Have you taken the leap into online booking and embraced it for your vacation rental property yet?
This month I had a website client, we will call him Mr. H, request that online booking be added to the website that I had designed for his properties.
So, I delved into researching the best options that would work for his booking process and his website design.
However, both of these sites required that the property website be hosted on their server, and they did not offer a widget that I could simply install onto Mr. H's website. So, unfortunately, these two options, and others similar to them, would not work for him.
So I settled in for some nitty gritty research on a lot of options...eek! After sifting through the multitude of booking software available, I narrowed it down to the top 4 possibilities that would work for Mr. H.
Honestly, every single one of the options would work for Mr. H as far as online booking capabilities go. The goal, though, was to figure which ones would not just work, but also integrate with his current booking process while streamlining his workflow to save him time.
A few things about Mr. H and what I was looking for in the online booking widget:
- Booking requests cannot be automatically confirmed but have to be accepted by Mr. H after he gets a chance to look over the request. His properties are also listed on HomeAway and FlipKey, so he doesn't need a chance of accidentally double booking his place.
- The calendar must sync with his listings on HomeAway and FlipKey so that it all stays current with minimum effort from him.
- The booking request process must be easy and intuitive for the traveler entering their desired dates, seeing a total cost, and completing their info to make a booking request.
- The program must process payments safely, securely, and with current industry standards.
- Payments must have PayPal integration, Mr. H's preferred method of payment.
- The program must be geared towards small owners and not be too expensive, as Mr. H only has 4 properties but on 3 different websites since his places are in different locations in the world.
- Bonus would be to have the ability for the guest to sign the rental agreement online during the booking process.
So here we go with a visual comparison chart of important features and then just a few points highlighted and summarized for each system (click here for a larger image). Note that each site has their own comprehensive description of several pages about their abilities, so it is not possible for me to go over all of the information and still keep this post a reasonable length.
This one has everything my client needs, plus several other cool features like a mobile friendly calendar. The best features are in the Pro version, and that is what Mr. H will need to get all of the capabilities that he wants.
With 4 properties, the Bookervillesystem would cost him $17.50 per month, or even less if he subscribes for two or more years at a time since they give a discount for advance payment.
Bookerville supports collecting a security deposit or damage insurance, or even giving the guest the option of choosing which method they would like to do.
On the automated emails, it is capable of sending everything from guest balance due, cleaning crew reminders, and arrival instructions, like the other three systems, but then you also receive a summary notice each night of what emails went out to your guests and support staff.
If you have buy doxycycline multiple properties, you can set up the automated inquiry response email to include your other available properties besides the one that a guest is inquiring about.
The Bookerville FlexMin is a valuable feature that will override your minimum night stay if there is a hole between bookings that doesn't fulfill the minimum night requirement.
There is even a housekeeping module for your cleaners to let you know from their smartphone when they have finished a property, as well as even upload photos of any damages.
Everything needed by my client, and it has an especially easy and clean back end user interface for the owner.
Lodgix also offers integrated accidental damage insurance and all seasons travel insurance with TravelGuard for your guests.
Other optional features for an additional fee include email marketing, employee tracking, and QuickBooks integration.
And another bonus for Lodgix is that they list your property for free on VacationRentalDirect.com ($99/year value).
Fulfills all of Mr. H's needs, and it has a mobile version for Mr. H to utilize to respond to inquiries from his smartphone or tablet.
It also has email tracking built into the the dynamic templates to track if an email is opened and which links the guest clicks on within the email, which is pretty cool.
They also have a feature called the Guest Zone for your guests to log into to view their reservation status and payment information, as well as to download any documents you may have uploaded for them.
This is the most expensive option of the four systems, but that is because it does include a snazzy property website, along with free web hosting and search engine optimization.
This is the only system I found that gives the option of using either their website or an embeddable widget on your own website.
It also has the mobile friendly calendar, which is a huge plus when so many travelers are using a mobile device to search for a vacation rental property.
In addition, VacationRentalDesk has a built in virtual terminal for you to manually input the credit card info if you have taken the payment information by phone or need to charge the guest's card. The receipts can be automatically emailed to the guest as well.
What about customer service with each of these companies?
When I called or emailed them, the owners themselves answered my questions.
As a small biz owner myself, I especially appreciate working with other small businesses.
As you will see when you check out each of the booking software options yourself, any one of these will be an excellent choice for the vacation rental owner with just a single property or a couple properties.
And, they all four expand their capabilities for owners with multiple properties so that an owner will have no issues adding to their inventory of properties in the system.
One more option I thought of...what if HomeAway made their Book It Now and inquiry forms available as embeddable widgets for owners to use on their personal websites?
What do you think?
What if HomeAway promised that the submitted information stayed out of their marketing system since the info was not collected on their site?
What if they promised that they would not recommend other properties to a traveler through this inquiry method?
What if HomeAway wanted to make both the owner and traveler experiences better overall to help further the vacation rental industry as a whole?
Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.
Note: To help me to provide you with valuable information and my kids with socks (my boys are hard on their socks), the links to Lodgix and Bookerville are affiliate links, and I appreciate when you use the links. For VacationRentalDesk, please put my name in the referral field. Thank you!
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