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  • Sunkissed & Salty

Booking Direct - A Solution to Regaining Control of Vacation Spending

Updated: May 22, 2021

The launch of vacation rental sites such as VRBO, Airbnb and other online travel sites began coming onto the scene in the mid 1990's; and their existence was lauded by both vacation guests and vacation home owners for years.

Guests had the sophisticated equivalent of Google, but solely designed to find "the perfect" vacation rental in nearly every possible destination world-wide. Property owners and management companies suddenly had a tremendous amount of access to a new wave of potential guests seeking use of their properties.

Everything was AWESOME! But then....

Those two words, "But then" point towards an evolution. Clearly "change" is inevitable. It is something we all have to adjust to constantly, but the end results are either for good or bad. These search engine companies discovered (maybe they knew all along) their potential financial net worth; and the effort to begin cashing in on their platforms became the primary goal.

That was the shift. The relationship we came to know and trust was in someone or something else's hands.

What went from manageable listing fees paid for solely by owners and management companies, soon evolved to a guest "service fee" - a percentage based fee determined by the value of the vacation home rental package a guest reserved. That's right, they started charging the guest for using their site to book a house. The return? A promise of insuring every home listed, and every reservation made and paid for using their site was backed by 24/7 "support" and a "guarantee" that the property booked is valid and available.

Wasn't that assumed all along?

I know our guests assumed that! Make no mistake, every property listed and every reservation made on any site should be validated in more ways than one. It's a win-win for us all; and any bad actors should be identified and removed.

The change, though, was only getting started.

Next came the withholding of key identification information and limited indirect messaging capabilities between the vacation rental guests and the property home owner or property management company until the reservation was made and paid. When some of these companies became publicly traded, or sold out to other publicly traded corporations, the guest fees went up, and new fees were added to the mix - this time they added percentage based fees for property owners. As of this post, they now charge between 8 and 10% of the total booking to both guests and homeowners.

So, if you're with me this far, you may be asking "What's your point?" or "Where do I go from here?". First, let me make sure you understand we're not against listing sites, and we're not against corporate profits. Vrbo and Airbnb serve a certain segment of the overall population and industry well. For that, they deserve to charge what people will willingly pay. For others, possibly this is you, the ability to change how you search for and book a vacation rental isn't a one-way street or a patented process.

Here's a few tried and true methods to save you money that can be put to better use as you learn to search and book direct:

  • If you’ve found a home on one of the major vacation rental sites, before you book it and accept their extra fees, Google search that vacation home property name and city to see if the owner has an independently owned, managed and bookable website like you've done here at

  • Check out regional listing sites like Florida Rental By Owners for your next vacation property. These sites are no less trustworthy as they have excelled in placing all the safeguards necessary for validating properties listed on their site. The best news is they do not charge any guest any fees - ever. Our listing can be found there at

  • Search for vacation property managers in an area you want to visit. They host tens to hundreds of homes in their marketplace. They'll be glad to help you identify the property that best fits all of your needs - minus the added fees.

  • If you return to a particular vacation destination frequently, we suggest driving, biking or walking around the areas you love most. Notice and write down the contact information on rental signs posted in front of vacation rental properties. Note: it's not appropriate to knock on the door or walk around to check it out without prior communication and approval.

In the end, nationally recognized vacation rental sites absolutely serve a purpose and their business model works for millions of people. My parting question to you is “are you satisfied with the status quo in vacation rental home booking sites (if so, continue doing so), or are you ready for change - change you can effectively control?“.

Welcome to the idea of booking direct...

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