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.

7 Best Tips For Healthy Clay Pot Cooking

Clay pot cooking is the oldest and time-tested method for healthy cooking. While people are struggling to fight the ill effects of modern ways of cooking, with this safe and simple way of cooking, nobody ever had complaints. This is probably the reason people are slowly going back to their roots by switching to clay cookware.

There is a new challenge with clay pot cooking today it is rare that people are making it with the health value in mind so the clay pots available in the market are unfortunately chemical laden and coated with toxic enamels and glazes (like ceramics). The more beautiful and colorful they look on the outside, the more toxins they may leach while cooking. The cheaper they are, it’s possible that additives are used to make them faster and smoother. It’s important that you choose a truly healthy pot and here are 7 tips to choosing and using the best clay pots:

1. Always Choose Primary Clay

Primary clay is the purest form of clay – it has absolutely no toxins. Only primary clay is naturally inert, so doesn’t react to food like metals and ceramics. There are many clay pots available in the market that are made from secondary or tertiary clay but they have contaminants that may leach into your food while cooking.

2. No Chemicals, Glazes or Enamels

Most makers start using chemicals to make the process easier. In fact, every mechanized process needs the raw material to be treated with chemicals. The glazes and enamels might make your clay pots and pans colorful, attractive and even robust but they contaminate food. So always choose a cookware made from unglazed primary clay (or pure clay).

3. Seasoning Is Important

Seasoning your pure clay pot as per instructions is very important for cooking delicious food every time and it also increases the life of your pot. Pure clay is naturally non-stick, so after proper seasoning, if done right, the food should never stick to the bottom.

4. Choose Ingredients Carefully

You have finally chosen the healthiest clay pot – great, but it will all be in vain if you won’t use the right ingredients. For healthy clay pot cooking, make sure you choose all-natural organic ingredients that are unprocessed and nutrition-rich. A balanced diet is all you and your family needs for a healthy body, so always pay attention to the nutritional value of your ingredients.

5. Cook At Medium to Low Heat

Pure clay pots are great retainers of heat and the near infrared heat radiating from their walls cooks food evenly with gentle heat. It keeps nutrients intact and food cooks in almost the same time at low-medium heat as it does on high heat in metal/ceramic cookware.

Cooking at low-medium heat not only prevents food from burning and sticking to the bottom, it also improves the durability of your pure clay pot.

6. Choose A Pot That Manages Steam Well

Steam management is an important aspect of healthy cooking. In conventional cookware, the steam pressure inside the pot gets too much while cooking with harsh, near-infrared heat from metals/ceramics. So their lids have vents to release excessive steam in order to protect the pot from exploding.

Not many are aware that steam is water-soluble nutrients. As the body can’t store them like fat-soluble nutrients, they are needed every day. If the steam is released freely while cooking, the food becomes nutritionally deficient.

An ergonomically designed pure clay pot and lid make sure when steam rises from food, condenses at the inner surface of the lid (the lid being cooler than the pot) and settles back into the food before cooking is complete. This way, the water-soluble nutrients are preserved and your body is nourished with them regularly.

7. Clean With Water – No Soap

Regardless of what the label says, all soaps are toxic. When you are using a 100% non-toxic cookware, it’s important that you keep it away from anything toxic or chemical laden. Pure clay pots are naturally porous, so food doesn’t stick to the surface. You can always clean them with bare hands in normal water. Though you can scrub it a little if burnt food sticks at the bottom.

By following these simple yet useful tips, you can do wonders with healthy clay pot cooking. This will not only keep your body nourished with essential nutrients but will also protect you from common infections and diseases by strengthening your immunity.

Gardening Ideas That Can Be Useful To Start

Herb Gardening For Beginners

The kits usually come with a variety of seedlings, a dome for greenhouse, pot for the herbs, peat moss and soil combination, and fertilizers. Each kit comes with step-by-step instructions on how to plant which herbs, and how to care for them from day 1 and onwards.

Nonetheless, for individuals who are bold enough to try the outdoor gardening, there are resources which provide helpful instructions on how to get started. Depending on the type of herbs cultured, there are varieties that are best suited for a particular purpose and require specific needs.

Herbs that grow for tea, mint herbs are among the easily planted in shady areas. Some of the best mint teas are peppermint, spearmint, and orange mint. They are best grown in pots as they tend to overpower other plants when grown on open beds.

For herbs grow for decorative purposes, among the best picks are the chamomile and wild thyme. They best thrive when planed between paving stones as their discharged leaves will leave fragrance on them.

There are also herbs that are specifically grown to attract bees. A few of these herbs are the sweet marjoram, bergamot and catmint.

Articles and discussions posted on the web also serve a good source of information on herb gardening for beginners. These community sites share information and anyone can post a question, then a lot will respond.

It can be done indoor. Since they require sunlight, they should be placed on windowsill. Hanging herb gardens are also a nice alternative especially if the plants planted are fragrant.

Chia Herb Garden

Not everyone is endowed with a gift of a green thumb. Worse, not all of us have outdoor space from which a garden can be built. But no need to fret; with the innovation of technology, one is possible to grow herbs right at the comfort of one's home. And if anyone has not tried to grow any plants at all, there is no need to worry as well. The Chia Herb Garden is exactly what everyone should need.

The Chia Herb garden is a starter's kit for everyone who sports all colors of a thumb. The kit comes with everything needed in order to grow healthily a variety of herbs-4 3-inch terra-cotta pots with 4 matching saucers and 4 matching plastic saucer liners, 4 Chia growing sponges, 6 plant marks, and 6 varieties of herbs namely Dill, Sweet Basil, Curled Parsley, Chives, Cilantro and Sweet Marjoram.

Some Chia Herb Garden kits only have 3 terra-cotta pots, but the number of herb seedling remains the same. This concept is to allow gardeners to choose which seedlings they would like to use and grow. If they decide to grow all 6, then the gardener will simply order additional terra-cotta pots.

The Chia sponges-especially made from peat moss, bark and sponge material-make it easier for everyone to germinate and grow plants from seeds. It is also quicker than the conventional methods of seed germination. The sponges are super absorbent and designed for better retention of moisture and air.

Of course, the Chia Herb Garden kits are not complete without a booklet of instructions, recipes and helpful tips on growing herb gardens. Many who have outdoor gardens take advantage of the Chia Herb Garden to grow herbs quickly from seed germination. When the herbs have reached a specific growth, they are transplanted outside.

Six Bridesmaid Gift Basket Ideas to Make Yourself

Creating individual bridesmaid gift baskets is a surefire way to make sure each bridesmaid receives a very personalized gift. Each basket can be different depending on their interests, but stay within the same budget for each one. The art of making a great gift basket is to include items that stay within a theme.

Here are six bridesmaid gift basket themes that you can easily put together
yourself:

  • Ahh the Spa Bridesmaid Gift Basket – For the pampered friend, include spotted soaps, lotions, candles, facial masks, foot scrub, massage oil and maybe even slippers or a bathrobe.
  • Food & Wine Bridesmaid Gift Basket – For the gourmand friend, choose red or white wines, imported cheeses, crackers, cheese knife, wine charms and a wine bottle opener.
  • Dinner & Movie Bridesmaid Gift Basket – For the home friend friend, include a DVD (comedy, drama, etc., you know what she'd like), microwave popcorn, a bottle of soda and an assortment of candy.
  • Sweet Snacks Bridesmaid Gift Basket – For the sweet tooth, include hard candy, a box of chocolates, gum, mints, homemade cookies and a silly mug with hot cocoa mix.
  • Party Girl Bridesmaid Gift Basket – For the wild child, include bottles of hard liquor, plumping lip gloss, thong underwear, aspirin (for the next day hangover) and some condoms.
  • The Hobbyist Bridesmaid Gift Basket – This one is perfect if your bridesmaid has a hobby, just work within the theme of her hobby. For the gardener, include seeds, garden tools and a decorative ceramic pot. For the artist, include a sketchbook, colored pencils or pastels and an art book for inspiration. For the chef, include a cookbook, a spatula and some assorted spices.

To assemble the baskets, you simply place the items in baskets with some colorful
tissue paper or shredded paper and add a gift tag or card. The entire basket can be
wrapped up in cellophane or left plain with a few ribbons tied to the handle.

You do not need to use the same exact basket container for each bridesmaid. If you
They are on a tight budget, look for baskets at thrift stores and mix and match. If you
time it just right, baskets can be purchased on clearance after Easter. Other
containers such as colorful gift bags, small bathroom garbage cans, decorative
boxes, tins and tote bags will all work nicely to hold your gift items.

Have fun coming up with bridesmaid gift basket themes!

Visit http://www.do-it-yourself-weddings.com/bridesmaid-gifts.html for more
unique, do it yourself bridesmaid gift ideas.