Unlike in the hotel industry, where the booking fees are passed on to the hotels, these sites are charging guests for the use of their online catalogs. And the charges are not insignificant with an additional 6 to 20 percent surcharge added to the rental rate, which translates to consumers paying hundreds of dollars more just to use these big websites.
But there is hope. With a little extra sleuthing, travelers can avoid fees and guarantee a better experience for their next vacation rental.
When searching for a vacation rental, scroll past the paid listings (that say Ad in small letters underneath them) down to the Google Local listings next to the map. Click on the map find a treasure trove of local listings for vacation rentals.
Convention and Visitors Bureaus and DMOs are tax-funded and provide listings of vacation rental management companies and homeowners. Plus there is an added benefit. Since these sites are funded by tax dollars, guests can rest assured that the listings, management companies, and owners are licensed and providing legitimate vacation experiences.
Using Google image search, travelers can search photos instead of marketplace sites to find the right rental for their family. Additionally, if you find a home you love on Airbnb or VRBO, try copying the picture into Google image search to find the original source of the photo.
If you do find the perfect home on one of the big sites, look for clues in the description, in photo captions, or in reviews leading directly to the owner or manager. If that fails, copy the description into the Google browser to find the direct source of the booking.
Don’t neglect Facebook in the search for a perfect vacation home. Almost all homeowners and managers have Facebook pages. A Facebook search may take as long as a search on Airbnb, but at least you are communicating directly with the owner or manager and saving a ton of money in the process. Plus, there are a ton of great reviews on Facebook.
Many of the best home and deals are not even listed on the big websites because of the costs and headaches of working with these channels. In addition, vacation rental managers and owners have intimate knowledge of the area and their homes and can provide local, insider information that makes the stay exponentially better. Plus, they often have deals and tips on how to optimize your dates and budget.
Besides saving money, booking directly with the vacation home manager or owner provides travelers with an all-around better experience.