5 Places to Stick Unwanted Holiday Houseguests

PORTLAND, Ore. (

TheStreet

) -- Maybe this is the year.

Maybe this is the time you don't make a last-minute run to the strip mall to get some cheap towels. Maybe this is when your washer and dryer take a breather instead of earning holiday pay. Maybe this is the time to stop playing executive chef and event coordinator for days on end and enjoy the holiday for yourself.

Maybe this is the holiday season you ask the family to stay somewhere else ... or stay there yourself.

A good old-fashioned family Christmas doesn't have to reach

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

proportions to get uncomfortable. Prolonged exposure to your family's idiosyncrasies and the regression of some of those family members into their not-so-lovable roles from years past can grate on even the happiest of hosts.

A survey by vacation rental website

HomeAway

last year found that 22% of holiday hosts think their guests overstay their welcome after a day or less. About 29% of hosts would kick their visiting sibling out of the house this holiday season if they could, while 22% think it's time for their grown child to make his or her own plans for accommodations.

Not that those guests are exactly grateful for the free place to stay when they get it. Of the 38% of holiday travelers who planned to stay with a friend or family member on Christmas last year, 64% percent werent thrilled about it. A full 29% say weren't looking forward to the lack of personal space, 28% dreaded the guest mattress you view as an afterthought and 5% said you or the other relatives hanging around the house this holiday season are enough of a problem on your own.

Is it any wonder about a third of hosts have had it with their holiday guests after only a few days, while 51% of holiday travelers feel stressed out by the whole ordeal? Granted, HomeAway has a stake in these results and is trying to get you or your relatives into a vacation rental, but at least a survey conducted by Hilton's Embassy Suites yielded similar results: Roughly 65% of holiday houseguests saying they feel generally uncomfortable staying as a guest in their relative's homes around the holidays.

Nearly 66% would consider using an excuse to get out of it, including faking sickness (38%), lying about their snoring volume (10%), feigning pet allergies (10%) or issuing warnings about their nonexistent sleepwalking (4%).

Hosts, meanwhile, aren't exactly enamored with their chosen gig. Roughly half say their guests wear out their welcome in five days or less. A full 71% shared stories about less-than-ideal guest behavior including messiness (50%), crankiness (31%), insatiable eating (24%), indifference to activities (19%) and an acute lack of self-awareness that leads them to bring uninvited guests over (24%). For 55% of hosts, it just gets awkward. Guests sleep forever 26%, snore like dying alligators (20%), clog the toilet (a gross 16%) and use all of the hot water (13%).

Just stop it. HomeAway and Embassy Suites are biased but have a point -- staying with friends and relatives takes an emotional and psychological toll that can offset just about any amount you're saving on accommodations. Yes, other lodging costs money, but it's nothing compared with therapy hours or legal fees. It's not a cop-out, it's a grown-up bed. It's a television showing something other than your uncle's favorite reality show or polarized news channel. It's a few hours each day of decompression and relaxation -- of needed escape. If you can't sell your family members on the following options, at least consider them for your own sanity.

Hotels

About 21% of all travelers who say they'd shell out extra money for roomier accommodations this holiday season. That pairs quite nicely with the 20% of Christmas travelers who told HomeAway that they'd prefer to stay at a hotel last holiday season and the 70% of Embassy Suites respondents who said they'd consider a hotel if they didn't think it would offend their family members.

Hey, at least some of them aren't among the 64% who'd rather take a vacation somewhere else over the holidays than stay with family.

A full 86% of those who responded to a survey by

Orbitz

and and

American Express Publishing

this year would prefer to stay at a hotel when visiting family, but only 72% are going to do so. Guilt is strong, but tight holiday finances are even stronger.

The Orbitz and American Express survey notes that airfare and hotel prices have jumped in Top 10 holiday destinations including New York (10% more for airfare than last year and 12% more for a place to stay), San Francisco (9% and 11%), and Orlando (11% and 27%) and Fort Lauderdale (12% and 17%). As a result, 51% booked early to save cash while 39% traveled on off-peak days. A full 62% opted to forgo gifts to cover travel expenses.

It doesn't always have to get that drastic. Experts from travel sites including Travelocity and FareCompare also suggest looking into airfare-and-hotel packages to save a little cash. You won't save much on the flight, but hotels will often cut the prices on their rooms to sweeten the deal.

Vacation rentals

HomeAway puts out its holiday survey every year because it knows it offers a viable option. Whether you're scoping out a larger house for the whole family or just trying to get a cabin away from the rest of the relatives, there's a way to have a home for the holidays without either imposing or holing up in a hotel.

While the percentage of HomeAway users who'll stay at a vacation rental is roughly even with those who'll stay at hotels during the Thanksgiving holiday, a whopping 31% will pick a rental house or apartment for their Christmas vacation destination of choice. They can be a great value if you fit enough people into multiple bedrooms, they have kitchens that won't force you to eat out or with the whole clan for every meal.

Though they're tough to track down late in the season -- 5% of vacation rental property owners like to keep those houses to themselves for the holiday -- there are still deals to be had. They're only sweetened when properties on sites such as HomeAway or

TripAdvisor

s FlipKey have amenities travelers are looking for, including a kitchen of their own (21%), a pool/hot tub (12%) or even laundry facilities (11%) that aren't vulnerable to distant relatives sifting through your unmentionables while making room for a load of cloth napkins.

Bed and breakfasts

The questionable quality of either of the items mentioned in the name above when staying with relatives makes these lovely little facilities even more alluring during the holiday season.

According to HomeAway subsidiary

BedandBreakfast.com

, 75% of travelers surveyed say they'll be taking at least one trip this winter. Of those, 50% say they'll be staying at a bed and breakfast during their trip.

While destinations known for B&Bs such as Key West, Fla., Charleston, S.C., and Asheville, N.C., are in guests' winter Top 10, BedandBreakfast.com found that inns and houses in spots such as top-ranked New York City, second-place Boston and No. 4 Chicago are also in high demand. Breakfast is still a key draw for 47% of those guests, but rare urban accommodations including free on-site parking (54%) and flexible check-in (50%) are essential for the holiday home.

Travelers worried that staying at a bed and breakfast still means enduring the shared bathrooms they were trying to avoid at the relatives' place probably haven't been to a B&B in a while. Of the 13,000 properties in BedandBreakfast.com's stable, only 12% have shared bathrooms.

House swaps

It's been a full seven years since Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz swapped upper-class homes in the $85 million online house-swapping industry infomercial

The Holiday

, but the idea is still catching on.

HomeExchange.com

, for example, saw its membership jump from 20,000 back in 2008 to more than 40,000 last year. It's not so great that you're letting a stranger into your home for days at a time with license to use a bunch of your stuff. The flipside and ultimate countermeasure is that you're doing the same with someone elses place. If you're OK with handing over the keys and laying out or parting with a few 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,

HomeForSwap

charges $93 per year or up to $185 for a three-year plan. HomeExchange charges $120 a year for listings, but also offers a three-month plan for about $48.

Airbnb

With each disruption, backlash follows.

Airbnb and similar sites including

OneFineStay

got travelers into cities on the cheap by letting folks crash on a futon for $10 a night and take over apartments when the owners arent around.

Offerings also include private islands, treehouses, rooms, boats and igloos, but those aren't what earned Airbnb a subpoena and some unwanted attention from New York State's Attorney General back in October. The AG is seeking the records of the city's 225,000 Airbnb users and information on 15,000 Airbnb properties there, saying it runs afoul of a 2010 law that prohibits subletting a property for less than 30 days. Hotel operators, meanwhile, say the system allows property owners to duck hotel taxes while making a profit through vacation rentals.

Airbnb head of global policy David Hantman doesn't think much of New York's "fishing expedition" and vowed the company will fight the AG's subpoena with everything it has. Meanwhile, the New York hotel industry has made noise about filing a class action against Airbnb demanding that hosts pay their taxes just as hotels do.

So maybe New York isn't the best place to try out this service in the immediate future -- especially if you're a New Yorker who doesn't want his or her information passed around like a bowl of holiday biscuits. But the pricing that's rankling hotel owners is great for property renters. It lets them stay in funky little corners of the world for less than the price of a hotel room and lets a property owner or renter -- the latter being the key legal hangup that, understandably, has some landlords upset -- recoup some of their costs. If you're looking for a way out of a relative's stuffy suburban subdivision and into a city known for its wealth of holiday activity -- or even if you just want to come and go without being interrogated each time -- such rental services are a nice deal while you can get them. If this is their last holiday season, make the most of it.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

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Where to Eat now in N.J.: the 10 Hottest Restaurants for July
Where to Eat now in N.J.: the 10 Hottest Restaurants for July
NJ.com has launched a new regular feature, "Where to eat now in N.J.," highlighting the most exciting restaurants of the moment, including places both new to the scene and ones that have been here a while but are still firing on all burners. If you'd like to recommend a restaurant to be considered for a spot on a future "Where to eat now in N.J." list, let us know in the comments section below.MOLOS: Picturesque perfection. This Greek restaurant positioned right on the Weehawken waterfront delivers amazing views of the New York City skyline, and cuisine that is absolutely "nostimo" (Greek for delicious). This combination of breathtaking views and delicious Greek cuisine make theweekend brunch (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) an absolute must. Start off with the "kalamari" ($14) -- but don't go for the obvious flash-fried version of this dish (of course it tastes great here), but instead opt for the grilled version, which isalmost indescribably delectable. Molos masterfullychars the squid and covers it with the perfect amount of oil and red onions. Moving past the appetizer, the main brunch items at Molos will knock you off your seat. The lobster Benedict ($22) is literally eggsBenedict with half a lobster. Seriously, no lumps or chunks, half a lobster. If you're more of a meat eater, the traditional steak and eggs was also fantastic. The steak, cooked to your liking, cuts like butter and meshes exquisitely with your over-easy eggs.Outside of weekend brunch, Molos also does a Sunday lobster feast ($39), and itserves up some great classic Greek dishes such as taramasalata (carp roe mousse, $6) to saganaki (graviera cheese and sun-dried figs flambeed with brandy, $14) to paidakia (lamb chops, $39). 1 Pershing Road, Weehawken. 201-223-1200.BRASSERIE 513: The name of the restaurant, located in quaint Califon in western Jersey, may have its origins in the French vocabulary, but the menu here is a blend of American, Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. The pasta portion of the menu diverges from your traditional Italian fare and goes withmore eclectic items such asfilet mignon ravioli ($21), gorgonzola gnocchi ($21) and spinach and mascarpone ravioli ($20). The entrees at Brasserie 513range from the light pan-fried Mediterranean chicken with baby greens and feta ($20) to an Argentinian marinated skirt steak with chimichurri mushrooms ($28) to wet-aged sirloin steak with a peppercorn brandy cognac sauce ($29). 438 County Road 513, Califon. 908-975-3159.THE PARKER HOUSE: The Parker House has been a Jersey Shore institution since 1878. What makes Parker House so unique, and so beloved to the area, is that you can walk off the beach, sand still clinging to your flip-flops and grab a couple of shrimp for $5, or you can throw on a button-downor a nice dress and enjoy a full lobster dinner. One of the staples of The Parker House's board of fare is itsraw bar. Here you can get a delicious mini burger ($2), a hot dog ($2), steamed clams ($9), or halfadozen shrimp ($5). The downstairs tavern expands on this casual menu with more mini sandwiches such as sliced steak ($4), BBQchicken ($3), and soft-shell crab ($3). You can also grab a 11/4-poundlobster (market price) orjumbo crab cocktail ($9). On weekends (at select times) you can belly up to the tavern raw bar and grab "shucked-to-order" clams for either 25 or 50 cents. In the main restaurant, you chow down oncasual lunch items such asa grilled cheese ($9), a roasted veggie flatbread ($9), or a Beacon Boulevard steak salad ($12). For dinner there's the restaurant's famous lobster dinner ($26), the 12-ounce New York sirloin ($29), and the cedar plank salmon ($27) --all marvelously prepared, and perfect summertime dining. 290 1st Avenue, Sea Girt. 732-449-0442.THE OUTSLIDER: There's an endless sea of food trucks out there, but only one of them is the Outslider. This truck, which also has a physical location attached to Olde Queens Tavern in New Brunswick, serves one of the best sliders you'll ever have. Itsregular cheeseburger slider is fantastic. The beef is bursting with flavor (it's Angus, so not surprising), and it is cooked to perfection. If you're looking to kick up your burger experience a notch, then you need get your hands on the bourbon BBQburger complete with bourbon BBQ sauce, cheddar and applewood-smoked bacon. Other sliders on the menu include the beer-battered haddock slider, and the Southern Chix, which includes grilled chicken, cheddar cheese, BBQ sauce, and cole slaw. The truck is constantly on the go; check itswhereabouts here. Contact: 732-448-9370/Catering: 609-670-0970. Physical location: 108 Easton Avenue, New Brunswick. 732-846-4006.CHEF'S GARDEN AT CRYSTAL SPRINGS: You've heard of "farm-to-table" restaurants, but have you experienced a "garden-to-table" restaurant Chef's Gardenat the luxurious Crystal Springs Resortis located on an acre of organic gardens that provide the herbs, lettuce and vegetables for Chef's Garden and its sister eatery Restaurant Latour. All cooking at Chef's Garden is done on wood-fired ovens and grills by executive chef Anthony Bucco and his team. Outside of their garden, Bucco and his crew import food from local farmers and purveyors from the surrounding areas of New Jersey's Skylands region, and New York's Black Dirt Region. Some highlights on the menu include local field lettuces with fire roasted vegetables ($12), Barnegat Light black bass ($29), Goffle Road chicken ($29), smoked Berkshire pork ribs ($29), and the vegetarian-friendly Ancient Grains dish (dandelion, foraged mushrooms, and fontina,$24). 3 Wild Turkey Way, Hamburg. 855-977-6473.MARTELL'S WATER'S EDGE: The Martell name has returned to this popular waterfront restaurant, tiki bar, and wedding reception venue after a year away. (It was known as Water's Edge onthe Bay for a handful of years). This restaurant is an ideal spot for those looking for a waterfront eatery or nightspot but do not want to deal with the traffic and the crowded nature of Jersey Shore boardwalks. If you're hanging on the deck, which sports an amazing bay view, you'll find a decidedly casual menu, withCorona-battered fish and chips ($14), mammoth fish tacos ($12), or Dalton's Bavarian Burger (burger with fried onions and cheddar on a Bavarian pretzel roll, $12). If you're looking to get messy, order up a pound of peel-and-eat shrimp ($24) or half-a-dozen oyster shooters ($24). Inside, you're going to find a more elegant dining option -- cloth napkins, centerpieces, and a more subdued and classy atmosphere. The menu, prepared by James Beard-nominated chef Kristopher Greene, is highly seafood-centric. Menu items include a whole Maine lobster with clams and mussels ($32), grouper ($25), the "reef and beef" (10-ounce filet paired with an 8-ounce lobster tail, $50), and a creation dubbed "The First Mate" (twin 8-ounce lobster tails and a pound of snow crab, mussels, clams, and shrimp, $80). 125 Bayview Avenue, Bayville. 732-269-3000.DELAWARE AVENUE OYSTER HOUSE & BAR:"The newest bar on LBI in 10 years" openedthis summer, and has quickly become a staple forlocal and tourist dining on the island.The menu at Delaware Avenue Oyster House & Bar is classic Long Beach Island fare. You've got yourhalf-pound peel-and-eat shrimp ($12), your jumbo crabmeatcocktail ($16), and the classic lobster orsnow crab dinners ($25). There's also a smash burger ($14), lobster roll ($23), Philly cheesesteak ($14), and other two-handed sandwich options. But the main event here is oysters, lots and lots of oysters, and clams, too. You can get classic dishes (market priced) such asoyster shooters, ice-cold fresh shucked oysters, roasted oysters ($14), and oysters Rockefeller ($14). Then you can go with the uniqueoptions like oysters Moscow ($14) complete caviar and cream cheese. Clam fans can enjoy them casino-style ($11), or on the half-shelf ($8-$15). Craft beer lovers -- the Oyster House has your hook-up with plenty of microbrews on tap. 13211 Long Beach Boulevard, Beach Haven Terrace. 609-492-3352.TACORIA: New Brunswick's Easton Avenue has been known as a row for bars and pizzerias for generations. But over the past few years it has quietly become a hotbed for creative cuisine. Tacoria is one of those creative cookeries that's captivated Rutgers students, Hub City residents and foodies alike. The restaurant is a "Mexican street kitchen," so if you're a casual fan of Mexican food and are used to the safer, Americanized versionof the cuisine,prepare to have your world turned on its head. The quesadillas suiza ($6-$8.50) are massive and bursting with flavor. The addition of crema inside the quesadilla, instead a dollop on the outside asmany places do, createsan extra layer of gooey delight to the tried and true Mexican staple. Tacoria serves burritos two ways --traditional form, or "box form." The box form is basically a deconstructed burrito with no tortilla included. The flavor is massive, and it's definitely good for those looking to cut carbs. For sides, you cannot go wrong with the Mexican street corn ($3) which is smothered in Cotija cheese and chipotle aioli (be warned, this can get spicy). Also, the chips and guac ($3.50) -- muy bueno. 56 Easton Avenue, New Brunswick. 732-317-2070.CAPITAL CRAFT: The craft movementisn't just a bar-specific thing. Sure, Capital Craft, located on Route 22 in Green Book, has a plethora of craft beers on tap and in bottle. However, to this eater/writer, the craft movement also happens in the kitchen, with new, creative ideas on homemade and home-cooked dinners. It's about taking what you know and adding your own kick to it. For example, why not startoff a meal with delicious plate of poutine, Canada's favorite exportOr why not go for a piping hot order of fluffy and crispy German pretzel bites ($8) The menu is wildly diverse with a slew of coal-fired pizzas ($10-$16), salads (including a summer-specific watermelon salad, $10), and comfort items such asmac & cheese ($14), and chicken and sweet potato waffles ($18). The burgers at Capital Craft are top-notch, and thepork belly (which come on nachos, pizza, and on special occasions serves as a full meal) is divine. 171 Route 22, Green Brook. 732-968-5700.DOCK'S OYSTER HOUSE: Dock's has been an Atlantic City institution since 1897.In November, the owners(the great-grandchildren of the founder) closed down the famed seafood house for renovations. On June 1, they re-opened a magnificent new version of Dock's. They expanded seating exponentially in the dining rooms and at the bar. While there have been aesthetic changes to Dock's, the heart of the restaurant, itsbountiful array of seafood, remains intact. The restaurant sports a highly impressive raw bar, with anywhere from 8 to 10 different types of oyster being served (this changes daily). Dock'sserves a delicious pan-roasted halibut special, as well as a potato-crusted flounder ($28) and seared sea scallops ($28). There are also"classics" that have been on the menu since 1897 such as fried oysters ($21), crabmeat au gratin ($28), a 16- to 18-ounce lobster tail ($54), and the "beef and reef" (a grilled 6-ouncefilet mignon with a grilled lobster tail, $64). And of course, therearemammoth lobsters. We saw one that was more thanfour pounds, and we're told Dock'sserves them even bigger than that. Make sure you're either really hungry, or have company for that dish. 2405 Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City. 609-345-0092.Bill Bodkin can be reached atbodkinwrites@gmail.com.Find NJ.com/Entertainment on Facebook.
10 Easy Ways to Become a Zero-Waste Household | HuffPost
10 Easy Ways to Become a Zero-Waste Household | HuffPost
by guest blogger Bea Johnson, of The Zero Waste Home1. Fight junk mail; it's not just a waste of resources, but also of our time. Register now at: dmachoice.org and catalogchoice.org, or pay 41pounds.org to get it done.2. Turn down freebies from conferences, fairs, and parties. Every time you take one, you create a demand to make more. Do you really need another "free" pen?REDUCE3. Declutter your home, and donate to your local thrift shop. You'll lighten your load and make precious resources available to those looking to buy secondhand.4. Reduce your number of shopping trips and keep a shopping list. The less you bring home, the less waste you'll have to deal with.REUSE5. Swap disposables for reusables (for example, adopt handkerchiefs, refillable bottles, shopping totes, cloth napkins, rags, and such). You'll find that you won't miss your paper towels, but rather enjoy the savings.6. Avoid grocery-shopping waste: Bring reusable totes, cloth bags (for the bulk aisles), and jars (for wet items like cheese and deli) to the store and farmer's market.RECYCLE7. Know your city's recycling policies and locations, and think of recycling as a last resort. Have you refused, reduced, or reused first? Question the need and life cycle of your purchases. Shopping is voting.8. Buy primarily in bulk or secondhand, but if you must buy new, choose glass, metal, or cardboard, and avoid plastic: Much of it gets shipped across the world for recycling and often ends up in the landfill (or worse yet, in the ocean).ROT9. Find a compost system that works for your home, and get to know what it will digest (for instance, dryer lint, hair, and nails are all compostable).10. Turn your home kitchen trash can into one large compost receptacle. The bigger the compost receptacle, the more likely you'll be to use it freely.Good Luck! And remember: You're not alone. Visit zerowastehome.blogspot.com for support and tips from a like-minded community!Bea Johnson and her family strive to live a zero-waste lifestyle. Through her blog, she shares waste-reducing tips and inspires readers to take a stance on needless waste. She is a 2011 grand-prize winner of The Green Awards contest.For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com
Flying Is an Adventure
Flying Is an Adventure
We've all seen them, those crazy stories in the sidebars of internet news pages. Recently, I was reading a CNN.com story online when I noticed a list of "More from CNN Video" which included:"What crazy thing has happened on an airplane now?" I thought to myself as I skipped over the possibility of seeing the person Anthony Weiner was sexting. People do some amazing things on airplanes. It turns out a woman sat down in a seat next to a man and quite quickly not just nodded off, but her head landed in his lap. Awkward.He tried getting her to sit back up. No luck. So of course he did the next best thing: he filmed a video of the situation with his phone, maybe to prove it really happened or maybe to see how many views he could get because he posted the video on YouTube. Somehow the video made its way from YouTube to CNN. It turns out that after a few attempts to get her out of his lap he finally succeeded. She solved the problem for him by promptly tilting over into the lap of the guy on her other side.With all the time in the world to think about it, my Monday morning quarterback decision would be to push the call button and get a flight attendant to help get the lady out of my lap and recline her seat so she could continue her nap without spending the flight in my lap. Flying is an adventure for sure. It used to be glamorous. Passengers dressed up, flight attendants served mini but elegant meals with real cutlery and cloth napkins, and Pan Am would make up your berth for your overnight flight. Not so today - where the closest thing to a berth is the lap next door. What stories do you have about the unbelievable, amazing things you've seen airline passengers do? Leave your story in a comment below.
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