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When you are planning a vacation getaway to Gatlinburg, TN, you may be wondering what’s the best way to book a vacation rental: directly with the property owner or through sites like Airbnb or VRBO?

If you search Google for “Airbnb Gatlinburg” or “VRBO Gatlinburg” you will see many cabins for rent in the Gatlinburg area. What you may not see are the disadvantages of not renting directly with the owner.

While booking a vacation rental on Airbnb and VRBO have become popular among travelers, making a reservation with the owner offers you a host of benefits many travelers are unaware of.

We’ve highlighted a few of the top benefits of booking direct below for you.

Save Money

book gatlinburg cabin direct save money

When you reserve a property on booking sites like Airbnb, you will usually end up paying substantially more than if you simply contacted the owner of the rental and booked directly with them. A simple Google search can help you find the same or similar properties minus the extra fees.

Websites like Airbnb and VRBO act as a middleman between the traveler and the owner. Neither of these services owns or manages properties. Their business model is primarily based on charging fees to both property owners and travelers.

When you use a third-party website to make a booking, fees are added to every reservation. In many cases the fees can cost hundreds of dollars more than what the property owner actually charges.

VRBO booking fees can range from 4% to 9% based on the rental’s price. These hefty booking fees can eat into a family’s vacation budget, reducing what properties fit within a traveler’s budget and possibly limiting the activities a traveler can partake in while on vacation.

While it’s free for an owner of a vacation rental to list their property on Airbnb there is a host service fee of at least 3%, usually closer to 9%, for bookings made on the site.

As a general rule, an increase in cost for a business usually ends up being an increased cost for the consumer – you the traveler!

On some booking sites you will be charged based on the amount of guests you travel with, even if the owner does not charge more for additional guests.

It’s understandable how travelers can feel these fees are hidden, especially when they are lumped together with other charges like local taxes in applicable locations, daily rates, occupancy fees, security, and cleaning fees.

Additionally it’s a common practice for booking sites to disguise booking fees by calling them “service fees.” In many cases, you won’t know about these charges until you reach the end of your booking, but choosing to work directly with the owner takes away any surprise costs and boosts transparency for both sides.

Apart from the fees Airbnb and VRBO charge guests, some booking sites like charge even larger commissions to the owner.

These fees can range from 10% to 20% of the booking income, but more often than not, it’s the traveler who ends up paying for some or all of these commission fees in the form of higher rates.

So while booking sites have different fee structures, the truth is, you’re paying more!

Increased Transparency & Communication

airbnb vrbo hidden booking fees owner direct

Because fees tend to take travelers off guard as they complete their booking (and in some cases, guests don’t even realize they’ve had costs added to their bill), there is often a sense of dishonesty or lack of communication.

Speaking to the owner and skipping the third-party platform makes the transaction more personal and transparent. All charges can be broken down and questions can be asked directly to the owner via phone or email.

When booking on third-party booking sites, you may find it difficult to contact the owner directly should you have a question or concern. Booking sites will often restrict how you can communicate with the property owner, making the process more difficult for you.

Without obstacles in the way, there is a boost in conversation and a better understanding of what the booking entails.

Speaking to the owner at the point of booking also ensures that expectations are met for both sides. Travelers can ask questions and will have a clearer picture of what they will receive with their reservation.

A Better Experience & Service

gatlinburg vrbo airbnb best vacation rental cabin

Another major benefit of communicating directly with the owner is travelers can also find out about things to do nearby and what to avoid. They get personalized recommendations that can’t be found on third-party sites, even before they book.

Communicating directly with the owner of a vacation rental gives travelers access to a local expert. This direct access gives travelers a better sense of who the owners are, their property standards, where you’re staying, and what you’re renting to help you make more informed decisions about your vacation earlier in the process.

While traveling you want to know your needs are met and that you have a trusted resource at every turn. Speaking with a person and eliminating an impersonal booking platform will help. In many ways, nothing tops the experience of working with a live person.

So the next time you consider searching for an “Airbnb Gatlinburg” or “VRBO Gatlinburg” try searching for the owner instead!

Need help with your Gatlinburg vacation planning? Contact us, we’re happy to help you!

If you’ve enjoyed our Airbnb Gatlinburg article, you may like our recent blog “The Best Places To Stay In Gatlinburg!”