Delight in Your Dream Destination Wedding


If you think about it, all weddings have a kindred objective: to legally join two people in a state of matrimony. The difference between one wedding and the next, however, is in the details.
If your dream is to have a destination wedding, look to the International Vacation Home Exchange site www.ivhe.com for an impressive array of luxury properties to serve as your “home away from home” while you tie the knot. The right house swap or exchange will set the stage for a destination wedding, whether it takes place overlooking a loch along the green hills of Scotland, or on a beach in the tropics.  
Let’s take a beach, sun and sand wedding, for example. The IVHE.com site offers luxury accommodations in tropical areas such as Barbados, Mexico, Costa Rico, Antigua, and much more. 
Properties range from villas to apartments, offering the traveler such luxury amenities such as direct waterfront views, private pools and Jacuzzi’s, lush gardens, private balconies and terraces, and sandy beaches.  Accommodations also range from a private pied-à-terre for two, to villas that sleep 10 or more guests.  

Here are a few examples of some of the stunning villas offered by IVHE.com members:
“Montezuma Villa” in the Puntarenas area of Costa Rica is a dazzling private villa with lake views that will accommodate 10 guests. It boasts a pool and tennis court on 20 acres - IVHE Property #787.


“Happydays Villa” in St. James, Barbados offers luxury accommodations for 10 guests with a private pool, housekeeping/cook, laundress and maid - IVHE property 1046.  

In Manzanillo, Mexico, up to 10 guests can enjoy dramatic water views from this ocean front villa in a gated community that also has a private pool and Jacuzzi -  IVHE Property 1040. 

In the luxury area of Turtle Bay in Antigua
sits “Carib House”, a five-bedroom villa that can host 10 guests. Enjoy this swimming pool and stunning views - IVHE Propery #855.  

From a waterfront sandy setting with picture-perfect sunset views, to a midnight bite of wedding cake on a balcony overlooking the pool, every element of your dream destination wedding can be fulfilled with a special home exchange from IVHE.com.


Before You Go – A Checklist for International Travel




Planning ahead will help make the transition from home to vacation abroad as relaxing and stress-free as possible.  Yes, it’s an extensive list, but some items (pet boarding and traveling with kids) may not apply to you.  Remembers a bit of preparation can help avoid future problems and all of us want a perfect vacation.

  1. Make sure your important documents such as your passport and driver’s license are up-to-date and do not expire while you are away.  Many countries require 6 months validity on your passport before entering. 
  2. Refill all necessary medications and make sure you have your health insurance card with you. If you carry prescription controlled medications, or anything that requires hypodermic needles such as medications for diabetes, make sure you have a copy of your doctors’ prescriptions.
  3. Get a second pair of glasses from your eye doctor if you don’t already have a pair.
  4. Depending upon where you are traveling, check to see if there are any requirements for immunizations or vaccinations.
  5. Check into travel insurance and see if it’s appropriate for your trip.
  6. Call your own car insurance company and inquire if you need car rental insurance, or if you are covered where you are going.
  7. Figure out what you need to carry in cash, traveler’s checks, foreign currency, etc.  Head to your bank to have some of your cash converted into local currency for your trip.  More tips on getting the best exchange rates are here
  8. Alert your credit card and debit card holders that you will be heading abroad. Check on fees for using these cards when traveling. At the same time, check the expiration dates to make sure they don’t expire while you are away.
  9. Call your mobile / cell phone carrier and check on things such as adding global service, any fees for using your phone abroad, and the possibility of getting a SIM card for international calls.
  10. Book reservations now for passes to museums, the theatre, concerts and restaurants. Buy a rail pass now, if needed.  Many places around the world offer ‘city passes’ for tourist that offer significant discounts.
  11. Call your airline or check their website for regulations on the weight, size and allotment per person of carry-on and checked baggage.
  12. If you are traveling with children, make sure you have all their necessary documentation such as passports, consent papers (if traveling with one parent) and copies of adoption papers, if necessary.
  13. Purchase electrical adapters and a second charger for your phone / tablet / laptop. 
  14. Check your camera to see if you need to purchase an expanded memory card and batteries.
  15. Arrange for any house sitting services, if necessary.
  16. Suspend your mail and newspaper delivery, plus other recurring services such as housekeeping, deliveries, etc.
  17. Make accommodations now for any pet boarding or pet sitting services. Make sure your pets’ veterinarian medications and shots are up to date.
  18. Using your phone’s camera, take photos of all your important documents (passport, health insurance card, driver’s license) that you will be carrying with you. Better yet, make copies of these documents and put the copies in your suitcase, not a carry-on or purse.
  19. Make sure you have a copy of your travel information including all the names, addresses and phone numbers of airlines, accommodations, car rental, limousine driver, contacts, etc.
  20. Give a copy of your itinerary and any important phone numbers to a relative or friend who is not traveling with you. 

Perfect Preparation of Your Home for Guests


Congratulations! You've made the decision to list your home on the IVHE.com site. Whether this property is your primary residence or a second home, you need to prepare it for the luxury home exchange guest.

Here are some quick tips to help you ready your property for home swap and/or exchange and make it shine. For more information on home exchange, download a free Home Exchange Guide.

Clean
Every surface of your home should be sparkling clean. A clean home always looks brighter, fresher and smells better.  If you have a family, set aside a ‘family cleaning day’ and make it fun for everyone. Assign each member of the family a room, or work in pairs. If housework isn’t your thing, hire professional cleaners.  


De-Clutter
De-cluttering means removing lots and lots of extra pieces from surfaces, walls, closets, cabinets and rooms. Smart homeowners will take this opportunity to ruthlessly weed through items and either throw them away, give to charity, or pack them up for storage elsewhere.  By removing the clutter, the focus shifts from the "stuff" in the room to the room itself.
Start by removing things in the kitchen, the most cluttered room in a home. Remove everything from the outside of the refrigerator and the top of the cabinetry. Cull through the cabinets and countertops. Do the same with the remainder of the rooms in the house. Go through each room, medicine cabinet and closet and remove, pack away, and de-clutter. Do the same with the garage and basement. The outdoor area of your home should be addressed, as well.


De-Personalize
Removing an excessive amount of framed photos, diplomas, certificates, trophies, awards and collectibles will result in a lighter, airier and more welcome feel for your guests.  Too much personal stuff will make your home exchange guests feels as if they are intruding on your space.

Fix
Armed with a clipboard, write down every little thing you see that needs to be fixed or replaced such as a broken window pane, loose door handles, windows that do not open, missing light bulbs, dripping faucets, or even something as small as a missing outlet cover. Once you have your list, either fix it yourself, or hire someone to do it for you.

Stage
Staging is the new fancy word on the real estate scene. In essence, it means “setting the stage, or enhancing a home’s features” to appeal to all. Staging your house is like entering a beauty contest. You want to look beautiful and win the contest. It can involve the re-arrangement or re-use of furniture and art, or replacement of worn or outdated accessories. Staging should be the last thing done after cleaning, de-cluttering, de-personalizing and fixing. It should be completed prior to having the home photographed and can be done by the homeowners or a professional staging company. 

Remember, think about how you would like to see a home that you are visiting.



5 Must-Have Phone Apps for Travelers


In the hustle and bustle of today’s business and vacation travel, “smart” travelers wouldn’t leave home without their smart phones. Yes, they are necessary for emergencies and for last-minute changes to your plane and hotel schedules, but loaded with some great travel-related apps, these phones morph into handy resources that take the place of a stack of books, folders and unwieldy maps.

Here are a few useful apps for travelers.  Most are free to download, connecting a wealth of practical and valuable information to your fingertips.

1.     Pack The Bag (free)
Before you head out your own front door, you need to pack for your trip, whether a long weekend or a month in Italy. This app allows you to create and name as many “packlists” as people traveling (think Mom, Dad, Sarah, Jack). It provides a list of places and activities one may encounter on their travels such as beach, business, hiking, golf, etc.  Each category includes a list of items that might be applicable to your trip. For example, the “beach” category lists beach bag, towel, goggles, snorkel, sun hat, etc. so there’s no reason for you to mentally figure out what you need. There are comprehensive lists that remind you of common items (alarm clock, business cards, spare glasses, umbrella) as well as important items (driver’s license, passport, tickets, health insurance card) that you can click off as you pack.

2.     iTranslate ($4.99 for voice recognition)
This is a voice to voice translation app. No more flipping through bulky translation books to find the Swedish word for “train.” You tap the microphone to say your word or sentence and choose the translation from 92 languages. The translation appears in text and in audio. It allows you to select a male or female voice and control the dialect and speech rate.   

3.     Trip Splitter ($1.99)
If you are traveling with others and need to split or divvy up expenses, this is the app for you. Every expense can be entered, divided and stored in just seconds. You can have an unlimited number of participants, create even or uneven splits, and convert currency. It allows you to attach receipts, view daily expenses, and even add photos.

4.     Yelp (free)
Yelp is an awesome guide to finding the best (and the reviews to back it up) pizza parlor, hot breakfast, coffee shop, drycleaner, wine shop, hair salon, you name it, while traveling. According to Yelp, there are more than 50 million reviews on businesses world-wide. Each business listing includes its phone number, address, hours of operation, map, directions, photos, and reviews by real travelers, just like you. So when you are craving the best cheese, chutney and gluten-free bread in Edinburgh, you’ll find the right place.

5.     Weather + (free)

There’s not much we can change about the weather, but we can plan for it (use your Pack The Bag app for reminders of rain hats, slickers, umbrella). One of the best weather apps is the International Travel Weather Calculator, Weather +, which gives you the current weather conditions and a five-day forecast worldwide. Features include a world clock, ability to easily go back and forth between different locations (see what the weather is like at home), and an easy switch for Fahrenheit/Miles to Celsius/Kilometers. 

Seattle: Space Needle, Starbucks, Salmon, Seahawks and Beer!


The Emerald City, Seattle is known for many great things; from the iconic Space Needle built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the home of the original but now global Starbuck’s coffee house, the Superbowl XLVIII champions The Seahawks and of course the local delicacy of both fresh and smoked salmon.  But did you say beer?  Seattle is not home to goliath companies like Anheuser Busch Inbev, Heineken, SAB Miller, Asahi or Carlsberg, but did you know that Seattle has one of the world’s densest areas of microbreweries? 

Ballard, a lovely area in Northwest Seattle is home to 10 microbreweries.  From IVHE property 1134, you can create a great pub crawl to experience all 10 of these original brews as they are within a mile of this charming property!  While the beer is fantastic, you can also enjoy plenty of excellent restaurants, close to fifty (50) options, ranging from Vietnamese, Italian, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Chinese and one of my local favourites Chinook’s at Salmon Bay located at the Fisherman’s Terminal.  If you feel like cooking (take advantage of staying in a furnished home) the Ballard Farmer’s Market is a great way to get fresh ingredients every Sunday morning.  Of course for an even wider selection you can make the quick trip to the world famous Pike Place Market

Have you ever visited a working waterway lock?  Locally known as the Ballard Locks, the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks are at the entrance of the Lake Washington ship canal where you will see hundreds of working fishing boats, pleasure sailing boats and yachts throughout the year.  Catch the salmon run and you truly see how nature also uses these man-made water gates. Just up from the locks is Golden Gardens Park where the views of the Puget Sound are stunning.  From June to August seals visit the rocky shoreline and at the northern end of the park look for a beaver lodge.    

Also within a mile from this IVHE property is Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo.  Feel like stretching your legs a bit more?  Also nearby is Green Lake a local favourite for walkers and joggers.  The circumference is a easy 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers) and offers lovely views with plenty of birds and people watching opportunities. 

We have only scratched the surface of what Seattle has to offer, best you plan your first trip, sit down and map out your full adventure while enjoying a nice local beer.  Cheers!

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.  
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