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Vacation Lodging Booking- How can it be improved?

Poll Results: How can the Vacation Lodging Booking process be improved?

This is a multiple choice poll
  • 19% of voters (8)
    More up to date availability calendars.
  • 16% of voters (7)
    Better Photos
  • 11% of voters (5)
    Improved communication/response time from owners and managers
  • 19% of voters (8)
    Ability to book online 24/7
  • 28% of voters (12)
    More competitive rates
  • 0% of voters (0)
    None of the above, the process is perfect
  • 4% of voters (2)
    Other- specify below
42 Total Votes  
post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

As an added incentive, I am currently working on a promo to give away a stay this ski season here.  Details to follow.  Anyone making a legit response to the questions below will get 1 entry into the contest.

 

What are your favorite sites to book ski properties?  What do you like about them?  What can be improved?


Edited by MEfree30 - 9/5/11 at 9:47am
post #2 of 23

 

I'll go first:

I like the VRBO and HomeAway sites. One beef I have is the lack of pictures for many of the properties.  I like when they link to their private sites to give more info.  It also helps to legitimize the posting as I still sometimes fear the fraud factor.  

 

Another thing is that I find too many places to be quite overpriced in comparison to hotels, especially those with ridiculously high cleaning fees.  

 

I don't know if I'd like to book online... I like the communication factor for a big purchase.

 

One thing that I'd like to see is a "bidding" system on properties... or more variance on price depending on demand.  I like to travel on off weeks, and am usually able to haggle the prices down because of this.  If I could just cut through the haggling process and get good prices for non-peak times right up front, that would be better.

 

Does this help?  

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MEfree30 View Post

As an added incentive, I am currently working on a promo to give away a stay this ski season here

 

 

 


PS- Your condo looks very nice... here's hoping Lady Luck is on my side!!!!

 

 

post #3 of 23

Not clear if you are talking about VRBO-style sites or the "virtual travel agent" sites that collect a bunch of commercial listings.

In either case, a more detailed itemization of sleeping arrangements (photos even better) would be nice.  Just saying something like "sleeps 5 to 8 people" doesn't really explain the situation.  

 

For motel accomodations, better info on in-room coffepot and fridge would help.  Some places are explciit, which is great, but some say something useless like "some rooms have mini-fridges."

post #4 of 23

I use VRBO and Homeaway a lot. I also like lots of photos. I also like reviews as it gives you a sense of how place and service was. I don't like surprises. Had a very flaky out to lunch owner once. I like knowing what amenities they have such as hot tub, grill any cool cooking stuff, etc, also, a description of services such as restaurants and stores nearby is helpful. Knowing distance from ski areas is also helpful.  

post #5 of 23

I'm sort of all about ratesredface.gif  I stay in cheap chain motels a lot on ski travel, but also some nice condos once in a while.

Since the spring skiing is so great in your part of CO I think April is a time frame that could be better marketed, including some super lowball accommodations rates.  Just get the bodies out there and folks will spend money on lifts, meals, supplies, souvenirs, gear, accessories, etc. once on site.  I guess I wouldn't expect the property management companies to carry all the burden in a lowball rate scenario, shouldn't the resorts and local business community chip-in to make late, late season deals irresistible?

post #6 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdf View Post

In either case, a more detailed itemization of sleeping arrangements (photos even better) would be nice.  Just saying something like "sleeps 5 to 8 people" doesn't really explain the situation.  

 

 

 

Yeah, I agree with this... a listing of what room has what beds would be a lot better. VRBO is terrible at this. I've always had to go the extra step to contact the owner about this.
 

 

post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the replies so far!
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeSchmoe View Post

 

One thing that I'd like to see is a "bidding" system on properties... or more variance on price depending on demand.  I like to travel on off weeks, and am usually able to haggle the prices down because of this.  If I could just cut through the haggling process and get good prices for non-peak times right up front, that would be better.

 

Does this help?  

 


 

This helps a lot!!!!!!!!!  I was just thinking about this the other day and was going to talk to a friend that is a programmer and in the Vacation Lodging biz about something really similar...
 

 

post #8 of 23

I have used VRBO. I like lots of detail: specifics on beds, internet, kitchen. The thing I like least is the uncertainty of rates and the sometimes deceptive titles that promise low rates "4 BR Beach house from $900/week" only to find that it is 900 in March and it is a mile from the beach. Also the calendar features are sometimes unclear. I like to communicate with the owner prior to rental. I tend to rent last minute and often negotiate a better deal directly with the owner. A feature (auction?) that actively promotes last minute shopping or at least that the owners are interested in bargain rentals at the last minute would be useful. And just to clarify, by last minute I mean last minute like Thursday for a Saturday weekly rental.

post #9 of 23

Above suggestions are good ... especially bedding/floorplan setup, lots of photos, and idea for a bidding system for last-minute rentals. Another thing I like is a very detailed explanation of total costs (cleaning and taxes) as well as the deposit process. 

post #10 of 23

Re: the picture thing.  Not just MORE pics, but larger pics than just thumbnails.  I want to really look at the rooms.  I once relied on pictures a bit much, ended up in a place that, although nice was for people from Lilliput.  Couldn't tell based on the pictures because the pics were like 2 inches by 3 inches and they must have used a heck of a fisheye or something.  As it transpired, when they said smoking outdoors only, that didn't apply to THEM and since their apartment was UNDER the house, the whole place just REEKED of smoke and we left after one night and a messy interlude between VISA, them and myself then occurred as I tried to get deposits back.  Heck of a "learning opportunity".

post #11 of 23

For skiing, where people are going somewhere new a lot of the time and are unaware of how a resort/village is laid out or where a good place to stay for their situation is (family, or people looking for good apres ski, or...), a good description of what is immediately around the area would be helpful. Close to lift, close to ski school, X number of restaurants, no bars close (i.e. better family location), ski services (shop for wax/tune or bootfitter) close by. The internet makes the basics easily to figure out, but at description of the intangibles would be helpful. Some listings do mention parts of these, but some sort of organized way of detailing this that is consistent would help (some people's idea of close by is different than others).

post #12 of 23

I often use VRBO and have have great experiences for the most part. Usually the listings that contact me within 24 hours score bonus points when I am looking to book. I too see the need for better descriptions with not only sleeping accomodations, but property descriptions. I rented a ski in, ski out that neglected to mention that you had to take a double black to access the trail to get to the condo. Not everyone in my party was able to do that.

post #13 of 23

A couple of things come to mind:

 

1-kitchen stuff.  We travel now with our own supply of pots/pans/utensils because we're never sure of what's supplied in the condo.  Sometimes we're pleasantly surprised, other times we're really glad we brought our trusty "kitchen kit."

 

2-internet.  We stayed at a fabulous condo in Snow King last year, and there was actually internet IN the condo, but the owner took the router!  So we had hit-or-miss internet access which was a pain because I had several business proposals I was working on for clients (I know, I need to work less, ski more!).

 

3-parking.  Is the parking provided?  Is there a garage?  Are we allowed to use it?  How do we get in (and out!)? 

 

I guess what it comes down to is more accurate, more thorough descriptions of what's actually in/available.  Pictures are nice too, but more complete descriptions would help a lot.  Tx for asking!

post #14 of 23
Thread Starter 

I didn't look at this all day and am REALLY EXCITED about what I see here...in fact, much of it is very consistent with what I have been working on all day.  Originally, I was doing this to help out a friend with his business, but stumbled upon an idea that has applications way beyond his business.  I have to get all my ducks in order before elaborating publicly, but I think you guys will like it!!!
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveB View Post

For skiing, where people are going somewhere new a lot of the time and are unaware of how a resort/village is laid out or where a good place to stay for their situation is (family, or people looking for good apres ski, or...), a good description of what is immediately around the area would be helpful. Close to lift, close to ski school, X number of restaurants, no bars close (i.e. better family location), ski services (shop for wax/tune or bootfitter) close by. The internet makes the basics easily to figure out, but at description of the intangibles would be helpful. Some listings do mention parts of these, but some sort of organized way of detailing this that is consistent would help (some people's idea of close by is different than others).


I think google maps really helps with this as long as you have an accurate property address and know what type of business you are looking for...doesn't 100% replace an accurate description or inside info you can get from locals or sites like Epic, but it sure cuts down on the surprises.

 

post #15 of 23

I'm interested in family vacations, and I love Smuggler's site.  It's easy to navigate, very family oriented.  More importantly though, all the lodging options are shown in one spot, on one page, no searching through obscure places.  What I really like too is the fact they orient the lodging to a photo, so you know exactly WHERE you're staying in relation to the mountain.  "5 minutes from the hill" doesn't cut it in my opinion.  SHOW me. 

 

I think too many resorts take consumers for granted a bit.  Work for my money and you WILL get it over your competition.  Don't make me do ALL the work, finding, researching, booking, mapping, you name it.  Sure, I have to book but If you do those things for me, make it easy for me, I don't even mind paying a bit of a premium to your resort!  But if you're even a bit cheaper, then I'm sold!!

 

Part of the way to do this is to give me the info I need.  Put yourself in my shoes/boots.  What would I need to know if I've never been to your resort and have a family in tow?  How do I get around?  Where do I park?  Is parking fee separate or included?  Where can I eat in town?  Where can I shop?  Will I have Internet in my room? I want more info.  There's plenty of info about the mountain on these resort websites, but nothing supplementary.  No details about the realities of a "vacation", not just "mountain stats".  There's more to a resort than snowfall and lift stats.  Resorts are trying to sell an experience, so give me that info too.  Not just a picture of the mountains and lodging and then nothing to help me figure out if you have what I need to enjoy my vacation.

 

If I haven't been to your resort, I have no clue what to expect.  Make me want to come to your resort, make it easy, make it pleasurable and non-stressful, and I WILL come back again with my kids and money in tow.  Even more, I will tell all my skiing friends and relatives about your resort and how easy it is to book, what awesome package deals you have (yes, please offer more of these!!), and how fantastic the service was.

 

Please.

 

That's it in a nutshell.


Edited by Gunnerbob - 8/29/11 at 9:30am
post #16 of 23

Unless we see the website you want help with, it's hard to answer your poll. I use vacation rental websites all the time, and none of your criteria apply--the site I like best already does those things.

 

I use alluradirect.com for rentals in Whistler, where we go regularly. I have zero complaints about the site--there are always good pictures, you can check the online availability calendar, rates are broken down by dates, extra fees ie parking or taxes are always listed, I've never had a problem with owners not being responsive, there are property maps and floor plans, and the rates are FAR better than Whistler hotels. The best thing about alluradirect.com is that it provides more protection than VRBO--if a property is not as advertised, you actually have recourse. I'm surprised the people who posted above have so many complaints--the kind of things they are asking for are standard on the site.

 

I also use VRBO for other rentals (skiing in other locations besides Whistler, or summer rentals). I guess here I have seen some of the omissions that some people have complained about, but in that case, I don't even consider the property. If a property doesn't have sufficient photos, info about rates and extra fees, location or all of that very basic info that it should have, that's a HUGE red flag to me. I'm not even going to consider a property where the owner is too lazy (or deceptive?) to give me all of the facts about the place.

 

I don't like the idea of bidding for a place at all. That idea seems to be based on the idea that properties don't discount for slower weeks and charge more for busy weeks--but they DO, in my experience (who doesn't charge more for Christmas or Presidents Day than they do for early Dec, the post holiday period or April???). If you are talking about bidding, you are probably also also talking about paying an entire non-refundable amount up front, which is a drag.

post #17 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Christy319 View Post

Unless we see the website you want help with, it's hard to answer your poll. I use vacation rental websites all the time, and none of your criteria apply--the site I like best already does those things.

 

I use alluradirect.com for rentals in Whistler, where we go regularly. I have zero complaints about the site--there are always good pictures, you can check the online availability calendar, rates are broken down by dates, extra fees ie parking or taxes are always listed, I've never had a problem with owners not being responsive, there are property maps and floor plans, and the rates are FAR better than Whistler hotels. The best thing about alluradirect.com is that it provides more protection than VRBO--if a property is not as advertised, you actually have recourse. I'm surprised the people who posted above have so many complaints--the kind of things they are asking for are standard on the site.

 

I also use VRBO for other rentals (skiing in other locations besides Whistler, or summer rentals). I guess here I have seen some of the omissions that some people have complained about, but in that case, I don't even consider the property. If a property doesn't have sufficient photos, info about rates and extra fees, location or all of that very basic info that it should have, that's a HUGE red flag to me. I'm not even going to consider a property where the owner is too lazy (or deceptive?) to give me all of the facts about the place.

 

I don't like the idea of bidding for a place at all. That idea seems to be based on the idea that properties don't discount for slower weeks and charge more for busy weeks--but they DO, in my experience (who doesn't charge more for Christmas or Presidents Day than they do for early Dec, the post holiday period or April???). If you are talking about bidding, you are probably also also talking about paying an entire non-refundable amount up front, which is a drag.

 

I just checked that site, and it is very well done. Sort of useless if you don't ski in Canada, though? That is the appeal of VRBO, at least there is some sort of consistency over a wide geographical area. But I understand why you use them ... it's very good.

 

I think most places I've seen lately on VRBO do include the types of information requested, just not every single one of them. I don't always consider a lack of information a bad sign; sometimes people are just kind of clueless. But if you are interested, and ask questions, and still don't get answers, yes, red flag. That's never happened before, though. Sometimes I ask a lot of questions and people get tired of answering them and just stop emailing me back. I guess they think I'm wasting their time, but I wouldn't ask questions if I wasn't seriously interested ... their loss....

 

The bidding I was talking about was for last-minute rentals -- if you have a place up for $800 a week, and two days before the week begins,  it is still not leased -- wouldn't you rather make $500 than nothing at all? 

 

Here's one thing I don't like: people who don't update their calendars and make you call so they can tell you that, well, that place is rented, but they have another similar place blah blah blah. And I do prefer to do as much business as possible via email so that I have a written record of conversations. 

 

 

post #18 of 23
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeSchmoe View Post

 

I'll go first:

I like the VRBO and HomeAway sites. One beef I have is the lack of pictures for many of the properties.  I like when they link to their private sites to give more info.  It also helps to legitimize the posting as I still sometimes fear the fraud factor.  

...

I don't know if I'd like to book online... I like the communication factor for a big purchase....

 



 



Quote:
Originally Posted by vsirin View Post

I have used VRBO. I like lots of detail: specifics on beds, internet, kitchen. The thing I like least is the uncertainty of rates and the sometimes deceptive titles that promise low rates "4 BR Beach house from $900/week" only to find that it is 900 in March and it is a mile from the beach. Also the calendar features are sometimes unclear. I like to communicate with the owner prior to rental. ...



 



Quote:
Originally Posted by segbrown View Post

...

 

Here's one thing I don't like: people who don't update their calendars and make you call so they can tell you that, well, that place is rented, but they have another similar place blah blah blah. And I do prefer to do as much business as possible via email so that I have a written record of conversations. 

 

 

 

Thanks again for all the replies...I was going to let this thread wind down on its own, but felt inspired to add the following about online booking systems (a project a good friend has worked extensively on):

 

Online booking systems in and of themselves don't prohibit you from communicating with the owner/manager.

Properties using online booking systems will have their availability calendars automatically up to date (assuming that the calendar is displayed by their booking system and they put all reservations through it)

Online booking systems help to discover what the actual price and availability is without a bunch of emails/phone calls even if you don't end up booking the place

 

Regarding possible fraud, I would say that an "owner's" own website does the least to reduce this possibility- pay godaddy $20 and you can get a website for a year with a private registration.  If you are worried about fraud, I would much prefer to book with an owner who has some sort of 3rd party listing like VRBO or even an online booking system...while these 3rd parties may or may not verify that the guy actually owns the place when he signs up, it does require more than a $20 investment and they will certainly shut him down if someone reports outright fraud (of course, this doesn't help the first guy). 
 

 


Edited by MEfree30 - 8/29/11 at 12:45pm
post #19 of 23

ive used vrbo/homeaway/vacationrentals/cyrberrentals quite a few times.  my major gripes are that the calendars are NEVER up to date (looking around for labor day there were calendars that were last updated in 2010!), sometimes it takes up to a week to hear back from the owner on availability, there is no way to track all your request on the site (i.e. i send out 5 inquiries on vrbo - aside from the email confirm that i sent the inquiry, how can i track them? - this would be a sweet feature on the site, someplace to track and then auto updates if they become unavailable, etc.), and last but not least credit card payment system so that in case of fraud, i have AMEX covering me.

post #20 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by MEfree30 View Post

Regarding possible fraud, I would say that an "owner's" own website does the least to reduce this possibility- pay godaddy $20 and you can get a website for a year with a private registration.  If you are worried about fraud, I would much prefer to book with an owner who has some sort of 3rd party listing like VRBO or even an online booking system...while these 3rd parties may or may not verify that the guy actually owns the place when he signs up, it does require more than a $20 investment and they will certainly shut him down if someone reports outright fraud (of course, this doesn't help the first guy). 

 

 



I agree... sorry I wasn't clear.  I guess what I meant is that the owner's website sometimes have a lot more detail than the VRBO website... details that help "legitimize" the listing.  I.E. it might have more contact info, and possibly a shot of the owner or their families (though this could be fraudulent as well).  It's the combination of VRBO and an supplementary website I guess I was referring to.  And you're right, the cost of getting a VRBO listing greatly filters potential fraudsters.

post #21 of 23

Sort of along the "real-time booking" and inability of most VRBO-type places to have their calendar up to date:

 

It'd be nice, barring the real-time booking fix, to have the site itself track all the places I'd put inquiries into.  It's a pain to send 8 different places emails looking for all the details, info they left out on the posting, availability, etc & then have to go make a spreadsheet to remember who I was bothering about what.  

 

Combine busy work/home life and half the time I feel like I can't remember what property I asked for availability information by the time they get back to me...

post #22 of 23


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeSchmoe View Post

 

Yeah, I agree with this... a listing of what room has what beds would be a lot better. VRBO is terrible at this. I've always had to go the extra step to contact the owner about this.


This is my biggest pet peeve with online booking sites, not just VRBO, but places like Priceline as well. Why do they assume that if it's two people, there's no problem sharing a bed?

 

Next in order of annoyance:

Where is the property really located (I've seen some interesting interpretations of "walking distance") - though I can Google the address myself, should I have to bother? Give me a map right off the bat.

 

Parking: indoor or outdoor and availability. The last place we stayed touted indoor parking, but neglected to mention that while there were 50 units, there were only 20 indoor spaces, 4 or 5 of which were permanently occupied by staff or maintenance equipment. I don't care how cold the car is first thing in the morning, but trying to extricate your rental car after a 2 foot dump using only the cheap snow brush that came with it is not an ideal start to the day.

 

In theory, booking online should be more convenient for all involved; I particularly like the sites that let me compare several options side by side. That said, if I have to call every hotel/condo owner listed to confirm important details, it's no better than the old days when one would thumb through an area's lodging directory and call the places one by one.

 

 

 

post #23 of 23

Having just booked my ski trip this past week to a Summit County Ski Resort, I would say that my biggest complaints were lack of real time availabilty, especially with VRBO.com, and the lack of room/bed descriptions was also up there. Both Homeaway.com and VRBO.com have better rates than you can get with the ski resorts lodging sites. But when dealing with the individual owners of such sites as VRBO or Homeaway, I will always go with an owner who puts forth the extra effort in e-mail and phone communication, even if the price is a bit more. I had several non responses to my queries on both sites. It would be nice to have an auto generated repsonse if something is booked an unavailable for a particular unit, which gets back to my first complaint about real time calendar availability. The other thing that people have mentioned is location of the unit in the ski resort. How hard is to say that the condo is right next to ski lift X? Apparently just saying ski -in/out is good enough for most.

 

It's too bad that owners of condos and homes at ski resort locations don't have the ability to link lodging with other ski resort amenities such as lift passes and on mtn meal discount coupons or something to that effect. I guess that's where the resort booking sites have the advantage. But with my reasearch on ski packages that include lift tickets and lodging, the offerings are pretty lame this early in the season.

 

I noticed that most units on homeaway and VRBO were priced 5%-10%  below what the resorts lodging or ski travel consolidator sites were quoting. So the discounts on lodging are minimal. I wonder how closely resorts are paying attention to this aspect of competition, or demand is such, that resorts and lodging companies don't care?

 

Because the early season package deals that are out there are so weak, it was cheaper for me to book lodging and lift passes separately. I am also highly confident that I can get car rental and airfare to CO for much less than consolidator sites charge for these amenities. Too bad VRBO and Homeaway don't look into some type of marketing arrangements with airliens and car rental companies. Not too difficult to go to hotwire and rent an SUV at DEN for 50% off the current major car rental company rates, which are rediculous by the way. Airfare sales are common place, and I will just bide my time for an airfare sale. After booking ski trips for the past 14 yrs, you get pretty savy about saving a dollar here and there. Just means you spend those saved dollars buying new ski gear!smile.gif

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