Posts for TRAVEL TIPS Category

How to Spot a Scammer

OWNER RESOURCES, TRAVEL, TRAVEL TIPS - June 29, 2018

How to Spot Scammer ALAVHR Watch our video and learn how to spot scammers!

Article by Susan Forson, Owner, ALAVHR.com, first published June 29, 2018

How to Spot a Scammer

Vacation rental scams are not new, but they have recently increased in our corner of the world.  Earlier this week, I received a frantic phone call from a traveler who arrived in Gulf Shores, suitcases in hand, and discovered that her family had been scammed out of their vacation rental.   She called me because we have a very active Facebook community where we help connect travelers with vacation rental owners.   I helped calm her down, and went through the scenario with her – yes, she had been scammed.   It is very difficult to prosecute these scammers but I did encourage her to contact her bank and to file a police report.   Fortunately, we were also able to help arrange a legitimate condo for her and her family to stay in.    It breaks my heart to hear such stories – and they are becoming all too frequent.

We issue many warnings and reminders in our groups about scammers, but this phone call spurred me to action.  I wanted to pull together what we have learned about scammers and make a video that you can share to educate travelers.

The bottom line is that no matter how careful you are, there is no way to prevent scammers from contacting you on Facebook or Craigslist.   The best line of defense is to learn when to be suspicious and always choose a payment option that provides fraud protection.  We cover all of these topics and even share real life examples from recent scams in our video.

Please take a few moments to learn how to spot a scammer and how to protect yourself – and please share with your friends and family.  If you are the administrator of a Facebook page for connecting travelers with vacation rentals, we invite you to join our Scammer Busters group on Facebook.  We use this group to notify other admins when scammers have been reported.  Our goal is to reach as many groups as quickly as possible to spread the word.  The examples used in this video were reported to the Scammer Busters group.  Travelers may also contact any member of the Scammer Busters group to ask whether someone has been reported or if you are not sure you are being scammed.

 

At Alabama Vacation Home Rentals, we are dedicated to stopping scammers.  We verify every owner that lists on our site and never charge booking fees or site commissions.   We are a proud member of the VHRNetwork – a regional network of listing sites, like ours, that provide a safe way for you save money.    Visit VHRNetwork.com to find the region for your next vacation.

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Eating Well on Your Beach Vacation

alavhr eat healthy fort morgan

Article by Guest Blogger, Deb Panos, first published September 16, 2016 here

As I sit here, working on a menu and developing a shopping list for our next beach vacation, it dawned on me.  Someone really needs to develop a comprehensive guide for planning meals at a beach (or anywhere really) vacation house or condo.  Maybe someone has already done it but I couldn’t find it so I nominated myself.  Keep in mind, this guide is really for those people that drive to their destination.  If you fly, it is a little harder to prepare to this degree.

So what was my motivation?

“At this point in the day, we are not much interested in showering and getting dressed to go out to dinner…”

When we go to the beach, our favorite time of day is sunset.  We take a few simple snacks, a bottle of wine and our beach chairs and sometimes sit on the beach and gaze at the horizon until well after sunset.  At this point in the day, we are not much interested in showering and getting dressed to go out to dinner.  Our kids are grown now, but when they were younger, it presented even more of a challenge.  Plus, typically we are staying off the beaten trail so going to a restaurant involves a 20 to 30-minute drive.  Not to mention the cost of eating out for a week.

“Planning ahead is crucial”

However, we are not a “box of pasta and jar of sauce” family.  I love to cook and my entire family loves to eat and appreciates good food.  Plus, when at the beach, we have access to fresh seafood (caught that morning) that we simply cannot resist.  Eating well on vacation, to us, enhances the experience tremendously.  I do realize that this approach is not for everyone.  Many people consider cooking a chore and really want to avoid cooking on vacation as much as possible.  I get that. Maybe I can change your mind.  Just a little.

Planning ahead is crucial if you want to prepare fast, delicious meals at the beach.  I am excited about spending a week at the beach so it doesn’t really seem like work.  More like vacation prep.  Kind of like packing.

It is also helpful to plan your menu for the week and be sure to include dinners out.  You want to be prepared but you don’t want to bring a ton of food back with you or even worse throw it away.  Also, be sure and find out if you’ll have access to a grill.  Gas or charcoal?  If it is charcoal, I wouldn’t haul charcoal from home.  For two reasons.  One, a bag of charcoal takes up a lot of valuable car space.  Two, there is a good chance that the previous renters left behind their charcoal.   Use that.   If no grill is available, consider heading to the local Walmart and buying an inexpensive charcoal grill.  You can leave it for the next renters.

 

Casseroles (like lasagna) can be prepared ahead and frozen.  Meats can be placed in plastic bags along with marinade and frozen.  Baked good, like cakes and cookies, can be made ahead and frozen.  Or, if you like your cookies fresh from the oven, prepare the dough and freeze that.  I like to review each recipe and make sure I take whatever spices and staples I need.  Otherwise, be prepared for sticker shock when you go to the local grocery store for your favorite spice.  Assuming they even have it.  I even go so far as to measure out the exact amount I need and put it in a resealable plastic bag.  If a recipe calls for multiple spices, by all means, combine them into one bag or plastic storage container.

I try and take small sizes of Dijon, olive oil, vinegar (you’ll probably need that if you steam seafood anyway), mayo, ketchup etc.  Partly because I know I can buy it for less at home but also I like to keep my local shopping list as short as possible.  I also buy one of those disposable salt and pepper sets.  Don’t assume your rental has a Keurig.  Bring ground coffee.

“You’ll want to keep it ultra-simple”

Since the first dinner will likely be on a travel day, you’ll want to keep it ultra-simple.  Last trip, I premade crab cakes (did not form them, just mixed the ingredients together) and brought along a boxed rice mix (not something I normally use but it is vacation after all) and a box of salad greens.  I also premade the dressing.  Alternatively, I could have made a rice pilaf and just reheated in the microwave.  Maybe next time.  Anyway, after unpacking, checking out the beach and toasting the beginning of a wonderful vacation we were not interested in getting back in the car to go out to dinner or spending a lot of time preparing.  I formed the crab cakes and broiled them (parchment paper comes in really handy here – just bring one sheet, not the whole roll), made the rice and added dressing to the salad.  Super fast.  Super tasty.  If you have access to a Costco, their pasteurized crab meat (in the refrigerated section) is excellent.  It isn’t cheap but it is less that you’d pay at a fish market.  And it is less than eating out.

 

I’m excited to share how we prepare for and enjoy great meals on our beach vacations.

Deb Panos and her family own a vacation rental in scenic Fort Morgan, Alabama.

For more tips from Deb, visit her blog at thebeachgourmet.blogspot.com
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Book Direct with ALAVHR and Avoid Booking Fees on Your Next Alabama Vacation Rental!

ALAVHR-bookdirect

It’s no secret – the vacation rental industry has changed dramatically over the last few years and not for the better.  These changes negatively impacted both the traveler and vacation rental owners alike.  As a result, more and more owners are leaving the online travel agencies (“OTA’s”) and listing their properties on regional sites like Alabama Vacation Home Rentals, where there are no booking fees and no commissions.   Most regional websites charge owners much less to list their properties and travelers pay absolutely nothing!    This is how the OTA industry actually started – before they got greedy!

Alabama Vacation Home Rentals (ALAVHR) is a pure and simple listing site that connects travelers and vacation rental owners. We believe in open and direct communication between owners and travelers before, during and after the booking.  In contrast, OTA’s want to control the process by making the rules to their benefit, at the expense of the traveler and owner.   The reason that OTA’s block communication between owner and guest is simple, they want their money.

On February 7, 2018, we participated in the first ever “Book Direct” day. Vacation rental owners, hoteliers and industry related websites are coming together as one common voice to educate travelers and guests to inform them that there is an alternative to the OTA’s.  Looking for tips on how to #BookDirect safely?  Read our article here.

BookDirect to Save Hundreds of Dollars On Your Next Vacation Rental!

So say NO to VRBO!  Other OTA’s that will gladly take you hard earned money are: AirBnb, Flipkey, HomeAway, Booking, etc. All of these websites will charge both the owner and traveler very high fees. Buyer beware!  Ask questions and read the website!   Some sites, like Booking .com, try to hide their fees as commissions tacked on to the owner cost.  In the end, the traveler pays more for the same vacation and often times, the owner makes much less on their own property that the OTA’s.

Why pay more for the same vacation rentals?

Booking a vacation rental on a no fee-listing site can save you money, sometimes hundreds of dollars! Yes, hundreds of dollars!  At Alabama Vacation Home Rentals:     Our pledge to you:  We do not charge a traveler fee and never will!

Receive personalized service.

Vacation rentals are not hotels.  Each one is unique.  In fact, not every vacation rental is for everyone. Booking direct with an owner or property manager allows for open communication so that you can ask important questions before you book.

Want the inside scoop?  Owners are local experts who know their destination the best, the attractions,, the restaurants, the vendors, the happy hours the discounts, etc., and are more than happy to share with you their insider local tips.  Remember, owners genuinely want your repeat business and will go the extra mile to ensure you are happy and enthusiastic enough to come back and tell your friends.   Many owners appreciate returning guests so much that they offer special perks or discounts.

Receive the best possible price.

The cost for an owner to list their property on the OTA’s has become increasingly more expensive.   While many of these OTA’s want you to think that they are offering you the best possible price, the fact is they are not.   Owners have no choice but to pass the increase on to travelers.   Your cost goes up!    Speaking directly with the owner guarantees you the best possible rental price, access to special offers and/or last minute cancellations deals.

No fee regional listing sites are gaining in popularity.  Alabama Vacation Home Rentals  (a member of Vacation Home Rental Network) is one of them.  Owners and travelers can make a difference by spreading the word that there is an alternative to VRBO, HomeAway, AirBnb, Booking etc.

You have saved all year for your vacation, so save some of those hard earned dollars for enjoying your vacation and not lining the pockets of a big OTA.  Make sure it is your perfect vacation rental BEFORE you book.

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