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Never Pay Florida Vacation Rental Service Fees Again

tampa vacation home no feesNo matter if your Florida vacation is a lifetime’s dream or an annual family ritual, there are many changes to keep in mind this year, first Hurricane IRMA’s impact.  Slightly more than 2 million homes were impacted with heaviest FEMA filings in South Florida. So, resist Instant Book and ask the property owners about their home, homes in the neighborhood etc. 

Since last February there has been massive consolidation in Online Travel websites and vacation rentals have multiplied.  But more than a few permanent residents don’t feel very welcoming to this ever-revolving door of new people week after week in their tight-knit neighborhoods.  Along with that, service fees. Select communities’ and city leaders feel many new listings run afoul of residential zoning rules, and many post properties that may be dodging sales and bed tax, condo rules, or apartment leases, and guests are irritated with Service Fees imposed by the travel websites. 

To help you find the ideal vacation, consider my 2017 top tips for finding the perfect vacation rental at the best price.  As over 60% of American vacationers have yet to try a vacation rental, if this is a new idea also look at my 2015 top tips.

Lowest cost per night may not be cheapest

All properties advertised prices are pre-tax and usually without consideration of cleaning charge and often come with a whole host of ‘optional extras’ that you can’t avoid paying out for. When planning your trip, it’s good to remember that High and Peak Seasons are the time you’ll can expect a Florida vacation home rental will be 45-55% less compared with area hotel rates.  With a vacation rental you’ll often be living in 2 to 5 times the space of the average 450 sq. foot hotel room. In the Off Season, hotels with rooms to fill are much keener to match vacation rental rates. Remember also that a hotel isn’t the same as a vacation rental home. Vacation rental properties are increasingly seeking to offer a unique experience, where every detail is designed to complement their locale and the kind of break their guests are seeking, whereas hotels focus on giving a standard experience wherever you are in the world.

Use trusted travel sites

When looking for a longer stay, HomeAway or Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO) may have the ideal place for longer stays – for example if you search on ‘Tampa FL’ you’ll find Erehwon Retreat listed.  If your trip is a last-minute getaway AirBnB often offers excellent options particularly home shares in which the owner is present.

Trust your instincts, and your host’s instincts

Travel portals can be great, but remember algorithms rob us of the opportunity to be exposed to things we haven’t already endorsed. They place us within a prison of our own predetermined desires. We only get what we have wanted previously and nothing else.  This is a limiting way to travel. Further, they increasingly are making changes that remove your email and phone number and don’t provide guests the property owners phone number or give the property owner any information about you. Many proprietors have set up their own websites to let you book direct and avoid the 9-16.4% service fees now being charged and in many sites offer a discount.

Read reviews

Whichever Online Travel Agency your potential vacation rental is listed on, reach deep into the review process and see what people have to say. Many properties are also reviewed on YELP, FOURSQUARE, TRUST PILOT, Google.  It’s a disaster to discover your property changed hands and the new owners didn’t earn the rave reviews you read online. It’s also good to look at photographs taken by guests and ask the owner for more photos than are shown online to get a real sense not just of the property but of its location and the neighborhood. Google Street View can help give you a sense of what you’re renting.  Keep in mind, Street Views are updated every three to five years. While OTAs make it easy to set up as a vacation rental owner, it takes a real commitment to become part of the Hospitality business. For example, I look five years ahead when planning for Erehwon Retreat and call upon eight years of successful vacation hosting to ensure that guests have a unique experience. That’s why at Erehwon Retreat our refresh program ensures every tiny detail makes your vacation special, as our Eight or Great post makes clear.