Anyone For Tennis on Coquina Key

Anyone For Tennis on Coquina Key

Winter in Florida is the best time of year to enjoy active pursuits.  The locals may be bundled up in their heavy coats, but for most of us, high temperatures in the low 70’s are just about perfect.  With the blue skies and warm sunshine, it really doesn’t feel like the “winter” weather that I’m most familiar with living in North Carolina.

Right on Coquina Key, you can find a lovely park with four enclosed, lighted tennis courts.  The courts are rarely used and it’s easy to just show up to play.

Just a short drive from Coquina Key, you’ll find the St Petersburg Tennis Center, with 16 clay courts and 4 hard courts.  The tennis center offers drop-in play, lessons, and other fitness classes.  They offer pre-arranged matches for various play levels as well as programs and summer camps for kids.

As the weather gets warmer, there are still lots of great options for tennis.  Plan to drink lots of water and schedule your play during morning and or evening hours.

If you left your racquet at home, not to worry, we’ve got two racquets available for guest use or you may be able to obtain equipment on loan at the St Petersburg Tennis Center, just call ahead to ask.


Created by Amy

Healthy Eating in Boone

Healthy Eating in Boone

Boone is a college town and in addition to the university’s enrollment doubling the town’s population, it offers a wide variety of healthy and inexpensive eating options.  Among my favorite picks:

#1 FARM Cafe.  FARM stands for Feed All Regardless of Means.  And it means exactly what it says, food is served based on a donation at FARM.  Lunch plates are a suggested donation of $7 or $10 and include a soap, salad, entree, drink, and dessert.  It’s also possible to volunteer in exchange for a meal at FARM.  The food is local, fresh, seasonal and well prepared.  The only downside to FARM is that it’s only open for lunch, Monday through Friday.  We make a special point of getting to FARM, located right on King Street in downtown Boone, as often as possible.

#2. Wild Craft Eatery.  Wild Craft is also in a convenient spot downtown and has it’s own parking lot (huge for Boone, where free parking can be hard to find downtown).  Wild Craft has inventive dishes with unexpected combinations.  It’s a great place to find vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options too.

#3.  Our Daily Bread.  Another shop on King Street in downtown Boone.  A cozy place to grab soups, sandwiches, desserts as well as beer and wine.  Very friendly staff and delicious food.  Vegan, vegetarian and gluten free friendly as well.

#4.  Last but not least, consider cooking at your vacation rental.  We stock a full kitchen, with everything needed for gourmet meals or simple dishes.  Boone has a lovely farmer’s market as well as and Earth Fare and several grocery stores nearby.  Stock up on some favorite ingredients and enjoy a meal on the deck overlooking the mountains, surrounded by lush trees.

Created by Amy

Winter Adventures in Boone

Winter Adventures in Boone

To be completely honest, I don’t love winter, but few can deny the magic, the peace, and even the quiet of a freshly fallen snow.  Did you know that a fresh layer of snow actually dampens soundwaves, making it quieter outside?

We bought a property in the mountains because of the opportunities to see snow.  Last year, we only saw flurries on our visits, although Boone has an average annual snowfall total of 34”.  This year, the snow has come on strong.   So, what to do to in all this snow?  Embrace it.  Boone is a haven for outdoor adventures, regardless of the weather.  A few of our favorite winter ideas:

Hiking:  Don’t let snow on the ground cancel your plans for a hike.  Don your waterproof hiking boots and grab some hiking poles.  It’s best to seek a well-traveled trail or one you have visited before.

Skiing:  There are several major ski areas near Boone.  App Ski Mountain is one of the few that offer night skiing – a huge plus when sunset comes at 5 pm.  Sugar and Beech Mountain are also nearby.  Each of these resorts offers ski equipment rental as well as lessons.

Tubing:  Not just for kids!  We took our kids snow tubing recently and it’s possible we had more fun than they did.  When we first drove up to Jonas Ridge, it didn’t look like much.  We bought our passes, rode up the incline belt to the top of the slope and chose our lane.  What a blast! We’ve heard that it’s even better (faster!) to go when it’s been cold for a few days.  Jonas Ridge is open non-stop from December to March, even on warm days.  You can also tube at Hawk’s Nest.

Ice Skating:  The three local ski resorts, App Ski Mountain, Sugar and Beech, each offer ice skating as well.  At App Ski Mountain, they have North Carolina’s only Zamboni maintained rink.

Indoor activities:  After all the fun, the snow, the cold temperatures, don’t forget to plan for some quiet relaxation in front of the fire with a cup of steaming hot cocoa.

Sabrina_Ripke_Fotografie / Pixabay


Created by Amy

Use AirBnB and VRBO to LOOK, not BOOK…

This great article that shows some of the changes to how travelers book in 2017.  The major listing sites have added many fees and there are some great reasons to look at their listings but book directly with the owners.

Read more from Amy Hinote at VRM Intel.

One in three US vacationers are choosing vacation rentals over hotels for their leisure travel, up from one in ten just five years ago, according to a recent study released by travel research authority Phocuswright. However, while increasing numbers of travelers are choosing vacation homes, shopping for a vacation rental isn’t easy. Unlike hotels, each vacation home is different. As a result, vacationers can spend an enormous amount of time and energy sifting through all the different options for the perfect rental.


Airbnb and Expedia-owned advertise extensively to vacation rental shoppers, but savvy long-term vacation rental consumers know that, while it is great to look for rentals on these sites, it is not always the best idea to book using them.

Here are 3 reasons not to use Airbnb and to book a vacation rental:



Airbnb and both earn a large portion of their revenue from service fees or traveler fees that are paid by you, the consumer.

Airbnb, for example, charges an additional 6–12 percent of the cost of the rental. On, that same fee can be even higher. According to, “The service fee is between 5–12 percent for most bookings but can be above or below, based on the reservation.”



In a world where marketplaces such as Expedia, Priceline, and Airbnb reign supreme in the eyes of travelers, it is easy to assume that all the vacation rentals available can be found on these major marketplace websites. However, this assumption is not true. In fact, at most traditional vacation destinations such as North Carolina’s beaches, Cape Cod, Destin, Myrtle Beach, Key West, the Gulf Coast, and in major ski destinations, less than half of the available vacation rentals are listed on these major websites.

Vacation rentals do not have to be listed on major marketplace websites. The most desirable homes, cabins, chalets, and condos book easily, so the property managers and homeowners do not need to incur the high expense of listing these vacation rentals on channels such as Airbnb and



Consumers who book directly with the property manager or homeowner are likely to receive additional benefits including special rates, onsite services, and increased customer support. When you contact the property management company or owner directly, they have intimate knowledge about the destination and can show you the best rental for your needs. Plus, they can direct you to activities, restaurants, and area service providers. During non-peak travel times, they often have special offers available.

In addition, professional vacation rental management companies have other benefits you can take advantage of, such as grocery delivery, beach or ski equipment rentals, and event passes.

When shopping for a vacation rental online, here are some tips to locating the home’s original property manager or homeowner:

  • Look at the photos and description for clues that mention the name of the property management company or the homeowner.
  • Copy and paste the description of the property into your search engine to see other sites where the home is listed. Often the property you are interested in is also publicized by its property management company or homeowner directly.
  • Conduct a Google image search with the photos of the home as another method of locating the primary source of the rental.

Although large travel websites can provide lots of information, you can save hundreds of dollars and ensure a better vacation experience with just a little extra investigative work.

Top 5 Survival Tips for Travel with Teens and Tweens


It’s wasn’t so long ago that I was terrified of teenagers. The surly attitudes, eye rolls, headphones over the ears, iPhones in front of their face, I was petrified to be in the same room with them, let alone spend a week together on vacation. Those days are largely gone now and I live in the same house with FOUR teenagers and one tween. Over the last eight years of family trips in over 20 US states, I’ve developed some teen travel survival strategies that might help you on your next family vacation.

Here are my top five recommendations:

#5: Try to involve them, but don’t take it personally if they act disinterested.

With seven opinions in our house about where to go and what to do – invariably one person just needs to take the lead (usually that’s me). However, asking each family member to pick a “must do” for each destination has been great. And if you hear any grumbling the day of that event, you can point out that each person gets one “bucket-list item”, so it’s only fair for us all to go along happily.

#4: Embrace technology.

I would love it if my kids would completely disconnect on vacation. Heck, I’d love it if I could completely disconnect on vacation – but that’s not practical or easy. So set some limits around technology – not at the table during meals, not while touring attractions, not out by the pool – but allow for some connected moments because our teens find communicating with their friends to be as essential as food and water. Encourage your kids to send photos or tell their friends about your trip.

#3: Set a budget for extras.

We determine a reasonable dollar amount to spend on daily treats and souvenirs in advance and allocate that to each kid as a special trip allowance. That means if one child desperately wants the $80 Red Sox official jersey and another wants a triple ice cream cone every day, then everyone is satisfied and you’ve avoided all the nagging.

#2: Build in some action and some rest.

We prefer to keep our teens on the move. They’ve got so much energy anyway. Plan for walking, biking, time by the pool or an adventure on the trip like zip-lining, rafting, hiking, or kayaking. It’ll help burn off excess energy and provide some new experiences they might not have tried before. Conversely, needing a vacation from your vacation is not ideal – so plan some rest time too.

And our #1 Tip: Pick the right place to stay.

For our family of seven, a hotel just isn’t restful or enjoyable.  We can’t always find adjoining rooms and the extras (breakfast, parking, resort fees) just escalate too quickly. In our experience, renting a vacation home when traveling with teens is the best way to go. Everyone has more room to spread out, we can cook some of our own meals, buy breakfast items and often there are games and activities right at the house. Staying at a vacation rental also allows our teens more independence. We typically select an accommodation where they can walk, bike or roam a bit on their own – researching a “walk score” can be helpful.

Finding the perfect accommodations has been such a challenge for us, we’ve bought two of our own vacation properties over the past two years. There are so many pros and cons to that,  it requires it’s own blog.  Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a vacation rental house that has been “teen-tested and approved” –  take a look at our homes in St Petersburg FL and in the North Carolina mountains. You can rest assured that we’ve got all the things teens want, including space to spread out, fast wifi, convenient things to do at the house and nearby, as well as amenities for frazzled parents!

Teen travel has not always been painless, but we have learned some critical tips. I love hearing our kids reminisce about the trips we took three, four, even five summers ago. As many of us know, the best things in life aren’t things – our family has created many incredible memories while traveling.

Give us your feedback!  What tips work for your family trips?


Tags: vacation spots in North CarolinaNorth Carolina MountainsSmoky Mountain Cabin Rentalsvacation spots in North Carolina, Deer Run Boone NC,

Grand Opening Of Deer Run Boone

Grand Opening Of Deer Run Boone

Our renovations are nearing their completion!  Book now for our lowest rates.  Please contact us to select a date for your next trip.  The Blue Ridge Mountains are bursting with spring color, days are warm and evenings are cool.  It’s the perfect time to come relax in the High Country.


Tags: The Blue Ridge Mountains, Perfect Time To Come, Best Time To Deer Run Boone NC, Boone Vacation Rentals