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Monthly Archives: January 2013

While we admit your vacation rental will be fine 9 times out of 10, damage is bound to happen at some point. When it comes to your rental, we feel it is better to be safe than sorry. The damage protection insurance will take care of anything from a lamp being knocked over to the $5,000 catastrophe.

You may think security deposits are an effective way to put your mind at ease but you also have to think about keeping your guests happy too. Travelers spend a lot of time and effort in searching for the perfect vacation rental. With the average booking costing $1200, many travelers will shy away from properties with high security deposits. Even though travelers are most likely to have their deposit returned upon checkout, having an additional start up charge of $300-$500 is enough to make potential guests hesitant to book.

Besides losing prospects, security deposits can be a hassle for both you and your guests. Last Memorial Day weekend my friend rented the perfect beach house on the Cape for ten of our friends. We all had a great time but over the weekend one of our clumsier friends dropped a small stack of dishes. We also managed to crack a plastic deck chair that we used for home plate in our Wiffle ball game (which turned out to not be a good idea). At the end of our stay we wrote an apologetic note saying we understand that some money may have to be taken from our deposit.

Two weeks later my friend, who put the deposit down, called me saying that the owner charged us the whole $250 deposit for our damages. She argued that the dishes and plastic chair couldn’t possibly come to $250 but the owner wouldn’t budge. We swallowed our pride and just decided to accept the deposit loss. Even though the house was an ideal fit for us, we are booking a different vacation rental for next year’s Memorial Day weekend. We’re making our trip into an annual getaway and this particular owner lost out on us as returning guests for years to come.

Had we had the option during booking to elect for insurance, we wouldn’t have thought twice about it. Obviously it is easier to say we’d take the insurance after our deposit dispute, but when you break down the numbers it makes sense. If the $35 insurance plan was added to our booking total, it only would have been an additional $3.50 per person (instead of the $25 we each paid) for up to $1,000 in damages. I think we would all agree that paying a collective $35 is worth the possibility of losing $250.

More importantly the insurance plan will keep YOU happy! The arguments of damage cost with guests are completely avoided as the insurance will take care of it. Above all, the insurance financially protects you much more than a security deposit. With the guests paying less up front and you getting more coverage, the insurance is a must!

Insurance Plan Options

$1,000 in coverage at a cost of $34.99

$3,000 in coverage at a cost of $39.99

$5,000 in coverage at a cost of $49.99

 

Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is hard to avoid during early February. For a few weeks during the coldest part of winter, pink hearts, chocolates and romantic comedies are all but impossible to escape. For those who want to break the mold and avoid overpriced Valentine’s Day dinners, standard-issue gifts of flowers and jewelry, or (alternatively) feeling alone for 24 hours, here’s a simple solution: take a trip. Restaurants and hotels aren’t the only ones offering Valentine’s Day specials. Many vacation rentals also offer great deals during this celebration of romance. Whether you travel as a couple or fly solo, nothing answers Valentine’s Day’s call like complimentary champagne, a good deal and a great view. Here are our picks for a long-weekend escape to either stay away from the Valentine’s Day propaganda, or actually enjoy some one-on-one time with someone you love…

ard na mara cottage1. A Bottle of Bubbly in Bertraghboy Bay
This spacious holiday home in Roundstone, Ireland, has everything you need for a peaceful retreat. It’s the perfect size for couples or a small group of friends. Enjoy a complimentary bottle of bubbly when you book a stay for Valentine’s Day.

2. A Week of Romance and Warmth
Get cozy by the fire, or uncork a bottle of champagne in the hot tub. This Sevierville rental offers a 3-night package complete with bubbles, or book six nights and get the seventh for free.

3. Champagne and Chocolates in Galloway
Book a 7 night stay for yourself and your loved one, and receive complimentary bottle of champagne and box of handmade chocolates.

My old Kentucky Home4. Champagne and Roses in Kentucky
Enjoy a quietly luxurious retreat in the heart of Kentucky’s equestrian region. It may be early for mint juleps and derby hats, but the champagne and roses should help make the weekend memorable.

Japonica Cottage

5. Hartland Haven
This peaceful one-room cottage in Devon offers a relaxing retreat with incredible ocean views and an on-site spa. One reviewer hints that you may even be welcomed with a bottle of bubbly to help you settle in.

5 10329

Picks from U.S. Freeskiing Team Athlete and 2014 Winter Games Hopeful

Here at FlipKey, we’re looking forward to watching some on-snow action during the 2013 Winter X Games taking place in Aspen, Colorado this weekend. We had the pleasure of catching up with U.S. Freeskiing Team Athlete and 2014 Winter Olympic Games hopeful, Keri Herman, to get the inside scoop on Keri’s top 10 ski destination picks around the world. Based on ski towns and resorts Keri has visited between competitions, practice and just for fun, she gave us the skinny on where FlipKey travelers should head next time they want the ultimate ski vacation.

Check out Keri’s top 10 picks below, along with links to excellent vacation rentals in the area. Plus make sure you tune into the X Games this weekend to see how Keri and the rest of the U.S. Freeskiing team does at the games.

Breckenridge, CO 650111. Breckenridge, CO
Not only is Breckenridge Keri’s “home mountain,” where she has lived the past ten years, but she also touts this Colorado ski town for exceptional nightlife and awesome restaurants. Travelers can expect big mountain skiing for all levels and a lively après scene.

2. Wanaka, New Zealand
Keri explains that in this area of New Zealand, “everything is an adventure.” Travelers can expect a town full of folks looking to explore the outdoors, and during the winter, local ski mountains Treble Cone and Snow Park offe phenomenal big mountain skiing and a ski park.

Whistler, BC 3569753. Whistler, B.C.
Beyond being an exciting ski town with miles of mountain to explore during the day, Keri emphasizes that everyone who hangs in this area is super welcoming, so if you’re making a solo trip skiing, Whistler is the spot for making fast ski buddies.

4. Laax, Switzerland
“Cozy” is the word that keeps popping up when Keri describes this ski destination nestled in the mountains of Switzerland. If travelers are looking for a more secluded, off-the-beaten track spot for their next ski vacation, Laax should fill that need.

5. Serfaus, Austria 
If you’re looking to be surrounded by “jolly people” during your next ski adventure, Keri says that being around the people of Serfaus just made her feel happy because of their good nature. You’ll also experience minimal lines for the chairlifts and great skiing.

BryanGoodwin2999v3Bryan Goodwin oversees FlipKey.com operations  in North America. He has helped over 2,000 rental managers leverage the guest review and advertising services provided by FlipKey.com and TripAdvisor.com since he joined FlipKey in 2007 — as its first employee.

Bryan directly manages over 400 accounts throughout the Atlantic Seaboard that represent more than 40,000 units and 250,000 reviews.  He holds a B.A. in Finance and an MBA from Bentley University in Waltham, MA and is an avid vacation home renter and aspiring vacation home owner. We recently asked him a few questions about his background and vision for FlipKey vacation rental managers:

Why did you leave the world of finance to work for FlipKey? I wanted to work for FlipKey because I believed in the management team, am interested in travel and specifically vacation rentals, and I was confident the concept of reviews in vacation rentals was smart and would work.

What is the top piece of advice you have for a property manager? Don’t let the highs get too high or the lows get too low.  Property managers are in the insanely challenging position of pleasing both their home owners and their guests.  Undoubtedly — given human nature and people diverse personalities — someone is going to be over-the-top happy, over-the-top mad or somewhere in between.  When it comes to dealing with reviews and home owners’ reaction to those reviews, my advice is as much as possible to take a neutral stance and not let the highs get too high or the lows get too low.

What FlipKey feature do you think is the most under-utilized? Traveler photos and specials.  Specials help attract eyes to your ads.  The special doesn’t need to be 20% off —  it can be a bottle of wine with any 3 night stay —  just something to separate and differentiate your listings.  Once you have your guests, retaining them is key. If you know you’re providing them with an awesome experience, make sure you encourage them to share it with you by leaving photos of their stay with their review.  This kind of personalized content from your guests can be invaluable in attracting future guests or convincing someone who is new to VR that your home will be the right accommodation for them.

Any thoughts on where the vacation rental industry is headed? As someone who rents vacation rentals, I would like to see the industry move towards more seamless online booking so that as a renter I can make my purchase directly online after my research is complete.  I think we’re heading that way although there are technical challenges that need to be met prior to getting there.

What do you love most about working in the travel industry? Traveling!

Where are the best vacation rentals you’ve stayed? The beauty of vacation rentals is that they are all great in their own unique, different ways.  A mountain-side vacation rental in Breckenridge can be equally as great as a beachfront home on Pawley’s Island or a lakeside summer house in NH… I would have a hard time choosing only one home of the many great homes I have experienced!

What’s your favorite sports team? Boston Bruins and New England Patriots…

Think Bryan can help put your vacation rentals in front of the right travelers? Contact him: bgoodwin@flipkey.com

Welcome to 2013! We’re looking forward to a year of great vacations filled with new experiences, relaxing amenities, and memories that will last a lifetime. To get ready for the new year here at FlipKey, we’ve gathered insight from 2012, and we’re making a resolution to provide helpful tips to travelers looking to book a trip in 2013. Here’s a look at some trends that we expect to continue over the next twelve months.

1. Vacation Rentals Will Continue to Provide High Quality Accommodations
We broke down the reviews on FlipKey and learned that a majority of properties earn four and five star reviews. In fact, 80% of properties earn an average rating of four stars and higher. In 2013 we plan to continue helping travelers find the best rentals in the world.

FlipKey Reviews

Average Property Ratings

2. Vacation Rentals Will Offer all the Comforts of Home… And Then Some
The top amenities offered by vacation rentals are the conveniences that make a vacation as comfortable and easy as life at home. In 2013, we expect to see WiFi continue to climb the ladder as a must-have amenity.

Top 10 Amenities

3. More International Travelers Will Choose FlipKey Rentals
Travelers from 225 countries searched FlipKey for rentals in 2012, with many visitors reaching FlipKey from London, Toronto, Sydney and Melbourne.

Top Cities Who Visit FlipKey

4. Urban Destinations Will Increase in Popularity
While traditional vacation destinations like Florida remained at the top of the charts in 2012, we are seeing a trend toward more travelers requesting stays in big cities. Last year, urban centers accounted for seven of the top 10 most requested destinations.

Top 10 Most Requested Destinations

5. Large Groups Will Continue Traveling to Traditional Vacation Hotspots
While cities are on the rise, these destinations are largely requested by parties of two. For large groups of ten or more, nothing beats a vacation house in a more remote locale.

Group Size

Renting out a second home can be likened to running a business, so it’s not a bad idea to treat it as such. One important aspect to renting out your vacation home is how well you describe it on your FlipKey property profile. FlipKey listings provide space for a headline, amenities, and an unlimited amount of photos, so you will have a number of chances to describe your home in a way that makes it inviting to guests.

Writing Headlines That Get Noticed

Assuming you have a great photo for your property thumbnail, the next most important feature is your headline. You have 50 characters to summarize why your property will make the perfect vacation home, so be sure to make every character count! Using words that get people excited about staying at your home will make your rental more attractive to prospective guests.

The chart below shows a comparison of two different headlines for the same property. While the headlines on the left are shorter and less descriptive, the ones on the right are more detailed and emphasize the experience you want to provide your guests.

Basic HeadlineDescriptive Headline
Cabin house on Lake MichiganRustic Wood Cabin, Stunning Lake-side Views
Family Beach HouseWatch the Waves Crash On Beach with Kids
Utah Ski Vacation HomeSki Fresh Powder, Enjoy Outdoor Jacuzzi
Townhouse in TokyoExplore Japanese Culture & Language

Some important things to keep in mind:

  • Paint a picture. Try to visualize the experience you want guests to have, and make it come alive in your description.
  •  Use descriptive adjectives that pinpoint what makes your property unique. Generic adjectives such as “great” or “fun” won’t set you apart from the competition.
  •  Since travelers are already searching for rentals in a specific location, you can leave your property’s location out of your headline and save those characters for other important information that will help increase bookings.
  •  If you need to shorten your headline because of the character limit, you can use “&” instead of “and”, and also avoid including information, such as number of rooms, that can already be found in your description.
  •  Adjust your headline at different times of the year. Seasons change—so why shouldn’t your listing’s title? Take a look at our marketing handbook for more information on adapting headlines for each season.

Don’t Forget those Photo Captions!

With FlipKey, you can post an unlimited number of photos to your profile, so we generally recommend including at least 20. Writing captions for these photos is important to help the reader visualize what staying at your property will be like. If your vacation home has special amenities, you can take pictures of them and write the details in the caption. For example, if you have a collection of crystal wine glasses available for your guests, you could write that in one of the captions of your kitchen photos. Or even better, why not take a photo of the glasses and then write a specific caption for them? It’s a good idea to talk about your amenities in more than one section because prospective guests may not read your entire profile.

Emphasize Your Amenities

Listing your home’s amenities is another important aspect of your profile. Guests want to feel like they will be taken care of and that your property will offer them what they’re looking for in a rental. Try making a list of all the things that set your property apart from the competition. Using brand names and adjectives that “pop” will help showcase your home. For example, instead of saying “television,” you could say “60 inch Sony high definition TV with Comcast On Demand” (if that’s what you really have, of course). Or, instead of saying “Bed sheets provided,” you could say “Get a restful night sleep under our goose down comforters.” The more a guest feels that your home will offer them the memorable vacation they are looking for, the more reservations you will likely receive.

Happy Bookings!

Guest Reviews_white paper

White Paper Study, January 2013

FlipKey Research analyzes user trends, online data, case studies and manager input for property managers and industry professionals. In this study, we look at the importance of guest reviews and online reputation for the booking process.

Notably:

  • 74% of TripAdvisor users state that they write reviews because they want to share a good experience with other travelers
  • 53% of respondents say they will not book a property without reading a review of it

More findings can be found in the full white paper: Everyone Should Be Entitled to Your Guest’s Opinion: How Guest Reviews Can Double Your Business

Believe it or not, we’re already two weeks into 2013, which means it’s just about time for a vacation… or at least a weekend getaway. Fortunately, most Americans have a three-day weekend coming up for Martin Luther King Jr. Day this Monday. Traditionally, MLK Day is a big weekend for ski trips and quick, driving-distance vacations, and it looks like 2013 is no exception to that rule. We wanted to find out more about people’s travel plans for the long weekend, so we took a closer look at availability in the 10 most popular destinations. The good news: according to our availability calendars, there are still properties waiting to be booked! So if you’ve been thinking about getting out of town this weekend, here’s your chance. The bad news: you still have four days before you can take a break. Choose your favorite spot and make plans to kick back, relax, and ease into the new year…

1. Big Bear Lake: 15% Booked

Within driving distance of Los Angeles, this California mountain town is a popular ski destination for city dwellers. Big Bear is looking at some springlike skiing conditions this weekend, with temperatures peaking in the 50s.

2. Washington DC: 48% Booked

It should be no surprise that the US capital is one of the most popular destinations during a holiday weekend. The best part about a trip to DC is that most of  the museums are free!

3. South Lake Tahoe: 23% Booked

High in the Sierras, we’re in the middle of a great winter for skiing and riding. The forecast calls for warm, sunny weather all week, but with up to a 130″ base, that just means sunny days full of fun sliding.

4. Miami Beach: 24% Booked

Miami Beach is a popular place to catch some rays. If you’re ready for winter weather to melt away, this is your spot.

5. Big Bear City: 11% Booked

Another gateway to the outdoor adventures of Big Bear, Big Bear City has much more availability than Big Bear Lake, so there’s room for everyone to enjoy.

For many vacation rental owners the winter months bring holiday travelers looking to capture the magic that this time of year is famous for, so it’s the perfect time for you to get into the spirit with seasonal décor and treats. Decorating your vacation home and leaving “little extras” for your guests to enjoy will not only make their stay during the holiday season more memorable, but this type of superstar customer service will give you a greater chance of generating positive reviews and referrals. Below are a few simple tips on how to create an even more inviting space for your winter guests.

  • Greet your guests with a spread of local goodies and snacks that are reminiscent of the season. An easy go-to for the colder holiday months is hot cocoa and eggnog. You can leave hot cocoa mix and holiday themed mugs as a “little extra” for guests. If a family is renting your home you could provide holiday cookie ingredients and cookie cutters as an activity for them to do during their stay, or if you enjoy baking you can always whip up a batch before your visitors arrive and leave them on a festive platter. Another family friendly activity you can leave out for travelers is a gingerbread house kit. It’s a fun way to celebrate the season and it will help keep the kids occupied for a bit, a gift many parents will appreciate.
  • Extend the seasonal charm throughout the rest of your vacation home with holiday scented candles and soaps, flannel sheets, and festive hand towels for the bathroom and kitchen. You can even place some poinsettias throughout your home, and maybe even hang up some mistletoe to help your guests get into the holiday spirit!
  • If your home is in a region that traditionally experiences snowfall, leave your guests with a couple of sleds to enjoy your winter wonderland. Along with sleds, consider leaving additional outerwear in case guests are not prepared for a snowy climate. Or, for those who would prefer to experience those flurries from afar, you could also leave out a few classic holiday movies for their enjoyment.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and craft your own ideas for spreading holiday cheer this year. Take advantage of the countless possibilities the winter and holiday themes provide, and relish the fact that you’ll be able to achieve all of this while remaining thrifty and still generate positive feedback from your guests. Leaving out little gifts for guests will put a smile on their face and a 5 star review on your listing.

Happy Bookings!