The internet has made it soooo easy to find the perfect spot to sleep in the perfect location for the perfect price. (you can simply log into shop.com and click on the “travel” tab) Not only can you now type in a destination and come up with a list of hotels and B&B’s – you can also check reviews by travelers to get insider info on whether or not the place is all it claims to be. Another wonderful option is to stay in a homeowner’s rental. There are several sites that offer this service : HomeAway.com, VROB.com, FlipKey.com, AirBnB.com, TripAdvisor.com – these are the ones that I use. I’ve rented a spare room in Manhattan while in NYC visiting my just-out-of-college son, a flat in Venice above a bakery, an apartment located behind huge, ancient doors that opened into a marble courtyard in Rome, beach houses on the outer banks of NC, a tree house in Costa Rica (complete with monkeys) and a 10 bedroom Spanish Villa in Santa Barbara, California with its own tennis court and pool. This is a short list of the marvelous homes that we have stayed in. You don’t have daily maid service, but the amenities and value usually compensate for that perk. It’s a bit scary to reserve the international homes at first, but be smart, read everything and you will have success. My favorite thing about staying in these homes is that they all have such local personality. My daughter and I actually locked ourselves out of the apartment I mentioned in Rome (we didn’t understand that we needed a key to the courtyard doors) and had to stay at a hotel across the street. The hotel was generic and could have been anywhere in the world, a gorgeous hotel, but nothing like the apartment we were renting from one of Rome’s residents. We got to see what it would be like to live in that city. I actually remodeled one of our bathrooms at home to replicate the travertine marble shower in that Rome apartment. When I explained to my tile guy how I wanted to use the travertine tiles, he told me that wasn’t the way it was done…I had to tell him that I’d seen it done in the land-of-marble and he conceded. Its fabulous! He loved it, we love it ! Who would have thought that we’d bring home a souvenir like that ?