Surviving Chaos, Travel, When in

How to Choose A Vacation Rental Property

As we get ready for Summer, I’m sure everyone has planned or are in the process of planning their vacations. After this past year, these are much needed vacations and I highly encourage you and your family to take one. While most people choose a hotel, there is a growing set of vacationers looking into vacation rental property. We have used vacation rental properties for over a decade and it definitely comes with its pros and cons. We have some really great ones and some horrible ones. We put a together a list of tips to help you choose a great vacation rental so your vacation will be smooth sailing.

  • Know What You Want: Before your book your vacation home, know what type of property you want. Do you need a lot of rooms? Do you want lots of amenities like washer and dryer or family board games? Do you need an ocean view, really? 5 minute walk or 10 minute drive to the beach? Pet friendly? Make a list and then do your research! Know your preferences and what makes you and your family most comfortable is key. If you don’t know your preferences, then your vacation property may disappoint. Also, be sure to know what is included in your vacation property such as shared beaches with other properties, kayaks, BBQ grill, etc.
  • A MISSING Picture Is Worth 1000 Words: If your like me, I like to look at ALL the pictures of a vacation property to get a good feel for place. Good property managers have lots of pictures in order to really sell you on their property. But what about the things that are not captured in pictures?? Vacation properties that don’t have pictures of all the rooms or pictures with the just the bathroom vanity should raise alarm. Pictures where only half of the kitchen or bedroom are shown or properties where there are no views of the beach even though it s a beach house rental are definitely a red flag. Also check reviewers pictures – if they don’t match the official sites pictures there may be a problem. This may be an indication that the owner is hiding something or the home is not as updated as they say. Trust me – we learned the hard way and were very disappointed with our not so updated 1970s yellow and green decor multiple property beach shared vacation home!
  • Not All Reviews Are Created Equal: Vacation properties with 5 stars reviews are great! But how many 5 star reviews is too good to be true? Too few 5 star reviews may give you pause and too many be sign that they may not be real. There is a sweet spot with reviews – there should be a good number of them with vacation properties that have been around for 1-2 years, but if there are more reviews than the number of times it has been rented be cautious. Be sure to read every review carefully especially ones within the past year. We I read a review, I look for topics about cleanliness, decor, amenities and if the reviewer would rent the property again. Also, if you see multiple reviewers complain about the same thing, be on alert! Reach out the property manager to see if these issues have been addressed or are currently being addressed. Good property managers will be honest and upfront about any issues…..and are very responsive to inquiries.
  • Cleaning Fees: Vacation rentals can be inexpensive based on what you are looking for. However, with the recent pandemic, we have all taken another look at how we clean our homes. This is especially true for vacation rentals. With the number of residents renting from all over the world, vacation rentals already had pretty good cleaning crews and schedules. But now those cleaning fees are much higher to due extra cleaning that needs to occur between renters. You will need to take this into account when budgeting for your vacation rental. Also, know what is expected from you in terms of cleaning. For example, the property owner may want you to start the dishwasher before you leave or put all the towels in the washing machine and start it. This helps both the cleaning crew and the property owner prepare for the next guest.

While these are not the only tips that can help you choose a vacation rental, we feel these are the most important ones that help us when decide to rent. Remember to make a list of preferences, do your homework, and read EVERYTHING! You’ll be glad you did!

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5 Least Visited Places in the U.S.

Most of the time when people think about visiting the United States, they immediately plan trips to New York or Los Angeles maybe even Miami. Although the places are awesome, why not take trip off the beaten path? Why choose the road less travelled? The U.S. has a lot of hidden gems in other cities that are not as well known. Here is a list of charming cities we think are worth visiting when your looking for new adventures.

Boise, Idaho

Idaho may not seem interesting or may only be known for its potatoes but the capital of Idaho has so much more to offer. A youthful destination, you’ll find fresh air and low pollution as you stroll Basque Block. While your there, take a ride on the Boise River Greenbelt for some relaxation.


Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Gorgeous state parks, skiing, rocking climbing and Mount Rushmore all make Sioux Falls a fantastic place to visit. A river literally runs through the city – Big Sioux River is a site to see and ends in a series of rapids in Falls Park. And if your looking for something quirky, check out the butterfly house at Sertoma Park.


Bowling Green, Kentucky

What does cave spelunking, wooden roller coasters, and underground boat tours have in common? Bowling Green!! If you looking for something off the beaten path, this city’s got it! When your done with all your outdoors adventures, head over to the National Corvette Museum for a little car history.


Asheville, North Carolina

If your into the art scene, Asheville is the perfect place to be. The Downtown Art District is home to numerous art galleries and museums and has opportunities to showcase local up and coming artists. And since the city is located in the lush Blue Ridge Mountains, there is plenty of inspiration.


Santa Fe, New Mexico

If your looking for a centuries-old Spanish colony, then you want to visit Santa Fe. With architecture influenced by Pueblo people and distinct Southwestern feel, Santa Fe has lots to offer. And if your a foodie, the New Mexican cuisine, a blend of Mexican, Pueblo, and Spanish flavor and styles.

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Old Settlers Park, Texas

Old Settlers Park, Round Rock, TX

Round Rock’s Old Settlers Park is one of the best parks in the state of Texas and known as the best sports destination in the youth and amateur sports leagues. The park’s 640 acres provides lots of options for hike and bike trails and plenty of ample space for recreational pursuits such as disc golf, cricket, baseball, softball, soccer facilities, and more. You will never run out of things to do and there is lots of space for social distancing. This is a great idea to tour your own city; not sure how to get started? Check out my post here for some creative ways to tour your own city.

We decided to take the trail closest to the disc jokey and cricket fields. It must have been disc jockey tournament day because there were lots of teams playing and making their rounds through the park. I would call this the scenic route as there were some great photo opportunities and lots of native Texas landscape to see. Of course the first things our kids spotted was the el chupacabra sign which led to lots of questions. Which some how turned into a Bigfoot conversation….needless to say their imaginations got the best of them! Old Settlers Park is also a great place to congregate outside, BBQ and have a game of horseshoes at one of the two pavilions available.

Brushy Creek that runs throughout the park and even has a mini waterfall that you can look over from the bridge. Our kids had some many questions and enjoyed the sound of the rushing water. Plus there are so many beautiful flowers to see and plenty of trees to provide lots of shade on hot days. Don’t forget your fitness tracker, you can easily walk a mile or more on the trails, just look for the mile markers along the way. We explored one of many trails at Old Settlers park so we will definitely be going back. Parks are a great opportunity to spend time with your family, experience nature first hand and spark your kids curiosity!

Surviving Chaos

In order to make the most of you time at the park and prevent kid meltdowns, I’ve provided some surviving chaos tips. Have fun exploring at the park.

  • Sunblock: Be sure to put on lots of sunblock to prevent sunburn. This is the first rule of thumb for any outdoor activity.
  • Early Morning: Best time to visit the park is early morning. It’s cooler, less crowded and your kids will have energy to burn. A fun filled morning at the park makes for a well rested and relaxed afternoon (I hope).
  • Backpack: This is the perfect place to keep water, first aid kits, sunblock, snacks, portable potty seat, etc. What ever creature comforts you need. Remember to keep it light weight since you’ll be doing a lot of walking and/or biking.
  • Snacks: Don’t forget the snacks! Apple slices, carrot and celery sticks, granola/protein bars, goldfish or whatever your kids like. You don’t want food meltdowns and HAN-gry kids in the middle of your hiking journey

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Tips for Surviving Long Haul Flights

Long haul flights can be brutal! These are flights that last 8 or more hours, a full day, from beginning to end in order for you to get from 1 side of the globe to the other, literally. Sitting in the same spot in a small confined spaced can be tough on the body….and mind! Once you finally land, you’ll feel some serious jet-lag that goes far beyond basic exhaustion. Whether your travelling to Australia or Singapore (hello 19 hours!) or Germany, we’ve got some tips and tricks on staying comfortable and sane so you survive your long haul trip.

  • Wear Comfortable Clothing: Forget about those jeans! Bring on the stretchy pants! Wear compression socks to reduce swelling and prevent blood clots. With all the changes in air pressure and temperatures, you’ll want something that’s breathable, easy to move in and stretchy. Your body naturally adjusts to these changes and you don’t want to be bottled up in jeans. Additionally, wear loose fitting layers i.e. a light sweater, light jacket or oversized scarf/pashmina to adjust to temperature fluctuations. Plus, they make great pillows when your ready for some shut eye.
  • Noise Cancelling Headphones: You’ll want these for a number of reasons….to hear the inflight entertainment, to listen to your favorite tunes or podcasts or to drown out the snores of the person sleeping next to you. Don’t forget them, you’ll be miserable without them.
  • A Book: A big long book would be ideal. A trilogy perhaps?? You would be surprised how much time elapses when you get lost in a good book….or two. Here are some recommendations: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (800 pages), The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara, Black Swan Green by David Mitchell.
  • Snacks: The last place you wan to be HAN-gry is on a flight at 30,000 ft in the middle of the ocean. Be sure to pack plenty of snacks but choose them wisely. Peanuts can be unforgiving on the tummy let alone pose an allergy risk to others. Opt for a protein bar, they’re the right portion to keep you satisfied until the inflight meal or after. Avoid alcohol and lots of caffeine (a cup of coffee is fine) as they can dehydrate you and cause more potty breaks. Remember to drink lots of water!
  • Keep Clean Bag: After you’ve travelled for 10 or more hours, you definitely want to freshen up. Travel size toothbrush and toothpaste, facial cleansing wipes, breath mints and lotion are easy to slip into your carry-on. This gives you the opportunity to freshen up mid-flight or right before landing. Plus your skin dehydrates so you’ll want to moisturize frequently. You can find more ideas on what to put in your carry-on bag here.
  • Grace and Patience: Remember to be kind to the person sitting next to you….your new neighbor. They may provide great conversation or snore the entire trip. Depending on what seat your in, EVERYONE has to go to the lavatory at some point. Regardless, be kind, gracious, courteous and friendly….your both in it for the long haul! And don’t forget about the stewardess who will tend to all your needs and requests. Always say thank you!

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4 Things We Miss About Home While Travelling

Although we love to travel and we really miss travelling right now, there are some things we miss about home while we’re travelling. You experience so much when you travel like meeting new people, going on uncharted adventures, and exotic food but there are some things we take for granted. We really miss these things when we are away from home. Here a a list of 4 things we miss about home when we are abroad.

  1. Familiar Food: As much as we love to try new and exotic foods, after a while you want to eat something familiar….and that you can identify. After your 5th squid dish, or 3rd hot and spicy meal, your really wanting something more simple. Yes, American food is not as exotic, but its familiar to us and easily recognizable.
  2. Doing Laundry: I’d never thought I would miss this, but I do! Being able to go and wash clothes whenever I need to is a big perk. But when your travelling, this service may not always be available to you or cost quite a bit.
  3. Our Bed: Believe it or not, we really miss our bed. Yes, there are beds at the hotel but its not quite the same. Your own bed has the perfect lumps, nooks and crannies specific to you but its not the same when your in a different bed. There’s no substitute for the 3-4 pillows you use or 1 sheet, 1 quilt and 1 blanket combo that are perfectly setup in your bed. There’s just something about your own bed that’s welcoming.
  4. Not Living Out of a Suitcase: Pack…unpack. Pack….unpack. With my husbands work trips, he typically visits 2-3 countries per trip. This meant that he was constantly packing and then unpacking when he got to his next destination. He never truly felt settled and felt like he was living out of a suitcase. When your at home, all you stuff is just there. No need to move it or pack it up and unpack at. You just feel settled and grounded, literally and figuratively,