5 Qualities to Look for in a Luxury Hotel

Are you the type of person who enjoys spending time in a luxury hotel? Do you do your best to book one of these, no matter if you’re traveling for business or pleasure? Do you have a list of things that a hotel must have?

It’s good to know that there are luxury hotels located from one side of the world to the next. This ensures that you can always find the accommodations that suit your every need. Of course, this is easier said than done, especially if you are visiting a part of the world that is new to you.

Take for example someone who is visiting the Beverly Hills area for the first time. They can use Expedia to learn more about The Beverly Hills Hotel, among many others in the area. Even so, this doesn’t mean that everyone is going to suit your every need.

Here are five things you should absolutely look for in a luxury hotel:

  1. High Quality Bedding

From the mattress to the sheets to the comforter, the bed should be extremely comfortable. This will go a long way in helping you get a good night’s sleep.

The SLS Hotel, for instance, is well known for its comfortable rooms. When you stay here, you’ll never think twice about staying anywhere else in the future.

  1. On-site Restaurants

There will be times when you want to explore the area, searching for a restaurant that suits your every want and need. However, there will also be times when it’s much easier to eat on-site.

Most luxury hotels have at least one on-site restaurant, but don’t be surprised if you find some with several to choose from. This is extremely convenient, as you never have to leave the property to fill your stomach.

  1. High Quality Customer Service

There is nothing better than a high quality customer service experience. With this, you never have to think twice about whether you will be treated like a valued customer.  Check out reviews online, take a look at their policies, and give the hotel a call.  If you don’t like the way you’re treated on the phone- You’re not going to like staying there.

Take it from an expert: “Customer service starts before a client enters the door,” says Nate Robertson of Square Ship. And he’s right.

For example, if you forget to pack shampoo- You’d want to be staying at a hotel that will supply you toiletries. In a more dramatic sense, you’ll want to stay at a hotel with a safe if you’re taking a large check or expensive technology with you.

  1. Valet Parking

Let’s face it: there is nothing better than valet parking. This saves you from fighting for a parking spot and walking to and from your vehicle.  Especially when you’re in a big city like Los Angeles.

While some luxury hotels neglect to provide valet parking, most have come to find that this is something visitors expect.  In fact, even some mid-grade hotels offer valet parking to their guests.

Tip: Won’t let a stranger in your car? Luxury hotels typically offer both self parking and valet parking, so you’ll have the option.

  1. Gym and Swimming Pool

There is no better feeling than getting in a good workout when you’re away from home. It doesn’t matter if you spend an hour in the gym or a few minutes in the pool, this has a way of making you feel better about yourself.

This is definitely something you want to check on before you select a hotel. It’s easy to assume that every luxury property will have both a gym and swimming pool, but this is not always the case.

Tip: take this one step further by reviewing photos online. This will give you a better idea of exactly what a particular hotel has to offer in regards to its gym and pool.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it. These are the types of things you should look for in a luxury hotel.

You may have other items on your list, and there’s nothing wrong with that. As long as you know what you’re looking for, you should be able to book with confidence. Even better is the fact that you will be happy with your decision in the long run.

Do you spend a lot of time in luxury hotels all over the world? Have you come to find that some have more to offer in terms of amenities than others? What do you consider the most important details of a luxury hotel? Share your experiences and approach to choosing a hotel in the comment section below. Your advice may be able to help other travelers make better decisions in the future.

4 Essential Tips for Choosing the Right Bus Tour Company

Just because you’re used to traveling on the road doesn’t mean you’re able to spot a tiptop service. So, when planning to enjoy a bus tour during your next vacation, there are various things you need to consider before selecting a particular service. A company with a fleet of buses, a name, and drivers doesn’t necessarily make the ideal option. You need to compare the price, the size of the bus, and lots of other things.

With that in mind, this post is going to cover some of the essential tips to consider to ensure you make an appropriate choice. Read on to learn more.

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1. Consider the Group Size

You want to make the most out of the tour, so group size is one of the most critical considerations you need to mull over. Typically, the bigger the group, the more you’ll not enjoy the charms and views of your tour. Plus, the last thing you want is touring in a noisy and crowded bus.

Instead, get a bus that has a range of 10 to 20 people. Of course, you can expect to pay more when you travel in smaller groups. But it generally makes sense if you really want to enjoy the tour.

2. Identify Your Desired Sites

It’s also essential to choose a bus service based on the location of your desired sites. The closer the service is to the sites, the lower the costs. You also need to know what sites are included in the itinerary. Their itinerary must include all or most of the sites you would love to see.

Some companies choose sites for their own convenience rather than their customers’ needs. However, take into account that some sites can be expensive to visit or may require reservations. So, you may also want to be flexible and reasonable with your choices.

3. Consider the Type of Service

If you have kids, you’ll need to consider the type of service a tour bus company offers. Some services might not be family-friendly, so your kids may not enjoy themselves. In some cases, the service can be family-friendly which means that, even though you might not have kids, you will have to deal with a ton of kids during the tour.

Plus, some activities may be geared towards kids, meaning you’ll have to pass the time with them during the tour. If you’re traveling solo, look for a service that caters to solo travelers. This makes it easier for you to meet new people while still enjoying the trip. If you want to spend more time at each site, consider picking a tour service with a less packed itinerary.

4. Get More Information

When selecting the right tour bus, consider the location of hotels and eating places on the tour route. Make sure to get the information on a bus tour before your scheduled day of the tour. You want to know their parking areas as some companies just park their buses in the middle of nowhere to save cost.

Find out about the guides and be sure to know if they are salaried or just get tips. Salaried guides are likely to give you the best experience. Also, you want to make sure the company is not a one-stand service unless it’s something you want. Otherwise, getting enough rest before you embark on the tour helps. So, you will need at least two nights whenever you make stops.

With these tips, you can proceed to pick a bus company that will offer you the best experience. Be sure to read their policies on trip interruptions, refunds, and cancellations. Also, you can search companies online and read some reviews they have received from their past clients. This way, you can establish the quality of service you should expect.

Top Tips For Traveling To Japan

If there’s one piece of advice that you should know before traveling to Thailand, it’s that preparation is essential. Japan is not a country that you can travel to and expect to do fine in without any problems.

Not only is the language barrier going to be an obvious issue, but you will quickly find that Japan is very much different from the United States in terms of how things are run.

Here are the top tips for traveling to Japan:

Learning The Japanese Language

Or at least learn the basics of it so you can be conversational. Japanese is a Category 5 language, which means it is among the most difficult to learn. It will requires several thousand hours of dedicated and committed study. Fortunately, traveling to Japan and immersing yourself in the culture and the language can be one of the very best things you can do to become a more fluent and confident Japanese speaker.

Travel Via Bus

In Japan, it will be much more economic for you to travel via bus then by train. It will take longer to travel by bus, but you’ll save a lot of money too.

Purchase A JR Pass

Do you think you will leave Tokyo? If so then you are going to need a JR (Japan Rail) pass. This pass is made for foreigners that will allow them to access any JR line across the country for seven days. You’ll get access to high-speed trains so you can criss cross the country quickly, and the pass is available for a very reasonable two hundred and fifty dollars.

Bring Lots of Cash

A major difference between Japan and the United States is the way commerce is conducted. Whereas people tend to buy things in the United States using debit or credit cards the most often, people in Japan buy most things using cash.

What this means is that most convenience stores and restaurants in Japan are unlikely to have a credit card machine. Instead, you’re going to need to make sure you have access to ATM’s so you can withdraw Japanese currency (these are usually available within walking distances of airpots or at a post office).

If you do bring a credit card, makes sure it’s one with a low foreign transaction fee (Capital One is a good example).

Bring A Plastic Bag With You

Another key difference between life in Japan and America is how trash is disposed. Trash bins and garbage containers are a common thing in public locations in America, but the same is not true in Japan. This is why you need to bring a small to medium sized plastic bag with to hold you trash (you can then dispose of the plastic bag containing your trash when you do find a garbage bin).

The most common places in Japan to find a trash bin will be bathrooms and convenience stores.

Traveling To Japan

Traveling to Japan can be a very fun and enlightening experience, and these will be the top tips to help you prepare for it.

Luxury 5 Star Villa – All Exclusive in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!

Are you looking for a luxury villa rental in Puerto Vallarta that has it all? The Villa Mandarinas Ocean Front Estate is the ideal vacation spot for your family vacation, wedding ceremony, yoga & corporate retreat!

Just south of Puerto Vallarta, in the Mexican state of Jalisco, nestled between the mountains of Sierra Nevada and the Pacific Ocean, lies the magnificent Villa Mandarinas. One of the most prestigious luxury vacation rentals in the Puerto Vallarta area, the property sits on six cascading tiers above the Pacific Ocean and offers a distinctive architectural style, high-end finishes, lush tropical gardens, stunning ocean views and state of the art amenities.

 The 20,000 square foot property has 10 bedrooms with en suite bathrooms. The decor and the furniture is a homage to Mexico’s cultural heritage, showcasing traditional Mexican folk art and custom-made furniture. Villa Mandarinas features ample outdoor space with two terraces with fantastic ocean views, two infinity swimming pools with jacuzzies and wet bars, an outdoor playroom, and a private boat dock. The villa’s staff includes a chef, bartenders, waiters, butlers and a night-time security guard.

 Villa Mandarinas is the perfect luxury rental for the entire family, sleeping up to 22 people in 10 bedrooms. Kids and adults will enjoy multiple pools and jacuzzies as well as the open-air play room featuring pool and foosball tables. At night, the “Bonfire Lawn” is the perfect location for stargazing and roasting marshmallows by the fire.

The villa’s private dock is the perfect home base for boating, fishing and all sorts of watersports activities, such as kayaking, snorkeling, and paddle boarding. The villa’s private chef, trained at five-star hotels, will go above and beyond to satisfy gourmets, picky eaters and hungry mouths alike.

Puerto Vallarta is surrounded by beautiful beaches, mountains and tropical rainforests, waiting to be explored. Avid golfers will enjoy the area’s numerous challenging world-class golf courses. Downtown Puerto Vallarta is about 9 miles away and offers something for the whole family: from traditional Mexican cuisine to fine dining, from traditional handmade artwork to high-fashion boutiques.

Villa Mandarinas is also an excellent destination for a successful corporate retreat, with plenty of indoor and outdoor space to meet, work and have fun. While at the villa, the chef and the staff will cater to the guests every whim. But there’s also plenty to do outside the villa: Excursions to the rainforest, watersports, fishing trips and golf are just some of the exciting activities where co-workers can bond. And after a long and productive day, Puerto Vallarta’s world class night life is just a short ride away.

Nestled between the waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Madre Mountains, Villa Manderinas, with its distinctive architecture, lush gardens, and relaxed atmosphere is also very popular for yoga and meditation retreats. All of the 10 guest rooms boast stunning views of Banderas Bay and are beautifully appointed and decorated to create a relaxing and soothing environment. The villa’s ocean view terraces are the ideal setting for yoga sessions, meditation and spa treatments. The two infinity pools offer plenty of space to relax and cool down. The private chef and his team will cater to all dietary needs, using only the freshest and healthiest ingredients from local markets and farms to create an exceptional culinary experience.

This luxury villa features more than 20,000 sqft of architectural beauty, with ample outdoor space and tropical gardens. Making it the perfect venue for weddings. The “Bonfire Lawn”, a terrace big enough for 150 guests, is the ideal setting for an unforgettable wedding ceremony overlooking the bay. The villa’s staff will work in conjunction with event and wedding planner to create a truly unforgettable experience for the bride and groom as well as for the guests.

Giglio Islands Must Sees

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Giglio Island is quite plainly a glimpse of paradise. An Italian island just off the coast of Tuscany it boasts of its Crystal clear seas, tranquil  beaches and picturesque views. Being a remote island it can quite easily be missed but has never ceased to impress its visitors, always supplying a great time of relaxation for those who stop by. Getting there is completely stress free. You can take a Santo Stefano ferry and with it only being an hour, there’s no reason you can’t experience this breathtaking Island for yourself.

Here are a few places you may like to see on your trip to Giglio Island.

Candelle beach

Offering a more secluded feel than some of the overcrowded beaches that can be found on the main lands, Candelle beach is peaceful and beautiful, with one of the only sounds heard being the movement of the waves. Its sands are flawless and with it’s perfect blue translucent waters, it’s a great place for snorkelling and easy to spot the wide variety of fish in its depths.

Castello

A village that showcases the authentic Giglio and allows its visitors to take a look into what the locals live like, is Castello and it is a place not to be missed when visiting this island. The aged stone houses it consists of date back to the 14th century, having not been affected by any modern architecture,  they’re a true display of some of the history of the Island. The buildings were constructed close together to fit around the Giglio Castle in the heart of the village and although the compact buildings may leave you feeling a bit claustrophobic the wondrous views surrounding it will offer a more freeing feel.

Campese

Just 5km from Castello, Campese is a village that also holds many historical facts. The Campese Tower built in the 19th century is the main attraction of the village, this monument was built originally to allow villagers to look out for ships and resist the pirate ships and enabled them to have some victory against their onslaught. The village also holds one of the most popular beaches on the Island, surrounded by a selection of restaurants, for you to indulge in a beach side meal. To top it all off, the sun sets directly in front of the beach, so you can watch the horizon burst with beautiful red during an evening of leisure.

Gilglio Porto

This is where you’ll arrive when taking the ferry from Porto San Stefano, so it would be straight forward for you to soak up what the port has to offer. This is the heart of the Island and there’s a great choice of restaurants, bars and shops.

For more on what to see in Giglio click here.

Traveling to the East Coast from Chicago and What to See

It doesn’t matter what you’re in to, you can guarantee that Chicago has something to entertain you. Whether it is dinosaurs, baseball, music, or art, you simply cannot spend a minute being bored. Interestingly, a lot of people now book on an East Coast bus tour, starting in Chicago and making their way on to the coast. So what are some of the things you should consider doing along the way?

Chicago

In Chicago, you should definitely go to The Ledge, enjoying the view from the Sky-Deck 1,350 feet off the ground. The view truly is out of this world. Once you are back down from those dazzling heights, head on over to the Art Institute of Chicago, where you can enjoy beautiful art, including impressionist pieces. After you had your fill of art, head on over to Millennium Park, the Adler Museum, or the Shedd Aquarium so the children have something to enjoy as well. You can also take them to the Field Museum of Natural History, taking them through a tour of the Ice Age and getting them to meet the largest T-Rex in the world! Finally, hope on one of Chicago’s endearing trolleys to take a tour of the city, going past Sears Tower and Buckingham Fountain.

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Detroit

From Chicago, you will make your way to Detroit, home to Henry Ford and the automotive industry as we know it today. Detroit has amazing mansions, many of which now house beautiful museums, including the Charles H. Wright Museum, the Holocaust Memorial Center, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Cranbrook Art Museum. Don’t miss the IMAX Theater, and you can also have a little break in a casino.

Boston

Next on the list is Boston, one of the oldest cities in the country. A true cultural hub, you can visit the Museum of Fine Art for an Ancient Egypt exhibit, or to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for the Rembrandts and Picassos. Don’t miss the Public Garden Lagoon, on which you can take a swan boat. Naturally, the Freedom Trail is fab if you are into Colonial Revolutionary Boston, enabling you to see 16 different sites exploring about 250 years, in one tour.

New York

Last but not least, you will head on to the Big Apple. The city is best described as a rollercoaster of endless activity. There is style, there are sounds, and there are millions of things to see and do. Simply standing on Broadway to look at the lights, or traveling to 5th Avenue for lots of glitz and glamor. There is Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel, the Empire State Building, Chinatown, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and much, much more. A trip to Ellis Island is not to be missed, where Lady Liberty stands. And when you are in New York, do make sure you don’t forget. The chili dogs and New York bagels really are out of this world.

Sunshine Says Brits Seeking the Sun Choosing Low Price Long Haul Holiday

UK-based travel agency Sunshine has said that British holidaymakers seeking the sun are choosing cruises and long haul holidays this year. Reasons include lower prices, but also the fear of terrorism.

According to UK based travel agency Sunshine, British holidaymakers continue to seek the sun for their destinations. However, a big change has been noticed in terms of where they are going, with people snapping up cruises and long haul destinations. While a large reason for this is that prices are affordable, Sunshine has also noticed that people worry about going to North Africa and Turkey as a result of political turmoil and terrorist attacks.

Sunshine has researched their sale statistics and found that:

  • There has been an 11% increase in the number of British people opting for long haul and cruise destinations during the winter period.
  • There has been a 10% increase in the number of British people opting for long haul and cruise destinations during the summer period.
  • During winter 2016/2017, there was a 20% growth in spending on holidays.
  • So far, there has been an 11% rise on holiday spending for summer 2017.

A representative from Sunshine says:

“We have seen a very healthy trade during the winter. A large part of this was due to an increase in spending on our resorts and hotels. So far, summer bookings are looking very healthy, being slightly above even our most hopeful forecasts.”

The representative adds:

“There is a very clear impact due to the geopolitical and macroeconomic climate, and this is particularly true for certain specific destinations and source markets. However, the world is a huge place, and while it is sad to see that certain areas, where there is a strong reliance on tourism for its economy, are seeing this reduction, it is clear that people still want to go on holidays.”

Indeed, new hotel brands, long haul destinations, and cruises in particular seem to have more than made up for the losses of the more traditional destinations of Egypt and Turkey. This appetite for choosing further destinations has, in fact, greatly boosted the travel agency market. Additionally, there has been a noted increase in people wanting to visit Cape Verde, Spain, and the Canary Islands, with Spain and the Canaries in particular already having a very strong tourism industry.

Summer 2017 looks to be set for the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, this will have a tremendous impact on other, more traditional resorts, and it is unclear what the effect of that will be exactly on places like Egypt and Turkey, who have seen a huge reduction. The Sunshine representative adds: “With the rise in terrorist attacks, people are scared, rightly or not. Unfortunately, this will have an impact on the economy of places like Turkey and Egypt, who rely greatly on tourists to bring in more money into the country.”

He adds: “Unfortunately, when the Sharm el-Sheikh airplane was bombed, and when the Turkish army attempted a violent coup, followed by a range of different terrorist attacks in Turkey, people decided not to go anymore. And that confidence is yet to return.”

What the new research shows, according to the experts at Sunshine, is that British holidaymakers have not lost their appetite for traveling and for soaking up the sun, both during the winter and the summer. Rather, if the British holidaymaker is advised not to go somewhere, they will simply go elsewhere. How this will impact the tourism economy on a global level remains to be seen, and it particularly because it is impossible to predict if and when confidence in the more traditional destinations will return.

The Beautiful Beaches of Phuket, Thailand

If you are looking for soft white sand, aquamarine water nestled against a deep blue sky and the bliss of sun-kissed warmth caressed by a tropical breeze, then the amazing beaches of Phuket, Thailand are perfect for you! Phuket is an island treasure blessed by geography and geologic destiny, a masterpiece of steep mountains, clear waters and exceptional beaches and bays.

Tourists visiting Phuket find a wide range of amenities, ranging from fine restaurants to annual festivals and luxurious Phuket villa rentals. These features, plus the superb beaches, keep visitors coming back year after year.

Located just off the mainland of Thailand, Phuket is a 208 square mile island that stretches south into the clear waters that emerge from the depths of the Andaman Sea. Over the course of time the coral reefs and shells in the area have been ground down into very fine sand. This sand helped form over 30 picture-postcard beaches on the island, each offering different vistas and magnificent settings that will take your breath away.

Most Popular Beaches

Kata is famous Phuket beach with fine white sand that gently slopes to the sea. It is lined with Casuarina trees that offer shade to those sensitive to the sun. Swimming conditions are wonderful most of the year, and surfing waves appear during the monsoon season. There are numerous tourist amenities here including lounge rental, the Ska Bar built around a tree and restaurants along the beach. Local vendors are happy to serve you sandwiches, snacks and beverages right at your oceanfront lounge.

One of the best Phuket beaches is Bang Tao, where you will melt into bliss as you gaze along a 5 mile expanse of sand kissing the water’s edge. There are a number of upscale resorts in the center of the beach. The northern part of the beach is the most quiet and least developed. Dining choices include inexpensive, delicious food from Thai food stalls and offerings from high end restaurants.

If you are looking for a great place where you can swim at high tide venture over to Kamala Beach. It’s a popular destination with families and there are lounges for rent along the way. The fine white sand is beautiful and slopes gently toward and continues into the sea. There are restaurants, bars and shopping along the south end of the beach, while the northern part offers a more serene and quiet setting.

The sand of Karon Beach is exceptionally soft and fine. Because of the near perfect mix of silica, coral and ground shells, this beach is often chosen as a venue for the Asian Beach Games, sand building contests and other activities. In addition to the stunning sand, the water is crystal clear and the long beach is great for extended walks. It’s a great beach for singles, families and couples.

Gems off the Beaten Path

Your search for small, hidden gems should begin with Freedom Beach, which is one of the least accessible beaches on the island of Phuket. To reach the beach you will need to traverse six-tenths of a mile through thicker jungle on private land or go by boat. The setting is right out of a Hollywood movie, with a bay nested against hills of deep jungle and powder-like white sand. You can easily spend the day relaxing here, in a rental lounge under the shade of tall coconut palms.

Snorkeling is a popular activity at Kata Noi Beach, one of Phuket’s most gorgeous beaches. There are plenty of services and activities but the relative quiet of the beach will appeal to those who want to spend a day mesmerized by the sweet golden sand and the ocean waves. Drinks and snack stalls are available at the beach.

Nai Harn Beach is nestled in the most beautiful bay in Phuket, with lofty hills surrounding the sides and a coconut palm covered island immediately offshore. A Buddhist meditation retreat is there and the sacred monastic title of the land has kept development to a minimum. It’s a perfect place to enjoy the view and while away the sun drenched day.

Another hidden beach is Nai Thon, which is renowned because of it’s squeaky sand. As part of the Sirinath National Park it is immune from development and is located far from Phuket’s major tourist centers Here swimming conditions are wonderful and the fine sand extends into the sea. The local community here is small although there are some hotels across the street and back from the beach area.

If you find yourself yearning for endless ocean, beautiful sand and the feel of a timeless tropical beach, Phuket is the place for you. The variety of beach settings, beachside services and pure beauty is unparalleled. There’s a reason why travelers to Phuket always come back for more!

Vacation Rentals- Questions to Ask to Avoid Disappointment

When you are staying in a vacation rental, whether it is run by the owner or by vacation rental professionals like the team at Elan Vacations, you get to enjoy a much more private vacation than if you are staying in a busy downtown hotel.  However, one of the advantages of staying in a hotel is that you have easy access to thinks like concierge assistance, extra pillows or bath supplies, and necessities that you may have forgotten to pack.  Even the best-appointed vacation rental will have difficulty competing with a major hotel on this front, and for that reason, staying in a vacation rental does require a bit of care with respect to making sure you will have everything you need.  Here are some questions that you should be sure to ask when you are choosing a vacation rental.

Is the neighborhood very noisy or very quiet?

Most vacation rentals will have guidelines prohibiting parties or loud activities on the property out of respect for neighbors.  But it is a good idea to find out what the “tolerances” are for noise in the area.  For example, if you are staying in a condo complex, you might find that there are rules about not playing music after a certain time, or you could find that a neighbor has complained about the fact that that you were on the balcony laughing or talking at normal levels at 11pm. Especially if you are travelling with a large group, you may find that your normal activities cause more noise than is normal in the building.  On the other side, you may find that there are lots of dogs in the area that bark at night, or local bars or restaurants that play loud music.  If any of these things are important to you, be sure to very clearly discuss your expectations with the owner or manager, and be sure you understand theirs.

Is there someone close by help if needed?

Any number of things can happen which require the assistance of the owner or property manager – electricity can fail, appliances can break, etc.  If such situations, you want to be sure that there is someone you can call who is able to respond in relatively short order.  You also want to know that there is someone that you can call more urgently, for example if you become locked out, or a pipe bursts and water is filling the kitchen.  Does the owner have a relationship or service contract with local tradespeople?

Utilities

Especially if you are travelling outside the US, you might find that electricity is pre-paid and that you may need to buy more if you go over. Be sure that you understand from your host whether this is the situation, and if so, who pays for additional electricity.  If you are staying in a vacation home for an extended period of time, be sure that you understand who pays the electric bill, and also the water and gas bills, if relevant.  If the owner pays these utilities, be sure to ask if there are any circumstances in which you may be charged for “excessive” use, and get clarification of what those circumstances may be.

These are just some of the many questions that you should ask your host before you arrive at your vacation rental to ensure that all goes well!