By now, you have probably heard the term, "Book direct" when looking for a place to stay for your vacation. But, like most travelers, you may have questions about what it is, why you should consider, and how to do it safely.
What does "Booking Direct" mean?
Booking direct means booking your vacation directly with the owner of the property rather than through a rental company or through an OTA ("Online Travel Agency") booking site like VRBO, Airbnb, or Booking.com.
Why should I book direct?
1. Save Money
Vacations can be expensive! If you are like me you are always searching for the best price. Did you know some vacation rentals cost 15-20% more depending on the website you use, adding hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to the cost of your stay?
You will always get the best price when you book direct with the Owner - no service fees or commission added on for the middle man!
When you book through OTA websites, you will pay extra fees. These websites also charge the property owners a substantial commission on the rental amount. Owners will pass these fees on to travelers, like you, in terms of a higher nightly rate. So regardless of who they are "charging" the fee, YOU, the guest is PAYING for ALL the fees!
Here is a breakdown of the fees charged by some of the OTAs:
Most Guest service fees are about 14.2% of the booking subtotal, but can be as high as 20%.
Hosts pay a minimum of a 3% fee on the booking subtotal.
Guests are charged a 6% to 15% booking fee of the subtotal.
Hosts pay a 5% commission fee and a 3% payment processing fee, coming to a total of 8%.
No fees directly to the Guests
Hosts pay a 15% commission.
Book Direct with Owner
No booking fees for Guests
No third party fees for hosts to pass on to Guests.
Important Tip: Always compare the total reservation cost (not just the nightly rate) across websites - AFTER you enter your dates.
Here are 2 examples of price comparisons - same property, same dates, booked on 3 different platforms. (Houfy is the equivalent of booking direct because no booking fees are charged.)
2. Better Communication
OTAs insist that, "for your own safety," all communication between Owners/Hosts and Guests be done through their site. How does talk to me, the person you are actually renting from, make you less safe?? It doesn't! The OTAs do this for one reason: to make sure they don't any of their cut of the booking.
What this policy DOES do is keep you, the Guest, and me, the Owner, an arm's length apart. But direct and open communication is important when renting a vacation property! It is important for the Guest and the Owner to develop a trusting relationship so that your experience can be as personalized as possible and so you KNOW you will be dealing with a real person throughout the entire experience.
When you book direct, the Owner is able to call, text, or email you directly with any questions, recommendations, and explanations - and vice versa. No middle man is restricting what we can discuss and what information we chose to share with each other.
3. Special Perks
Many Owners of direct booking sites offer special deals and discounts on their own website or social media accounts. Speaking directly with the Owner guarantees you the best possible rental price, access to special offers and/or last minute cancellation deals.
When you book direct and are a good guest, you develop a relationship with the Owner that makes you a member of their vacation rental family. When you have this relationship, you know exactly what kind of experience you can expect the next time you book the same property. Owners love repeat guests and often give you discounts when you come back again.
How do I book direct?
Not all properties have direct booking websites, but many do! And it is always worth the research to save money! Here are some tips on how to FIND properties that do direct bookings:
1. Search on fee-free sites such as Houfy.
On Houfy, Owners never pay fees or commissions and Guests never pay service fees! All transactions are done 100% between the actual Owner and the Guest.
2. Search your destination on Google maps (or other online maps) and filter by "lodging".
3. Join Facebook groups dedicated to vacation rentals by owners.
There are quite a few, including (but not limited to):
"Alternatives to VRBO, HomeAway, Airbnb, FlipKey, TripAdvisor & Expedia"
"South Carolina Vacation Rentals by Owner (& others specific to your desired area)
"Vacation Home Rentals - No Booking Fees"
"Go Travel Direct"
"Vacation Rentals Booking Direct - No Booking Fees"
:USA Vacation Rentals by Owner"
4. Look for LOCAL area rental sites by searching Google for "(your destination), "vacation rentals" or "book direct". (For example, "Hilton Head book direct") Scroll past the OTA paid ads!
5. Find a specific property you like on an OTA site, then find out if the Owner does direct bookings (without asking)
Many Owners list their properties on multiple OTA platforms, book direct sites, and have their own website as well. Sometimes Guests will message hosts through the OTA platforms asking if they have a book direct site. BUT, these sites forbid hosts from telling you how to book directly. After all, the platforms earn revenue based on commissions.
So here's how to do it:
(1) Identify the property name
Hosts often refer to a property by a specific name such as "HHI Tide 21" or "A Touch of Luxury Log Cabin"
Look near the title or headline of the OTA listing.
If it's not obvious, see if it's mentioned in the listing description and/or reviews.
(2) Google search the property name
If the name is a common phrase, use quotation marks before and after the search term. This tells Google you want to see results with this exact phrase.
Enter the property name along with the city to narrow down your search. If you don't know the exact city, just enter the general area.
(3) Search on social media
Search Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter for the property's business page.
(4) Use the description text
Hosts often use the same text wording on multiple sites.
Copy and paste several text chunks from the listing description.
The more unique the text, the easier to find it in a search.
Test both ways,:with and without quotation marks.
I hope all of your questions about booking direct have been answered and you are on your way to saving money!
Coming up......HOW to BOOK DIRECT SAFELY and AVOID being SCAMMED!
Looking for a beach vacation rental perfect for your family? Check out HHI Tide 21 - a no fees (at all!) vacation rental at oceanfront Hilton Head Beach and Tennis Resort in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. www.hhitide21.com