Avoid Booking Sites; Book Direct; See map!
Vacation rental homes are not hotels. They all have their perks and nuances. The best way to search the myriad of available homes has been the big listing/booking sites. But maybe it's time to reconsider where you do your searching.
I've joined several forums where homeowners are discussing new ways to market their properties now that the popular listing sites are becoming booking sites (i.e. They charge not only the owner to advertise, but also charge the traveler a hefty booking fee too.) If you scroll through my blog posts, you'll find more details about some of the issues with these booking sites.
The biggest problems with booking sites for me are:
- They hide the contact information between owner and guest. The reason? So that the booking site can be assured to collect its 6-15% fee (or maybe "more or less", as they state on their own Web sites). You have no way to learn about me and I have no way to learn about you prior to booking. This means if I accept your reservation and we learn that my homes are not a good fit, the booking site has already collected your service fee and you'll need to wait days before it's refunded. That ties up your credit! You and I each have spent time needlessly in this reservation process. If only we had a chance to talk first! (FYI, many vacation rental contracts specify a cancellation fee. So if you learn you booked the wrong place, you may lose some money. I don't operate this way, but I've noticed many do especially if they are difficult to get to - ex. Hawaii, Nantucket.)
- The booking sites are strongly suggesting to travelers that the homeowners who advertise with them are not to be trusted with your payments. If that's the case, then why are these listing sites posting these properties? I don't want to be portrayed by these booking sites in this negative light.
- The booking sites are misleading travelers regarding location. One of the home owners on a forum I follow took a last-minute reservation for his property on the Florida west coast. The guest called frantically later that night (she had his contact info after making payment) asking to cancel. When she did the property search for Jacksonville Beach, FL his property came up. She didn't question the location. It was after she read more that she learned the property she booked was actually 5 hours away from where she wanted to be! Again, a ploy by the booking sites to ensure that they get a booking fee by offering numerous available properties, even if they don't meet the specifications of the requester! I don't want to be in the middle of a pickle like this! I've seen a search for "Grand Isle, VT" show properties on the NY side of the lake (a ferry ride away) and in Addison, VT, at least an hour south of our town. If you intended to be in Grand Isle, VT, you may be surely disappointed to find your reservation really isn't there and maybe not even nearby! (Refer to point #1 -- if only there was a means for screening.)
Free-to-book regional listing sites are being developed regularly these last few months as more and more homeowners are finding that the booking sites' goals of attaining service fees does not mesh well with their vacation home rental business. This new development is a benefit to all in this community.
Be sure to check out this list of regional Web sites where it's free to book.
If you haven't quite decided where to go, there's an effort to add vacation rental homes that avoid booking fees to this worldwide map. Zoom in and scroll about the map. Click on a pin to find out details about the property in that area of the world.