Saturday, March 7, 2009
Best Ways to Find Vacation Rental Deals Online
Supply exceeds demand with vacation rentals, which means better deals for you. After failing to sell or rent their property, many home owners have turned their homes into vacation rentals, flooding the market. And those of us with experience in the vacation rental market find ourselves with more cancellations and erratic off-season occupancy. This makes us more likely to flex on price. Here's how to get the best deal on your vacation rental.
1. Start Searching. Look for the hungry owners with an Internet search using the terms "self catering" or "vacation rentals" along with the name of your destination. More than likely, it will turn up the same old third-party rental sites and management companies that mark up the price--but there will be some owner listings as well. And some sites have sections for special rates. Owners have to pay to be listed in these sections, which they do to generate traffic. But sometimes the deals are worthwhile.
2. Go Directly to the Owner. Most rental sites have no contact with the owners. By finding ways to reach owners directly, you cut out the management and listing fees. If the owner doesn't have to pay a third party or $20 to get in the rate specials section, they may pass the savings on to you.
Start with a search using unique terms like "smoke-free," or "hikers vacation rental." The results are more likely to put you directly in touch with an owner.
3. Call, Don't Email. It may not be as fast, but if it puts $100 in your pocket, it may be worth it.
I get about five inquiries a day by email. Most are for dates in the next 10 days that are already booked. Many are for large parties (we have two bedrooms and one person wanted to know if they could bring 14 people). The rest read something like this, "Hi, what's your best rate for these dates?"
I consider myself to be an honest person which means my "best rate" is the rate I post on the websites. This type of email doesn't get much of a response from me or other vacation owners I know. A personalized message or phone call gets our attention. It's a real person, with real interests.
Chat with the owner about the unique term you used to find them, you'll find they may be more willing to discuss a sweet deal if you've expressed genuine interest. It will also give you a sense of what this person is like and if their home is a good match for you or if they're running a scam. Read my article about how to avoid being disappointed when booking online.
4. Be Flexible About Travel Dates. I don't make deals during peak season, Dec-April in the sun belt. I don't make deals for holidays. Why? I don't have to--I can book the place five times over. In the summer, vacation owners in my neighborhood rent for up to one third as much as they get in season. This applies to beach area rentals as well, but their peak season is June-September.
5. Dana's Top Five. I only stay in vacation homes with healthy air quality, low toxin fixtures and furnishings rented by experienced owners. I rarely stay in hotels. These are the sites I do and do NOT use to shop for deals:
HotStays.com does not charge owners to feature their listings and they do not copy listings from other sites which means the information is more likely to be accurate. The site is easy to search. And no, I don't get paid to mention them or anyone else. This is an ad-free site.
Last minute deals on international vacation rentals and villas.
CyberRentals special deals and offers, mostly in the US, they charge the owner to be featured.
Find deals on Scottish cottages.
As for CraigsList, with a few exceptions like the geek-rich cities of Austin and Seattle, I find it difficult to search, filled with strange deals offered by disreputable people, and most owners are very inexperienced. Problems range from owners being unwilling put things in writing like directions and rental terms, they only have one frying pan in the kitchen, or you have drive all over town at odd hours to get the keys which can be difficult if you're driving and can't control traffic jam delays.
And last, but not lease, this site! I often take advantage of deals other vacation rental owners ask me to post. Some never make it to the site because I have people email me about their interests and just connect them right to the owner. Check this blog frequently, I post deals almost every week. Or better yet, subscribe to the feed and you won't miss any.
Photo of Matanzas River Pier at the Riverview vacation rental in St. Augustine, Florida. Rate specials offered May through August.
This blog is for bottom-up dispensers of cool who enjoy eco-travel deals and healthy living. We feel that "the small, the slow, the local, and the personal" will build the new economy. Your comments will help enrich this information for all of us. Please share your tips and experience.