Search This Blog


Follow Us on Twitter

Europe’s Festive Christmas Markets

Known locally as Christkendmarkt, Marche de Noel, Weihnachtsmarkt, Europe’s famous Christmas Markets bring the spirit of the holiday season to millions of visitors every Advent season.  Stroll the cobblestone streets in many of Europe’s Old Town squares and let the aroma of gingerbread and cinnamon fill the air.  Hold a warm cup of hot mulled wine or cocoa as you browse the quaint wooden huts filled with handmade crafts and Christmas ornaments.  Marvel at the beautifully adorned Christmas tree in town square.  Most of these picturesque markets can be found in the shadows of a gothic Cathedral.  These holiday fairs can be found in several cities all across the continent.  The markets of the different countries will vary to reflect the culture of the region and each will offer its own charm and traditions.  Listed below are a few of Europe’s most recognizable markets.

Considered the “Capital of Christmas” Strasburg Market tops the list. It boasts 300 stalls spread out over 12 locations all over Old Town, making it one of the largest and most beautiful markets in Europe.  It’s France’s oldest market dating back to 1570 and was voted “Europe’s Best Christmas Market” in 2014. 

Known as one of the finest of the German Christmas Markets, the Cologne Market is visited by roughly two millions tourists each holiday season.  It’s one of Europe’s most festive markets with its darling huts called “Buden.”  Cologne hosts over 160 stalls where you can experience the magic of Christmas. 

At Vienna’s “Magic of Advent Christmas Market” you’ll shop, eat and stroll around it’s popular square with its iconic City Hall as its backdrop.  Offering 150 or so stalls you are sure to find that special Christmas gift, decoration or sweet.  The trees surrounding City Hall Park are decorated with festive, glistening lights that are sure to put you in the holiday spirit

They are known for not only their beautiful market but for their open air concerts in Old Town Square.  You can warm up from the winter chill with a glass of mulled wine or warm honey liquor while you browse the beautifully adorned huts. 

Located near the popular tourist attraction of the historic Roman Baths and Bath Abbey, The Bath Christmas Market’s 170 chalets full of christmas treasures are sure to please.  Visitors come from all around to savor the warm mulled wine along with freshly baked mince pies

Winter Wonders Market offers a variety of holiday specialties with over 250 charming wooden huts selling crafts, local delicacies and produce.  During the evening you can enjoy a spectacular light and sound show in The Grand Place with its fairground wheel and merry-go-round to add to the holiday festivities. 

International Vacation Home Exchange has exclusive vacation homes located near many of Europe’s most festive Christmas markets.  Browse these properties and turn your next luxury home exchange into a holiday fairytale.

Thank you to travel writer Lisa Medieros.  

Making the Most of a Winter Vacation

Winter is fast approaching in the northern hemisphere and bringing with it shorter days, colder temperatures, and the dreaded cold and flu season. The winter months effect some so deeply that they may even find themselves feeling depressed.  One of the best ways to make sure you don’t wind up with a case of the winter blues is to take a holiday, but you may feel that your options are somewhat limited if you’re hoping to take a vacation during the colder months. While your first instinct might be to run off to a tropical beach somewhere, taking a cold weather vacation can actually be a ton of fun too. Just because the sun is setting a little early and there’s a nip to the air, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a fantastic winter holiday.

The first thing to plan when you’re mapping out your winter vacation holiday is wardrobe. It’s hard to enjoy yourself when you’re focused on a cold nose, so make sure that you make it a point to pack appropriate cold weather attire. Before you travel, take a look at the forecast so that you can plan accordingly. if it looks like snow, that’s not a problem; just make sure to grab the snow boots!  The same can be said for your car. If you’re driving, be sure your car is also dressed for the weather (snow tires, chains, etc.) so that you can be safe on the road, no matter what the weather has in store.
There are plenty of things to do, even in colder temperatures. You may take the opportunity to enjoy indoor activities you might otherwise overlook, such as art museums or the theater, but there are also plenty of outdoor activities you can do, even in the dead of winter. There are places in the world that are absolutely stunning in the winter, picturesque snowscapes that rival the most beautiful beaches in the world. If you’re expecting lots of snow, you may want to try your hand – or, rather, feet – at skiing or snowboarding. Hiking, mountain climbing, and biking can also be great cold weather activities; it’s nice to cool down when your body is working in overdrive. Depending on where you’re vacationing, there may be tons to do inside, but don’t let the cold weather make you feel like you need to stay cooped up indoors. There are also plenty of ways to make the most of cool air.

As you’re picking the perfect place to stay, make sure you’re taking advantage of your surroundings. Finding the right place to lay your head can turn an okay vacation into a great one. Making the most of a cold weather vacation may mean finding the perfect comfy bed to snuggle up in on chilly mornings. Instead of an impersonal hotel room, you may decide to research home exchange options. Sites like International Vacation Home Exchange can help you find the perfect winter getaway with a host of helpful filters, such as skiing and central heat included. This year, instead of bemoaning the oncoming cold temperatures, take a winter holiday and embrace a different kind of vacation. Curl up by the fire with a mug of hot coco and start planning your cold weather holiday.
Thank you to travel blogger Emma Sledge.  

Storybook Charm of Bruges, Belgium

Visit the medieval city of Bruges and youll step into the pages of the classic fairytale novel, Hansel and Gretel.  Bruges is a magical city with its Gothic architecture and an abundance of ornate arched bridges.  You can easily see why Bruges quickly became one of my favorite European cities.  
Like several other cities in this corner of the world, Bruges is a canal city and considered by many to be the Venice of the North.  Taking a canal tour is a must-do when visiting this quaint town.  These tours will offers you views not otherwise accessible by land and the tour guides always offer an interesting insight into the citys history.  The roadways of Bruges offer their own character and charm with cobblestone streets running all throughout the city.  Take a horse-drawn carriage ride and truly experience the old world quality that this compact city has to offer.  Another great way to explore is to hire a bike or maybe youd prefer to just wonder around on foot getting lost exploring the city side streets, just remember to leave a breadcrumb trail. 
However you chose to travel youll be sure to find beauty everywhere you look.  This medieval city is one of the few areas fortunate enough to sustain only minimal damage following the two world wars.  Its considered one of the best preserved cities in Europe.  Its beautiful architecture has remained in tact enabling its beauty to be enjoyed from generation to generation.  
If the sheer beauty of Bruges doesnt entice you to visit then theyve thrown in chocolate, waffles and fries on every street corner to sweeten the deal.  Its not all childs play in Bruges though, best known for its beer selection and variety of pubs and breweries, one could easily pub crawl their way through the cityIve been told.  Bruges is also known worldwide for its luxurious lace.  Youll find many beautiful lace shops scattered around the city if you are looking for that special souvenir.  
The Market Square or Markt, as its referred to, is located in the heart of the city.  Youll find a variety of restaurants to enjoy all the local delicacies, charming shops to browse through and its where the 12th century Belfry of Bruges is located.  Climb the 366 steps to the top of the tower for magnificent views of the surrounding area.  Another top attraction to visit is the Basilica of the Holy Blood.  Though its stained glass and architecture are breathtaking, the Basilica is most famous for housing The Relic of the Precious Blood.  This relic is a glass vial containing a cloth stained with whats believed to be Christs blood.  The cloth is said to have been used to clean Christs body following the crucifixion.  Certain times of the day tourists are allowed to walk onto the Alter to lay their hand on the vial and receive a special blessing.  International Vacation Home Exchange offers properties all over the world and Belgium is no exception.  Click here to view luxury properties located near Bruges but rest assured none of them are the witchs gingerbread house.

Thank you to Lisa Medeiros, Travel Writer/Blogger, for this post on Bruges.  @lisamedeiros_

Escape Reality At Sundance Resort

Founded by actor Robert Redford in the 1960s, Sundance Resort is a hidden treasure buried deep in the heart of Utah. Surrounded by nature and spanning more than 5,000 acres, the resort is a perfect place to escape reality with a vacation or an extended stay at a vacation home exchange. During the summer months, hiking trails will take your heart and soul on a journey of tranquility and peace. Winter months will unlock your wild side with 450 acres of skiable terrain.

Redford purchased the resort with the intent of preserving its history and cultural heritage inspired by the Ute tribes that first inhabited the canyon. Redford once said, “Sundance is and always will be a dream. What you see, smell, taste, and feel here is a dream being carefully nurtured.” In 1981, the Sundance Institute was founded here at the Sundance Mountain Resort. The Sundance Institute is the driving force behind the world renowned Sundance Film Festival - a festival held annually in the state of Utah. The Sundance Film Festival is the largest independent film festival held in the United States. The heart of the film festival action is just 30 minutes from its roots here at the resort.

Locals consider this place a gem. If you aren’t from around the area, you are in for a real treat. “Sundance isn’t just another resort where one comes and goes,” says Sundance Mountain Resort Marketing Director, Annie Cutler. “People who visit Sundance truly fall in love with it, and connect and feel included in this community that has been created.” The small community still includes Redford and his family. According to Cutler, the Redford family is still very much involved in the resort. “With the continual merging of larger resorts in Utah and across the country, Sundance remains true to Robert Redford’s vision.”

The resort is nestled beneath Mount Timpanogos. Sitting just below the resort, are several homes and cabins, including International Vacation Home Exchange property #0299.  The vacation home exchange is the perfect place to rest before you set off to find yourself with nature. “My personal tagline is: whether you’re 9 or 90, there is something here for you at Sundance,” said Cutler. If skiing is your calling, there are plenty of groomed trails to hitch a ride on during the winter months. The resort has skiing for every ability, with about 20% beginner trails, 40% intermediate trails, and 40% advanced trails.

Tourists looking for a little adrenaline boost, there’s now a zip line tour. It is the largest zip line tour in Utah and the third largest in the United States,” said Cutler. “This provides guests with a new way to soak in the Wasatch Mountains and the incredible views to be seen here.”

If your mind and body need a soak after a day on the mountain, you can meditate while enjoying a day at the spa. “Sundance has an eco-friendly, nature-inspired spa,” said Cutler. “The spa includes an actual herbal garden outside where our therapists will pick the fresh herbs for a more customized treatment.”

Just minutes from your vacation home exchange (and the resort) are horseback riding, fishing, hiking, and golfing. Those who need to reconnect with reality can do so by simply driving 20 minutes to the nearest city. But I will warn you, once you arrive at Sundance, you may never want to leave. “This place is truly a hidden gem,” said Cutler. “And an incredible place for anyone to come, rejuvenate, and find the much needed connection and balance in their lives.”

Sundance Mountain Resort is predicting a December 5 opening date for the 2015-2016 ski season (weather permitting). The Sundance Film Festival will be held January 21-31 in 2016.

Thank you to our guest blogger Carla Roberts Pruitt. Follow Carla on Twitter at @crobscarla.

Darkness can’t block the City of Light

I live in the United States but my heart is currently with the people in France. The recent terrorist attacks in Paris have rattled the very foundation of humanity. The images we saw in news reports, and on social media, were horrifying and heartbreaking. For me, the images recalled memories of working in the media the morning of September 11, 2001. There are just some things you will never forget. For Parisians, November 13, 2015 is a day they will not forget. A senseless act of violence has again forever changed the city, the country of France, and the entire world.

I am not going to dwell about what happened in Paris that day. I refuse to give evil a voice. Instead, I am going to talk about how amazing Paris is and why I would travel to the City of Light tomorrow if I could. I have only been through Paris twice. I had brief stops at Charles de Gaulle International Airport while traveling to and from Italy. The beauty of Paris shines high enough that you can see it from the air. The Eiffel Tower is not hard to miss from an airplane; the tower stands as strong and proud as the citizens here who have seen evil in their city even before the recent events. Despite those events, Paris still remains one the top of my list of places I want to visit.

Many people here in the United States say that Paris remains one of their favorite places to visit and why not live like a local with a home exchange vacation?  I consulted websites, and my husband (he adores Paris) to come up with the top 5 reasons why you should visit Paris as soon as possible.

The People - French culture is the envy of many countries. Whether it is music, fashion, food, or art, French culture has influenced other cultures around the globe and it is all starts with the people!
The buildings and monuments - Paris arguably has some of the most beautiful and historic buildings in the world. These landmarks include the Eiffel Tower, The Arc de Triomphe, and the Notre Dame Cathedral.
The Louvre Museum - Home to many known artistic treasures including Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
The food and wine - The city is known for its delicious chesses, bread, and wines (all of which, I could eat and drink every day).
The history - The city has a lot of history to see. The Norte Dame Cathedral, for example, dates back to 1163.

One of my favorite travel quotes comes from Dr. Seuss. He once wrote: “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you will go.” In these last few days, I have learned that the people in Paris are strong and resilient. I stand behind them during this dark time and I hope you will as well. One way to show support is to travel to Paris. Open your heart and fall in love with the city like others have before you. Embrace its culture and its history; converse with the people who call Paris home. The darkness these past few days can’t forever block the light that makes this city so amazing.

If you are interested in visiting Paris during your next vacation, be sure to check out these vacation homes in France from International Vacation Home Exchange.

Thanks to travel writer Carla Pruitt. You can follow Carla on twitter @crobscarla. 

Off Beat Tours

Whenever we travel we look for, well actually, seek out off-beat tours and attractions. Sure, if you’re in Paris, a visit to the Louvre is de rigueur as is the Tower in London or any other major historical or cultural attraction. But there is so much more to exploring new environs than just hitting the traditional places.

In another blog we discussed the fun and insight (not to mention the travel savings) to be had by going grocery shopping to stock the fridge in your next home swap vacation home. But once you’re settled in, it’s time to explore. Now, we’ve always been a bit off of plumb. 

Finding places like the Dewa Museum in Chester, England can be a real treat, both aesthetically and intellectually. Sure, you can go to the British Museum in London and spend hours viewing artifacts from the periods of Roman occupation and beyond. They are wonderfully catalogued and very informative. By the same token, while there is the thrill of actually being in the presence of world renowned artifacts, they are probably the same things you’ve seen in book illustrations on the topic.

With the Dewa, on the other hand, the tour starts before you even get to the museum. Entering Chester, one passes through the curtain wall gates built by the legionnaires. The museum itself houses several wonderful ‘common day’ artifacts. One can leisurely peruse the exhibits without pressing crowds. There are also ‘experiential’ exhibits such as the inside of a Roman galley complete with sounds of the oceans, the beater who kept time for the oarsmen, and more.

Or, if you happen to arrange a vacation home exchange in the Seattle Metro area, consider taking the “Underground Tour”. It’s both amusing and very informative.  You’d be amazed to learn what history lurks beneath the busy streets of this Northwest city, and why it’s there. The pre tour talk will take you through time from the founding of the settlement to the Alaskan Gold Rush days. It’ll also explain why there were so many ‘seamstresses’ in Seattle and what they were really putting together.  It’s a light and charming guided tour which goes up and down staircases behind these mysterious locked alley way doors.

Every city has these kinds of ‘off the beaten path’ kinds of experiences. They are all staffed by passionate and interesting locals who are eager to share their pride in and knowledge of their communities. We’ll be visiting San Francisco in the coming weeks and plan to take a self-guided tour powered by a mobile device app. That should be interesting and we’ll be sure to let you know how it goes. (and if there are more apps for other interesting locales where you might make an exclusive home swap.

The point here is that, seeking out the unusual, the off-beat, and the just plain strange can be richly rewarding and very entertaining. It will certainly enrich your travel experience and provide you with more interesting stories and comments than, “Yes. We waited in line three hours to see the Mona Lisa and it…..”
Happy travels!
Thank you to the writing team that is MA Scott.

Mona Lisa - Pinterest
Roman bottle -

Underground passage -

An Artistic Enclave: Park City, Utah

When most people think of Park City, Utah, skiing or the prestigious Sundance Film Festival comes to mind. 
In addition to fine film, Park City also offers beautiful art, photography, jewelry, clothing, performing arts, and culinary delights—all imaginative and unique in their own right. 
For a combination of both the indoor and outdoor beauty of Park City, consider utilizing a luxury home exchange option.  It’s perfect for primetime winter when affordable accommodations are difficult to come by, or any other time of year.
Following is just a taste of what Park City has to offer year-round artistically:
One of the best ways to see what the mountain getaway has to offer is to take the Park City Gallery Stroll the last Friday of every month from 6:00-8:00 in the evening.   Light refreshments are served, and it’s a great way for art lovers to connect.
Voted one of the top 20 summer festivals in the United States by Smithsonian Magazine, the Park City Kimball Arts Festival takes place normally in August on historic Main Street.  Pleasantly, Main Street is closed off to motor traffic leaving the festival goers a leisurely pedestrian zone in which to browse while looking at creations including glassware, ceramics, photography, and art from over 200 artisans.  There is a children’s corner which includes face painting and other fun.
Painting of a more serious genre may be found at JGO Gallery.  JGO focuses on contemporary art with a western theme from mostly regional artists.  For instance, in a painting by Sherri Belassen, there is the traditional western theme of a horse, but within the borders of the horse is thinned paint flowing downward.  A sort of pleasant churning is the result.  Another artist featured is Fillip Vogelpohl, who is a Boise, Idaho based.  An expert glassblower, Mr. Vogelpohl taught at Dale Chihuly’s school.  One can see Mr. Vogelpohl’s beautiful glass sculpture upon entry into JGO Gallery.  In addition to paintings, JGO Gallery features art jewelry and “curiosities” in the “WonderBox.” Within the WonderBox are eclectic pieces such as intricate spider webs under glass, robots made from antique parts, daguerreotype-appearing photographs with images of deceased loved ones, and insects with mechanical parts.  The art jewelry featured includes pieces made from knitted copper wire and architectural materials.
A must-see photography gallery in Park City is Mangelsen Images of Nature Gallery.  Photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen, who originally studied field biology, has photographed natural images for 40 years and has worked for National Geographic Magazine.  The images are so vibrant upon entry into the gallery, it is difficult to conceive that Mr. Mangelsen has not enhanced the images in some way, but Mr. Mangelesen, a purist, refuses to do so instead using Fuji crystal archive film to convey what his keen eye observes.   
A unique feature of the gallery is that it offers its customers the images in several different formats including giclée, a very high resolution print.  Glen Bateman, an art consultant at Mangelsen Images, stated that the gallery offers personalized service to help the customer determine what would look best in his space.  Large images and tri-images (image broken down into 3 panels) are currently very popular in mountain-themed homes.
Performing Arts
Every summer in the cool, alpine evenings the Deer Valley Music Festival (Deer Valley is near Park City)
takes place showcasing both classics and pops with the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera.  In addition to Deer Valley’s impressive, outdoor amphitheater (bring a picnic lunch with you), there are other venues throughout Park City and Deer Valley, including private homes used as salons.  Park City and Deer Valley homes are on the whole very impressive with large windows showcasing mountain vistas.  Owners of these homes are sophisticated and warm; attending an event in such an inviting setting is a great way to see the more intimate side of the Park City/Deer Valley area.
An interesting event in the autumn is the Beethoven Festival.  A tradition since 1984, the colorful, fall landscape is a great backdrop to the drama of Beethoven.
Year-round, live entertainment can be found at The Egyptian Theatre.  Opened on Christmas day 1926, the theatre reflects the Egyptian décor of the time which was made popular by the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. This season’s eclectic lineup includes the successful, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Young Frankenstein,” the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, standup comedy, “Macbeth,” and The Village People.  
Included in Park City’s artistic enclave are unique clothiers.  Of particular interest is Burns Cowboy Shop.  Founded in 1876 in Salina, Utah, it is the oldest family-owned western retailer in the world. 

Though the shop offers custom-made saddles and hats, its main creations are elaborate cowboy boots.  Handmade and labor-intensive, there is a very low markup with cowboy boots ranging from $200 to $3,500 within the shop; however, any customized order is possible.
Manager of Burns Cowboy Shop, Ingrid Hallberg, is from Sweden and is a fashion designer by training.  Working primarily in New York, she is now pleased to manage a shop specializing in western design.  When I asked Ms. Hallberg how she thought Burns Cowboy Shop was different than Ralph Lauren who also implements aspects of western style, she stated that whereas Ralph Lauren comes from the world of fashion and reaches toward western design, Burns Cowboy Shop comes from the world of western design and reaches toward the world of fashion.  The authenticity of such a tradition is difficult to replicate.    To the sophisticated European consumer, Ms. Hallberg would like to emphasize that a pair of cowboy boots purchased at Burns Cowboy Shop can be worn in Europe and not be as a “masquerade costume,” sitting in the closet.
Another shop on Main Street worth visiting is Gorsuch, Ltd.  There are various designers in the store including Michael Kors and Cindy Goble.  An unusually beautiful shrug by Cindy Goble was on display when I was pleased to enter the shop.   Thickly-woven with various shades of blue and with what appeared to be black, rabbit fur trim, it was finished fabulously with a retro, rhinestone pin—truly an individual piece. With such treasures alluring even the most casual of browsers, you’re sure to walk out with something distinctive.  Gorsuch offers not only clothing, but unique housewares including alpine-themed china and lovely, geode coasters.  If you’re gift shopping, you’re bound to find something for that someone who has everything. 
With a legacy of over 30 years, O.C. Tanner was founded in Salt Lake City by a gentleman (O.C. Tanner) wanting to bring fine jewelry to the Intermountain West.  Close to the 2002 Winter Olympics, O.C. Tanner opened a store in Park City.  With partners such as Patek Philippe, who some argue makes the finest timepiece in the world, O.C. Tanner has reached the top echelon of jewelers.  Interestingly, O.C. Tanner donated all of the metal for the victory medals in the 2002 Winter Olympics, in addition to a whole line of jewelry created for the Olympic year.  Enthusiastic sales associate Liz Wood believes that O.C. Tanner can compete with any jeweler in the world, and indeed the atmosphere of the store was elegant and fashionable.

Culinary Delights
With distinctive dining as varied as the sophisticated tourists who visit, Park City was chosen as a “Grub Crawl” site by Bon Appétit magazine in the summer of 2014.  Foodies “crawled” from restaurant to restaurant to enjoy a diverse dining experience.  One of the restaurants chosen for the “crawl” was Shabu.  Shabu’s menu consists of “freestyle Asian” cuisine.  With a superb sake menu, Shabu has a whimsical “saketini bar,” and 15 kinds of cold sake.
Another restaurant featured in the 2014 Grub Crawl was Zoom.  Founded by Robert Redford, Zoom is housed in a retired railway station and features American cuisine.  An especially lovely time to go is in the summer when the outdoor plaza is available for diners.
Though most of Park City dining is exclusive and refined, one can find a casual and welcoming atmosphere in Atticus, a coffeehouse and bookstore.  Upon entering, one can find what appear to be mostly locals with their computers.  There is outside bar seating facing not only Main Street, but also metal wind sculptures.  Delightfully, the sleeve on the paper coffee cups has a photo of magisterial-looking Gregory Peck with the following:  “Shoot all the bluejays you like but remember . . . It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”  Also donning the shop is a photo of Gregory Peck looking very lawyerly and bird mobiles hanging from the ceiling.  They serve a good, strong latte, and the coffee cake has a nice consistency and is a generous portion.
The world-famous Sundance Film Festival takes place every January in Park City and the surrounding area.  At the busiest time of year, accommodations are at premium desirability.  Why not consider a luxury home exchange through IVHE?  IVHE has several properties available; early booking is strongly encouraged.   
Close to the same time as the Sundance Film Festival, is the underground Slamdance Film Festival in Park City.  Declaring itself, “Anarchy in Utah,” Slamdance was founded when some filmmakers were not accepted into the Sundance Film Festival.  So if your tastes run toward the underground, give it a look.
As varied as Park City’s seasons, the alpine retreat’s artistic offerings are sophisticated, whimsical, and sure to please even the most discerning critic.
To enjoy what Park City has to offer, see luxury home exchange options in Park City and Utah; stay in accommodations as lush and sophisticated as the mountain retreat itself.  See how it works on             Thank you to Sona Schmidt-Harris

To Tip Or Not To Tip; That Is The Question

We have family members in the US who work in service industries. They are conscientious, hardworking folks for whom tips are a large part of their income.  But is that true around the World? The answer is a resounding ‘NO!’ So when we travel, it’s very useful to know the proper attitude toward tipping or not tipping.

Even if you’re taking advantage of something like a high end vacation property exchange, you’re still going to run into tip/ don’t tip situations. Transport to and from your point of arrival; perhaps a porter at the transit point; any number of opportunities arise to make either a good or a poor impression with regard to tipping.

And almost certainly, even if you are saving on travel in other ways too, like cooking for yourselves, you’re almost certain to want at least the odd night out on the town. That brings up doormen, cabbies, wait staff in restaurants, the maître d’; the bar staff; - the list is almost interminable.

Knowing who to tip and how much is just as important. Many societies have hierarchies and where a service provider stands in that ranking determines whether and how much they should be tipped. You can cause serious difficulties for yourself by over tipping a ‘lower ranking person’ or under tipping someone higher up the scale.

Customs vary widely from place to place. For example, in the Middle East one tips frequently but with small amounts. By contrast, in Japan, tipping can be viewed as insulting. But if you’re further south in Asia, not tipping can be perceived as an insult in India or Malaysia. It can all be very confusing and vexing.

Most of us want to make a good impression. After all, we’re individual ambassadors for our home nations. We want people to see us honestly but also in our best light. There’s nothing more embarrassing than causing inadvertent and unintended insult by not knowing the local customs. Most of us, before we work out our luxury vacation home exchanges, take the time to learn a bit about the places we’re staying. But we’re not always as clear on the local customs when it comes to tipping.

We were traveling in the UK once and, even within that country, found variations in custom. The publican in the small village was most pleased to accept a pint on us whereas the man behind the bar in London preferred a bit of ‘the ready’.

So, what do you do? Well, fortunately we’ve done the research for you. You can use any of the resources we’ve found for you to learn more about the customs of tipping in various countries around the world. 
Have a great time on your trip and we’ll see you later.

Thank you to the writing team which is MA Scott

Get MORE money from your currency exchange

There are many reasons why you may need to make overseas payments and convert sums of money from one currency into another. For example:
  • The purchase or sale of an overseas property
  • Receiving salary/other income from abroad
  • Payment of legal or other fees of overseas professionals
  • Receiving pensions/ paying living or maintenance costs
By treating overseas payments in the same way as single currency payments, you may be losing hundreds if not thousands of pounds.
Could you be losing money on your currency exchange?
The rate of the currency exchange can have a huge effect on foreign payments, yet it is often a forgotten aspect amidst all of the excitement of buying a property, or in the admin of maintaining a property abroad.
When making payments overseas many people often automatically make the transfer via their bank without consideration of the conversion rates and other charges that will  be applied by the bank. This could have a huge effect on the overall costs of the payment.
Exchange rates are one of the ways in which High Street banks make huge profits at the expense of their customers. Their exchange rates are generally uncompetitive and banks often impose large commission charges just for transferring the money. This can often end up costing you unnecessary, significant additional sums.

The cost effective way to transfer money abroad

It is highly advisable to make a transfer of money which involves a currency exchange through a recommended currency specialist instead of through the banks.
One of the reasons for this is that the exchange rates offered by foreign currency specialists re considerably more competitive than the rates of exchange offered by the banks.
Currency specialists usually don’t charge the excessive fees that the banks do just to transfer funds providing further savings.
The main aim of currency exchange specialist companies is to offer superior exchange rates compared to the banks. They are able to do this is due to the volume of foreign transfers they make and typically save around 3-5% of the transfer value when compared to the banks.
Currency exchange specialists can help in a number of additional ways too. For example they can arrange to set budgets and rates for your transfer so you will know exactly how much will be transferred at a given time without leaving matters to the mercy of the fluctuations at the time of the transfer.
Considering and researching your currency exchange options can make a vast difference to the amounts actually received or the amount needed to be paid to obtain the required amount.
Using a recommended foreign exchange specialist is also very time efficient. You can set up an account and send a payment within minutes. Transfers can also be made much more quickly through a currency specialist as opposed to a high street bank.
It is recommended to contact a currency specialist should you need to make or receive an overseas payment, whether it is a one off lump sum payment or a series of regular payments. A good currency specialist will also advise you regarding the timing of your transfer to help you get the most from your money.
For details of a recommended currency specialist and to discuss how they can assist you, please get in touch with Worldwide Lawyers on +44 (0) 1244 470339 or email us at

Surviving the trip to Grandma’s on Thanksgiving

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. If you live in the United States, the trek to grandmother’s house, or on a  home exchange, can be a stressful one. One reason may be that U.S. airlines expect to carry more than 25 million passengers around the Thanksgiving holiday. This is about a 3% increase compared to last year.

The heaviest travel days will likely be the day before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after the holiday. According to the travel site Orbitz, the top 10 domestic Thanksgiving destinations are the following:

New York   Cancun    Las Vegas
Denver     San Francisco     Dallas     Washington, D.C.

Even if you aren’t flying to these cities for Thanksgiving, or if you are taking your holiday celebrations abroad, you should still expect long lines at ticketing counters and security checkpoints. Flight delays and cancellations, lost luggage, and overbooked flights can easily ruin your holiday trip.

Grandma, Girl, Child, Baby, LoveHere are some tips to help you survive the holiday rush hour at the airport.

Check your flight status before you leave for the airport
Mother Nature can be a buzz kill for vacations. The weather in the United States historically is anything from snowstorms in the north to severe weather in the south. Be sure to check your flight status, especially if you have connecting flights.

Arrive to the airport early
Do not underestimate the lines at the ticketing counter and security lines. You need to give yourself at least 2 hours (if not more) to get from your car (or taxi) to your departure gate. Once you arrive at the airport, you are at the mercy of the airport staff. And trust me; they don’t care if you only have 30 minutes to make your flight. If airports are also undergoing construction, this could add unexpected delays. So don’t risk missing your flight and try to arrive at the airport early.   

Remember to pack “smart”
The more stuff you try to drag into the cabin with you, the longer you will have to wait at the security checkpoint. And the longer you have to wait, the longer the people behind you will have to wait. Be smart about what items you want to carry on with you. Remember, the Transportation Security Administration has strict rules about what you can and cannot bring onboard the plane with you. For their list of items that you can and cannot bring with you, click here. If you are bringing a bag onboard the plane with you, be sure to throw in an extra pair of clothes just in case your luggage doesn’t make it to your final destination.

Be patient
It is easy to lose your cool during what is one of the busiest travel times of the year. The best thing you can do, regardless of the situation, is remain cool and calm. If your flight is delayed, try to make the best out of the situation. Go grab a drink or some food near your gate. Maybe utilize the free airport WiFi to plan fun activities to do once you arrive or plan your 2016 vacation home exchange with

The Thanksgiving holiday is supposed to be fun and relaxing. If you plan ahead, your trek to grandma’s home exchange should hopefully be smooth sailing (or smooth flying in this case).

Thank you to Travel Writer Carla Roberts Pruitt @crobscarla

Follow by Email


FREE quick and essential guide to Home Exchange

All entries * are required

Read about our privacy policy.


Copyright @ 2014 Vacation Home Exchange .