If you’re driving to Boston, New York City, Providence or one of 100 other cities, (or parking at just about any major US airport), download the Best Parking app before you go. Once you arrive at your destination, plug in an address, cross street, neighborhood or attraction and the app will direct you to the cheapest nearby parking lot. Rates are updated regularly and links to any available discount coupons are provided. Available for iPhone, Android or BlackBerry users. Information at BestParking.com.
Focused on shoveling your walk and chipping ice off your steps? You might want to think about your summer vacation instead.
Joan Talmadge of WeNeedAVacation.com, an online travel company that specializes in Cape Cod vacation properties, says that all indications suggest a strong rental year.
“Bookings for the entire season on the Cape and Islands are up 12.8 percent over the same time last year,” Talmadge says. “The past few years have shown very strong starts to the season, which traditionally begins in earnest right now.”
Theresa Smith of Leighton Rentals in Cape Cod says that, deposit-wise, her company is up as well — 10 percent compared to where it was last year.
Those higher numbers might be due to an increased interest in the savings vacation home rentals can offer.
On average, the price per square foot for a U.S. hotel room can be more than twice the price per square foot of a vacation rental, according to HomeAway, an online vacation rental company. Add in the savings from eating some meals at home and not paying for such extras as laundry facilities and Wi-Fi and summer vacation rentals get even more attractive, especially if you’re splitting the cost with friends or family.
According to the 2014 Vacation Rentals survey by TripAdvisor.com, 52 percent of U.S. travelers are planning a rental-home stay this year — up eight percent from last year.
All of which adds up to strong competition for available properties.
“With the increased demand for vacation rentals, the best rental properties book quickly during the peak summer months; therefore travelers should plan as soon as possible to secure the best property for their travel needs,” said Brooke Ferencsik, director of communications for TripAdvisor, in a press release. “Travelers love vacation rentals for the at-home experience and amenities that make them ideal for family and group trips, not to mention the potential savings when compared to hotels.”
Summer is the most popular season for vacation rentals. More than 60 percent of those polled are planning stays between June and August — and the majority of them are looking for beach accommodations.
“People started booking last October for summer 2014 and it hasn’t stopped. Some summer weeks are already almost completely filled,” says Mary Ann Gardner of the Landis Co., (www.landisco.com), a New Jersey real estate firm specializing in summer rentals on the Jersey shore. “Our bookings are up 25 percent over last year.”
That pattern is being repeated at Connecticut beaches. The following message is posted at www.NewEngland-Cottages.com, a website featuring beach cottage rentals in Clinton.
“Most of our repeat clients rent the same time slot each year to continue their family tradition. We suggest reserving your time slot as soon as your plans are made. Many of our properties rent up a year in advance.”
If you’re starting your search now, ask friends about places they’ve rented. If you’ve rented somewhere in the past, give the owner a call as soon as possible.
Online sites — including TripAdvisor.com, CyberRentals.com, VRBO.com, WeNeedAVacation.com, AirBnb.com and HomeAway.com — feature vacation listings. You can also find summer rentals in newspaper classified sections and local “shopper” publications like The Yankee Flyer, www.y-flyer.com.
If you are considering renting, experts offer the following tips:
Beware of online vacation rental scams. Most rental websites provide tips on protecting yourself from fraudulent ads and postings. Read them and follow the suggestions. Use a secure form of payment. Never pay via money wire, such as Western Union. When possible, use a credit card, which can provide some consumer protection.
Ask specific questions about the property and get as much information as you can before signing a contract.
Once you’ve chosen a property, the Connecticut BBB advises potential renters to get everything in writing. A contract should contain specifics about the deposit, refunds and rules concerning pets. It should also spell out what is included in the cost of the rental, such as utilities and Internet access. All verbal agreements should be included in the contract.
More cold weather ahead, which means more time spent indoors reading. If ebook downloads are draining your budget, sign up for BookBub.com’s daily email alert for free and discounted best-seller and new-release downloads. BargainBooksy.com offers daily discounts on best-selling e-books. Amazon’s Daily Deal for Kindle features a changing list of discounted ebooks in a variety of genres.
Thinking about spring projects? The Connecticut Home & Remodeling Show takes place at the Connecticut Convention Center, 100 Columbus Blvd, Hartford, this weekend and features hundreds of exhibitors, seminars, giveaways and entertainments. Tickets are regularly $12, (and $9 for those 65), but Friday night’s admission is just $1 and all proceeds go to Camp Courant. Special $1 admission must be purchased at the box office, other tickets available at www.cthomeshow.com. Hours are Friday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 22, is National Margartia Day and On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina celebrates with $1 house Margaritas. The 12-ounce drinks, made with Gold Tequilla, are available frozen or on the rocks for just a buck all day. (There is an On the Border in Rocky Hill.) Information: www.ontheborder.com.
Stonewall Kitchen features an outlet section with savings of up to 75 percent on a changing mix of specialty gourmet foods, dishes, pots, pans and other kitchenware. Through Sunday, Feb. 23, the store is offering an additional 20 percent off all sale items. Stonewall Kitchen is at 336 W. Main St., Route 44, Avon. Information: 860-674-8001.
Silk City Antiques in Manchester is holding its annual cabin fever tag sale. During the event, which runs through March 1, antiques, collectibles and gift items are available at deep discounts. Hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 10 a. m. to 5 p. m.; Thursday, 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.; and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Silk City Antiques is at 845 Main St. Information: 860-533-1263 or www.silkcityantiques.com.
Toy Chest’s February furniture sale ends soon. The store, 975 Farmington Ave., West Hartford, has savings of 10 to 40 percent on furniture, car seats, strollers, high chairs and more. Sale hours are 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Information: 860-233-5559 or www.toychestwh.com.
Do prom on a budget with a bargain-priced gown. The 4th annual Dress For Less sale Saturday, Feb. 22, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Enfield Congregational Church Hall features new and gently used prom and semi-formal gowns for just $27. Buy a dress and you’ll also get a boutonniere and dry cleaning vouchers. Information: 860-836-5994 or email pjmtbib@hotmail.
It’s final winter clearance time at EMS stores and www.ems.com. Save up to 70 percent on a variety of apparel and gear.
Bring in bags of used garments — in any condition — to an H&M store, and you’ll get a voucher for 15 percent off the item of your choice. (Limited two bags per day.) Information: www.hm.com/us.
Kiss and tell for a two-for-one meal deal. Buy one Queso entrée at a Qdoba restaurant — and share a smooch with someone special, (or someone willing), and you’ll get a second entrée free. Offer good on Friday, Feb. 21 only. There’s a Qdoba location at Bishop’s Corner in West Hartford. Information: www.Qdoba.com
Be one of the first 500 customers in the door Friday, Feb.21, at Panera, 365 Queen St., in Southington and you’ll get a free travel mug and 30 days of free coffee refills. Doors open at 6 a.m. Giveaway at this location only and not available at drive-through. Information: www.panerabread.com.
Jake’s Wayback Burgers will celebrate its 23nd birthday on Thursday, Feb. 20, by discounting its Jake’s Cheeseburger to the way-back-when price of $3.49. (The double-pattysandwich is regularly $5.49 to $5.79.) There are 14 Jake’s Wayback restaurants in Connecticut, including locations in East Windsor, Rocky Hill and West Hartford. The offer is good throughout the day, while supplies last; one per customer. Info: www.waybackburgers.com.
Do prom on a budget with a bargain-priced gown. The 4th annual Dress For Less on Saturday, Feb. 22, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Enfield Congregational Church Hall, 1295 Enfield St., (Route 5), in Enfield, features new and gently used prom and semi-formal gowns for just $27 each. Buy a dress and you’ll also get boutonniere and dry cleaning vouchers. Information: 860-836-5994 or email pjmtbib@hotmail.