Editor's note: As a special feature for April, TheStreet.com offers a 20-part series on virtually everything you need to know about real estate. This installment, which was originally published as Top 1%, is part 16.

You're looking for an investment. Not just any investment, but a special one you can enjoy, too. Really enjoy -- I'm not just talking about income, capital gains and tax stuff.

Vacation homes in the right spots have long been a good buy. At the end of the day, they offer both financial and lifestyle rewards. It's kind of a double return on your investment.

But not just any vacation-home market works for everyone. Unless money is no object, you have to buy smart to minimize risk and realize those lifestyle benefits you seek.

So where does it make the most sense to play? Let me shed some light.

First, I'm avoiding what I call "cliché cachet" places. Sure, we'd all like to own property in Vail, Aspen, Sun Valley, Lake Tahoe or the Hamptons, but I'm not adding anything by bringing these to your attention.

I'll also avoid places located in the middle of nowhere. Sure, Livingston, Mont., Pagosa Springs, Colo., Silver City, N.M., or northern Minnesota lake country offer great vacation surroundings, but they can take a long time to get to, if they can be reached at all during certain times of the year.

Places closer to cities or gateways are easier to rent, and easier to use yourself.

Click here for the video version of this story from Jennifer Openshaw.

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