NC Fall Color Report 2017

NC Fall Color Report 2017

I’m not a native of NC, I grew up all over the US and have had the pleasure of calling Charlotte my home for 15 years. One of the things I love best here is fall. It’s the time when big yellow buses fill the morning commute with kids headed back to school, pumpkin spice fills the restaurant menus and store end caps, and temperatures drop out of the 90’s and we pull our warmer clothes from the back of the closet. But best of all is the fall color. We’re blessed with abundant natural beauty in the Carolinas, both the beautiful beaches and stunning mountains.

If you’re like me and want to take in the beauty of fall leaves this year, see my short Q&A below for some top tips:

Is it going to be an amazing year for fall color?
It’s hard to predict this early, but unlike last year, the mountains are not in drought, quite the opposite. The key elements of a great color show depend on 1. the type of plant, 2. the amount of rainfall and 3. cooler temperatures. All indications point to a great season for fall leaves.

Where are the best places in NC to see fall leaves?
Fall color varies by elevation, with the highest elevations seeing color change first. My top recommendation is to pick based on when you can go and what areas have peak color. See the map below from App State on fall color timing. A drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway is always a good bet and you’ll be able to take in views of many elevations.

What are the best tips for viewing and photographing fall landscapes?
-Plan ahead and book accommodations early
-Be patient, it’s busy this time of year and many peak spots/overlooks will be full of other visitors
-Plan for the weather. Particularly at higher elevations, weather changes quickly so pack layers. Don’t get discouraged by storms or fog, they often leave as quickly as they came.
-Take your camera everywhere with you and don’t miss the Golden Hour, the times near sunrise and sunset with soft golden lighting that can add a magical touch to your photos.

Use AirBnB and VRBO to LOOK, not BOOK…

This great article that shows some of the changes to how travelers book in 2017.  The major listing sites have added many fees and there are some great reasons to look at their listings but book directly with the owners.

Read more from Amy Hinote at VRM Intel.

One in three US vacationers are choosing vacation rentals over hotels for their leisure travel, up from one in ten just five years ago, according to a recent study released by travel research authority Phocuswright. However, while increasing numbers of travelers are choosing vacation homes, shopping for a vacation rental isn’t easy. Unlike hotels, each vacation home is different. As a result, vacationers can spend an enormous amount of time and energy sifting through all the different options for the perfect rental.

 

Airbnb and Expedia-owned VRBO.com advertise extensively to vacation rental shoppers, but savvy long-term vacation rental consumers know that, while it is great to look for rentals on these sites, it is not always the best idea to book using them.

Here are 3 reasons not to use Airbnb and VRBO.com to book a vacation rental:

 

1. CONSUMERS PAY ADDITIONAL FEES TO BOOK ON AIRBNB AND VRBO.COM

Airbnb and VRBO.com both earn a large portion of their revenue from service fees or traveler fees that are paid by you, the consumer.

Airbnb, for example, charges an additional 6–12 percent of the cost of the rental. On VRBO.com, that same fee can be even higher. According to VRBO.com, “The service fee is between 5–12 percent for most bookings but can be above or below, based on the reservation.”

 

2. THE BEST VACATION HOMES AREN’T ON AIRBNB AND VRBO

In a world where marketplaces such as Expedia, Priceline, and Airbnb reign supreme in the eyes of travelers, it is easy to assume that all the vacation rentals available can be found on these major marketplace websites. However, this assumption is not true. In fact, at most traditional vacation destinations such as North Carolina’s beaches, Cape Cod, Destin, Myrtle Beach, Key West, the Gulf Coast, and in major ski destinations, less than half of the available vacation rentals are listed on these major websites.

Vacation rentals do not have to be listed on major marketplace websites. The most desirable homes, cabins, chalets, and condos book easily, so the property managers and homeowners do not need to incur the high expense of listing these vacation rentals on channels such as Airbnb and VRBO.com.

 

3. BOOKING DIRECTLY WITH THE PROPERTY MANAGER OR HOMEOWNER HAS ADDITIONAL BENEFITS

Consumers who book directly with the property manager or homeowner are likely to receive additional benefits including special rates, onsite services, and increased customer support. When you contact the property management company or owner directly, they have intimate knowledge about the destination and can show you the best rental for your needs. Plus, they can direct you to activities, restaurants, and area service providers. During non-peak travel times, they often have special offers available.

In addition, professional vacation rental management companies have other benefits you can take advantage of, such as grocery delivery, beach or ski equipment rentals, and event passes.

When shopping for a vacation rental online, here are some tips to locating the home’s original property manager or homeowner:

  • Look at the photos and description for clues that mention the name of the property management company or the homeowner.
  • Copy and paste the description of the property into your search engine to see other sites where the home is listed. Often the property you are interested in is also publicized by its property management company or homeowner directly.
  • Conduct a Google image search with the photos of the home as another method of locating the primary source of the rental.

Although large travel websites can provide lots of information, you can save hundreds of dollars and ensure a better vacation experience with just a little extra investigative work.

Top 5 Survival Tips for Travel with Teens and Tweens

travel

It’s wasn’t so long ago that I was terrified of teenagers. The surly attitudes, eye rolls, headphones over the ears, iPhones in front of their face, I was petrified to be in the same room with them, let alone spend a week together on vacation. Those days are largely gone now and I live in the same house with FOUR teenagers and one tween. Over the last eight years of family trips in over 20 US states, I’ve developed some teen travel survival strategies that might help you on your next family vacation.

Here are my top five recommendations:

#5: Try to involve them, but don’t take it personally if they act disinterested.

With seven opinions in our house about where to go and what to do – invariably one person just needs to take the lead (usually that’s me). However, asking each family member to pick a “must do” for each destination has been great. And if you hear any grumbling the day of that event, you can point out that each person gets one “bucket-list item”, so it’s only fair for us all to go along happily.

#4: Embrace technology.

I would love it if my kids would completely disconnect on vacation. Heck, I’d love it if I could completely disconnect on vacation – but that’s not practical or easy. So set some limits around technology – not at the table during meals, not while touring attractions, not out by the pool – but allow for some connected moments because our teens find communicating with their friends to be as essential as food and water. Encourage your kids to send photos or tell their friends about your trip.

#3: Set a budget for extras.

We determine a reasonable dollar amount to spend on daily treats and souvenirs in advance and allocate that to each kid as a special trip allowance. That means if one child desperately wants the $80 Red Sox official jersey and another wants a triple ice cream cone every day, then everyone is satisfied and you’ve avoided all the nagging.

#2: Build in some action and some rest.

We prefer to keep our teens on the move. They’ve got so much energy anyway. Plan for walking, biking, time by the pool or an adventure on the trip like zip-lining, rafting, hiking, or kayaking. It’ll help burn off excess energy and provide some new experiences they might not have tried before. Conversely, needing a vacation from your vacation is not ideal – so plan some rest time too.

And our #1 Tip: Pick the right place to stay.

For our family of seven, a hotel just isn’t restful or enjoyable.  We can’t always find adjoining rooms and the extras (breakfast, parking, resort fees) just escalate too quickly. In our experience, renting a vacation home when traveling with teens is the best way to go. Everyone has more room to spread out, we can cook some of our own meals, buy breakfast items and often there are games and activities right at the house. Staying at a vacation rental also allows our teens more independence. We typically select an accommodation where they can walk, bike or roam a bit on their own – researching a “walk score” can be helpful.

Finding the perfect accommodations has been such a challenge for us, we’ve bought two of our own vacation properties over the past two years. There are so many pros and cons to that,  it requires it’s own blog.  Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a vacation rental house that has been “teen-tested and approved” –  take a look at our homes in St Petersburg FL and in the North Carolina mountains. You can rest assured that we’ve got all the things teens want, including space to spread out, fast wifi, convenient things to do at the house and nearby, as well as amenities for frazzled parents!

Teen travel has not always been painless, but we have learned some critical tips. I love hearing our kids reminisce about the trips we took three, four, even five summers ago. As many of us know, the best things in life aren’t things – our family has created many incredible memories while traveling.

Give us your feedback!  What tips work for your family trips?

 

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