What You Need to Know about Vacation Rentals before You Go

That time of the year is finally here. You know what I'm talking about, the one or two weeks you get every year to escape from "real life" and just be you. Relax, eat and drink well, enjoy your family, catch up on some much needed sleep. But, before you pack up and head out, rethink the all-too-normal hotel stay. Believe it or not, you have options, one of which is the vacation rental.

Would not it be nice to leave your own home, arrive in your destination city and settle into a "home away from home" for your next vacation? That's what vacation rentals are all about. These are homes waiting to be rented out by people on vacation. Each vacation rental owner will have different criteria in what type of renter they are looking for, each vacation rental house will vary in amenities, and each price will be dependent on the time of year and the length of stay. So, it sounds like a great idea, but how do you figure out how to make it all happen? Not a problem. Below you will find answers to frequently asked questions regarding vacation rentals. Read on, my friend, your next "home away from home" vacation rental is right around the corner.

Frequently Asked Questions on Vacation Rentals

What are the advantages of a vacation rental?

Do you ever wish your hotel room had just a little more personality? Yeah, I thought so. Well, renting someone else's home for your vacation might just be the thing you're looking for. Usually offering larger living spaces than hotel rooms, these vacation rentals are all about living like you were in your own home. They offer greater privacy than hotel rooms and most rentals have a kitchen area for cooking, which in the end will save you money if you prepare some of your own meals.

You'll enjoy several rooms, and maybe even different levels, instead of one big room where the whole family sleeps. Many owners will leave information on things to do and see in the local area. Vacation rental homes are clean, friendly, comfortable and inviting. This is because many of them are not just rental homes, but also function as the owner's own residence for part of the year.

A majority of vacation rentals tend to be cheaper on a per night basis than their hotel. By renting directly from the owner you will avoid taxes, tips and other external charges. However, there is a wide variation among others based on a number of factors (see How Much Should I Expect to Pay below)

What are the drawbacks of a vacation rental?

Of course, there's always the other side of the coin. As vacation rentals are not usually monitored by a central managing company, you'll only know what you're getting yourself into when you actually arrive to your rental. Many owners require pre-payment, or at least a large deposit fee, before arriving. Therefore, if things are not the way you anticipated after arriving, or if you find your dwelling unacceptable and decide to head to a local hotel, you may lose any money you prepaid. This is also true for last minute cancellations. There is not usually a refund. You always run the risk of getting less than you expected, but, it's rare.

Most times, vacation rentals tend to be cheaper than an average hotel room per night. But, not always, so make sure you are comfortable with the price you will be asked to pay.

Another disadvantage to vacation rentals is the lack of a managing member on site to deal with any problems that you may encounter with the home or during your stay in general. Most owners get around this by having a list of emergency numbers, utility companies and other such items available to the renter should they need anything.

What amenities are included in a vacation rental?

Since every rental is owned by a different owner, each will include different amenities. Some come with swimming pools, hot tubs, others with golf packages, and horse stable privileges. In cities with tourist attractions, some owners include tickets to local attractions.

Most vacation rentals come with the essentials: TV, equipped kitchen, towels, linen, and everyday appliances, but it never hurts to ask these questions when searching for the perfect place. Be sure to understand exactly what you are paying for before sending in the payment.

What types of rentals are available?

Pretty much any type of dwelling that you would want to live in during your vacation is available somewhere. From studios in downtown Manhattan to a villa in the south of Spain, you'll be able to find what you're looking for. The range of available options is mind boggling. Additionally, each week, month and year there are new possibilities as owners put their homes up for only certain weeks or months of the year, the choices are constantly changing.

Are vacation rentals only available in the US?

Vacation rentals are available worldwide. They can be found in every state of the US and almost every country in the world. Do not be fooled by their different names, though. Vacation rentals are also known as holiday cottages, tourist rentals and holiday rentals. If you are looking for one in Europe, the Italians call them agriturismi, while the French say gites. If you are in Germany you will be looking for ferienwohnungen (yep, try to say that three times fast with a bratwurst in your mouth!)

Regardless of what you call it, though, a vacation rental is a great option for those getting ready to take a few weeks off from reality and enjoy the good life a bit.

How do I find a property?

There are several ways to go about finding the perfect vacation rental for your next trip. Check with your local travel agent to find someone in your area that specializes in finding owners and renters and getting them together. Another option is the yellow pages. Finally, there is a wealth of information on the Internet. Type in a search for "vacation rentals" and over 13,300,000 websites can be found just on http://www.google.com alone. Some websites only list vacation rentals in the United States while others specialize in vacation rentals worldwide. There are some sites that will allow the potential renter to look for a residence by specific search criteria such as a particular destination, certain number of bedrooms and types of amenities that are included in the property.

Most of the vacation rental services on the internet are only the "go-between" or the "classified" section of the newspaper. They take no responsibility for the truth or correctness of the ads that are listed on their sites. So, do your homework by making phone calls, speaking with the owner and asking specific questions. Make sure you feel comfortable with the answers, if not, move on to the next rental, there are plenty.

If you're not comfortable with the whole renter / owner thing, there is another way to rent a vacation home. Some companies exist that strictly buy and rent out homes to vacationers. They offer a bit more security so that you feel you are really getting what you bargained for (although nothing is ever 100% fool proof). Additionally, sometimes these agencies will give you cancellation insurance. In other words, if you cancel before arriving, they may be able to refund a portion of your deposit or payment instead of keeping it as most owners do if a cancellation occurs. With some agencies you'll find that you pay a higher price than going directly to an owner. This is how the agencies make their profits. There are always pros and cons to each scenario. Ensure you know which one works best for you.

How much should I expect to pay?

This is a tough question to answer. The amount you pay will depend on what country or state you are visiting, number of days you are staying, and type of house you are renting. Some owners offer package deals including tickets or sightseeing events along with the rental, others include bonus days if you stay for a certain length of time. There are other owners who may offer free or add-on house cleaning service with your stay while some go to great efforts to ensure you have everything you need, even additional items such as a crib, highchair or wheelchair. Each vacation rental will be entirely different from the next. Your best bet after deciding on your destination is to review multiple rentals to determine which is better suited to your needs and overall budget.

Are there any hidden fees?

Hidden fees usually only emerge after you have arrived. These may include extra for phone calls, house cleaning service, extra person fees, excess heat and air-conditioning bills, pet deposit, computer access … etc. Again, be extremely thorough when interviewing the owner of your prospect vacation rental. Ask about any "extra" fees, or if the house is "all-inclusive". Do you have free access to all the pantry and food items? How about the laundry supplies? All utilities? It never hurts to ask!

Vacation Rentals

In summary, cover all bases by asking lots of questions. Getting your agreement in writing is also a very smart idea. After these basics are out of the way you will be ready to take off for your home-away-from-home vacation rental. Try one this year and see for yourself that vacation rentals can be a fantastic means to really getting the full enjoyment out of your next vacation.

Software Development Life Cycle – Introduction Model Stages and Advantages

What is the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)?

SDLC or Software Development Life Cycle is essentially the process or phases of a model or methodology, which software engineers and developers follow in developing an application or software. In simpler words, it is a process consisting of a series of planned activities for planning, creating, testing, deploying and maintenance of software.

SDLC is often referred as software development process, as it consists of all tasks, which needs to be followed while developing an application or software. SDLC is followed within IT development companies to develop, alter, replace or enhance the performance of the software. ISO/IEC 12207 is an international standard for SDLC, which ensures high quality of the newly developed software. It also helps IT development companies in improving the overall quality of their software development services.

What are the major SDLC Models, followed in the IT Industry?

There are various SDLS models, which are currently followed in the IT Industry. Often referred as ‘Software Development Process Models’, all the process models follow unique software development steps, ensuring 100% success of the development projects.

The major software development life cycle models are-

  • Waterfall Model
  • Iterative Model
  • Spiral Model
  • V-Model
  • Big Bang Model

Other related models are Rapid Application Development (RAD), Prototype and Agile Models.

The advantages of choosing an appropriate Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)-

  • Increased Product Quality
  • Increased Development Speed
  • Improved Client Relations
  • Improved Tracking & Control
  • Decreased Project Risks
  • Decreased Project Management Overhead

What are the different stages of SDLC?

Stage 1:

Planning and Requirement Analysis

This is the most important stage in the SDLC. This stage needs input from the customers, sales team, industry experts, a marketing team and their survey reports. After which, senior business managers and developers of a software development company plan the project approach and the development model.

Stage 2:

Designing

After the analysis of requirements and finalizing the Design Document Specification (DDS), the product architecture is designed by an expert team. This architecture has to stand upon various parameters such as budget, time, product robustness, risk assessment and design modularity, after which it is considered for the development.

Stage 3:

Development

The actual development of the software or application starts at this stage. The team of engineers and developers follow the coding guidelines set by the organization and use different tools for code generation. The programming code is generated as per the details documented in the DDS. The developers use different high level programming languages as per the requirement.

Stage 4:

Testing

In this stage, the final product goes through a pre-defined road of testing, where defects or bugs in the product are reported and then fixed by the developers. This stage ensures that the final product meets the highest quality standards, which are accepted worldwide.

Stage 5:

Deployment

At this stage, the final product is deployed at the client base. At times, the software is integrated with the client’s current application and database. All the deployment and integration works are done under the guidance of expert software engineers and developers.

Stage 6:

Maintenance & Support

Most of the reputed IT development companies also provide complete maintenance and technical support, post deployment of the final product at client base.

Play Games at My Wedding Reception?

You can add spice to your wedding reception and have great fun doing it by playing games! Of course, you’ll still have that first dance with your new spouse to the tune from when you first met. And, you’ll still get to eat from each other’s fork when you cut-the-cake.

While the bride may play games at her bridal shower with the other “girls”, games are not reserved for showers only. You can use games to encourage conversation among your guests. Games can also help in cases where you want a fully enjoyed reception, yet there are religious or other reasons for limiting your dancing or music.

There are basically three types of games that work at a wedding reception. They are: Games for Everyone, The Joke is on the Bride and/or Groom and Outdoor Games (of course for an outdoor wedding).

Games for Everyone

Pass the Buck – Play musical dollar at each table. Whoever is left holding the $1, wins the centerpiece.

Switch the Shoes – The bride and groom may hold up a shoe or garment belonging to the opposite spouse in answer to a what-if question on how they will act in married life.

On the Spot Art – Each guest is given a paper and pen and asked to draw another random guest. This works best when they don’t know beforehand the guest being drawn.

Guess the Truth – Guests are asked multiple choice questions that have been previously asked of the bride and groom. A show of hands will see how many guests are on target.

On the Spot Poetry – Each guest is given a piece of paper and a pen. The paper has the start of a poem like “Sally and Mike met at the fair…” The guests complete the poem.

Games where the Joke is on the Bride and/or Groom

*If you are the bride or groom, let your best man or a bridesmaid read these

Give Back the Keys – (This only works if the bride and groom do not yet share a home) The bride and groom is each given a basket. Announce that “Anyone who still has her house keys must give them back.” Lots of guys get up and drop keys in her basket. Only one guy and the groom’s aunt return keys to the groom’s house.

Guess the Bride – Blindfold the groom and present him with 5 barefooted persons. He must guess which feet belong to the bride. Choose anyone but the bride to be among the 5 persons. In fact, this is really funny if they are all men.

Guess the Groom – Blindfold the bride and ask her to feel 5 men’s faces to guess which belongs to the groom. Choose anyone but the groom to be among the 5 persons.

Outdoor Games

What you play will depend on where the wedding is and how the guests are attired. A game like croquet is easy to set up in a park or large backyard and is possible in semi-formal clothing.

If the wedding is very casual, a park with large grassy area may be great for Volleyball or a huge circle of folks passing a Frisbee. And limbo – with the right music – is great almost anywhere, especially for a Caribbean or beach themed reception.

Computer Maintenance – Computer Repair in Hawaii

Computer Repair Hawaii

Computer Repair Services in Hawaii is not so much different than the mainland, especially on the island of Oahu, but there are a few challenges. Having lived on Oahu over 45 years ago in Ewa Beach, and returning just over 7 years ago, the scene has changed drastically. Things were more rural back then, and of course there was no internet.

In Oahu, people seem to work on one side of the island and work on the other. Since there are only 1 or 2 ways to get around, traffic can be extremely congested, and parking can be a challenge. So while you are looking for a Computer Repair Shop to drop off your computer, or waiting for a Mobile Technician to drive out to you, timing can be a challenge. For some reason, even in Paradise, things can get pretty busy. With that said, I just wanted to put out my two-cents that affect both the customer and the service provider about computer repair in Oahu.

Traffic Challenges

If you live in Waianae, Waialua, Haliewa, or the North Shore, Windward and around Waimanalo, you will have to rely on Mobile Technicians willing to come out to your location, or to drive the distance yourself. The problem with dropping off a sick computer yourself is that most shops open about 9-10am and close at 6pm. You either have to take time off from work, hope traffic is light after getting off work, or just wait until a day off.

For some reason, there are no shops I am aware of in Waianae, Haliewa and all through the North Shore. Shops on the Windward side are scarce as well, but I vaguely hear that there may be a shop out in Kaneohe, but they must not do much advertising. If you have a Macintosh, there is definitely a shop in Kailua, just be aware that not all shops repair both PCs and Macs, and while do mobile technicians.

My Rant About Windward Computer Repair

Concern computer repair for our valued Windward customers, I have to rant a little bit. Windward customers in Kaneohe and Kailua are fiercely loyal to their local businesses, which is a good thing. But when it comes to computer repair and they are looking for a mobile technician, they always want someone who looks closer to where they are, which at first, looks to make sense.

If they call you and you actually have a physical location and provide both in-shop and mobile services, they get hung-up on your shop's physical location even though they are calling for mobile service. The truth is, that they have no idea where the technician is coming from. The technician might already be scheduled to be out in that area for another customer and can easily set an appointment for you as well. They are not just just sitting around at home all day waiting for you to call, so you just can not accumulate where they will be dispatched from. That may sound harsh, but it always surprises me when we spend some valuable time over the phone with a prospective customer, trying to understand their computer problems and comfort them with our solution to their problem, and as soon as we mention that our shop is over the hill on the other side of H3, they start backing out of the conversation almost as if they thought they were doing "us" a favor and say thanks but no-thanks, we'll just call someone a little closer. I do not get it, and even when I can truthfully say that I have a tech in the area already, they do not care. I know other shop owners who get this same response about mobile repair on the Windward side. The fact is that we are happy to serve customers on the Windward side, and we appreciate their loyalty once they finally hire us to repair their computer. But it is a hurdle starting that relationship. I might add that it is a beautiful drive to the Windward side, especially if you get to drive back through the Northshore if you have the time. I always look forward to a good Shrimp Plate lunch from one of my favorite shrimp trucks along the way.

Parking for Mobile Computer Repair Technicians

If your business or home is located in a reliably populated area away from the areas I just mentioned, you'll have plenty of options for both in-shop and onsite computer repair in Oahu. But if you need service in the congested business areas of downtown or Waikiki, parking is a problem. My suggestion is that if you want prompt service, that you provide information to the technician about the most convenient place to park as well as any parking fees (which may be added to your bill). You might even be able to pre-arrange parking in a reserved area for vendors. And lastly, it even helps to know details such as any vehicle height restrictions for parking garages, or detours due to emergency or special events.

Giving Directions

When setting an appointment for mobile service, it is vital that you provide an accurate address and phone number. Many local Hawaii residents prefer to give directions and landmarks than actual addresses, but Mobile Technicians end up learning the island very well and even use GPS devices these days. Some even print out directions with Yahoo or Google before coming out. We would prefer that you just give us your complete address and then maybe a landmark if you live in an obscure hard to find location. We need the address for our invoice anyway. We appreciate the directions, but customers somehow assume we will be driving to their location the same way they do everyday, but the fact is that we might be coming from the other way, and then left become right, and right becomes left and it gets confusing while driving.

Be Sure to Give and Get Correct Phone Numbers

As for your phone number, things happen and we may need to call you. We also like to call before we come out to ensure you'll be home. Fortunately, we are not like the cable companies that tell you they will arrive between 9-5. Mobile Technicians can usually provide you with a 30-60 minute window. But if you have something come up, we would appreciate if you could call us as soon as possible to postpone.

Also, be sure that you know which Computer Repair company you made the appointment with and have their correct number. Many customers call quite a few shops before they choose who they will make their appointment with and get phone numbers mixed up. Some even call us more than once because we have more than one phone number. It gets quite funny hearing the same person calling again, now using a better description of their problem because of talking to us earlier. The problem is that it might get confusing to remember who you chose in the end. Now and then I'll get a person calling us by mistake to cancel an appointment that we never made. Imagine the frustration of the technician when he drave out to your home or business just to find out that you said you called and canceled already, why are you here?

In-Shop vs Onsite Computer Maintenance

This basically boils down to price, turn-around time and convenience. In-shop repair fees are usually flat rate fee based, and takes days to get back, but you will get more thorough service this way. Shops are also more prepared for the extremely difficult problems. With shops, you can just walk-in during normal business hours, although you should call first to get guidance on what to bring. For laptops, you should always bring the AC Adapter (battery charger). For desks, we usually only need the computer itself (no cables or peripherals, although it would not hurt if you bought your CDs).

Onsite service is usually hourly fee based, and may even have a trip charge. Onsite service by nature is by appointment only, but many problems can be diagnosed and repaired within an hour or two. With onsite service, it is critical that you describe your computer problem as well as possible, because if it sounds obvious that it might be a hardware problem, your computer may be a better candidate for in-shop repair. It's already difficult enough to get certain types of parts on island such as motherboards and CPUs at a Computer Store, so you can expect that a Mobile Technician will not have every part needed to fix every computer in their vehicle. Some parts even have to be ordered online and can take a week or so to arrive. Hopefully you can see the complications this may cause with setting another appointment as well as how the technician will bill you for the first and second appointments. It would just be better to bring these problem computers to a shop.

Major Limitations for Mobile Only Technicians

I certainly do not want to knock mobile only technicians, because I got my start that way. But you have to know that these ones can only serve a small finite number of customers in any given day. Many people get attached to their computer guy once trust is established, but it can get frustrating when your trusty Mobile PC Tech can not make it out fast enough. They might even need to take a vacation and when you get a hold of them on their cell phone, you find out they are on the mainland for a week or two. If you can not wait, you have to find someone else.

Mobile repair is limited as well for reasons spelled out in the "In-Shop vs Onsite Computer Maintenance" section above. There are also certain types of maintenance that will never get done onsite due to how long it will take. If I think I have to perform a surface scan on a hard drive just for starters (which can take 2 hours or more in some cases), I almost immediately recommend I take the computer back to the shop to complete at the flat rate. Some computers develop multiple problems and can take 4-5 hours to repair. For one, it will save you on further hourly charges, but it will also help the technician to be on time for other appointments after you, since he probably only allotted 2 hours for your appointment. The complicated part is that a mobile technician may not have a shop to take your computer to, and may only be able to take it to their home. If you are okay with that, then fine, no problem.

I would add that a technician that has both in-shop and onsite experience are the best technicians. For mobile only technicians, it can be hard to get this experience because they will rarely get a customer that is willing to pay a technician to spend 4-5 hours onsite, not to mention having to dedicate their own personal time as well to be there . But if the technician does not ever get the chance to spend time on the real hard problems, it is unlikely that they will ever progress to become a master technician. If you were choosing a doctor for a complicated surgery, how concerned would you be about his or her experience? The answer is obvious.

Anyways, while our computers and online lives might not be life and death situations, we seem dependent on them suddenless. So I hope this insight into both sides of Computer Maintenance and Repair in Hawaii help you make the right decisions when that inevitable computer problem occurs. That way, you can be armed with the insight to make the best choice available for your computer needs.