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RISMEDIA, March 5, 2010—The cold winter and record snowfall impacting several areas of the country has many travelers planning warm-weather getaways this spring, and many will be staying in a vacation home, according to HomeAway, Inc., one of the world’s leading online vacation rental marketplaces, which recently released its quarterly “HomeAway Vacation Rental Marketplace Report.”

In fact, more than 65% of travelers who looked into the availability of vacation rentals in the past plan to stay in a property sometime between March and May. While most (66%) will use a vacation rental for a family vacation, approximately one in three travelers surveyed (30%) say they plan to stay in a vacation home for a getaway with friends.

“Vacation rentals are becoming a much more mainstream lodging option for travelers,” said Brian Sharples, founder and chief executive officer of HomeAway. “Where people once used to think of motels and hotels as their only option when traveling, they’re now finding that vacation homes provide much more value because they can accommodate more people and they come with full kitchens and other amenities like private pools and barbecue grills.”

According to the HomeAway report, the following hot spots ranked among the most popular Spring Break destinations this year:

1. Orlando, Fla.
2. Miami, Fla.
3. Panama City, Fla.
4. New York, N.Y.
5. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
6. Destin, Fla.
7. Daytona Beach, Fla.
8. Fort Meyers, Fla.
9. Marco Island, Fla.
10. Clearwater, Fla.

Travelers attracted to the value of vacation rentals compared with hotels may find even more value in the deals some vacation rental owners are offering this spring. According to the report, approximately 34% of owners say they will offer some type of special deal or incentive to attract renters during the Spring Break season. Of those:

-38% plan to offer a percentage off the rental rate
-34% plan to offer a specific dollar amount off the rental rate
-31% plan to offer a free night with the purchase of a specific number of nights
-21% do not plan to require a minimum-night stay
-20% plan to offer free cleaning services
-17% plan to offer complimentary products or services, such as free tickets to a theme park

Beyond Spring Break: Outlook for Remainder of 2010

The most recent HomeAway report continues to show strong traveler interest in vacation rentals. More than nine in 10 travelers (93%) who looked into the availability of vacation rentals in the past say they expect to stay in one at some point in 2010.

And despite the tough economy, 17% say their travel budget will increase this year, while 68% say it will stay the same. In addition, more than half of travelers surveyed (55%) say they would travel more this year if they had more vacation time. Money and bad news about the economy continued to factor into travelers’ plans, with 43% saying they’d travel more if they received a salary increase and 25% saying they would travel more if they felt more confident in the economy. Despite the economic woes expressed by many, some 33% say they would be prompted to travel more this year if it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Travel Planning: In Search of a Deal When it Comes to Accommodations

In planning their vacations, 72% of those surveyed say it’s most important to find deals on accommodations. Fifteen percent say finding a deal on transportation to their destination, such as airline or train tickets, is most important, while only 4% of travelers say it’s important to find a deal on a rental car. Five percent say deals on entertainment and attractions are most important, while 4% cite deals on food and restaurants.

“Accommodations typically account for the bulk of a family’s travel budget, so saving in that area is impactful,” says Sharples. “Because our customers can get a whole home for half of the cost of a hotel, we find that many of them are able to travel more frequently and take longer vacations.” The HomeAway report also finds that, on average, the price per square foot for a U.S. hotel is more than twice the price per square foot of a vacation rental.

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