Attention Downton Abbey Fans! England is Waiting for You to Make an Entrance


With the popularity of the PBS series, it’s no wonder everyone wants to live vicariously through the gracious lives of the Grantham family. Who doesn’t dream of joining the elegant Counts and Countesses and Lords and Ladies and dining sumptuously in their elegant British home? Or having their own ladies maid or valet at the ready, not to mention their own Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, in position to smoothly attend to any personal or household problem.  
Even a Congressman in the United States resigned his post following what was dubbed the “Downton Abbey” scandal after spending more than $40,000 in taxpayers’ money to decorate his Washington, D.C. office to mimic the set of the TV series. He may not have been able to legally embrace the Downton Abbey culture, but you can.
You can create your own Downton Abbey experience (and not have angry taxpayers at your door) through a vacation home exchange to the place where it all began: England.
There are many International Vacation Home Exchange (IVHE.com) properties that would be the envy of any titled Edwardian.
The IVHE offers home exchanges and swaps all over England including properties in Bath, Cambridge, Oxford, York, London, Chathill, Sommerset, and the Cotswolds, to name a few. Properties range from luxury estates to sprawling single-family homes, cozy cottages, historic buildings, city apartments, luxury townhouses and boutique hotels.
To view the many homes available in England simply click here.  One property near Bath is a Gothic Victorian that boasts eight bedrooms. Another, just outside of London, features a beautiful garden and in-ground pool. Maybe a luxury Bed & Breakfast property in Devon is more your style, complete with views of the rolling countryside.
Embrace your dream and experience all that England has to offer in an IVHE home exchange vacation. 

Enjoy Jazz? Visit Festivals in Europe


Plan Today For Jazz Festivals in Europe

Just the word “festival” brings a smile to most, a clear indicator that winter is finally over and early summer is just around the corner.

There are many notable international and European Jazz Festivals taking place this year, many of which are scheduled for several days during the month of May.

Now is the time to plan a vacation home exchange in May that corresponds to one or two of the Jazz Festivals. It’s the perfect time of year for sightseeing, strolling outside, listening to music, and dining at outdoor cafes.

The following is a short list of jazz festivals taking place in European countries for 2015 featuring hundreds of artists and performances. For example, at the Cheltenham International Jazz Festival in England, Gilles Peterson, Martha Reeves, Rumer and Wilko Johnson are four of the featured performers. At the Mai:Jazz International Festival in Norway, the lineup of musicians is extensive and includes Lars Danielsson Group, Marilyn Mazur, Snarky Puppy with the Stavanger Orchestra, and the Jim Beard Band, among others.

Enjoy staying in a luxury home while taking in wonderful music, plan your vacation with a property available through International Vacation Home Exchange (http://www.IVHE.com) for a home swap or exchange. Check out the website today to find the perfect house, apartment, cottage, villa or luxury hotel to make your European vacation perfect.


Cheltenham International Jazz Festival,
April 29 – May 4
Gloucestershire, England

Musigam Zürisee, May 1 – 10
Horgen, Fähre & Meilen, Switzerland

Europa Jazz Festival, May 5 – 10
Le Mans, France

Mai:Jazz, Stavanger International Jazz Festival, May 5 – 10
Stavanger, Norway

Breda Jazz Festival, May 14 – 17
Breda, The Netherlands

Brussels Jazz Marathon, May 22 – 24
Brussels, Belgium

INNtone Jazz Festival, May 22 – 24
Diersbach, Austria

Huddinge Jazz & Blues, May 29 – 30
Huddinge, Sweden

Kerava Jazz Festival, June 4 – 6 
Kerava, Finland



Staying Healthy - Tips for the Over-50 Traveler


In America they are called
“Baby Boomers” 
– the generation born between 1946 and 1964. It’s hard to believe, but they have all turned 50 years old.  Many are approaching 70 years of age.

"They are not going to live forever," states Chuck Underhill, president of The Generational Imperative, a consultancy group that monitors generational influences. "Yet their forever-young mentality does not seem to be diminished in the least." 
Of prominent concern and interest to this group is their health: staying physically and mentally fit, looking and feeling healthy, and putting the brakes on the aging process.

According to the National Council on the Aging, many in this group have the financial means to take better care of themselves.  

“Yet all the money in the world can’t buy our youth back,” adds Underhill. 

Smoking, overeating, excessive drinking, drug use, and sun-worshipping has taken its toll on this generation.

So what is the secret to looking and staying younger, especially while travelling or on vacation? 

Here are things one can do to help live healthier, reduce the signs of aging, and feel and look more vibrant, whether at home or on the road:

·  Quit smoking
·  Lose weight, keeping your weight at its appropriate level
·  Exercise at least three times a week, for 30 minutes each session
·  Wear sunscreen every day; avoid tanning booths and suntans
·  Watch the calories and fat in the foods you eat
·  Reduce the sodium in your diet
·  Drink lots of water
·  Limit or reduce your alcohol intake
·  Eat healthy meals and snacks which include lots of fruits and vegetables
·  Take a daily multi-vitamin
·  Get a good night’s sleep
·  Reduce your caffeine -  it has a diuretic effect and causes the body to lose water
·  Use a daily moisturizer on your face, neck, body and hands
·  Reduce the stress in your life by exercise, meditation or yoga
·  Get a yearly medical exam
·  Have a positive attitude (we say take a vacation)

“Clearly when you start hitting middle age, you need to watch your diet and get regular exercise,” says cardiologist Jeremy Nadelmann, M.D., of the Hospital of Saint Raphael in New Haven, Connecticut.

Dr. Nadelmann recommends doing any type of movement and exercise – on a daily basis if possible, making it something you enjoy or else you will not stick to it.

While vacationing, it’s easy (no excuses here!) to get out and walk – the beach, the town, the city streets - or better yet as the above couple are doing go dancing. At many locations, one can partake in swimming, golf, skiing, horseback riding, fishing and scuba. Most important: have fun and enjoy your vacation!

Travel is Best with Home Exchange


Sunsets and sunrises are inspirational for travelers like you.  
You want to hold hands with someone special as the dawn breaks or dance on the beach under a romantic moonlight. You can make these dreams come true by planning a simple or well laid out vacation. One of the most important factors of being away the comforts of your own abode is finding a place to stay in your vacation destination.

Home exchanging can be a worry free part of your travel itinerary. Imagine this; you get to stay at a comfy place for free. Sometimes you even get to have car for even more convenience. The perks of home swapping are almost endless to say the least.  It is in fact an economical and practical way to your holiday. Another great thing about Home swapping is that you have built trust with the other home owner who is also going to stay in your home. With trust comes happiness and happiness means a good memory.

Traveling with a home exchange program can sound daunting for some but generally it is a worry free concept that has been around for decades. Besides saving money as an obvious advantage, you can have the freedom to do what you want on your vacation. You can cook meals, watch movies, use your private pool (depends on the home) without other people bothering you. Moreover, with home exchange, you can have the option to choose a home wherever you want to be in the world. For example, you want to experience the wonderful sunny atmosphere of Santorini, Greece; you can find a home there that will suit every travel bug’s need. Or you may want to almost touch the moon on a mountain top home with a special travel buddy, enjoying endless views in every direction.  

Traveling can truly be best with home exchange. It not only offers convenience and practicality but also memories that last forever. It is a smart holiday alternative that can leave you wanting to travel more. From Europe to Asia, there are people who will gladly exchange their homes with yours, all ready to give you the relaxation and experiences you deserve. 

Thank you to our guest blogger: Jacque T

Vacation Travel for Disabled People


All of us can enjoy the comforts of extra amenities when using home exchange.  Having a nice kitchen for cooking or extra bedrooms for privacy are benefits that many of us enjoy.  For people with a disability, staying in a home while on vacation or holidays can make the trip one of their most enjoyable ever.  

There are many different types of disable friendly homes.  Some are only on one level or may have larger doors for easier maneuverability, others might have an elevator.  Other homes have positioned amenities at a different level for easier access.  Baths or showers can be arranged for better use and convenience.  

At International Vacation Home Exchange we have many search options including the ability where you can view only properties where the owner has stated that the house is disable friendly.  On the IVHE Property Search page select More Options, then in Facilities select Disable Friendly or simply click here.   

When looking for a home that is disable friendly, please communicate with the owner to ensure that the property meets your requirements, or engage our trade coordinator team by emailing us for specific information on a listing.  

For additional thoughts on homes that are disable friendly, see another blog.  

What can set your vacation rental home apart?


As vacation rental hosts we all know how difficult it can be to stand out from your local competition, especially if there are hundreds of rental properties in your area. So what can you do to make sure your property stands tall in this often crowded market place? Here are just a few suggestions from our guest blogger Damian at NeedMoreRentals.  (Note: these are also great tips for promoting your home on IVHE too!)

If you use listing sites take some time to look at the lead photo thumbnails used by your local competitors. For example, if the majority of those pictures are all of swimming pools, try something different like a pretty view or areal shot. Also consider using Photoshop to manipulate photo colours – bright red over soft background can catch extra eyeballs. Professional photography is a must in order to attract more enquiries and bookings.

We would also suggest examining the headline descriptions of your neighbours’ properties on listing sites. Many will probably be dull and include ambiguous words like ‘stunning’, ‘fantastic’, ‘charming’ etc. Try to be more descriptive. Think of your one unique selling point (including freebies) and try to get it into your brief headline to encourage more visitors to your page.  
Do you know your target market? If your preferred clients are couples, be sure to add words like ‘romantic’, ‘secluded’ and ‘quiet’ to your website and listing sites property description. Similarly words like ‘safe’ and ‘family sized’ can appeal to groups of families.
Vacation rental guests are become increasingly discerning and want to know they are getting a bargain. 
Can you offer anything for free? 
Free WiFi? Free entry into a local theme park? Free toll road payment? A free welcome pack? There are literally hundreds of creative ways to offer free things to your guest (at little expense to you) which your competitors may not have thought of.
Are you flexible? Flexibility with changeover days, minimum stays, accepting pets can make a huge difference in guests choosing one property over another. Hosts may not be willing to consider non weekend-to-weekend bookings of anything less than a week in peak months however being less regimented (especially in shoulder or off-peak seasons) can work a treat with guests who may want to avail of cheaper flights or who may work at weekends.  - Damian, NeedMoreRentals.com

NeedMoreRentals provides free information and marketing advice for vacation rental home owners and managers.

Thinking of a wonderful visit to the Alps?



Thank you to our IVHE member, Olga, for this lovely review of property #0755 in France.  

We had fantastic romantic holidays in the beautiful chalet with the stunning view to the Alps.

It was recommended by the IVHE trade coordinating team after I contacted Jacqueline with a very vague request for help with finding the place to stay in France or Switzerland at Christmas. Jacqueline was extremely helpful and efficient with assisting me in my search for a dream holiday spot.

The chalet itself exceeded all our expectations. It is very tastefully decorated, very well equipped and cosy. The description in the IVHE website accurately reflects all the facilities and location. In addition the owner was very friendly and gave us a lot of good advice and instructions in advance to make our stay trouble free. 



We really enjoyed the location and made the most of being on the France - Switzerland border.  Italy is only a short drive away.  On Christmas day we went for a boat trip from Geneva, on another sunny day we decided to go for lunch in the Roman town Aosta, via St-Bernard path to Italy. 

The local village Thollon-les-Memmis is very picturesque and the people are very friendly. We were lucky with the weather and managed to catch the beginning of the skiing season on the local slopes.
                          
We both think that the chalet is a wonderful place for unforgettable holiday in winter or summer.


There was only one problem - it was very hard to say 'good-bye'. - Olga Feb 2015

Meet the IVHE.com Team - Cheryl Cannington


Get to know a little more about each of the International Vacation Home Exchange team.  In this post we have a fun interview with Cheryl in Customer Service.

Tell us a little about yourself? 

I love to laugh!  And I laugh the most when I am with my grandchildren; these six precious individuals are such a blessing to me.  My husband and adult “kids” will tell you I laugh the hardest at my own jokes.  So what?!

I’m also a Baby Boomer and have had so many neat “careers”!  I have worked as an insurance broker for an international firm, managed an amateur theatre company, taught literature and languages to high school students, created a piano studio, and managed a bed and breakfast in an antebellum mansion in Georgia.  Now I am helping couples, friends, and families connect with locations and homes in locations that provide unforgettable experiences through IVHE.  Yep, it’s the best job so far!

What exactly do you do with IVHE.com?

I am new to IVHE, so I’m still learning!  I love soliciting feedback from members who have recently returned from a holiday exchange.  I also update the IVHE website with featured properties.  I want to visit every one of them!

What makes you smile while working with IVHE.com?

I smile when I read the feedback from members who have had an extraordinary holiday.  It gives me an opportunity to vicariously experience their adventure in a wonderful locale, and I am happy to hear that they loved their experience.

Are there any properties or destinations that you keep dreaming about?

I have to admit that my favorite country is Italy.  As a US southerner, the people are similar to my own (friendly), and the cuisine is just yummy.  I love the Middle East and Southeast Asia, too; they can teach us so much about hospitality.  Next on my bucket list:  Morocco.

Name your favorite activity outside of family and work.

I have always been a bit of a vagabond.  When I was a youngster, our family moved from Michigan to Florida for my dad’s job.  That was quite an adventure in 1968, and I loved it!  We took many family vacations around the USA, but when I was a student at Florida State University (Tallahassee, Florida), I had an opportunity to study in Europe.  I pounced on the chance, and after a year in Germany, I was smitten with international travel.  The sights, sounds, flavors and scents of cities all over the world are intoxicating, but the best experiences involve people.  I have found that people all over the world are the same:  They love their families, are proud of their country, and love to share it with travelers.   

Any comments or advice for our members to get the best trades possible?

Go somewhere that makes you slightly uncomfortable.  It will end up being the best holiday you have ever experienced.

Thank you, Cheryl.  We love your picture, you are right, what a lovely family.  Wonderful to learn more about you.  Looking forward to hearing about your planned adventures in Morocco.   


Review - 100 Year Old Colonial Home in Goa


Thank you to IVHE members Pauline and Stuart for this lovely review following their recent trip to IVHE property #0363 Sounds like a great place to relax and explore the region.  

Vivenda dos Palhacos in Majorda, Goa turned out to be a real gem. Simon and Charlotte the hosts were extremely hospitable and the staff there couldn’t do enough to help. Highly recommendable.
Was the property description accurate?

Yes, except that Chummery has a double bed, not 2 singles as advertised; I have mentioned this to Simon.  Vivenda is like an extended family group, with people arriving and leaving the various rooms during the course of our week. Life circulates around the huge outdoor stone table where everyone just meets up for refreshment, starting with a cooked breakfast. We feel we have made a lot of friends.

Was communication good with the owner?
My communication with Simon was mainly from UK via email; He couldn’t have been more helpful, with him always replying promptly; he even recommended a Goan travel agent friend Mario, who then went on to organize the whole of our second week in Goa before we even left UK. Charlotte mostly meets and greets their guests and is always around to help organize things like money exchange, massages, how to get to the beach, places to visit, taxis etc. Again, Charlotte couldn’t have been more helpful and was always around and nothing was ever too much trouble for her. Simon and Charlotte’s love of their place is obvious.
Were there any unique local activities not to be missed?  We went mainly to chill out, but we did arrange a trip to Hampi, the 2nd most important sacred site in India after the Taj Mahal, we were told. We went as part of a group, organized by Simon’s travel agent friend Mario and travelled 3rd class by train; this too is an experience not to be missed and having a courier all the way, including travelling on the train with us, was a huge plus. The priest’s house, recommended by Charlotte is also not to be missed, with an amazing 7-course luncheon thrown in as part of the visit.


Anything else you would lik to share?
 


Accommodation at Vivenda is lovely, comfortable, friendly and absolutely full of character, having been designed and converted by Simon from dilapidated buildings. The only problem we had was with the mattresses (we stayed in two different rooms and were able to look at the others). My husband has a back injury which only causes him a problem at night and he did find the beds too hard and unyielding as the mattresses were of foam set on, for the most part, solid bases. It wasn't a problem for me, however anyone who needs a sprung mattress (as we had at other Goan hotels) would be advised to check this out with Simon before booking.

How was your experience with the IVHE.com trade coordinating team?
As new members we didn't really know what to expect from IVHE, however we needn't have been concerned – from start to finish it all went like clockwork, with nothing left to chance. Communication with your team was excellent, with emails answered quickly.

Pauline and Stuart - 26 Feb 2015

Meet the IVHE.com Team - Larry Klimczyk


Recently our Director, Larry Klimczyk did an interview with A Luxury Travel Blog, one of the world's most frequently visited and read sites on vacations and travel topics.
In the interview Larry shares his top 3 enjoyable vacation locations, a most memorable dining experience, some encounters with famous people and what he does with IVHE,com.  If you have a question for him, preferably about IVHE, send him an email.  
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