Monday, March 30, 2009

Bobcat Wanders into Sedona Area Bar-Just Looking for a Bloody Mary

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ottawa Family Catches Red Rock Fever (Freebie Alert!)

Vacation rental guest, Jennifer Chandler writes about her recent trip to Sedona. Jennifer has devoted her life to providing a low or no-toxin environment for her family. This commitment to healthy living is a legacy she gets from her mom, Jane Chandler. Jane's Etsy Shop will be featured in the next issue of Mothering Magazine, she sells eco modern design stuff for babies, kids and kids at heart. There's a fab giveaway going on for one of her beautiful quilts on Cloud9 Design. Now back to Jennifer and Sedona.

Here in Ottawa, my partner, daughter and I have taken quiet time and a good number of conversations to focus on how, when, and why we want to return to Sedona as soon as we can. We spent almost two weeks in Sedona at the beginning of January, and it was both a time of re-awakening and relaxation - simultaneously! Staying in Dana's family home, Casita Colibri was the nexus, the highlight, and the incredibly comfortable grounding for our adventures and quiet evening nesting after long hikes.

As a couple, and now as a family, we have committed ourselves to living with as small an ecological footprint as possible, and to limiting the toxins and body-burdening chemicals that are so prevalent. This is why we chose to visit Sedona after having found Dana's healthy vacation rentals on an Internet search, not the other way around!

Normally, one chooses one's destination and then figures out where to stay. Having an eco, non-toxic, and toddler-friendly place to stay was our paramount concern, and we were fortunate to have found Dana's healthy home. Without it, I'm quite sure we would not have made it to Sedona and had an enriching experience that featured the most solid family bonding we have had since my partner took a few months off work when our daughter was born.

Our daughter learned a great deal during this trip - about a whole new part of the nature, about the kind of experiences we can have as a family, about what hiking is, and how to avoid touching a cactus - and undoubtedly had spiritual experiences she was not able or willing to identify or share. Sedona is a truly special place to us, and at the heart of that is Dana's lovely home, something we are working on visiting again soon.

Photo of Red Rock Crossing, Arizona by Steve Beinhorn
This blog is for bottom-up dispensers of cool who enjoy eco-travel deals and healthy living. We feel that "the small, the slow, the local, and the personal" will build the new economy. Your comments will help enrich this information for all of us. Please share your tips and experience.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dana's Top 5 - Includes $7 A Day Rental Cars

1. The top 25% of people in India, when ranked by IQ, is a larger number than the entire population of the US. Put your lifestyle in context with this must see video

2. Free WiFi for Mac Users from Skype.

3. "The Lost Generation," watch and read this AARP award winning video all the way through to the end

4. Rental cars for $7 a day at

5. Luxury 4 Star Hotels for under $100 a night Still not as good as a healthy vacation rental for under $100 a night (June to Sept at my place)! But if you don't want to go to St. Augustine, FL or Sedona, AZ, click away:-)

Taj photo by Eric J. Mayer
This blog is for bottom-up dispensers of cool who enjoy eco-travel deals and healthy living. We feel that "the small, the slow, the local, and the personal" will build the new economy. Your comments will help enrich this information for all of us. Please share your tips and experience.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Best Ways to Find Vacation Rental Deals Online

Supply exceeds demand with vacation rentals, which means better deals for you. After failing to sell or rent their property, many home owners have turned their homes into vacation rentals, flooding the market. And those of us with experience in the vacation rental market find ourselves with more cancellations and erratic off-season occupancy. This makes us more likely to flex on price. Here's how to get the best deal on your vacation rental.

1. Start Searching. Look for the hungry owners with an Internet search using the terms "self catering" or "vacation rentals" along with the name of your destination. More than likely, it will turn up the same old third-party rental sites and management companies that mark up the price--but there will be some owner listings as well. And some sites have sections for special rates. Owners have to pay to be listed in these sections, which they do to generate traffic. But sometimes the deals are worthwhile.

2. Go Directly to the Owner. Most rental sites have no contact with the owners. By finding ways to reach owners directly, you cut out the management and listing fees. If the owner doesn't have to pay a third party or $20 to get in the rate specials section, they may pass the savings on to you.

Start with a search using unique terms like "smoke-free," or "hikers vacation rental." The results are more likely to put you directly in touch with an owner.

3. Call, Don't Email. It may not be as fast, but if it puts $100 in your pocket, it may be worth it.

I get about five inquiries a day by email. Most are for dates in the next 10 days that are already booked. Many are for large parties (we have two bedrooms and one person wanted to know if they could bring 14 people). The rest read something like this, "Hi, what's your best rate for these dates?"

I consider myself to be an honest person which means my "best rate" is the rate I post on the websites. This type of email doesn't get much of a response from me or other vacation owners I know. A personalized message or phone call gets our attention. It's a real person, with real interests.

Chat with the owner about the unique term you used to find them, you'll find they may be more willing to discuss a sweet deal if you've expressed genuine interest. It will also give you a sense of what this person is like and if their home is a good match for you or if they're running a scam. Read my article about how to avoid being disappointed when booking online.

4. Be Flexible About Travel Dates. I don't make deals during peak season, Dec-April in the sun belt. I don't make deals for holidays. Why? I don't have to--I can book the place five times over. In the summer, vacation owners in my neighborhood rent for up to one third as much as they get in season. This applies to beach area rentals as well, but their peak season is June-September.

5. Dana's Top Five. I only stay in vacation homes with healthy air quality, low toxin fixtures and furnishings rented by experienced owners. I rarely stay in hotels. These are the sites I do and do NOT use to shop for deals: does not charge owners to feature their listings and they do not copy listings from other sites which means the information is more likely to be accurate. The site is easy to search. And no, I don't get paid to mention them or anyone else. This is an ad-free site.

Last minute deals on international vacation rentals and villas.

CyberRentals special deals and offers, mostly in the US, they charge the owner to be featured.

Find deals on Scottish cottages.

As for CraigsList, with a few exceptions like the geek-rich cities of Austin and Seattle, I find it difficult to search, filled with strange deals offered by disreputable people, and most owners are very inexperienced. Problems range from owners being unwilling put things in writing like directions and rental terms, they only have one frying pan in the kitchen, or you have drive all over town at odd hours to get the keys which can be difficult if you're driving and can't control traffic jam delays.

And last, but not lease, this site! I often take advantage of deals other vacation rental owners ask me to post. Some never make it to the site because I have people email me about their interests and just connect them right to the owner. Check this blog frequently, I post deals almost every week. Or better yet, subscribe to the feed and you won't miss any.

Photo of Matanzas River Pier at the Riverview vacation rental in St. Augustine, Florida. Rate specials offered May through August.

This blog is for bottom-up dispensers of cool who enjoy eco-travel deals and healthy living. We feel that "the small, the slow, the local, and the personal" will build the new economy. Your comments will help enrich this information for all of us. Please share your tips and experience.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Florida Spring Reflections

Guest blogger Fran Palmeri shares photos and thoughts about her recent Florida hike.

The maple trees lead the spring bloom in the cypress swamp at Highlands Hammocks State Park, Florida--their leaves unfurling on bright red stems.

The bald cypress hold back, revealing only mere hints of green mirrored in the still waters. We crane our heads to see to the tops of these ancient trees and wonder what would it be like to be here in a hurricane with leaves and branches flying all about. Then we lean over the railing for a different perspective.

In the looking glass swamp the cypress can be seen more clearly except when disturbed by an occasional ripple from some small creature coming to the surface. My friend imagines water fathoms deep; I see only the muck of thousands of years of leaf drop.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Snow on the Beach Vacation Rental

This photo of the snow on the beach in NC was taken this morning at Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle.

Sunday, March 1, 2009