While I'm a vacation rental owner/manager, I also like to travel and I prefer to book vacation rental homes rather than hotels. I usually travel with family, and a vacation rental home offers more of a "homey" feel than a hotel. But, in the last year, the vacation rental market has changed, largely due to big companies like Expedia taking over some of the best vacation rental sites like VRBO and HomeAway. I suddenly began to see "service" fees added to the cost of the rentals I was interested in, and oftentimes, the fee put the rental I wanted out of my reach financially. Rather than beg for a discount (as an owner I know that vacation rentals operate on a small profit margin due to mortgage payments, expensive liability insurance, property taxes, home and grounds maintenance, etc.), I book direct with the owner. That saves me the fees, and also the inconvenience of having to deal with a "middle man". But, there's a trick to doing this, so read on...
What is Driving The Rate Increases in Vacation Rental Bookings
There are now only three big players in the “Vacation Rental” lodging market for upscale properties like ours – VRBO/Homeaway, TripAdvisor/Flipkey and Airbnb. In 2015, Expedia bought HomeAway/VRBO for $4 billion!
These sites charge guests and keep a "service" fee of 6 to 15% which is buried in the online quotes.
Contact information of both owners and guests is mostly hidden during the pre-booking process so you can't bypass their booking fees. This also means you can't call to ask questions and explain individual requirements for your group. Owners want to communicate directly with guests and not through a third party so they can give you the best service and experience when you stay with them.
How to Save $ By Booking Direct
Here are tips to saving on your next vacation rental:
Try and book direct with the owner or property manager. If you want to book our property, please visit our website at www.barnettbungalow.com, call 479-871-9092 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We sometimes offer discounts to repeat guests, for last minute reservations, or to fill in open dates.
Search for your perfect vacation rental on any of the listing sites. Identify your top choices, noting the property’s name and location. Use your search engine (i.e. Google) to search for the property name and city and possibly the owner’s name.
Search on Facebook for the house name and location to see if some of your favorite properties have a website or a Facebook page; most do. From there you can contact the owner/manager directly.
You can also search for No Fee listing sites, like HomeEscape.com, VacationStayz.com, etc. Search using the term "no fee vacation rental sites". AVOID sites like Expedia, TripAdvisor, Travelocity, VRBO, HomeAway, FlipKey, AirBnb, Lodgify, Tripping, HomeToGo, Evolve, VacationHomeRentals, and the like. All of these will charge you a service fee in addition to the rent and other costs.
If you are a repeat guest, and you BOOK DIRECT, many vacation rental owners will give you a discount on future bookings. So ask!
These steps can save you hundreds of dollars in booking fees from the listing websites (and you won’t be bombarded by their continual spam after you inquire on a property).