I don't know who to credit most of the following to. This was originally a series of images that I ran across either on or thru facebook. If you know who I should give credit to, please let me know!
I have changed some of it up to better suit Garcia House and Glenn House but for the most part, it is left in tact.
HOW TO SAVE LOADS OF $$$ BOOKING DIRECT ( #BOOKDIRECT )
> Do you use VRBO, HomeAway, AirBnB, TripAdvisor, Booking.com or Hotels.com?
> These sites charge huge booking fees to either the traveler or the owner or both claiming to offer protection.
> VRBO, HomeAway, AirBnB, TripAdvisor all charge travelers a fee but also charge the owners a fee. With a 15% targeted take rate, aren't you paying a lot more?
> For Booking.com and Hotels.com, the hotel or rental property pays a 15% to 20% fee. Ever wonder why hotels give you a subpar room when you book through a third party site?
> Do these sites really protect you? VRBO, HomeAway, AirBnB, TripAdvisor claim that they do.
> Book with Confidence? Payment Protection? In reality, they will ask you to do a chargeback if the rental does not exist or is uninhabitable. You get that with a credit card anyway.
> They claim they will find you another place. This is not always possible in peak season or other properties are booked. You may end up in a sub par property or miles away from your original destination.
> How to book direct:
> Do a Google search for vacation rentals in the area you want to go to. Get past all the "big boys" and paid ads and then past their unpaid ones.
> When you search include some amenities you might like i.e. pet-friendly, washing machine, two bedrooms, etc. and or the locale i.e. midtown, near Reid Park, near 4th Avenue, etc.
> Do a facebook search for vacation rentals in the area you want to go to. That can turn up quite a few!
> Contact the owner through facebook, their website or a no-fee listing site***
> How to book safely:
> Do your homework. Check reviews, see where you can find them listed.
> Many counties allow online access to the County Assessor's Office. Find them there and make sure you ARE dealing with the property owner or the property owner's appointed management company.
> Listen to your gut instinct. Is it too good to be true?
> Can the owners answer your questions? Propose a friend doing a walk-thru of the rental even if you don't have anybody in town. How did they react to that?
> Actually SPEAK to them on the phone and get off of email! Did you feel you were talking to the owner or manager or a scammer? Do a reverse phone lookup. Not always will that lead you someplace but I can tell you, you can find out stuff about us doing just that.
> Make sure there is a written agreement defining the rental period and rate and other pertinent information.
> You save hundreds of $$$ that you can spend on enjoying your vacation doing something fun!
***"Fee Free" are sites that the property owner pays to list on but then the site allows for open communication between the traveler and owner/manager which includes contact info, website, social media sites, etc.. VRBO, HomeAway, AirBnB, etc. do NOT allow this as owners/travelers could then circumvent their fee structure.
Here's some Fee Free sites you can find us currently listed on. In all honesty, this is going to change over time trying some new ones and dropping ones that aren't working and I'm not likely to come back to an old blog and change them. Please be aware if we're no longer listed on one, it's not that we've closed our doors! If you're reading this blog, our website is up and running so our doors are open for business!
Alpu aka Owner.Rentals: https://www.owner.rentals/properties/tucson-arizona-glenn-house-single-family-home-located-in-the-heart-of-tucson-arizona/
Furnished Finder: https://www.furnishedfinder.com/property/194023
Pet Friendly Tucson: http://petfriendlytucson.com/by-owner-rentals.html
Last December, our subscription with VRBO/HomeAway was expiring for Garcia House who we'd been advertising with since 2009. Back then it was absolutely wonderful and provided a perfect venue for travelers and VR operators to "meet". They had platforms so that you could purchase a Gold, Silver or Bronze subscription with the only difference being how early and prominent in search results you would be. Being just a studio apartment for the budget-conscious, we went with Bronze and even though there were about 750 of us listing in Tucson, we were find-able.
They provided everything we needed to allow travelers to see what we had, rates and a calendar. We could link to our website but most importantly, connect directly with the traveler whether that be email, text or phone. Whatever worked! Every single VR is different from the next one, has different rules and owners, locale, amenities, and on and on and on and communication is key for a good match. I can spell out everything I think people might want to know and I'll guarantee, the one thing I missed is the one thing my potential Guests want to know and guess what? I'll add that to the advert and/or website and and my very next inquiry, will want to know about something else I never thought of.
I always knew I provided accommodations that were perfect for many travelers and just needed a studio but for some with that same criteria, we weren't the perfect match and as much as I'd like to have the apartment rented and money coming in, I also wanted my Guests to be comfortable and knowledgeable about what they were renting. I still follow that ideal and don't try to sugar-coat anything. If we're a good fit, I hope it works for both of us.
So last December when our subscription for Garcia House was expiring, it was truly wrenching for me to let it go. I just wanted what we used to have back and it was never going to happen and I knew that. I actually cried -- and more than once even!
I've debated whether to go with the pay-per-booking platform (I think that's all they're offering now) but there's so many hoops to jump thru and rules and laws and such. I just can't justify having my Guests pay approximately eighteen percent on top of my rates PLUS an additional three-percent (from them!) for being forced to used VRBO's credit card payment system -- My places aren't worth that much more! If they were, my own rates would reflect it!! I would like to raise my rates as neither Garcia House or Glenn House has had so much as a rate increase of a dime since both opened!
I understand VRBO/HA need to make money. Of course they do! And they did just great until Expedia purchased it and will squeeze every last nickel out of everyone who uses them.
No! No! No! Their "Book with Confidence" guarantee is a joke but that needs to be left for another blog entry.
I got my notification today that I have ten days left on our Glenn House subscription and if I renew, I MUST sign up for on-line booking and their payment system. I think not. I'm not crying this time. My subscription doesn't benefit them as they weren't getting any more money out of travelers or us, so we're buried DEEP in the listings and I've barely had any inquiries. Garcia House and Glenn House are still great vacation rentals for the budget-conscious, pet friendly and rates are holding. What has changed so I don't get inquiries anymore? Not us -- VRBO and HomeAway.
Good-bye and good riddance.
What a lovely surprise to come home last Wednesday evening and find our sister site, Garcia House, was named the very first "Member of the Month" at Houfy.com! For those of you reading this and not familiar with "Houfy", it's a start up site for vacation rentals to connect directly with travelers and vice versa thereby eliminating and avoiding the extra expenses and fees the big VR sites are imposing.
I'm including two screenshots with this blog post. One where I post to our Garcia House VR facebook page and the other on "our" personal facebook page (I don't have a true personal facebook account of my own -- I piggyback on my husbands :) ). That one from the personal page really does give a quick insight as to why it is better to book direct (#bookdirect) and stop throwing away money!!
One of the new listing sites I have great enthusiasm and hope for is vacation.rentals ( <-- Please note that's vacation dot rentals NOT dot com! Link: https://vacation.rentals ). Anyway, back to the subject at hand and that is optimism for this new start-up and the fellow starting it up has asked those of us listing there to write a blog post of between 700 and 2000 words in length regarding something to do that travelers would find interesting. These start-up sites need any boost that we can help give them so I sat myself down and wrote a blog post. If I write it for there, why not post it in on my own websites?
It was a two-thousand-word limit and I exceeded that by around 350 words so I cut it down but they're back in this one. Not that it makes it so much better, but it changes it up a little bit.
To write about Tucson and what it has to offer travelers as a blog post limited to no more than 2000 words is like trying to fit a taco through the eye of a needle -- it simply can't be done. Just to try to get the essence of Tucson jam-packed into one quick article where there can be no embellishing, elaborations or expounding with any extraneous information that could be of at least modest interest to the reader. None of that but you will just a taste of what Tucson can offer those who travel here.
A taste of Tucson is a good intro for we are a UNESCO City of Gastronomy (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) -- the only one in this country -- and we have what is known as the "Best 23 miles of Mexican Food" in the U.S. That's some claim but it's all too true!
We don't just have fabulous Mexican food either. We have some of the world's greatest chefs settled here with some of the nation's very top restaurants. Books have been written about Tucson's diverse and wonderful food scene and there are even tours available. Tucson's food will not disappoint you whether you're a foodie or not! You could go out to a different eating establishment every morning, afternoon and dinner for five years and never repeat the same one. We're chok-a-blok full of fantastic eats!
Let's take a quick turn from food to the University of Arizona as this top-rated school has over 35k enrolled with plans for expansion to 50k in the not-too-distant future. If you like college sports, we've got 'em in with our former national basketball, baseball, women's golf and softball champions! Of course, there's also football and all the others too. We do love our Wildcats! The campus is also a great place to visit with Centennial Hall, Flandrau Planetarium, Arizona State Museum and so much more. Let's not forget the world-renowned University Medical Center too.
Maybe some of our Attractions will tempt you . . . Let's start with the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum which is consistently rated one of the top ten museums in the world. This is a living breathing indoor/outdoor museum that will immerse you in the desert environment and all its wonders. Besides ASDM, some other attractions highlights are a day trip to Sabino Canyon and you can ride the tram, hike or bike it. One of the most beautiful spots in the country! Biosphere II is nearby (it's not at all like the movie Bio-Dome!) and for some fun tourist spots, there's "Old Tucson" a movie set where many of your favorite flicks were filmed and movie stars performed. The real Tombstone, Arizona is less than a couple of hours away and a must-do if you come! "The Town Too Tough To Die!" "Walk where they walked" and the OK Corral -- so cool! On your way there or back, don't forget to visit Kartchner Caverns a network of caverns only discovered in the late 1980's! Pima Air Museum and the Boneyard are world famous and should be seen. So very many more!
Sport and outdoor activities abound! Fact: Tucson is the sixth sunniest city in the WORLD! With so much sunshine, we like to be out of doors and there's plenty to do and would you believe we even have skiing!!?? Yes! It's true! The mountain range that dominates much of Tucson is the Catalinas and near the top at about 9000 feet is Mt. Lemmon and it actually has a ski valley there with a lift and all the accoutrements. There are golf courses surrounding the city proper and one right in the middle. We've even got a stop on the PGA tour with the Cologuard Classic. We've got loads of tennis courts, swimming pools, and over 650 miles of our city roadways have dedicated bike lanes. Mountain biking is a huge sport here and there must be hundreds of trails over thousands of miles. You can hike on loads of trails all over our mountain ranges too! While you're at it, do a little birding too! You can do that within our fair city too as over 350 species of birds have documented sightings in metropolitan Tucson alone! If there's a sport or activity and you like it, it's here.
But you say you want to have your toes in the sand and swim in the ocean huh? That one we can't do but just a seven-hour drive west and you're in sunny San Diego, California. Many of those of us that live in Tucson make weekends of going to the beach. I mentioned Mt. Lemmon for skiing but admittedly, it's a pretty small ski area but if you want top-notch skiing, we've got the White Mountains just a four-hour drive north. It's also just a short flight to world-class skiing to slopes in Colorado or Utah for a weekend.
Now that I've taken you out of Tucson briefly for those specialty sports, I need to get you back here and back here you will want to be so that you can go to some of our events. We have some of the most wonderful and fun events all year long! Our biggest draw is the Gem and Mineral Show that begins in January and runs well into February each year. It is the world's largest gem and mineral show and attracts tens of thousands of people from all over the world. You've never seen anything like it with hundreds, if not thousands, of vendors participating. Don't be confused that this is geared exclusively for rock hounds --- No, no, no, no, no! This is your beads, your jewelry, diamonds, and gold, incredible pieces fashioned out of what the earth took millions of years to create. There's astronomical finds and fossils and geodes and it goes on and on and on! Some shows are massive and others small but they're all over town and it's a bunch of fun!
That's our biggest and most prestigious event each year but there's always something else just around the corner to look forward to. In January we have our annual Jazz Festival that brings with it some of the Jazz world's best musicians. As mentioned, February is host to the Gem and Mineral show but we've also got La Fiesta de los Vaqueros (Tucson Rodeo) and the accompanying parade which is the world's longest and oldest non-motorized parade. Tubac, Arizona (just south of us) is home to the Tubac Festival of the Arts and so much more. March brings with it the 4th Avenue Street Fair with 100's of juried artists and artisans and about 500,000 of us turn out for it. We're also host to a Steampunk Convention every year with all the marvelous wonders and costumes they create! The Tucson Festival of Books is held at the University of Arizona with tens of thousands of attendees and hundreds of authors. They even get the "Rock Bottom Remainders" to play whose members change but include or have included authors Stephen King, Dave Barry, Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan, Scott Turow, Mitch Albom, Roy Blount Jr., Matt Groening to name just a few! Trust me, TFOB is not some book sale :-) So many more events around Tucson and Southern Arizona too!
As we heat up, our event calendar lightens up but we never do stop! We've got "Tucson Meet Yourself" an annual three-day tradition that celebrates the communities of Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico with food, dancing, artistry and music. The Arizona International Film Festival is held here in April, there are birding festivals and a big open studios art tour "See Art, Buy Art"! I love the motto!! We all need more art in our lives.
Eventually, we cool down again and that brings with it the "El Tour de Tucson" -- It's a fund-raising event with approximately 9,000 participants of all levels of ability. The full course is 100 miles around Tucson but shorter courses are available to ride. One thing you won't find just anywhere is an All Souls Procession Weekend honoring and remembering those who have passed before us. "One Mouth, Many Stomachs". Come and join us for it -- you won't regret it! We finish up the year with a number of different events but I've simply got to mention the 4th Avenue Street Fair repeat again in December as it's such a terrific place to shop for all those presents you need to buy! For football fans, we've also got the Arizona Bowl here to help round out the end of the year.
That's just a smidge of all the annual events held in or near Tucson. I know I'm going to kick myself once this is published and I'm unable to change it for annual events I forgot to mention. I'm not even going to start on monthly events we hold here!
Let's wind this up with theater, entertainment and movies -- We've got them all and absolutely first-rate ones too. Okay so it's not Broadway but we do get off-Broadway shows come thru here at Centennial Hall and they are fabulous. We've got our very own Tucson Symphony Orchestra with an engaging diversity of performances. The Fox Theater is downtown and has a lineup from nationally recognized music to comedy to magic and more with many being nationally and world-renowned performers. Arizona Theater Company performs at the Temple of Music and Art with live performances of assorted plays including matinees. Our Convention Center is where you'll find everything from your Rockers and Country Stars to Cirque de Soleil to Monster Trucks and Minor League Hockey (Go Tucson Roadrunners!).
How about taking in a movie? We've got multi-plex theaters all over town showing all the latest and greatest Hollywood has to offer. My personal favorite is the Roadhouse Cinema which is one of those theaters where one sits in recliners and they bring you food and drinks (alcoholic if you like) :-). First run, first-rate movies and all the popcorn you can eat with your feet kicked up and your cold beverage nestled in the cup holder. So good! "The Loft" is one of Tucson's treasures and it hosts classics and indies on it's screens. It goes even farther than that to make it an experience and it's always wonderful to go there. Casa Video is my final mention of movies here . . . Don't let the name or the strip mall location deter you! This place is fabulous with thousands of DVD's for you to rent. Movies, TV series, Foreign Films, Indies, Shorts, Documentaries and on and on. If there's some old TV show, movie or foreign series you thought was lost to time for you and only ever to be a memory, you may very well find it here! You might want to come to Tucson just for this place alone! :-) An added bonus is they've now opened the "Casa Film Bar" within the store! It's just too cool and there are craft beers and movies and a place to chat about films and such.
Speaking of craft beer, Tucson is flush with independent breweries and I'm going to guess there's about twenty of them if not more. Just to mention a few that we've personally visited and enjoyed: Borderlands, Thunder Canyon, Sentinel Peak and though not a brewery per se, the Hop Shop in the Metal Arts Village serves a selection of about twenty craft beers on tap plus more!
I haven't even scratched the surface of Tucson and all it has to offer. This is a travel destination that's not on a lot of people's radar and should be but PLEASE do NOT confuse us with Phoenix. Phoenix is no Tucson! Phoenix is like the prim and proper older sister who drinks a measured sherry on New Year's Eve and irons her white cotton underwear while Tucson is the wild child, eating psychedelic mushrooms and listening to the Rolling Stones Paint it Black while cruising the desert in a convertible. There is no comparison. Tucson is fun and open-minded and tolerant and loaded with things to do and places to go. Phoenix is a mini L.A. -- It's got a big name, big airport and plenty of freeways that go to few places of interest. Tucson has got a name that no one spells correctly the first time, a little airport that even had its international status stripped from it not long ago (but it's back with direct flights to Mexico) and one freeway that basically runs along the west side and south side of town. Maybe that's why there's so much to do in Tucson -- we have to poke along and stop and smell the cactus along the way.
I've barely scratched the surface of what Tucson has to offer including its rich history, wonderful shopping, friendly and hospitable residents, top-notch medical facilities, world-class resorts, magnificent desert, incredible weather and spectacular sunsets -- just to name a few things I didn't mention!
Admittedly, our weather is pretty darn wonderful but it is tough in the summer here. I don't want to discourage anyone from visiting but you will have to keep in mind that a lot of outdoor activities really aren't well-suited for our very hot summer months. During those months, come and spend your time poolside and go to air-conditioned venues and drink loads of margaritas. You'll be fine :-)
Officially summer hasn't arrived yet but it has come to Tucson. This is the time of year we try to bring everything up to snuff again with a deep cleaning and sometimes some refurbishing or upgrading too. Glenn House got some of this done kind of quickly between the last of our Winter Guests leaving then us going on a vacation and Guests that are staying with us for three months. There wasn't a bunch of time but we did put a new layer of bamboo/reed fencing all round and got in and assembled a new lift-top coffee table. Not planning on much more there except general maintenance after these Guests depart. Garcia House VR is the big summer project this year and I'll be adapting it to be more dog friendly and I've turfed the old sofa/chaise/ottoman set up and brought in new furnishings -- including another of those lift-top coffee tables! I think they're so perfect for our spaces and will allow Guests to eat comfortably while on the sofa or use a laptop easily.
My point really isn't to go on about changes at one or the other of the VR's but to note that I believe it's important -- and especially so for vacation rental owners -- to occasionally look at their properties through the eyes of a Guest. So many of us work so hard at pulling these places together and then I think we're kind of exhausted :-). Sometimes we forget that furnishings get old, outdated or damaged. I saw pix someone posted in a VR group I belong to of a hallway leading to a bath that was tiled and I thought looked lovely. They'd had enough of it and put down the wood-look vinyl planks and the change was remarkable and sooooooooo much better! They did it mainly for easy-care whereas the tile and grout was causing them work, effort, grief and money and they made the right decision.
We have to keep our eyes open for all kinds of stuff that would normally be just fine within our own homes but not up to snuff for our Guests. I'm sure not nuts about Tucson summers but at least they give me the opportunity to really go over things and see if they need replacing or if they've got a season or multiple seasons left in them.