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21 May 2018
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Online travel agencies, like HomeAway, VRBO®, and Airbnb make it easy to search a wide variety of accommodations, but what you gain in convenience you lose in benefits and protections. Even worse is the price you pay for this convenience - 4% to 20% of your total reservation costs. Over the years, this cut has grown, limiting where you can vacation and how long you can get away. But there is a way around this. You can save money and avoid fees when you book directly with a property manager or owner.

When you book direct, you'll enjoy some distinct advantages. Here are 5 of them:

1. You'll find the lowest price

Look closely before you book. The prices quoted by HomeAway, VRBO, and Airbnb are usually higher than on a vacation rental manager's website. This can happen for two reasons, the first is service fee-related. Each third-party site charges you a different amount to book online. The service fee is never advertised because it varies based on the home itself and your corresponding stay dates.

The pay-per-booking model is another reason the rates can be higher on these websites. Airbnb, for instance, charges property managers and owners a percentage of each booking made but allows the rates to be padded to cover this additional cost to the homeowner.

2. You have more leverage and better customer service 

When the reservation is between customers and businesses, it's quick and easy because there are only two parties involved. Add a middle-man like HomeAway or VRBO and things can get messy in the event of discrepancies and cancellations. 

If you don't book directly in such cases, you're typically pointed to a call-center in another country where you have to sit on hold for hours on end to ask a simple question about a property, dispute a charge, or modify your reservation. Not to mention, it can take weeks to see a refund because of issues with credit card processors and merchant of record responsibilities. And if an emergency issue arises at the property during your stay, it can take hours to get a proper response from someone locally.

When you book directly with Five Star, from the time you make the reservation until your departure, 

3. You can take advantage of special deals and discounts

Much like hotels, rental managers in Destin and 30A offer a number of deals and discounts that can be applied to a reservation when booked directly through their website or reservation department. From BOGO deals to deep discounts, you can always save on your vacation by booking direct.

4. You'll find accurate availability

Availability is fed daily from property management systems to HomeAway, VRBO, and Airbnb, but it may not be reflected as quickly as the changes happen. This can be especially tricky if you're trying to decide on a vacation rental. One minute the property could be open and the next it could be booked.

Reservations that are made directly aren't subject to this uncertainty. Our calendars instantly update on our website so you know when a property is available.

5. You'll earn benefits and loyalty currency

However you decide to book the first time around, your loyalty will not go unnoticed when it comes time to book again. Each and every time thereafter, we offer guests an exclusive repeat guest discount.

The bottom line is that it pays to book direct. 

Online travel sites like HomeAway, VRBO, Airbnb, and are great for perusing options. You can and should continue to search on these sites, but when you've found the home you'd like to rent be sure to Google the home name or property management provider found in the description and book directly with the source.

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