Sunshine Villa Florida

Why And How You Should Book Your Next Vacation Rental Direct

6 reasons to book direct

February 6 is National #bookdirect day.  How did this come about? Within the last few years, big listing sites such as Homeaway started to charge travellers booking fees on top of the owners fees to list on their sites. They also made it so that contact information between guests were blocked so there was no communication outside of their booking platforms.  Many vacation rental owners took a stand and started to build their own websites and social media pages in order to take direct bookings and save on extortionate fees.

Travel sites like AirBnB, HomeAway/VRBO, and TripAdvisor/Flipkey have added booking fees to either the traveler, the owner and sometimes both when you reserve a vacation property through one of their sites.  These fees do NOT go to the owners, but rather to corporate giants such as Expedia.  Book with confidence? Payment protection? The sites claim to offer protection but in reality, they will ask the traveler to initiate a charge back if the rental is inhabitable or does not exist. You get that with your credit card anyway so what are you really paying for?  They claim to find you another place but it’s not always possible in peak season when majority of properties are booked or, you may end up in a sub-par property or in one miles away.  If you could book directly with the owner, you could save these large fees and use them instead toward activities, souvenirs or meals.

The large sites have eliminated owner contact info, and they withhold your contact info from the owners making it challenging to book direct.  They also monitor emails so if you try to enter your contact info in your message, it will be blocked out so the owner will not see it.  Not only that, the sorting algorithms are designed to push travelers to book properties that will help THEIR bottom line, not yours. This is all done to ensure that they get their greedy fees.

Why should you book direct?

  • Save the booking fees you are charged. In some cases, this could be in the hundreds!
  • Direct contact with the owner or property manager will expedite any questions or issues that may arise.
  • The lowest price will not be on listing sites.  Owners may increase their rates on these sites to account for the fees they are charged.
  • Many rental property owners have removed their homes from these sites. You may miss out on a great property.
  • Owners have intimate knowledge about the destination and the property itself. Ask your questions like best restaurant or beach.
  • Take comfort in knowing that the house you booked is the one you will be staying in.  Many big listing sites allocate your property on arrival.

So how do you book direct and save yourself hundreds of dollars?

  • First, look at the sort. On HomeAway/VRBO, do not use the default sort.  Instead, sort by number of reviews.  And in the filters, select Owner Operated if you truly want to book with an owner rather than a realty company.  On TripAdvisor, likewise sort by reviews.
  • Use Google search. On the listing itself, look for clues.  Many owners will highlight the name of their company or their business, for example “Sunshine Villa Florida- Your house near the Mouse” or “Another Day in Paradise Chincoteague.”  This can lead you to their Google listing, their own website, or the property’s Facebook page.  Also, if you Google the owner’s name, their contact information is often readily available on the web.
  • What if the owner hasn’t dropped any of these subtle hints? Try, which has contact info for 70% of the VRBO listings that were in effect in 2016 or earlier.
  • Check if the owner has a social media page like Instagram or Facebook and contact them through there
  • Support the smaller no fee booking sites like:,, or

How to rent safely:

  • Check the owner’s online reviews. Also, try to determine ownership.  Many counties have tax records available online.
  • Google search the owner’s name, the property name, and any other information you may have gathered about the owner. This will help you to rent safely.
  • Ask for a rental agreement. Many owners will also allow you to pay by credit card or PayPal.  Ask to do that if paying by check makes you uncomfortable.


How staying in a vacation home on your next Disney vacation will save you money (and your sanity)

saving money in a vacation home

Walt Disney World can be described as many things: Magical, whimsical, delightful, fun, exciting, exhilarating to name just a few.   But cheap is not one of them. Especially when it comes to travelling with families.  We’re here to tell you how you can save money (and your sanity) by staying in a vacation rental like Sunshine Villa Florida.

Booking direct

Booking direct is the sure fire way to yield our lowest rates. Big travel sites charge the guest and owners booking fees.  Why give this money to those sites when the booking fees you will save by booking directly can go towards other things like parking, souvenirs or snacks. Always #bookdirect


More space = less money? You may be surprised to learn that this is accurate.  You can find vacation homes for less than the cost of a value resort. Why is a home better? To me, spending my downtime after a long day at the parks in a cramped hotel room with kids is not my idea of relaxation or fun. With a vacation home, children and parents will have their own rooms and bathrooms. Some homes are even large enough to fit 2 families (like ours) allowing families to share in the rental costs.


Day after day, hour after hour in the Walt Disney World parks can take its toll on the little ones- not to mention the adults! We’re exhausted, it’s hot, everything is sore and kids will have meltdowns. The easiest way to combat the meltdown is to take time away from the theme parks. In the past, we have left the park mid-afternoon to come back home to recharge either by taking a nap, or cooling down in the pool before heading back for the fireworks.  Taking an entire day away from the parks is also a good idea.  With all the onsite amenities that we have to offer, like the slide and lazy river the kids won’t complain they aren’t at the parks.


Remember, unless you score free dining food comes at a premium price when staying onsite. Don’t waste your precious time waiting in line ups to get you & your family food. Prepare and eat breakfast in our fully equipped kitchen before you head out to the parks.

Buying food in the parks is costly.  With a fully equipped kitchen you can prepare & pack snacks/sandwiches and drinks to take with you to the parks. Yes they allow it! We even provide you with a cooler & ice packs if you choose to use one.  Groceries can be purchased online and delivered to the home or purchased at the local grocery store within walking distance.

Tip: Freeze water/juice bottles in the freezer the night before so it can thaw gradually throughout the day and remain cold.


I don’t like being tied to a schedule. Especially when kids are involved. When travelling with children, it’s nice to leave when you need to leave. While Disney transportation is free, we have waited hours for buses and ferry’s, especially during peak times and when the parks are closing- everyone just wants to get home.  We always search the internet for the best price on car rentals and rent a vehicle. You can find discounts through Costco, and sites such as Hotwire. Sign up for reward programs like Alamo Insiders to get the lowest rate.

Child Equipment:

When travelling with children there are loads of things we need to bring. You shouldn’t have to worry about where your children will be sleeping and how to get them around.  Many vacation home owners provide free use of items such as cribs, play pens, bed rails, strollers and safety gates (we do!).  Some resorts have these items available at a daily cost when staying on property.


Of course you can purchase your tickets directly through Disney, but normally base 1 day tickets are not discounted. You can find some deals online through websites like Undercover Tourist, Mousesavers and even purchasing them through our Expedia counter situated at front reception when you check in.  Other discounts may be available through CAA/AAA, Military discounts, and multi-day tickets.

Don’t forget to read our guide of dollar store must have items to take to the parks with you. Being prepared in advance will save you money in the end.

We hope we have provided you with some insight as to why we feel staying in a vacation home is in many ways a better option for families.  Whichever you choose, we wish you a magical vacation!

After sharing all our money saving tips, what would you spend your savings on?

Why Book Direct With An Owner?

book direct

Why book directly with us?

There used to be a time when Vacation Rental owners could simply advertise their homes for rent and field calls and emails from travelers. We like to call this “Before 2015”. VRBO was a fantastic venue for Owners and Renters to find each other. Owners paid a flat fee to advertise and Renters could find the perfect house for their family vacation. Then, along came Expedia and AirBnB. Expedia bought VRBO and AirBnB became a national phenomenon. This changed everything for Owners and Travelers alike. AirBnB started charging travelers “booking fees” of 6-12% and owners 3% for handling the credit card transactions. Owners increased rates to cover the CC fee and now travelers were paying 9-15% on top of their rental fees. Expedia, in trying to recover some of their $4 billion purchase of HomeAway/VRBO started doing the same thing. That means on your “$2,000” family vacation you may get hit with an additional $300 in “booking fees”. Some sites charge even more!

Not only are you looking at paying significantly more, but both companies prohibit travelers and owners from communicating directly with each other. If you have specific questions about the area or the house, your only option is to send messages back and forth using VRBO’s messaging platform. You can’t pick up the phone and talk to the owner or email the owner direct.  That is strictly forbidden!  These major listing sites are using scare tactics such as “Million dollar guarantees” and warning of fake owners with fraudulent listings. But the reality is, only a “real owner” is going to take the time to build and maintain their own property website. In this day and age it is very easy to identify the true owner of a property. Simply go to the county’s website and look up the property address in the tax records and you will see the name of the owner. VRBO and AirBnB don’t even bother with this simple verification. Besides, if you are using the same credit card to book directly, your credit card company affords you the same guarantees.

We do advertise our property on VRBO and AirBnB, and take bookings when people contact us through them. Those sites still bring in the majority of searches so we can’t afford not to list with them. But if you don’t mind doing a little more research you can find the owners of the properties online and contact them directly. Many owners are getting smarter and having their own web presence, and naming their sites and properties the same so it becomes easier to find!

So, take a minute and see if you can book directly with the owner. When you book directly, you are saving money, money that is better spent on a nicer home, a day at the amusement park or a nice family dinner at a restaurant.


Some tips for booking directly:

  1. Try local or regional listing sites like or These “By Owner” listing sites are trying to re-create the direct-to-owner experience that VRBO used to offer, including not charging renters any booking fees. Give them a try.
  2. Use FaceBook. Lots of owners have their own pages for their vacation rentals. You can search by area or name. Also, check for a local or regional “group” like the Vacation Homes By Owners Only group. You will find many owners on these groups and you can post what you are looking for or ask for recommendations.
  3. Use StaySavr to unveil owner contact info on VRBO. You can either use their new look up tool at or install the browser extension called “staysavr” in your browser. It is available from . Once installed, you can visit VRBO and a reported 70% of the listings will now show the owner’s phone # or email address and you can contact them directly! Either option is a great way to save big $.
  4. Use the major listing sites to search for properties you like.
    • Make note of the “name” the owner has given the property….like Sunshine Villa Florida or Beach Haven 7. Then go to Google and search for that name, chances are the owner has a website that will allow you to book direct.
    • If you are using Google’s Chrome browser, simply right click on the main photo of the house and select “Search Google for image” to find that image on the web. There is a good chance the owner uses the same images on his own site.

Once you have found the owner’s contact info or website, ask if you can book directly. Chances are most owners will jump at the opportunity. In terms of saving money, ask the owner how you can save money booking direct.

Happy Travels.

Book Direct Day!

book direct

Today, February 7, starts the #BookDirect Campaign to save travellers money across the US and around the world. Individual vacation rental owners, property managers, and “No Fee” travel sites are all coming together to promote the idea of “Booking Direct” to save you money. The big travel sites like HomeAway, AirBnB & TripAdvisor are all now charging exorbitant fees to travellers who book their vacations online. These fees can add 17% to the cost of your vacation! Just think of what you could do with an extra $400+ to spend on your vacation. You could give that money to Expedia…. or take your whole family out for a nice dinner. Or rent an even nicer house. Or stay an extra night. Or take a helicopter ride. It’s your money, spend it how you like!

The Savings are Real!

Not only are they charging you hundreds of extra dollars, but none of them will let you speak directly to the human being who owns the house. If you have questions about the house, want to know a little more about the area, or have special needs you would like to discuss with the owner, you are forced to send messages back and forth through their system. No emails, no texts, no phone numbers. You are about to spend thousands of dollars of your hard earned money, and you can’t even pick up the phone and talk to the person you are renting from?

One last thing.
Whether you plan to stay with us in the future, or take your next vacation somewhere else, do yourself a favour and #BookDirect with the owner and save money!