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4 Must Do’s Before Booking Your Vacation Rental

It’s Airbnb season!  Summertime is THE time for staycations and vacations.  Since summer starts this week, we thought we’d share with you some of our favorite tips on things to do before booking your vacation rental.

Vacation rentals are becoming a preferred way to save money and have a more authentic experience when travelling.  Whether you travel for work or pleasure, frequently or once in a while, renting a home can be a great and unique way to save money and ensure the creature comforts of home while on the road.  Here are four things you must do before booking your vacation rental.

Make a List of Must-Have Amenities

Before you finalize your stay, be sure to confirm that your vacation rental has all the amenities you need.  Depending on the length of and reason for your stay, you may decide you are willing to pay a little more for some of the added luxuries of home.  Annette White of Bucket List Journey notes, Many people overlook the included amenities when booking a vacation rental, but my best advice is to pay close attention to them. If you are traveling for a longer length of time an Airbnb that has a washer will save you money at the Laundromat, included WIFI means less trips to the local coffee shop, free breakfast saves on money spent dining out or at the grocery store and free parking for your rental car will keep you from having to park blocks away.” It is critical to consider which amenities you’ll need for your accommodations to make your stay a comfy one.

Scope Out the Neighborhood Near Your Rental

If you’re planning to spend more time out and about than in your vacation rental space, location will be more important for you.  Destination and adventure photographer Conor MacNeill of TheFella says this money-saving approach is worth it, “I normally pick rentals in a good location, as opposed to one having a lot of facilities. Can I walk to the local coffee shop in the morning? Perhaps I won’t need to Uber around if there are enough dining options within walking distance.”  Picking a vacation rental in the right location can save you money on and the hassle of local transportation.

Read Reviews and Limit Arrival Surprises

Reviews are definitely important.  Checking the bad reviews first can help you decide if there are any consistent problems with your vacation rental space and whether or not those problems are important to you. Josh McNair of California Through My Lens says that he almost never stays anywhere without reading reviews. According to McNair, “People will often look at the star rating but not dive into a few reviews. It is important to see what others liked and disliked about the spot and reviews allow you to do so.” It is easy to make a vacation rental look desirable in pictures, but reading the reviews is what will give real insight into how amazing (or ghastly!) your stay there will be.

Contact the Host for Discounts Before Booking

Hosts may list rentals based on a typical stay of one week or less, but if you plan to stay longer, contact the post about a longer term stay before booking on  Airbnb, VRBO or whatever travel website you use.

Matt Karsten of Expert Vagabond suggests,” Don’t be afraid to try and negotiate with a potential host for a discount on longer stays of 1 to 2 weeks or more. Oftentimes it’s less work for the host if guests stay longer, rather than trying to rent the location out to three or four different clients. The best way to do this is to contact the host directly first, before you hit the ‘book now’ button. Ask some questions, compliment them on the vacation rental, etc. Then try to get a slightly lower price saying something like ‘I really like your place, but I think it’s slightly out of our budget. Do you offer any special discounts for extended stays?’ The worst that will happen is they’ll say no. Or, you’ll save some money!”  The conversation also might lead to more insight about the rental or the neighborhood than what is posted on the travel website.

Now go forth and do your research!  Your summer vacation awaits.

Visiting Los Angeles

6 Hidden Gems to see When Visiting Los Angeles

The Hollywood Sign. The Santa Monica Pier. The Rose Bowl.  You’ve probably heard of, seen pictures of, or maybe even been to all of those famous Los Angeles attractions.  If you’d like to add a little more excitement to your vacation, check out these six hidden gems to see when visiting Los Angeles.

Eagle Rock Canyon

If you’re looking for something free, leisurely, and beautiful, look no further than Eagle Rock Canyon.  Located near Pasadena, Eagle Rock Canyon offers an easy, fairly low elevation hike and gorgeous views.  It has a clearly defined trail where you can hike to the top and picnic or simply take in the view.  There are tons of hikes to find in LA, but if you’re looking for a lesser-known hike when visiting Los Angeles, Eagle Rock is definitely a hidden gem you don’t want to miss.  


Sunken City

This gem looks and feels post-apocalyptic because, well…it sort of is.  Traveling to this cliff-side 1920s neighborhood in the community of San Pedro is worth the trip. It was devastated by erosion and slid into the ocean in 1929.  The remains of the neighborhood are still around.  Although technically off-limits to the public, these remains are still explored by many today.  If you don’t mind a little adventure on your visit to Los Angeles, definitely check out the Sunken City.


Wayfarers Chapel

Wayfarers Chapel is located just north of the Sunken City in beautiful Palos Verdes.  It sits atop a hill with beautiful ocean views.  The drive up to the chapel alone will take your breath away with stunning landscapes.  The Wayfarer’s Chapel website describes it best as “The natural sanctuary of Palos Verdes [that] sits nestled in a grove of towering redwoods on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Designed by renowned organic architect Lloyd Wright, the stone and glass structure gives unique expression to the sacred space that welcomes all Wayfarers along life’s path.”  



Ojai is just a couple of hours outside of LA proper, but it is nothing short of relaxing in luxury.  With stunning landscapes and endless activities, Ojai is a vacation (or staycation) you’ll never want to end!  Eric Stoen from Travel Babbo says, “There are plenty of places to stay. Our favorites (very different but both family-friendly) are the hip Caravan Outpost and the luxe Ojai Valley Inn and Spa.”  If you’re looking for a perfect family vacation, Ojai is great for kids!  Stoen goes on to say, “We love Ojai for nearby family getaways…every restaurant in town is kid-friendly. For activities you can go horseback riding, hiking or cycling, and the playground right in the middle of town is a great place to relax while your kids play.” For more on what Ojai has to offer see the Top 3 Ways to Relax When Visiting Ojai.


Solstice Canyon

If you are an outdoorsy type, there are more challenging hikes than Eagle Rock Canyon.  Take a hike up Solstice Canyon when visiting Los Angeles for a more physical workout.  Located in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu, Solstice Canyon has tons of trails for all levels of hikers as well as landmarks to see along the way.  Of course almost nothing can surpass the beauty of Malibu. So, you’re sure to see nothing but scenic beauty on your upward journey.  


Arena Cinelounge

When in the holy mecca of cinema, what kind of article would this be without mentioning one of LA’s many theatres?  Arena Cinelounge supports independent film makers by screening them exclusively.  Located in the heart of Hollywood it doesn’t get more LA, or more hipster, than that.  With its cool exterior, smooth interior, and heart-centered support for the arts, Arena Cinelounge is a must-see hidden gem when visiting Los Angeles.  

Visiting Disneyland

Visiting Disneyland – What’s Worth-it and What’s Not

Congratulations on planning your Disney adventure!  You are about to have the time of your life.  With so much to see and do, make sure you see and do the best things when visiting Disneyland.  Here’s some tips to help you squeeze the most happiness out of the happiest place on earth.

Totally Worth-It

California Adventure
If you’re debating on whether the park-hopper pass is worth the money when visiting Disneyland, the debate ends here.  Do it!  While Disneyland has been the classic, time-honored park since 1955, Disney does not make mistakes creating an experience.  They have done an amazing job on the California Adventure park.  California Adventure has perks Disneyland simply doesn’t offer:

  • California Screamin’ – An actual upside down roller coaster which is not available at Disneyland.
  • Alcohol – Disneyland does not have any alcohol available at the restaurants.  Don’t worry, California Adventure has your back.
  • Hyperion Theatre – A show unlike any other, you can watch a full production LIVE musical of Frozen in the beautiful Hyperion Theatre.
  • Food & Wine Festival – California Adventure also offers their annual Food & Wine Festival with wine tastings and unique food options.

Buy the park-hopper pass.  You won’t regret it.

Grand Californian Hotel
Being one of the three Disneyland resort hotels, this is definitely one of the more expensive places to stay when visiting Disneyland.  However, it is worth the cost.  The Grand Californian Hotel offers all the perks of any of the Disneyland resort hotels:

  • Magic hour – Every guest at the Disneyland resort hotels gets to enter the parks one hour earlier than everyone else.
  • Themed rooms – Each room is unique at all the resort hotels giving your family a personalized experience.  Plus if you let them know ahead of time you’re coming for a special occasion, the staff will decorate the room to suit the occasion.
  • Beyond room service – Any of your souvenir purchases in the parks or in Downtown Disney can be delivered directly to your hotel room so you don’t have to carry them around the park.

All of those benefits are amazing, but when choosing a resort hotel, there is no contest of beauty against the Grand Californian.  Modeled after the Ahwahnee hotel in Yosemite, the Grand Californian has a truly “grand” design.  With its rustic mountain feel, the Grand Californian’s architecture and design will win you over making this expense totally worth-it.

Mickey’s Halloween Party
If you’re visiting the happiest place on earth during the spookiest time of year, you’re in luck!  Mickey’s Halloween party does cost extra, but you’ll have so much fun you will definitely want to attend.  Disney does nothing dull.  This freaky festivity will blow you away with special music, decor, and activities:

  • Costumes – Normally Disney’s general rule is that no adults are allowed in costume, but the whole family can dress up for this one!  
  • Candy – There are booths all around the park for trick-or-treaters to get their treats.
  • Special Events – There is a special Halloween-themed parade just for party-goers as well as a Halloween-themed  fireworks show and other various special events.

This event is becoming more popular every year, so make sure to get your tickets in advance.  It’s worth the money just to see everyone’s creative costumes!

Not Worth-It

Tiki Room
There always seems to be a line for the tiki room and it is simply not worth the wait.  If you want to see the show, go for it, but if there is a line just avoid it all together.  The Pineapple Dole Whip right next door, however, definitely worth standing in line for!

If you have kids and they really want to see a parade while visiting Disneyland, go see the Main Street parade.  That said, the parade is okay, but short lines are better.  While everyone is waiting hours for the parade to start, go on some rides!  Also, stay away from Main Street at this time.  With a lot of the pathways blocked off, it is very difficult to get anywhere quickly via Main Street.

Paying for Pictures
There are Disney photographers all over who will try to convince you it’s worth it to pay for a professional picture of you and your family – it’s not.  You probably have a camera phone.  Even though the quality won’t be as nice on your phone, the cost does not outweigh the quality.  If you really want a professional picture while visiting Disneyland, go for the pictures that are taken while rides are “in flight”.  If your family took a truly priceless ride pic that you can’t live without, maybe it’ll be worth it to you.  But, as a general rule, don’t pay for the pictures!

There you go, a comprehensive list of what is and is not worth-it when visiting Disneyland.  Have fun on your Disney Adventure, and remember, “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.” – Walt Disney

Visit Palm Springs

Palm Springs Vacation – A Unique Desert Getaway

Palm Springs is a must-see city with tons of ways to keep you and your loved ones busy.  With plenty to do during all seasons, you can truly have a unique experience any time of year.  Below are just some of the ways to enjoy your desert adventure.

Aerial Tramway

There is no way to beat the breathtaking views than when embarking on this journey thousands of feet above the ground.  Palm Springs’ famous Aerial Tramway takes passengers on a 2.5 mile, 10 minute trip with stunning panoramic views.  The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway was completed in 1963 and underwent a modernization in 2000 to accommodate a unique rotating tram car design.  If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind experience on your Palm Springs vacation, the Aerial Tramway is sure to deliver.

Art Museum

Palm Springs doesn’t stop with its uniquely designed experiences and the Palm Springs Art Museum is no exception.  With diverse exhibitions, tours, workshops, lectures, and education programs, the PSAM has something to do for all ages and interests.  What makes this museum stand out, however, is the Annenberg Theatre built right into the museum itself.  Various film screenings and performances happen every month making this a must-see attraction on your Palm Springs Vacation.

Windmill Tour

Have you ever wondered how energy is converted from wind?  You can find out how the impressive windmills on the hillsides of Palm Springs use wind energy as a sustainable resource on the windmill tour.  You’ll travel on a tour bus to see beautiful desert views and, of course, those magnificent windmills while learning all about renewable energy.  Private tours are also available.

Living Social

If you’re still unsure about what to do on your Palm Springs vacation, check out deals on sites like Living Social.  Choose from a variety of discounted experiences such as luxury spa services, tours, and fitness classes.  If you need something to do on your vacation, there is no shortage of fun on Living Social.

Whether you want an action-packed, adventurous vacation or a kick-back, relaxing vacation Palm Springs has something for you.  What will you do on your unique desert getaway?

Venice Beach

Venice Beach – Eclectic and Elegant

Los Angeles’ vibrant Venice Beach has a shade of color for everyone!   If the eclectic shops and iconic boardwalk doesn’t excite you, the elegant beach views will.  Here are some great sources of entertainment when visiting Venice Beach.


Totally Rad Art

Venice Beach’s bohemian boardwalk has a lot to offer.  Just walking up and down the eccentric walkway is enough to keep you entertained all day.  In the 50s & 60s, Venice beach was the center of the Los Angeles art scene and its colorful culture still thrives today. The local artists – street performers, painters, musicians, knick-knack makers – are what keep Venice alive and spirited.   When visiting Venice Beach, keep a piece of this wild culture with you by purchasing a uniquely-Venice art piece.

Muscle Beach Venice

If you’ve had your fill of psychedelic art for the day, stop by the trademark training center for all of LA’s most muscular men & women – Muscle Beach.  This famous, outdoor gym is right on the boardwalk with fabulous views of the beach.  Many famous athletes, notably Arnold Schwarzenegger, trained at this gym when it had its original name of The Venice Weightlifting Pen.  This name distinguished it from the original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica before its current title, Muscle Beach Venice.  A popular spot for fitness folks and observers alike, Muscle Beach Venice is a must-see when visiting Venice Beach.

Venice Canals

A stark contrast to its urban boardwalk, the Venice Canals is a side of Venice, CA usually only seen in Venice, Italy.  Built specifically to resemble Venice, Italy, the Venice Canals are man-made canals which can be toured via gondola.  A gondola reservation can be made through sites like getyourguide.com.  The canals wind through opulent California homes while transporting you to an Italian adventure.   On your Los Angeles vacation, be sure to treat yourself and see a more elegant side of Venice Beach.


There is no doubt that groovy Venice has tons of activities to entertain anyone.  If the neighboring city of Santa Monica is on your list of places to visit, check out this post on what to do when visiting Santa Monica.  When visiting Venice Beach, come for the radical reputation and stay for the welcoming, colorful culture.