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Cafes, Galleries and Shopping: NYC SoHo

I decided to take advantage of some recent Spring-like weather and head into SoHo in Lower Manhattan for a little lunch, shopping and a walk around one of the trendiest neighborhoods New York City has to offer.  SoHo is short for “South of Houston Street” and is the area from Houston Street South to Canal Street and 6th Avenue East to Crosby Street.  Once known mainly for its artist’s lofts, it’s now known as one of the hippest areas of the city boasting upscale boutiques and national and international chain stores.  Pop into one the consignment shops in SoHo at a chance to walk out with some great finds.  This area offers amazing restaurants and an active nightlife.  It’s also known for its coffeehouses and bakeries along with a variety of art galleries and museums to browse. 

This section of the city is characterized by its cast iron fire escapes and industrial facades.  Many of the streets are cobblestoned, adding a certain charm to the area.  If you love celebrity sightings as much as I do (though I’m horrible at actually spotting any) then SoHo is the place to be.  If you look hard enough you’ll be sure to spot a few familiar faces walking out of the boutiques, dining in one of the restaurants or walking along the crowed sidewalks.  A great way to learn about this area is to book a walking tour where you can learn about the area’s rich history and pick up some little known facts about this city district. 

Some of the top ranked SoHo streets are Spring Street, Prince Street, Greene Street and Mercer Street, to name a few, though the entire area of SoHo offers something of interest to its visitors. Broadway has most of the national chain stores found everywhere but don’t rule them out for that reason as they offer some unique interiors and merchandise not offered at their other locations. 

Once you have had your share of shopping, celebrity peeping, and sampled some fabulous cuisine you can take a short walk to Little Italy to stop off for a cappuccino.  Head a bit further out and you are in the heart of Chinatown.  There’s so much to see and do in this part of The Big Apple all within walking distance. 

Plan your next luxury home exchange in one of the most exiting cities in the world by booking one of International Vacation Home Exchange’s NYC properties.  Add SoHo to your list of places to explore in Manhattan and you just may find yourself rubbing elbows with a few of Hollywood’s A-listers. 

Thank you to travel blogger Lisa Medeiros.  Follow her on Twitter @lisamedeiros_

Get Lost in a Sea of Skyscrapers

Sometimes you want to just sit on a beach and relax during your vacation. And sometimes, you just want a fast-paced adventure. If you are that person who wants to hit the gas pedal on your vacation, then Hong Kong should be on the list of places to visit in your lifetime. Seasoned travelers will tell you that Hong Kong is one of those cities that you will never really stop discovering no matter how many times you visit.

A real quick history lesson on Hong Kong. Up until the late 90’s, Hong Kong was a British Colony. Today, Hong Kong is one of the three most important financial centers in the world. Hong Kong is also ranked as one of the top tourist destinations with its breathtaking national parks and infamous city skyline. The city is also notorious for its food and art scene. This is certainly a city that doesn’t sleep and you likely won’t either if you want to even scratch the surface of exploring the places that attract millions of tourists to the city every single year. So grab a cup of coffee and let’s look at 5 attractions that will make you want to book your International Vacation Home Exchange in Hong Kong today.

1)      Skyscrapers. If you like tall buildings (and I mean tall) then you will defiantly want to visit Hong Kong. The city has more than 7,000 high-rise buildings. The tallest building stands more than 1,500 feet. One way to embrace the skyline is to grab a ride on the Hong Kong Observation Wheel.
2)      Victoria Harbour. The heart of Hong Kong is arguably Victoria Harbour. Lying in the middle of the city’s dense urban region, the harbor is the site of annual fireworks displays, as well as retail, markets, and dinning. The Harbour also provides panoramic views to Hong Kong’s skyline. You can also hitch a ride on a ferry or water taxi to tour the harbour.
3)      Disneyland. Mikey Mouse and his friends also call Hong Kong home. The amusement park is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary. So now you have an excuse to bring the kids, right?
4)      Victoria Peak. Standing at about 1,800 feet, Victoria Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong island. Victoria Peak is also one of the most visited spots by tourists. The peak offers breathtaking views of the city that you will never forget. The best way to reach Victoria Peak is to take a ride on the 125-year-old Peak Tram.
5)      Lantau Island. Lantau Island is the largest of Hong Kong’s island. It sits at the mouth of the Pearl River. The island is home to the Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tan Buddha. The Tian Tan Buddha stands over 100 feet on a hilltop. You can walk up to the statue. Just be sure to bring a good pair of walking shoes.

Now I am not even scratching the surface on Hong Kong in this post. There is so much to see and do in this vibrant city. If you are taking an extended vacation, you can jet over to the neighboring city of Macau. International Vacation Home Exchange property #0340 also offers gorgeous views of Hong Kong. If you are interested in reserving this property, be sure to contact an IVHE coordinator. And as always, safe travels!

Thank you to guest travel writer Carla Pruitt. You can follow Carla on Twitter at @crobscarla

The Heart of Europe Still Beats: Brussels

Located in the heart of Europe, is the capital city of Belgium. Brussels is known for its beer, waffles (it is Belgium after all), cartoons, chocolate, flea markets, and the spectacular architecture that embraces the city. The city is also home to the European Union. In the middle of Brussels, is the famous Cinquantenaire (I am not going to even try to pronounce it). The Cinquantenaire is a huge park that is home to several museums. You can’t miss it since the main road into the city passes through it. And like many cities in Europe, Brussels is full of history, treasures, and adventure.

Right now, the city is known for all the wrong reasons; reasons that I cannot fully understand and will one day have to try and explain to my young son. Terrorists recently targeted the city, killing several people and again bringing fear to the entire world. This comes just months after the terrorist attacks in Paris. When I wrote about Paris following the attacks there, I refused to discuss what the terrorists did in detail. I stand by that in this post as well. I refuse to give terrorism a voice. Sometimes words are simply meant to be louder than actions.

With that said, let’s talk about Brussels and why you should visit the city if you haven’t already. First, there is this International Vacation Home Exchange property located in the heart of the city. So you can check lodging off your list as you plan your trip. Now let’s talk about food. Don’t plan on going on a diet anytime soon if you want to visit the city. Brussels is a culinary candy store complete with waffles, stew, Belgian fries, and chocolate. So really, this will be a vacation for your senses as well (taste and smell). I am getting hungry just writing this post.

When planning your trip, be sure to look at the calendar of events in the city. Brussels hosts a number of festivals throughout the year including the Brussels Animation Film Festival, Brussels Jazz Marathon, and the Brussels Festival of Arts. One of the most popular festivals is arguably the Winter Wonders Festival. You can catch this during the holidays and the festival features everything from lights, music, to ice skating.

While you are checking out a festival, be sure to step back and absorb the beauty of the buildings that will surround you. There are guided and self-guided tours of the hidden architectural treasures throughout the city. During your tour you can also check out Mini-Europe. Yes, Mini-Europe. It is a park that showcases Europe using miniature models – 350 models to be exact. You will begin your journey at Big Ben and then wonder through Italy, France, Germany, and Spain in just a matter of hours. 

This is truly a magical city and hopefully you will add it to your travel bucket list. A senseless act can’t stop Europe’s heart from beating. I hope it won’t stop you from visiting the city and opening your arms to those who will be waiting to greet you. If you have questions about the city, be sure to contact an International Vacation Home Exchange coordinator. And as always, safe travels!

Thank you to guest travel writer Carla Pruitt. You can follow Carla on Twitter at @crobscarla. 

Find Your Springtime Inspiration at London’s Flower Shows

Nothing celebrates Spring like an English flower garden in full bloom and no place honors the season better than London’s world famous Chelsea Flower Show.  Garden enthusiasts from around the world come to see what’s on tap at this annual event.  It’s known as the “Great Spring Show” and it’s being held this year from 24-28 May 2016.  There will be many special events in place to get you in the spirit of the coming season. 
Each year the Royal Horticultural Society puts together a stunning display of floral and horticultural exhibits on the grounds of Royal Hospital Chelsea in Chelsea, London.  There are over 100 plant breeders and nurseries showcasing their beautiful floral displays.  This year’s theme is Health, Happiness and Horticulture with a call to action named “Greening Grey Britain.”  Their plan is to transform grey areas into green planted areas as a way to improve lives and help the environment.  The aim is also to showcase gardening as a form of exercise. 
As 2016 celebrates Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday, this year’s show will honor the Queen with displays and events devoted to her 90th Celebration.  The Chelsea Flower Show is always known for its many stalls filled with one-of-a-kind artwork and crafts by skilled artisans.  You can choose from a variety of unique products that are offered for the home and garden.  The festivities continue into the evening with an after-hours Jazz concert.  Enjoy a glass of fizz while listening to the relaxing sounds of the Ronnie Jazz Orchestra.  The Chelsea Flower Show isn’t the only event of its kind sponsored by The Royal Horticultural Society.  They have several events scheduled this Spring and Summer all throughout the UK. 
Cardiff Flower Show  15-17 April
A spectacular flower show in Wales with the iconic Cardiff Castle as its backdrop featuring entertainment for all ages.
Malvern Spring Festival  5-8 May
Held in Malvern, Worcestershire, showcasing the best in food and gardening.
Chatsworth Flower Show  7-11 June
A new addition just added this year, the Chatsworth Flower Show will be held on the charming grounds of the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire.
Hampton Court Palace Flower Show  5-10 July
Celebrate summer with another very popular RHS flower show held on the grounds of the historic Hampton Court Palace.  View the stunning floral displays and garden inspirations on the grounds of Henry VIII’s iconic palace.  This year’s event offers a special Preview Evening on 4 July from 5-10:30pm.  Visitors can enjoy a first look at the displays and enjoy live entertainment followed by a spectacular fireworks display. 
Tatton Park Flower Show  20-24 July
Held near Knutsford, Cheshire the show boasts a floral marque and plant plaza not to be missed.
There are also several other RHS flower events scheduled throughout the UK.  Come celebrate the season and experience the best that garden and floral design has to offer by booking your next luxury home exchange in one of International Vacation Home Exchange’s charming England properties and bring home a few gardening secrets to use at your own palace.

Thank you travel blogger Lisa Medeiros.  Follow her on Twitter @lisamedeiros_

How about a STAYCATION?

When you think of a vacation, chances are you’re thinking about some far-flung or exotic location. These trips can be fantastic, but planning a trip to the ends of the earth can also be fraught with complications and tend to take a lot of leg work. More often than not, planning a trip to a faraway destination requires plenty of lead time and some careful planning. You have to account for transportation once you’ve arrived at your destination, and you’re likely looking at a full day’s worth of travel time minimum to even arrive there. Then there is the quest to find lodging, research on everything from the best places to eat to potential safety concerns, and the seemingly impossible task of fitting everything you’ll need when you’re so far from home into a suitcase. These trips tend to be on the pricier side as well. I don’t say all of this to diminish the pure joy of a far-away trip, but rather to highlight the amount of time, money, and effort you should expect to put into planning one. However, there is another option for those of us who are craving a vacation but are perhaps light on the time or money needed to do so.
Let’s discuss for a moment the often overlooked and underrated staycation. IVHE has touched on this topic in the past, and it remains relevant today. Critics will likely scoff at the idea of taking time off to see things you could theoretically see every day, but when you carefully consider the staycation, it is actually quite a worthwhile endeavor. For starters, because you don’t have to sacrifice entire days to travel time, you can squeeze a local vacation into a weekend if you must, or simply enjoy that much more time relaxing. Because you aren’t splurging on plane tickets or gas, you’ll have some extra cash to play round with on your vacation. The extra change might mean the ability to extend your trip for a day or two, the chance to splurge on a nicer place to stay, or the opportunity to enjoy a few more nights of fine dining. Alternatively, this extra dough could afford you the ability to plan a vacation on a tight budget.
Think, too, about how many times you remark to your family, friends, or significant other, “We should really try that place” or, “Why haven’t we gone back there?” without ever seeming to find the time to follow up on your plans. For most of us, life can get in the way of exploration during the day-to-day, so there may be wholly unexplored parts of your local area that you are missing out on. The staycation gives you a chance to look at your local area in a whole new light. You may find hidden gems that become frequent stops for you in the future, but which you have spent years overlooking in the past. Taking a local vacation is the perfect opportunity for you to see your hometown through the eyes of a tourist, and you may gain a new sense of admiration for the place you have come to call home.
Being close to home has many practical benefits, as well. If you forget to pack something, there is no need to worry – you can hop in the car and grab it quickly! You won’t have to spend so much time on contingency plans, since you’ll be near enough that any emergencies that could crop up in your personal or professional lives can be dealt with. You may even be tempted to stay home for your staycation, but my suggestion would be to find a hotel or vacation home nearby instead. Often, the temptation to get caught up on work around the house can interfere with your relaxation if you remain too close to home. Plus, staying somewhere new can be just the opportunity you’ve needed to explore a part of the area that you aren’t as familiar with. A change of digs also really helps set the vacation mood, allowing your typical day-to-day worries to melt away for a time. Using a resource such as IVHE to find your temporary local abode can help you decide on the perfect place to play tourist.
There is still – and will always be – a place for the traditional, far-away vacation. However, the staycation deserves its due as well. If you feel that you have already thoroughly experienced your place of residence, you still needn’t go far for a great vacation. Chances are that there is a suitable destination within an hour’s drive from where you are now, which can afford you all sorts of exciting and novel experiences. If you still find it difficult to drum up inspiration for your local vacation, the internet is rife with articles, like this one from Go Green Travel and this one from Forbes, that give plenty of ideas to get you started. It is important to take a novel approach to planning your staycation – don’t simply take a week to stay at the Ramada a few blocks from home, eating at the same restaurants you always do or visiting old friends. To really make the most of your “trip” you need to seek out new adventures, meet new people (who you may one day come to call old friends), and explore what you’ve been missing. The important thing to remember is that you don’t need a total change of scenery to have a truly wonderful vacation.
Traveling to new and exotic locations deserves every ounce of the romanticism that it is given; it is a magical experience and has rightly captivated the hearts and minds of this world’s citizens since the time of Homer’s Odyssey. However, let us not forget the hometown heroes. The staycation has for too long remained a second class vacation; it is high time that we begin to consider this vacation underdog as a viable (and even attractive) option for so many reasons, not the least of which are that it is cost effective, can be done with ease, and requires a minimal time commitment. If you haven’t thought about taking a vacation from your everyday life right in your own backyard, you’re probably missing out on something special.
Thank you to travel writer Emma Sledge.

Looking for an affordable destination? Check the currency rates!

If you are looking for your next vacation destination, one area you should research is the currency rates. We all know that every country has its own currency. The United States has the dollar; Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Belgium all have the euro; the United Kingdom has the pound. When you travel, you will likely need to purchase the currency of the country you are visiting. You can either do this before or after you arrive (I would recommend purchasing some before you leave).

There has been a recent trend of the currency amounts slipping in several European countries against the Dollar, thus you get more for your US Dollar.  According to CNN Money, the euro is now trading at $1.09, down from $1.13 in February. And just two years ago, it cost $1.40 to buy one Euro. Analysts predict that the euro could drop even more in the coming weeks.

Here is an example of how currency rates work. Since I live in the United States, I will be using the dollar. As of right now, here are where currency rates stand.

1 U.S. Dollar =
0.91 Euro
1.00 Swiss Franc
3.79 Brazilian Real
0.70 British Pound

So what does this mean? This means now is a good time to book an International Vacation Home Exchange in Europe. Everything from souvenirs, to food, to even your cup of coffee would likely cost less. And it isn’t just countries that have the Euro. The Norwegian crown has fallen 10% against the dollar in the past 12 months. The UK pound, meanwhile, has slipped 8% against the U.S. dollar over the past year.

If you plan to cash in on the currency rate discounts, the best advice is to really do your homework before you plan and eventually leave for your trip. Study the currency rates for the country you plan to visit. Remember, those rates will likely change between the time you book your flights to the time you actually arrive in the country. There are a number of websites that will provide the latest information regarding currency rates. Your own bank may also have some information for you.
Thank you to guest travel writer Carla Pruitt. You can follow Carla on Twitter at @crobscarla
No matter where you are traveling, our suggestion is to shop around to get the best exchange rates- this will give you the best value for your money.  There are a number of currency exchange services in the market. Spending a few minutes researching currency exchange providers will save you money.  For additional information view Get More For Your Money and Bank on a Good Exchange Rate

Finding Hidden Gems at London’s Famous Street Markets

Some of my favorite days out in London are spent browsing through one of the many well-known street markets.  Many of my favorite treasures have been found at these market stalls.  They are a London tradition and their origin dates back to the Middle Ages.  Today’s markets offer everything from jewelry and clothing to knickknacks and antiques.  I’ve listed a few of the markets that top my list of favorites. 

Camden Market
Located in North London near the Regent’s Canal, Camden market has an eclectic, quirky vibe providing an experience all its own.  It is listed as the fourth most popular visitor attraction in London and attracts over 100,000 visitors each weekend.  Their stalls offer a wide variety of
bohemian and goth/punk style clothing, hand-made jewelry, interesting crafts and a variety of ethnic foods.  It has both an open air market as well as a bustling indoor market known as Stable Market.  This indoor market is where one of my favorite vendors can be found selling beautiful Italian leather purses and handbags.  Since Camden Market is one of the larger of the London markets you’ll need to allow at least 1/2 a day to browse the stalls, grab lunch and do some interesting people watching.

Portobello Market
Considered by many as London’s best known market, Portobello Market is located in London’s trendy Notting Hill section made famous by the Julie Robert’s movie.  The famous street market is open Monday through Saturday selling mainly fashion, accessories, household goods and bric-a-brac.  The best days to visit the market are Fridays and Saturdays where you’ll find the streets filled with antique stalls in addition to their regular vendors.  Get there early to get the best finds and to avoid the crowds. 

Old Spitalfields Market
Located just a short walk from the Liverpool Street tube station, Old Spitalfields Market is open 7 days a week and offers something different each day.  The main market days are Thursday through Sunday.  The Thursday Antique Market offers shoppers a chance to find that one-of-a-kind antique.  Friday is the best day to shop for clothing and art.  Twice a month on Fridays you’ll find a Record Fair offering rare and collectible vinyl.  Saturday offers a different themed market each week and Sunday has a mix of vendors offering something for everyone.  Another one of my favorite handbag vendors can be found at this market selling bespoke handbags and accessories made from up-cycled leather.  You can never own too many handbags, am I right?

These are just a few of the many street markets scattered about the city.  London is also known for some amazing food markets and fresh flower markets that you’ll be sure to enjoy as well.  International Vacation Home Exchange has properties all around the globe with several charming properties located in London.  Plan your next luxury home exchange in one of the world’s most exciting cities and be sure to hit a few of their famous street markets along the way.  

Thank you to travel writer Lisa Medeiros @LisaMedeiros_

Best Vacation Home Exchange Searches

Find a luxury home for your next vacation is easier than ever with International Vacation Home Exchange.  You can search by destination (region, country and even states), number of bedrooms, and number of guest or a wide variety of amenities like a swimming pool, WIFI, clothes washer, barbeque and many more.  In addition, you can also search by the type of activities you would like do while on vacation such as golf, skiing, beaches, fishing, hiking and many more.  Click on any of the images below to visit that location on  
You can start a basic search from the home page of (above) or for a more detailed search  click on the full search or start at the Property page (navigate there from the top of any page – see below). 

You can select a region of the world, country or for some countries you can also search by state, region or province.  Each of these searches offers you a drop down menu that is easy to use.  Simply press the search button when you have selected the appropriate categories. 

Once you have a geographic area selected and pressed the search button, the selected properties will show below the search bar.  On the right hand side you will also see a map of approximate area where the vacation homes are located.  The following is an example for the United Kingdom.  You can either scroll down the properties to explore further or you can click on the map house icons or zoom in and out to find your best option. 

If you would like to have an even more defined search, you can click on more options.  This gives you a very wide range of options including activities, entertainment, suitability, features, property type and vacation theme.  

REMEMBER that every time you select a filter in any property search you are narrowing your options.  This will save you time in your search, but will also limit the possibilities.  

We hope that this quick guide helps you find your next vacation home faster and easier.  If you have any questions or if you would like some assistance, we would like to help you.  Please simply email us and our travel coordinators will assist you in the process.  

Deke the Discriminating Traveler Speaks

I was excited as “Deke” and I prepared to go to the beach in San Diego.  We bought an umbrella, beach chairs, and there were full bottles of sunscreen.  As we sat down on the sand in sunny California, memories of my youth flooded me.  It was in San Diego that I felt a certain right of teenage passage—roller skating near the shore (yes, I am that old that it was roller skating and not rollerblading), meeting men who were way too old for me (my father put his foot down when one of them asked me to meet him after dark to teach me how to surf.   Imagine that?), and getting a tan way too dark for my fair skin.  I couldn’t wait to relive some of these memories of yesteryear.  As we settled in and I saw the young people throwing Frisbees, and frolicking in the sun, I was happy.  Deke turned to me suddenly: 
“There are people throwing a ball over our heads.”
“It’s noisy.”
“There are no cabanas here—no people serving you drinks.”
“Yes,” I said again growing curious, what was Deke getting at?
“This is a public beach.”
“I’ve never been on one.”
“What,” I said incredulously; for that is the only kind I had ever frequented.
“I don’t like it very much.”
I burst out laughing.
“You have never been on a public beach?”
“On the outskirts in Florida—when I walked my dog.”
Deke and I had fallen in love at this point, but it was clear that we had come from two different worlds.  I was incensed when I had to pay $13 to put a blanket down on Long Island Beach in New York, and even more incensed when I found out that Greenwich, Connecticut was precluding non-Greenwich residents from using their beach entirely.
Deke and I later married, and on our honeymoon, I had my first private beach experience in Puerto Vallarta.  Deke was right; having people bring you drinks on the beach is wonderful.
The aforementioned story of Deke’s non-public beach life has been a favorite in my family; my sister told Deke that she and her family were going on vacation, and, heaven forbid, were going to visit a public beach.
Even Deke’s first infant home was nestled next to a private beach.  How could he really know anything else?  Though I try to get Deke to be more Bohemian, it is normally to no avail; he is who he is:  a discriminating (and dare I say spoiled?) traveler.
There are things we can learn from Deke.  Most of our members at International Vacation Home Exchange are discriminating and sophisticated travelers.  I thought it would be helpful to sit down with Deke and ask him what he is looking for in a luxury home exchange and in the travel experience in general:
What are you looking for in a luxury home exchange?
A lot of space, a good location, modern conveniences including good, quality Wi-Fi, first-class services in the kitchen including maintenance.   Available scooters would be cool.
Why is service at a luxury home exchange so important to you?
Because I don’t want to be bothered with doing any of it.
What is your favorite thing about overseas travel?
It’s a good escape; it’s like reading a good book, only living it.
What is your least favorite thing about overseas travel?
Getting there and back, ongoing logistical concerns, the unknown of health services available.
What advice do you have for travelers looking for a more enjoyable vacation?
Go first-class all the way, or don’t go (This is very Deke; I say go anyway).
I hope that getting a bit into Deke’s head has been helpful.  When I do it (and it can be an enlightening experience), I understand that all of us can be more discriminating travelers.  Just knowing Deke has helped me to be a more discriminating on the whole, though my father does worry that his daughter might become a snob . . .
Learn more about exclusive home exchanges, IVHE, and how it works.

Sona Schmidt-Harris  - @Sonag2000 – Thanks to Deke for marrying me, his patience, and for his participation in this piece about luxury travel; however, he wishes to note that this is the unauthorized version . . .

Hit the Slopes! Ski Vacations.

Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced, ski holidays provide memories that last a lifetime.  If you’ve never learned to ski but always wished you had, you can rest assured that it’s never too late to take up the sport.  With just a few lessons from a skilled ski instructor, you’ll be swishing down the slopes in no time. 
A ski holiday provides great family fun for everyone from the little ones right on up to Grandmas and Grandads, especially when you book a large vacation home as your base.  There are plenty of activities to enjoy for the non-skiers in your group as well.  Perhaps skating, cross-country skiing, tubing or snowshoeing are more their speed or there’s always just sitting back and taking in all the natural beauty of the mountains.  Of course, apr├Ęs-ski is enjoyed by all, regardless of whether or not you ever put on skis. 
These winter get-aways provide a great opportunity for everyone to gather for that long overdue family reunion or to reconnect with a group of good friends.   Everyone is able to choose their favorite daytime activity and the evenings are spent gathered around the dinner table together followed by relaxing evenings in front of a roaring fire.
If your holiday plans include young children, ski resorts offer amazing ski school programs for your budding skiers to enjoy.  These schools do a great job of coming up with fun, engaging games to teach your young ones all the necessary skills.  You’ll find your children eager to return the next day.  When the children are enrolled in these programs it gives parents the freedom to enjoy the mountain on their own or to take an adult ski lesson for them.  Try not to get too discouraged when you spot your little one whipping past you on the slopes. 
When you’re not on the mountain or warming up by the fire back in your ski chalet you’ll want to be out exploring the surrounding area.  Ski areas offer an abundance of picturesque villages to explore.  You can shop in the boutiques, dine in one of the restaurants, partake in the nightlife or just take a stroll through the quaint little village.  You can explore further from town by enjoying a sleigh ride or maybe even a snowmobile ride if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous.  For a unique experience, you can book a dog sledding excursion which is offered nearby many of the major ski areas.
There are so many great ski mountains to explore around the world.  Every part of the world adds something a bit unique to the ski experience.  Whichever one you choose for your next holiday you’ll be sure to enjoy fresh snow, cool mountain air, breathtaking scenery and the company of good friends and family.  You’ll return home from your winter wonderland holiday not only with loads of great memories but with an eagerness for the next ski season to arrive.

Visit International Vacation Home Exchange’s ski properties, in Europe, Canada, USA and even New Zealand, for an excellent selection of exclusive vacation homes for your next ski vacation.  

Move to Canada, Visit First!

There may or may not be a mass exodus in the works in the United States. Right now, voters there are considering the next leader for the country. Personally, I don’t like to talk politics. However, a recent headline following Super Tuesday sparked my curiosity.  The headline: “Google Searches for ‘How to Move to Canada’ Spike After Super Tuesday Results”. In the article, Google data editor Simon Rogers noted searches for “how can I move to Canada” on Google spiked 350% in the hours following Super Tuesday. When the results were announced, that figure spiked to 500%.

In case you haven’t been following the primary election, republican candidate Donald Trump and democratic candidate Hillary Clinton both found success at the polls during Super Tuesday. And apparently, many voters are now concerned about the future of the country; concerned enough to actually pack up and move.

Canada has taken notice. A radio host in Nova Scotia launched a website last month that invited Americans to move to Cape Breton, an island along the Atlantic coast. The travel website Kayak also launched a contest on Twitter where you have a chance to win a one-way ticket to Canada.

All jokes aside, moving to Canada is easier said than done. So instead of moving, maybe consider visiting the country instead. And there are a number of reasons why you should book an International Vacation Home Exchange in Canada.

Here are a few reasons: 
The country has a lot of spectacular cities that you can visit. Some of the most popular cities in Canada include Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Victoria, and Quebec City. All of these cities have unique and fun places for you and your family to check out.

Niagara Falls. Do I really need to say more? Niagara Falls is three water falls that straddle the international border between Canada and the United States. The water falls attract millions of visitors every year. I will save more information about Niagara Falls for a later post.

Natural wonders will take your breath away. Canada is home to a number of popular attractions including the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, Dinosaur Provincial Park, and Nahanni National Park Reserve.

An amazing backyard. After you visit one of the abovementioned parks, you can then enjoy one of a number of popular outdoor activities (depending on the season) such as camping, skiing/snowboarding, golfing, fishing, and hiking.

Canada’s French Heritage. French culture remains a prominent part of Canada. You can see the French influence in Quebec, Ontario, and the Maritime provinces.

There are a number of vacation home exchange properties located throughout the country. If you do book a trip, do remember that you will need a passport to enter the country. For more information, click here. If you still have your heart set on moving to Canada following the General Election, there are a few things you will need to consider. For one, moving to Canada is rather difficult unless you already have family in the country or you have a lot of money. You will also have to apply for permanent Canadian residency. But before you begin that process, or if you are looking for your next vacation destination, pay Canada a visit.

Thank you to guest travel writer Carla Pruitt. You can follow Carla on Twitter @crobscarla. 

Take a Winecation to the Pacific Wonderland

As a native Oregonian, I feel like I must take time to write about why you should visit Oregon. Yes, native Oregonian. And no, it is not pronounced Or-e-gone. It is more like Or-e-gun. But that is beside the point. I was born and raised in Medford, Oregon. If you have a map handy, you will see that Medford is in the heart of Southern Oregon (or about 30 miles north of the California-Oregon border on I-5). I could list a million reasons why you should book an International Vacation Home Exchange property in Southern Oregon right now. The region is full of treasures including the Redwood National Forest and Crater Lake. Instead, I will focus on the one reason why you should visit Oregon – wine.
In the last decade, the wine industry has exploded throughout the state. However, the history of wine production dates way before the state was incorporated. The earliest of settlers planted grapes as early as the 1840s. The first official winery was opened in the 1850s as the region was experiencing a Gold Rush in the town of Jacksonville. The dry summers and wet winters provide optimal growing conditions for wineries. It wasn’t until the late 70s to early 80s, when the world began to notice Oregon’s wine industry. Today, there are more than 20,000 vineyard acres in the entire state. Pinot noir and Pinot gris are the two top grapes grown at vineyards.
In Southern Oregon, many wineries offer tastings and even tours. While some wineries distribute wine nationwide, many wines are only available at the winery itself. There are companies that will offer daily wine tours to the different vineyards in Southern Oregon. These companies will often provide transportation and a driver, as well as cheese and cracker platters (I will save the amazing dairy and cheese industry in Oregon for a later post).
Many vineyards will offer spectacular views of the Applegate Valley, Umpqua Valley, and Rogue Valley. Many people will pack a picnic and sit outside on the patio of his or her favorite vineyard and make an afternoon of the visit. One of my favorite places to visit (just for the view) is Paschal. This vineyard and winery is located in the heart of Southern Oregon. The tasting room overlooks the entire Rogue Valley. Another favorite is Belle Fiore. This winery is located near the city of Ashland (home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival). The elegance of the property will have you coming back again and again and again.

If you are interesting in taking a winecation to Southern Oregon, you have a few options when it comes to travel. First, you need to book this 15,000 square foot luxury International Vacation Home Exchange property in Grants Pass, Oregon. Grants Pass is about 25 minutes from Medford and is also located near vineyards and wineries. Fly into either Portland or San Francisco and drive. You can make a road trip out of the whole winecation. If you have questions, just leave a comment and I will gladly answer.

Thank you to guest travel writer and photographer Carla Pruitt. You can follow Carla on Twitter at @crobscarla 

A walk in the woods, along the coast or up mountains!

There is something incredibly timeless about taking a stroll. Not only does going for a walk offer a host of physical and cognitive benefits, it is also a fantastic way to explore a new area. Whether you’re hiking a scenic nature trail or taking a leisurely walk, you’ll unlock all sorts of hidden gems when you step outside and do a little exploring. It’s a relatively low impact way to get some exercise and an inexpensive way to have a magical day on vacation.
Each part of the world has a unique and natural beauty. Sometimes it may be hidden behind a city skyline or tucked far off the beaten path, but it is most certainly there. One of the quickest ways to find those scenic natural areas is to research hiking trails. They tend to blaze through the most pristine and noteworthy areas around, like historic ruins and stunning landmarks. Hiking trails are prevalent in most areas, and a worthwhile trail is likely within a short drive, even for major metro areas. For the adventurous and experienced, there are hiking trails with steep inclines and challenging terrains. Novice hikers needn’t worry either, as many trails are well-maintained and gentler – some are even paved!
Taking a hike can be a great way to break up a trip, but you can have an equally enchanting time in an urban setting. When you take to the streets for a walk, you may not cover as much ground as you would in a car, but you’ll be able to spot all sorts of things you might otherwise have whizzed past unknowingly. Walking in a new place is a great way to meet the locals and find out about those fantastic hole in the wall restaurants that you’d otherwise miss. While you can have an enjoyable time walking just about anywhere, there are some areas and cities that are considered to be extra “walkable.” When vacationing, it never hurts to do a little research into the best areas to go for a stroll. For those who really love the pastime, Fromme’s has curated a list of the most walkable cities on earth, so you have a premade travel bucket list.
Whether you’re more of an urbanite or a woodsman, taking to the outdoors to stretch your legs is a wonderful way to get the most out of a new city. You’ll not only be exploring and experiencing, you will be getting healthy exercise. Whether you’re picking your way up a mountain trail or window shopping on a bustling street, it’s a fantastic way to learn about a new place and walk off some of that delicious vacation food.

What better way to spend a vacation than to have a luxury vacation home to relax in at the end of the day, after your long hike.  With International Vacation Home Exchange, you can select from these exquisite homes that are all located near excellent hiking and walking.  
Thank you to travel writer Emma Sledge.  

Where Does the Zika Virus Outbreak Stand?

By now, you have likely heard of the Zika Virus. We first posted about the Zika Virus in February. Here is the latest information about the virus.

The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak of the virus a public health emergency. The virus is now believed to have cause almost 5,000 cases of microcephaly in Brazil and other countries in LatinAmerica. Microcephaly is a disorder that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads. This is defiantly a concern for women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. In fact, pregnant women are encouraged to postpone trips to areas that have confirmed cases of the Zika Virus.

Researchers are also trying to determine a correlation between Zika and Guillain-Barre syndrome. According to a report by the World Health Organization, eight countries have seen increases in Guillain-Barre since 2015. This neurological syndrome is rare, and causes your body’s immune system to attack your nerves.

Understandably, many people are concerned with traveling to areas where the Zika virus has been reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued more travel advisories to regions that have confirmed cases of Zika Virus. And as the Northern Hemisphere approaches the spring and summer months, cases of the Zika virus will likely increase. If you recently booked your International Vacation Home Exchange, and have concerns about the Zika Virus, here are some facts for you to consider:

·         The Zika Virus is caused by a virus transmitted by a mosquito. It is NOT contagious
·         There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available
·         The virus is known to circulate in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific
·         The symptoms from the Zika Virus include fever, rash, and joint pan
·         Only about 20% of people who are infected will show any kinds of symptoms
·         Deaths from the Zika Virus are extremely rare

So should you cancel your upcoming trip to Mexico? Or should you avoid traveling to areas that have cases of Zika Virus? If you are pregnant, or planning on becoming pregnant, this is certainly a discussion to have with your physician. If this is not the case, then you will likely be fine. Here’s the thing, there will always be a risk of contracting a virus no matter where you travel. Zika is not the exception by any means. However, you should certainly take measures to protect yourself and your family.

Here are some tips on how to do it:

·         Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window or door screens. Your vacation home exchange will likely have all of the above.

·         Use insect and mosquito repellents and reapply as directed. If you have kids, be sure to check with their pediatrician about the use of insect repellents.

·         Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. And be sure to wear light-colored clothing. Researchers believe mosquitos are more attracted to dark colors. And yes, you need to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants even during the day. The mosquitos that spread the virus are more likely to bite during the daytime hours.

·         Avoid the use of scented skin care products. These products can attract mosquitos.

The abovementioned measures also apply if you are traveling to areas that may not necessarily have cases of the Zika Virus. Malaria, Yellow Fever, and the West Nile Virus are also caused by mosquitos.

If you have concerns about the Zika Virus, be sure to discuss these concerns with your physician. If you have questions regarding your vacation home exchange, be sure to contact an IVHEcoordinator.  

Thank you to guest travel writer Carla Pruitt. You can follow Carla on Twitter at @crobscarla
The above is only a short overview – you should always consult with your doctor on health issues.  IVHE does not take responsibility for the accuracy of this article or subsequent actions taken by any travelers.


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