

  • The Latitude Card requires you to purchase your tickets at least 48 hours in advance but you can save up to 34%.
  • School break offer where kids (6 to 17 yrs) ski for 5 days for $99.

Sun Valley

Sun Valley offers some stunning and challenging terrain and is known for its perfect pitch mountain slope. Ticket prices are based on the time of year with peak periods being the most expensive. Ticket prices can be cheaper when purchasing multi-day passes, and there are also discounts for military and local residents.

Sun Valley features a variety of events held throughout the year. Consider planning your ski holiday to enjoy one of these:

  • USSA Freestyle Spectacular featuring a mogul competition on Bald Mountain, and slope style and half-pipe on Dollar Mountain on January 10th to 13th, 2013.
  • Transworld Snow Conference, March 11th to 15th, 2013.
  • Rev Tour (March 17th to 22nd) which attracts international competitors for skier-x, half-pipe and slope style events.

Panorama

Panorama Mountain is featuring one of the best deals this season, the “Snowcard”, open to all skiers and boarders. The Snowcard is good for 4 days of skiing or riding (although there are some blackout periods). An adult card is $149, which works out to $37.25 for a full day of fun! What a deal!

There are also several family events held at Panorama that you may want to consider when planning:

  • Snowflake Festival, January 19-20th, with fun activities for the entire family including a torchlight parade.
  • Mardi Gras, February 8-9th, with some fabulous food and activities for kids including mask making.
  • Stampede, March 9-10th, complete with cowboy cookouts and rodeo events for the whole family.

Where is your favourite mountain to ski or board? Do you have any deals to share with other readers?