What’s New in Accommodations on the Web?

HomeAway introduces a new luxury-rentals marketplace.

HomeAway, the world’s largest vacation-rental marketplace, recently launched a new site, Luxury Rentals from HomeAway, featuring “top tier” properties. The inventory is limited to rentals “curated” by Andrew Harper, the pen name for the publisher of Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report, a newsletter focused on luxury hotels and rentals throughout the world. The site lists 343 properties in the United States, 283 in the Caribbean, 191 in Europe, 97 in Mexico, and a smattering in other parts of the world.

  • Of the 343 listings in the United States, the least expensive starts at a modest $130 per night, with four others under $200, but the vast majority are at least $500 per night and many go up to as high as $15,000 per night for a seven-bedroom, high-season rental in the Park City, Utah, ski area. Most of the rentals are in top-drawer visitor centers—renowned ski resorts, beaches, golf centers, and a few big cities—and many can accommodate large parties.
  • Coastal “villas” in the Caribbean go as high as $20,000 per night in high season, although some rent for a bargain price a bit under $300 per night, in the off season.
  • Europe scores the highest rental rate, an astounding $21,000 per night for a five-bedroom chalet in Switzerland, but you can also find some more reasonable prices, especially in Greece and Malta.

HomeAway says that all of its luxury listings have been vetted by the Andrew Harper folks—something you’d expect in the luxury range—so you aren’t likely to face any unpleasant surprises. But as with all listings, HomeAway is just an “online marketplace”: Your deal is with the property owner, not with HomeAway.

In another innovation,, the parent company’s primary British website, just mounted a new search “microsite”: Enter some personal characteristics and the site presents you with one or more suggestions for “Places to See Before You Die.” The idea is intriguing, but I found the results a bit quirky. My first inquiry suggested I visit a fancy formal garden in the South of France; when I added the factor for “gastro,” it sent me to San Sebastian, Spain, and when I added “shopping,” it suggested the Taj Mahal—certainly not the first place to pop into my mind as a shopping mecca. Another disquieting factor: The site implied that I should visit within three years. I wonder if it knows something my doctor hasn’t told me yet.

Because I’m a senior widower, I decided to see what “Places to See Before You Die” would suggest for a younger married traveler living in the United Kingdom. I entered an alias, age 40, and the site returned lots more choices. It had seven suggestions to see within the next few years, going up to 10 choices—adding more, dropping a few—by the time I would hit 78, which is as old as it let me get. It even suggested one destination, St. Helena, where HomeAway doesn’t have any rental listings. I have no idea if HomeAway plans to add this feature to VRBO, its leading U.S. site, but the U.K. site is easy to use.

On a more practical note, Hotel WiFi Test helps folks who need to stay fully connected during their travels:

  • If you’re already in a hotel, the website offers a practical and simple way to test the speed of your connection. And it invites you to post your results.
  • If you’re looking for a well-connected hotel for a future visit, the website lists the results developed by other travelers.

The second service is the most useful. If you’re planning to visit New York City, for example, you can expect a very fast 75.4 Mbps at Pod 39 hotel but only a relatively sluggish 3.8 Mbps at The Mark Hotel. It also posts figures for the minimum Mbps you’re likely to encounter during periods of heavy usage.

So far, the database is limited to a few dozen hotels around the world. But it’s a great idea, and you can improve it by using it.

Ed Perkins Seniors on the Go is copyright (c) 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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By Ed Perkins

A nationally recognized reporter, writer, and consumer advocate, Ed Perkins focuses on how travelers can find the best deals and avoid scams.

He is the author of "Online Travel" (2000) and "Business Travel: When It's Your Money" (2004), the first step-by-step guide specifically written for small business and self-employed professional travelers. He was also the co-author of the annual "Best Travel Deals" series from Consumers Union.

Perkins' advice for business travelers is featured on, a website devoted to helping small business and self-employed professional travelers find the best value for their travel dollars.

Perkins was founding editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, one of the country's most influential travel publications, from which he retired in 1998. He has also written for Business Traveller magazine (London).

Perkins' travel expertise has led to frequent television appearances, including ABC's "Good Morning America" and "This Week with David Brinkley," "The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather," CNN, and numerous local TV and radio stations.

Before editing Consumer Reports Travel Letter, Perkins spent 25 years in travel research and consulting with assignments ranging from national tourism development strategies to the design of computer-based tourism models.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, Perkins lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife.

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