The Book Direct Movement – And other Vacation Planning Tips!

Book Direct Movement

Book Direct is simply cutting out the middlemen fees. Simple.

cut the OTA middleman
  • You, the guest, save money when you Book Direct
  • The Hospitality Owner saves money
  • You get better, local (not overseas) customer service
  • The Owner gets better information
  • You get personalized ideas and help with your vacation, plus support local businesses.
  • The Owners get to share their pride in their community with visitors


Hotel vs Vacation Rental? Still Book Direct?

Sometimes a hotel is the perfect way to go. Like a quick one night stopover on your way to somewhere else. But when you are coming to the Grand Circle to do the Parks and explore the endless red rock trails and all that Southwestern Utah has to offer, you are gonna need a few days.

We are all about the beauty of the Vacation Rental experience.

But even Hotels now are educating travelers to Book Direct. From small boutique hotels to large chains like Hilton and Marriot, from Vacation Rental owners to B&B associations, hospitality owners and managers are educating travelers about Book Direct.

The Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals has asked travelers to Join The Movement

Hoteliers have joined forces with Vacation Rental owners for #BookDirectDay the first part of every February to help spread awareness through social media. Not just that one day, but every day.

We understand when putting considerable $$ down on a vacation we all need assurances. Especially in this day of scammers everywhere we turn. I’m sure you have seen them on social media and the news. We all have cause for concern. So how do you plan your next vacation?


Booking Your Vacation

Most travel accommodation bookings happen in one of two ways.

– You the Traver, look online. The first 2-3 pages of Google will be one of the big OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) and their paid ads, such as VRBO, Airbnb, Homeaway, etc. You find a great place to stay and book through that middleman platform.

OR

– You do a little more research and find a great place to stay and book directly with the owner of that VR (or Vacation Rental) Property. (Go to the bottom of this page to find ideas on how to do that “little more research”!)

Let’s talk about those two differences –


Why Book Direct?

 Pricing and Payments –  Let’s get the biggie$ out the door first!

Pricing

Straight up – the best price will always be when you book direct – no service fees or commission added on for the middle man!

So here is the deal on why the price varies – Airbnb and VRBO/Homeaway charges each guest a variable service fee on each booking.

  • – As owners, we can not even tell you what that service fee is going to be. They do not show us. All we know is they have “Algorithms” that determine your fee according to “the current dynamics”

logo From Airbnb Help Page: “This fee is typically under 13% of the booking subtotal. The fee varies based on a variety of booking factors and is displayed to guests during checkout before they book a reservation.”

Great. So most folks can plan on somewhere under 13% in extra service fees from Airbnb…..?

As an owner, I also pay Airbnb an additional 3-5%.

In December 2016, VRBO and HomeAway were both purchased by Expedia for 4 BILLION dollars.

Now, Expedia needs to earn back that money. Open your wallet, that commission is coming from you.

Prior to 2017 Owners paid a flat rate to Vrbo for listing on their site. Now owners pay a flat rate or a Pay-Per-Booking rate AND our guests get to pay a fee. Don’t know how much.

logo From the Vrbo help page “How is the fee calculated? The service fee is a percentage of the total amount of the reservation, excluding taxes and refundable fees. The percentage rate may change from time to time. Generally, the higher the reservation amount, the lower the percentage of service fee.”

Great. So most folks can plan on between 6-12% in extra service fees from Vrbo…..?

As an owner, I also pay Vrbo an additional 8-9%.

Booking.com has no traveler fees, Yay! Oh wait, Booking.com charges owners a 15% commission. I promise you are paying that. Owners must add that commission to your price or they are not going to stay in business.

As an owner, I pay Booking.com 15%


Payments

– The large, OTAs will tell you that theirs is the ONLY safe way to rent a Vacation Rental.

Please rest assured, all of our Credit Card processing is safe and secure, done by Stripe or PayPal. You enter the info and submit on our easy, professional reservation software. We never see your number and only use the most secure portals.

Would you rather send a check or Venmo and get a 3% discount? We can do that!

Want to split your booking in two separate payments? We can do that.

We have even been known to take cash at the door (gasp 😀). Whatever makes you the most comfortable. (After your initial deposit to secure your dates)

  • Owners do not receive your OTA payment until the day after you check in with Airbnb, and VRBO has recently changed to 3-7 days after you check-in instead of “at time of payment”!? (I promise this has owners on edge, yikes! What are they doing with your/my money all that time?)

Extra Fees

Most homeowners will try really hard to keep all those add-ons to a minimum. There are a few we may not have control over. Taxes or HOA resort fees are a couple. We may have some say over cleaning fees and pet fees, but for us remote hosts, we are in the hands of those good housekeepers that we want to keep.

  •   – The price advertised on the OTAs is SELDOM the price you end up with. And we owners have no control over that! They love to give you an “average” price that often includes high season and low season rates. Plus those ambiguous “Service” fees that mysteriously go up and down….
  •   – Most Short Term Vacation Rentals will charge a separate cleaning fee. Why do they do that and Hotels do not? Argh, a pain point for all of us!

Cleaning fees

Hoteliers have many rooms to keep up so can keep a full-time staff and often pay housekeeping extremely low wages and roll it into their rates. Vacation Rentals have far fewer turnovers, yet still need to keep good, reliable housekeepers.

Housekeepers in our area get $25 hr. for VRs. How long do you think it takes to REALLY clean a two-bedroom, two-bath house? I have done it many times and I promise it is NOT happening in less than four hours! My housekeeper and I pride ourselves on “Super Clean” and our reviews show it.

Can I negotiate?

If someone were to ask to negotiate the cleaning fee – as I recently saw recommended in a Washington Post article – I would just ask them which toilet they prefer not cleaned or which floor they would rather not have mopped or which sheets they don’t want washed…? It really does take that long. But still, I know how we all HATE added cleaning fees. I tried rolling it into the rate for a while, but it put my rate so much higher than all the other area properties I was not even in the competition. So I met guests halfway! My cleaner charges $100 for a turnover, I charge guests half and I pay half. Because I really do want you to have “all the way” clean! And a reasonable rate.

If you find a VR with no cleaning fee, then the owner is doing it themselves and not getting reimbursed, or have rolled into their nightly cost.

did you know  – Our tax rate includes sales tax and TRT or transient room tax. Taxes for the city, county and state. Ugh. Death and taxes…… What more can I say. The “added fee” that none of us can do anything about.


Communication

OTAs insist on all communication through their site, for your safety. I think it’s to make sure they don’t lose any of their cut of the proceeds. How does talking to me make you less safe??

What it does do, is keep me from calling you to let you know there is a real person here.

It keeps you from calling me to see what are the best tours in our area, or what’s my favorite hiking trail. Communication is essential for your perfect vacation!

  • did you knowIf you send me your phone number or email address the OTA will redact/remove the number or email from the note you wrote.
  • did you know  – If you contact me on an OTA, I am bound to book you on the OTA. And I am fine with that. That is the bargain I have made with the OTA for advertising on their site. We made a deal. So please do not email me from their platform and ask to Book Direct once you see the fees. I cannot do that. I will get kicked off the platform🙁.

Guarantees

Some good, some bad, just educate yourself on possible scenarios. Admittedly, there are some bad owners out there. Just remember there are two sides to every story. (Spoiler: Most of those 5-star reviews, are for great hosts with lovely homes, not the VRBO corporation 😀)

My Guarantees

  • did you know – If you have a problem or a question with the home or area, It is myself, my husband or our housekeeper that will help you with every question and make sure you have everything you need. It will never be someone in a call center on the other side of the world, it will not even be someone in a nice corporate office (even if they did know the best restaurants in Kanab, and they don’t. It’s Escobars by the way.)
  • did you know we have a basic Short term Rental agreement we both sign. You promise to treat my home nice and I promise to have everything nice as promised.
  • did you know – I will ask for a copy of your photo ID at the time you sign the rental agreement. That way I’m guaranteed you are who you say you are. And you are guaranteed someone didn’t just take your credit card and try and go on vacation with it!
  • did you know My home is not “an Airbnb” or “a VRBO”. Even if I do advertise on their site. (But sometimes they like to act like they own it, when they dictate who I may or may not rent to and under what conditions…..sheesh. I wish they would pay their share of the mortgage then….. Sorry, I digress.)

So how do you know if WE are Guaranteed owners with your best interests at heart!?

Good question. Here are some ideas – 

  • Go to  https://www.visitsouthernutah.com/ The Kane county tourism website, you will find The Western Star Bungalow and The Star Garage Studio in their listings. Call and ask to speak to Josie if you would like to ask questions about us. 1-800-SEE-KANE
  • Call Kanab city offices 435-644-2534 ask them if John and Sherene McClellan have a current business license for My Star Vacation rentals.
  • Go into Honeys Marketplace (largest grocery store) in Kanab, Ask for Susan Honey the owner, ask her about The Western Star Bungalow or The Star Garage Studio. 260 E 300 S, Kanab
  • Call me, Sherene McClellan at 435-262-6119 or
  • My husband John McClellan at 435-262-1000

We would love to answer ANY questions you might have.


Help me find a “Book Direct” property. Or, how to do that “little more research” we talked about!

teach me
  • Look for LOCAL area rental sites. Search for “whatever my destination is”, “vacation rentals” or “Book direct”. Scroll down past the OTA paid ads.
  • Search on Fee Free sites such as VacationSoup.com or Houfy.com
  • Find a place you like on an OTA, then search the name of the property or owner in search engines and social media. Savvy owners can leave you clues, but direct info is banned from the listing sites. (I had a guest recently follow my breadcrumbs to my website and saved $500 on her family’s stay!)
  • Search Local area Tourist information sites
  • I have a small list of other trusted great owners from around the world. Might spark your next great adventure! https://mystarvr.com/stays-around-the-world/

So here is a break down of “Booking your Vacation Rental Direct” Pros – 

  • Cheaper, it really is
  • More space than a hotel room for your group
  • Kitchens for meal prep if you want
  • Real owners, no middle man
  • Localized knowledge. We can recommend some AWESOME places
  • Flexible payments
  • Direct communication
  • Some of the nicest properties are not on the OTAs (Some of the great experienced hosts are fed up with OTA greed. Some of us little guys just can’t make it alone quite yet…)

You cannot replace an Owners passion with the Corporate process.

Personal passion vs corporate process

Cheers and Good luck when planning your next vacation, wherever you might stay! -Sherene and John

 

A Favorite Restaurant in Kanab Utah

where to eat in Kanab Utah

You have spent the day at one of the nearby National Parks. (Zion, Bryce or Grand) You had an amazing time, and now you want to top it off with an amazing meal. Where to eat??

I often recommend my guests to try out one of my favorite places – Wild Thyme Cafe

I love their tag line – “Like it should be. Small batches cooked in a scratch kitchen.”

 And they use ingredients from their own organic gardens, including one on-site!
Fresh on site garden, Wild Thyme cafe, Kanab Utah

Wild Thyme has options for all. High-quality beef, fish and chicken dishes, including gluten-free entrees. Plus ample selections for vegans and vegetarians.

My sister and I had the Pistachio Chicken and Tropical Piggy on our last visit. Nom Nom
Fresh food, Wild Thyme cafe, Kanab Utah

 

Every day they pick greens for the salads. Either on-site or their off-site greenhouse. Now that is super fresh! 

Entrees focus on local Southwestern flavors, with an occasional nod to the Cajun. 

But let’s not forget dessert. Viki the owner is our renowened “Dessert Queen”. The cheesecake Sis and I had was “melt-in-your-mouth” wonderful!
Fresh cheesecake, Wild Thyme cafe, Kanab Utah

 

Wild Thyme Cafe has a great location right downtown

198 S 100 East, Kanab, Utah

On Highway 89, just across from the Holiday Inn and a block South of the visitors center.

Open for lunch and dinner every day

12 pm to 9:00 pm

Phone: (435) 644-2848

 

You can check out their website and full Menu Here

They believe in making your next meal your best meal.


Here is a sample of how the current menu looks (9/2019) – 

Menu –

Wild Thyme Entrees Served after 5 pm

Pistachio Chicken $18 We grind pistachios and rub them into a chicken breast with Southwest spices, then grill and serve with sage-buttered smashed potatoes, fire-grilled broccolini and a light poblano cream

Ribs $19 Half rack dry-rubbed with spices, slow braised and char-grilled. Glazed with house BBQ sauce and agave mustard. Served with sage-buttered smashed potatoes and fire- grilled broccolini

Salmon $23 Fresh, house-cut salmon dusted with lime pepper, then grilled and served with coconut rice, baby tomatoes, sweet peppers and fire-grilled broccolini, over sweet pepper cream

Pork Chop $27 Garlic, rosemary and fennel-rubbed 12 ounce bone-in pork chop, served with sage- buttered smashed potatoes and fire grilled broccolini

Lasagna $15 Asiago, parmesan and ricotta layered with pasta, tomato fennel ragout, garlic and fresh herbs. Topped with a parmesan crisp. It’s Chef Dan’s 4’8” tall Sicilian granny’s recipe.

Baked Penne $14 Sauteed broccolini, baby tomatoes and spinach baked in a creamy Alfredo sauce, topped with asiago and parmesan. Pure comfort!

Filet Mignon $29 Garlic-rubbed 7 ounce house-cut beef tenderloin topped with blue cheese-bacon-chive butter. Served with sage-buttered smashed potatoes and char-grilled broccolini

Ribeye $31 Chargrilled to order, 14-ounce marbled ribeye, seasoned with our own garlic-herb blend Served with sage-buttered smashed potatoes and char-grilled broccolini. are cooked with love! 

Wild Thyme Bowls All-Day Menu 

Sicilian $14 Garlic-herb shrimp sautéed with Italian sausage, served with pesto risotto cake, fennel ragout, sweet peppers, pepperoncini relish, fresh basil, spinach, ricotta salata and parmesan crisp

 Beef filet $16 Seared beef tenderloin medallions, sage-buttered smashed potatoes, sweet peppers, fire roasted corn and black-eyed pea salad 

Tropical Piggy $13 Slow-braised Jamaican-spiced pork, house jerk sauce, coconut rice, mango salsa, fresh spinach, pickled carrot and scallion served over rice. Keto? Substitute cauliflower rice 

Sesame Tofu $11 Sesame-crusted tofu drizzled with miso glaze, coconut rice, sprouts, sweet peppers, toasted almonds, pickled carrots, scallions, a ginger-soy-lime sauce and a crispy wonton

 Yellow Curry $13 House-made white bean-turmeric cakes, mildly spiced yellow curry, coconut rice, toasted chickpeas, fresh spinach, sweet peppers, pickled carrots and fresh lemon-mint tzatziki 

 Salads 

Mediterranean $12 Wild Thyme greens, quinoa, feta, ricotta salata, cucumber, tomato, toasted chickpeas, sweet peppers, spinach-herb-yogurt dressing 

Caesar $9 Romaine lettuce, tangy caesar dressing, shaved parmesan, garlic crouton topped with parmesan crisp. Add chicken $4 

House Salad $6 Wild Thyme greens, heirloom tomatoes, red pepper, cucumber, garlic croutons Choice of White Balsamic vinaigrette, Blue Cheese or Ranch dressing. 

Soup and House Salad $10                 Soup of the Day $5.50 

Watch your speed in Kanab, Utah, This Officer is on duty 24/7!

watch your speed, police in kanab

I’m sure Police Chief Cram had no idea when he “hired” Officer Larry, That he would become a popular tourist celebrity! Watch for him as you drive through town on Hwy 89 (He will certainly be watching you). Chances are, there will be a few folks gathered around his car snapping pictured on their phone.

Already a bit of a local celebrity, Latex Larry started his career as “Polymer Pete” as there was already a “Latex Larry” working in a Fredonia, just over the border in AZ. But I understand Larry the 1st retired and Polymer Pete decided he liked the reputation of “Latex Larry” better. Not sure if it had anything to do with his relationship with “Silicone Sally” working up in Orderville, but one never knows…!

Latex Larry has been on the force in Kanab for about 10 yrs now. The Chief says Larry is his best Officer. Always willing to work holidays and overtime. Never asks for a raise and is never late.
And he is a survivor, literally! Cheif Cram rescued him from the shooting range years ago and yes, he still has multiple bullet holes.

He is kind of a handsome guy, big mustache and all. I have heard stories of his double date with two girls in the convertible who were here for The Greyhound Gathering a while back. They were out carousing all over town. Came back with big lipstick kisses on his cheek. Those must have been some pretty heated kisses as you can still see the remnants today. I tried asking him about that, but you know those strong, silent types. Wouldn’t say a word.  

I tried to find a photo Of Latex Larry and Chief Cram in the 4th of July Parade, Larry is driving.
Sign on the car says  – 

Kanab utah police

Good times. 😁

I would also like to track down the photos of the multiple tourists mooning Officer Larry, which seems to be a favorite photo op. But it’s probably better that I don’t, come to think of it.

We hope you make it Kanab soon and get to interact with the locals. Live or latex, they are a pretty hospitable crowd.

Kanab Tour Company – “jam-packed with fun, thrills and adventure!” Kanab, Utah

Kanab Tour Company, Utah

Sand dunes, slot canyons,  hoodoo’s, a hidden lake, and ancient Indian ruins all in three short hours!

A short time ago John and I were lucky enough to go on the Peekaboo Slot Canyon day tour with one of our local, family-owned tour companies.
Here is a short video of our afternoon with Kanab Tour Company – 


Cory and Tiffany Unsworth moved to Kanab and began their tour business in 2014 . These are some of the nicest folks we have met in Kanab!

Kanab Tour Company

ATV tours are just a part of what Kanab Tour Company has to offer.

-They will help you get the very most out of your day at one of our three nearby National parks.

-They will take you boating on majestic lake Powell and then take you to see the iconic Horseshoe Bend.

-They will take you canyoneering into places only a handful of people ever see. 

  • I just need to make a plug for Nick Smith the Canyoneering guide here – This guy is amazing and I TOTALLY recommend you check/follow his Instagram page –   intotheseldom – beautiful and stunning photos of places you are going to be dying to see!
  • intotheseldom

We had such a great time with our Guide and the other folks on the tour. We have been to Peekaboo Canyon a number of times, but never quite as fun as this. We even got to try some sledding sandboarding at the dunes.

Sand dunes, Kanab

“We share a great passion and joy for showcasing the best of this place we call home to the visitors we receive from all over the world.”

I think Tiffany says it best on their own web page – http://kanabtourcompany.com/

“Taking a day tour with Kanab Tour Company means spending a day or an afternoon with your friends or loved ones that’s jam-packed with fun, thrills and adventure. It means hiking through stunning National Parks, indulging in jaw-dropping views, making new friends and even pushing yourself to achieve things you didn’t think you could. Be that hiking to new heights, or navigating an ATV over rugged terrain!”

Kanab Tour Company has had a change of location in the past year or so. Now they are located just as you are headed out of town East on Hwy 89, across the street from the Bureau of Land Management Visitor Center and Wendy’s restaurant. 

We just can’t recommend these kind folks enough when you are looking for adventure in our part of Southern Utah’s Red Rock Country!

How far is it? 10 destinations that make Kanab the perfect basecamp for your Southern Utah Vacation!

How far is it to the parks from Kanab Utah

3 National Parks, 4 National Monuments, 2 State Parks, and 1 huge National Recreation Area – That is why Kanab is the perfect basecamp for your Southern Utah adventure vacation. All of these and more within a 90 min radius.

When choosing a place to stay when traveling, the obvious question is “How far is it to….?” Here are 10 places probably already on your “must see list”.

I literally took all of these mileage sign photos right downtown Kanab.

How Far Is it? Mileage to and from Kanab, Ut

These are the certianly the biggies –

Zion Canyon national park 30 miles
Bryce Canyon national park 77 miles
Grand Canyon national park/North Rim 80 miles

But don’t forget –

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area / Lake Powell -67 miles
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
-9 miles
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument/ The Wave
-47 miles
Pipe Springs National Monument
-20 miles
Dixie National Forest
-40 miles
Kodachrome Basin State Park
-93 miles
The Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
-18 miles

Where are you coming from? –

Salt lake city to Kanab  -312 miles
Las Vegas to Kanab -199 miles
St. George to Kanab  -80 miles
Moab to Kanab -318 miles
Flagstaff, AZ to Kanab -203 miles
Page, AZ to Kanab -75 miles

mystarvr.com/Kanab-area-parks-map.jpg

Come and discover the Heart of the Parks.

Kanab is the largest of the towns along highway 89 from Richfield, Ut to the north (145 miles) and Page, Az to the East (75 miles). St George, Ut is 80 miles to the West.

There are 9 gas stations, 2 grocery stores, great city park with a pool, a few variety and gift stores, 3 museums, plus tons of lodging.
The Kane County Visitors Center downtown is one of the best I have seen. Tons of info and lots of helpful folks to answer any of your questions. Their website is full of planning ideas.

Also, part of being a great basecamp is an abundance of local and diverse dining options. Kanab offers traditional fast-food options along with an array of sit-down dining experiences, including an artisanal bakery, vegetarian wood-fired pizza, authentic Mexican, New American cuisine with microbrews and craft cocktails.

So in short, these are just few of the reasons why Kanab is the perfect basecamp for your Southern Utah vacation!

We would love to help plan your time and host you in two of the most unique vacation rentals in Kanab.
Visit us at www.MyStarVR.com

Western Star Vacation Rental, Kanab Utah

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