BOSTON (MainStreet) -- When Robert Allen and Al Stillman wrote the song (There's No Place Like) Home For The Holidays for Perry Como in 1954, they didn't spend the better part of the holiday week cleaning up after nieces and nephews, prying the remote out of their uncle's iron grip and begging in-laws for just five minutes in their own bathroom.Holiday hosts are acutely aware there's no place like home for the holidays, if only because their home feels like the one place in America where home-invading, resource-sucking squatters can't be dragged out in cuffs. A survey by vacation rental Web site HomeAway ( AWAY) found that 22% of holiday hosts think their guests overstay their welcome after a day or less. The list of guest-related grievances stretches longer than the scrolls that some of the gift-grubbing younger relatives will be sending to Santa this year. Reluctant hosts say their charges leave stuff strewn all over the house (31%), don't help with the cooking or cleaning (26%), need to be entertained constantly (21%), rifle through the drawers and cabinets (2%) and hold the television remote hostage for the length of their trip (2%). The kicker? Some of these little grinches don't even want to be there. According to travel site TripAdvisor, 59% of all holiday travelers will stay with family and friends this year. Another 14% say they're going to cut down on stress by paying for other accommodations rather than staying with family. Yes, because they are the ones who are incredibly put out and not the host who has to wait for the UPS ( UPS) or FedEx ( FDX) truck carrying the online gifts being shipped ahead by 23% of holiday travelers. Not the homeowners who have to find the storage space for pre-bought gifts that 17% of guests are mailing them. Certainly not the homeowners who feel half their holiday budget goes toward detergent and fabric softener for the 17% of guests who do laundry at their hosts' home. All of these little inconveniences become a big reason why 29% of hosts have had it with their holiday guests after only a few days. Coupled with the hassle of getting to their temporary holiday home in the first place, the chaos awaiting holiday travelers once they arrive leads to 51% feeling stressed about the whole ordeal. It doesn't need to be like this. With help from some sympathetic souls in the travel industry, we've found four places for hosts to put their visiting friends and relatives that aren't the living room sofa, a seldom-used rollaway bed or a bedroom floor:
Those 14% of holiday travelers who want out of the family compound this year aren't bluffing. According to HomeAway, 51% of all holiday travelers are staying with friends and family this year. One in five, however, will be staying at a hotel. They're so adamant about it that 7% of holiday travelers looking to save money would rather cram a whole family into one hotel room instead of the multiple rooms they usually book than stay rate-free with friends and relatives. It's not such a bad year to do so, either. Microsoft's ( MSFT) Bing Travel finds holiday hotel rates at three- and four-star hotels basically flat since last year, but notes an 8% drop in prices at five-star hotels during that span. That's great for travelers making their accommodations an early gift to themselves, but more frugal holiday guests can still find bargains. The price of an average holiday stay in Las Vegas, for example, is down nearly 16% from last year. New York City's room prices have dropped 14.5% during that same span, while staying near -- but not with -- the folks in D.C. will cost 11% less than it did last season. That's not the case everywhere, and especially not for Canadians or Canadian expats who'll pay 12% more for a room in Toronto than they did the last time they crossed the border for Boxing Day. If hotel costs get a bit too cumbersome, hotel and airfare packages can cut them a bit. Travelocity's editors say such packages can save travelers more than $500 on their trip. Others, however, advise against browsing only travel combos. "Yes, packages often do save money, but do the math yourself when you're doing your research just to be an educated consumer," says Josey Miller, travel expert for TripAdvisor.
If the hotels are all booked up or are too tight a squeeze for you and the family, there's always the vacation rental. They can be cheap if you fit enough people into multiple bedrooms, have kitchens that won't force you to eat out or with the relatives for every meal and they're the accommodations of choice for 21% of holiday travelers, according to HomeAway. They're also a bit tougher to get this late in the season. "You might be surprised by something great that's exactly what you're looking for and still available," TripAdvisor's Miller says. "The reason I tell people that this is a great time to start looking for next year, though, is because unlike hotels that have a lot of rooms, once a vacation rental is booked, it's booked." That's no reason for travelers to stop looking, though. If holiday travelers are able to convince an entire family to go in on a vacation rental -- as 36% of holiday vacation renters who will be cooking their family's big dinner in a rental property kitchen have -- it takes the burden off of the would-be hosts and distributes the responsibilities a bit more evenly, cutting down on holiday stress. As the holidays draw closer, vacation property owners outside such top destinations as New York, Miami and Florida's Key West, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando are often more amenable to short-notice deals. Even if a dream vacation seems to be unavailable around Christmas and New Year's, a little added holiday income may change an owner's mind. "Even if you look at a vacation rental calendar and it looks as if the property is booked for a certain time, I still say reach out to those people," Miller says. "People's plans change and some people don't update their calendars in real time, so send them a note and you may be surprised."
The name alone guarantees travelers two options that aren't exactly a lock when staying with the far-flung relations. It's also a big reason why these inns have received greater consideration from holiday travelers in recent years. According to HomeAway subsidiary BedandBreakfast.com, 76% of bed and breakfast owners saw revenue stabilize or increase last year, with a quarter saying their take spiked by 20%. More than 63% of owners expected an increase this year and, with 29% of travelers staying in more B&Bs this year than last, there's been little to prove them wrong. This winter, for example, 90% of travelers surveyed by BedandBreakfast.com said they would be traveling as much or more than they did last winter. Of those, 60% say they'll be taking at least one weekend trip and 40% say they're planning one weeklong trip or more. While destinations known for B&Bs such as Asheville, N.C., Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga., and Cape May, N.J., are in guests' winter Top 20, BedandBreakfast.com found that inns and houses in spots such as top-ranked New York City, second-place New Orleans and No. 5 San Francisco are also in high demand. Breakfast is still a key draw for 57% of those guests, but rare urban accommodations including free on-site parking (73%) and flexible check-in (60%) are essential for the holiday home. Travelers worried that staying at a bed and breakfast still means enduring the same shared-bathroom nightmare scenario they were trying to avoid at the relatives' place probably haven't been to a B&B in quite some time. Of the 11,000 properties in BedandBreakfast.com's stable, only 12% have shared bathrooms.
I met a man who lived in Tennessee and he was headed for Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie. From Pennsylvania folks are travelin' down to Dixie's sunny shore... If only those folks in Pennsylvania that Como is crooning about knew the Tennesseeans were coming. For every holiday travelers leaving an empty house behind, there's someone visiting that same town and seeking a place to stay. If both sides played their cards right and swapped homes for the holidays, each could have a free place to stay without crashing on a relative's couch or cringing every time the "War on Christmas" comes up at the dinner table. There are dozens of home exchange sites out there trying to get travelers those holiday freebies while cutting down on their stress. HomeExchange.com, for example, saw its membership jump from 20,000 back in 2008 to more than 40,000 this year as travelers faced increasing economic uncertainty. The obvious downside to this approach is that you're letting a stranger into your home for a decent length of time. People skittish about leaving the house in the first place probably aren't the best candidates for this sort of thing. If you're OK with the idea of setting out some spare towels and guest linens while you're gone and giving someone the key for a few days, the perks include access to homes in New York, San Francisco, London, Paris and thousands of other properties in more than 100 countries. Plus, according to the folks at HomeExchange, 20% of home swaps include a car swap as well. While some home-swap sites have a free option for people who aren't posting their own properties, sites such as HomeForSwap and HomeLink can charge $75 to $110 per year. HomeExchange charges $120 a year for listings, but also offers a three-month plan for about $48. -- Written by Jason Notte in Boston. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.
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