An article looking at the range of sites offering self-catering cottages, vacation rentals, villas, apartments and holiday houses. Some are owners own websites, where properties can be booked direct; others are Booking Engines, providing listing and booking services to owners and easy search to holidaymakers. Others still are Accommodation Agency run, offering various selections of holiday properties. So, which is the best to book from?
Why book direct with the owners?
We showcase a range of privately owned self-catering cottages, vacation rentals, villas, apartments and holiday houses which can be booked direct with the owner of the property, sometimes as a phone or email booking, sometimes through their own online booking. These are shown on our pages as individual property entries.
The benefits of booking direct like this include:
• the best and most thorough knowledge of the property itself.
• genuine local knowledge of the area you'll be staying in.
• special requests more easily catered for.
• sometimes better and more competitive pricing.
• often character properties with unique or non-standard decor and/or facilities.
• sometimes unique offers and deals.
Why use a Booking Engine?
We also listing a number of Booking Engines which represent individual holiday home owners – sites such as Booking.com, HomeAway and Interhome are examples.
Many private owners prefer to operate through one of these sites because they provide a wider reach and give easy access to online calendars, secure online booking and credit card payment services – things which are often beyond the means of a single independent villa or cottage owner.
A Booking Engine representing private owners will:
• often allow direct contact with the owner before booking.
• make it easier to compare or find similar properties in the same area.
• include availability calendars.
• will often show their own and/or past guest reviews.
• some allow/require direct bookings be made with the property owner, others will facilitate on-line booking on behalf of the owner.
• reduce worries about 'fake' properties (but beware, you do still have to be vigilant even on these sites and it's not unknown for fake properties to be listed; our advice is to always follow the instructions given by the website itself and don't ever be tempted to circumvent the online booking system in order to try to cut a good deal directly).
Some property owners do not have their own websites at all and will only list on such sites – sometimes exclusively with one Booking Engine, sometimes with a number of different Booking Engines and Agents.
What about Agents?
Accommodation Agent sties will offer their own specific selection of properties, most often these properties are privately owned too, but in this case the owner has signed up for a service badged under the agent's name – it covers sites like Cottages.com, Imagine Ireland and Oliver's Travels.
Accommodation Agents sites will:
• often offer vetted properties, villas, cottages and holiday homes inspected, selected and ranked in person by their own agents.
• often offer more uniformity in the way properties are described and presented, making them easier to compare with each other.
• will often be specialists in a particular location or area of interest. Could be a country focus such as villas in Spain; a regional focus like cottages in Devon or the West Country, or a interest focus like rural country cottages, villas with pools, or large holiday homes for groups. Some will also focus on holiday properties of a particular standard, such as luxury holiday homes at one end of the scale, or caravan park accommodation at the other end.