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How to be an Informed Traveler

26 Jan 2017
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The way people research and book vacation homes and condominiums has changed over the past few years with sites like VRBO, Homeaway, Flip Key/Trip Advisor and Airbnb coming in to play. While these sites play a role and can be great resources I believe you will receive a higher level of customer service, and often times better rates, when you book directly with a homeowner or property management company.
By all means, use these sites to do your homework, but also realize that these are money making businesses and they are not always as impartial as you might believe. For those of us appearing on these intermediary sites, we pay a fee to be listed (the exception to this is Airbnb that charges us a fee when a property is booked). In addition, some of the intermediaries add in a booking fee to the client when you utilize their site to secure your reservation.
Below are my tips for how you can be an informed traveler, get a great rate and receive great customer service!
1. Everyone has a favorite site to use for travel research. Keep using these, but don't just limit yourself to one. Cross reference on a number of sites. For example Trip Advisor/Flip Key and Homeaway/VRBO may show some of the same properties but they have different review systems that are unique to their sites. Reviews are a great way to get more information about a rental. Be sure to look at all of the reviews and read the management company/owner's responses. You can learn a lot about a rental company/owner in how they respond to the not so great reviews.
2. Absolutely send an inquiry from your favorite site but wait to book. If possible, do a booking/inquiry request and be sure to ask questions. Asking questions and receiving responses is a good indicator of the customer service you will receive.
3. If you can, find out the name of the management company then search to see if you can find that company's site and contact them directly. By contacting the company you will get first-hand knowledge of a property and be able to ask specific questions to decide if a rental is right for you. In addition, you may also get discounts that are not available when you go through the intermediary.
4. Google the company and read current reviews.
5. Cross check with the local chamber and visitor's bureau. For those wanting to insure they are renting a legitimate property, this is a great way to check.
6. In some areas you can also check with the "main attraction's site". In the case of Alta, you can check the Alta Ski Area site, Visit Salt Lake and Ski Utah. These are all great places to look for accommodations and give you the peace of mind that you are booking with a real company/person.
7. If something seems too good to be true it probably is...always make sure that you do your homework before putting money down on a property.
Finally, I have been in this business for more than 25 years. My goal when working with clients is to help them find the best vacation option to meet their needs. I love our area and want to share this experience with other visitors, even if that means they end up staying with a competitor or in a hotel. By sharing my knowledge with them, I hope they will have an amazing trip and look me up on their next vacation to our area.