A website can be one of the most valuable marketing assets in your vacation rental business. And the good news is that you can create a direct booking website in just a few clicks.
There are several different ways to build a direct booking website, so we’ve created this guide with information and examples to help you decide which option is best for you.
Why Take Direct Bookings?
Before building your website, it’s a good idea to make sure you want to take direct bookings in the first place. We strongly recommend taking direct bookings for the following reasons:
- Remove booking fees – You can lower your prices by up to 5-15% or keep that extra cash for yourself.
- Gain independence from OTAs – Platforms like Airbnb and VRBO are great for getting bookings, but you probably don’t want your business to be completely in their hands.
- Market directly to your past guests – Having your guests book direct is a great way to start growing an email list, so you can easily grow your marketing audience.
- Establish trust and credibility – Taking direct bookings makes your business look more established and legitimate, which can lead to more bookings.
- It’s easy – With all the vacation rental software out there these days, it’s never been easier to take direct bookings and manage your bookings across multiple channels.
One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll want to get your own vacation rental insurance since you’ll be solely responsible for any damages and liability (but we recommend having your own insurance policy anyway).
If you don’t want to take direct bookings right now, then the options we cover in this post are mostly irrelevant. You can simply choose your favorite website builder, pick a template you like, and create your website. Here are our recommended Squarespace templates and Wix templates for vacation rentals. You can also add a link to your Airbnb or Vrbo listing, or even embed your Airbnb listing.
How to Build a Direct Booking Website
If you do plan to take direct bookings, the good news is it’s very easy! There are several vacation rental website builders with built-in booking engines and a range of templates.
Here are the 3 main ways to create a direct booking website:
- Option 1 (easiest): Use a vacation rental website builder
- Option 2: Add a booking page to an external website
- Option 3: Use WordPress to build a self-hosted website
Option 1: Use a Vacation Rental Website Builder
The easiest way to build a direct booking website for your vacation rental is to use a vacation rental website builder. These software platforms are designed specifically for this purpose.
Here’s a list of the best vacation rental website builders we recommend:
When choosing a vacation rental management software, make sure it includes the following features:
- Direct Booking Engine – Feature that enables you to accept reservations and payments independent of any other channel.
- Channel Manager – A channel manager will allow you to sync bookings and property details across multiple booking channels (like Airnbnb, VRBO, your website, etc.) – for convenience and so you can avoid double bookings.
- Website Builder – Ability to create a standalone website that includes your properties (this feature is optional if you decide to use an external website–more on that below).
All the platforms we’ve included in this post offer all 3 of these features, though they vary in how advanced the features are.
As you decide which software you want to use, keep in mind you can either use these as standalone websites, or combine them with a Squarespace website.
If you aren’t trying to create something very custom, then you can go ahead and choose your favorite vacation rental management software and set up your website in minutes (in some cases).
- easy to set up
- lower cost (since you aren’t paying for an additional service)
- convenience of having everything in one place
- limited to more basic website builder features
Most vacation rental management software platforms offer very basic website builders. One exception is Lodgify, which has one of the most advanced website builder features.
Below are some examples of websites that were created with the built-in website builders of each of these platforms. You can also read our review of the best vacation rental website builders.
Lodgify has the most flexibility in terms of web design out of all these options. You can check out their template library or look through this list we put together of Lodgify website examples. Also, check out our Lodgify review.
OwnerRez has the next most advanced website builder after Lodgify. They only offer one template–basic but clean and uncluttered. You can also create custom pages. Read our full review of OwnerRez.
Uplisting has a very basic website builder with only one template–but we love the design. If you’re thinking about adding direct booking to an external site like Squarespace, then Uplisting might be a really good option for you.
Option 2: Add Direct Bookings to an External Website
If you already have a website set up, or you want something more custom than what you’ve seen so far, another option is to add direct bookings to an external website (like Squarespace or Wix).
Essentially, you’ll be creating two separate websites (one with a vacation rental website builder from the list above, and one with Squarespace or Wix), and using them together.
This is the option we recommend for most of our clients who want beautiful, easy-to-use websites, while also taking direct bookings.
- more website template options and design features
- more control over website
- better blogging features (great for marketing your vacation rental)
- one more thing to manage
- more expensive (but not much, since most website builders are around $10-$20/mo)
Here are some examples of adding direct booking to an external website.
Lodgify + Squarespace
Lodgify and Squarespace play well together. You can easily add a Lodgify ‘Book Now’ button or even a search bar to your Squarespace website. Check out our post on how to use Lodgify and Squarespace together.
Uplisting + Squarespace
Uplisting has a really well-designed, easy-to-set-up direct booking website template. If you combine it with a beautiful Squarespace website, you can easily create a really nice, custom direct booking website for your rental property.
Option 3: Create a Self-hosted WordPress Website
If you’re familiar with WordPress development, or you’re interested in learning (or at least following some tutorials), you can also pretty easily create a vacation rental direct booking website with WordPress. There are a few vacation rental WordPress themes and plugins you can use to create a standalone direct booking website, that doesn’t require a subscription to any other vacation rental software.
You could also choose any vacation rental WordPress theme, and add a Lodgify booking widget to your WordPress site. Or simply add a ‘Book Now’ button that links to your property listings on your vacation rental software of choice.
Once you’ve chosen the technology you’re going to use, it’s time to set up your website. Obviously, this process will be different depending on which booking software and website builder you choose. But it might look something like this:
- Create a free trial account(s) (e.g. Squarespace + Lodgify)
- Choose a template (e.g. Suffolk or Livingstone)
- Add your properties (import from Airbnb)
- Create additional pages (for amenities, info about the area, etc.)
- Buy and connect a custom domain name (roughly $10/year)
Again, depending on which platform(s) you choose, these steps will vary. The options we’ve covered in this post are all pretty straightforward, and you’ll have access to tutorials, demos, and help from customer support.
If you want to easily create an attractive, customizable direct booking website, then we recommend Lodgify. It has the most templates and customization options out of all the vacation rental management software platforms on the market today. They also have a ton of convenient backend features for short-term rental owners and property managers.
If you’re looking for something even more custom, we recommend you add Lodgify to a Squarespace website. You can also mix and match any other website builder (Wix, WordPress, etc.) with any other booking software you choose.
And if you don’t really care about customizing your website, you can opt for a super simple direct booking website like the ones offered by Uplisting. These are extremely easy to set up, and you can import your properties directly from Airbnb or VRBO.
We hope this post has helped you better understand how to create your own vacation rental website. If you have any questions or you’d like to know more about our custom websites, please get in touch!
An extremely important point that I think you left out of your article, which is VERY important for business owners / hosts who are considering these platforms is the fact that Lodgify does not allow you to own your website.
For business owners who want to build a website as a business asset that compounds in value over months and years as they continue to invest considerable amounts of their time, money and effort into growing it’s exposure, it’s a bit brutal to find out after the fact that you are now hostage to staying with Lodgify for eternity, unless they want to start all over from scratch — essentially throwing anything they invested into Paid Ads or SEO with their Lodgify site down the drain.