In case you missed it, February 1 was International Book Direct Day!!!! Here at AlaVHR, we celebrate #BookDirect Day everyday, but we thought we would take #BookDirect Day a step farther and celebrate the entire month of February!
What exactly is #BookDirect Day?
The “book direct” movement started about four years ago when the “big sites” like VRBO and AirBnB started charging ridiculous fees to travelers and hosts to advertise on their websites. These fees are now 20-25% of the total that the guest ultimately pays for their vacation. #BookDirect Day was created to educate travelers why they should book direct and how to do it safely.
When you “book direct,” you are going directly to the owner or property manager and cutting out the middle man. At AlaVHR, we connect you directly with owners and property managers with NO ADDED booking fees and NO site commissions! Owners pay us a small annual fee, and you, the guest, pay the owner directly. Super Simple and Super SAFE because we verify every owner that lists on our site.
You will see a lot of posts on social media or digital classifieds where someone is offering to let you book directly with them – be very careful! Scammers are real and all too common. It’s very easy for them to pretend to own a vacation rental and scam you out of a down payment or worse, the entire payment for a vacation. We hear stories of families traveling 8-12 hours only to find they have no place to stay! Don’t let that happen to you – learn the signs (check out our short video with real life examples here) and be sure to check AlaVHR.com first!
If you ever have questions about booking with one of our owners, Contact Us and we will be happy to look at it with you to verify you are communicating with the verified owner.
Besides saving money and not getting scammed, there are many other reasons to #BookDirect:
- Direct communication between owners and guests. Do you have any special needs or concerns? Speed up your selection process by going straight to the source.
- Local Expertise – Our owners know the area and can offer tips on where to eat or things to do. At AlaVHR, you can also call us directly for information about your next stay.
- Best rates – You are automatically saving up to 20% off those “big sites” – the average family saves over $400 – yikes!! Think of all the FUN your family could have with that extra money!
- Supporting local small businesses
So go ahead, #BookDirect with one of our Verified Owners on AlaVHR.com – you will be glad you did!
Let’s face it. Booking directly is hard! You have to build the quote, send it to the guest, collect payment, get rental agreements signed, send them check in details, etc.
What if we told you it doesn’t have to be hard? What if you could virtually put your booking process on “auto-pilot” without any added booking fees or commissions? OwnerRez does all of that and so much more for only $35/month for up to two properties – that is less than $10/week to have an “expert virtual assistant” taking care of the booking process so you can focus on taking care of your guests. Unleash the power of OwnerRez by connecting your AlaVHR listing. AlaVHR is an advertising site, OwnerRez is a booking platform, together, we make a great team! Here is what you get:
OwnerRez – Reservation Software
- Instantly build quotes – if desired, you can automatically send quotes
- Automatically collect electronic signatures on your rental agreements
- Collect the initial payment at time of booking based on your rules – payment goes directly to you with no added fees from OwnerRez, just your credit card processing fee
- Collect final payment from guest at the appropriate time
- Automate email correspondence, such as check in details to go out at the appropriate time prior to their stay
- Notify your cleaners of any changes in booking – also works with ResortCleaning.com
- Interested in dynamic pricing? OwnerRez works with PriceLabs and Beyond Pricing
- OwnerRez works great with AlaVHR but also integrates with VRBO and AirBnB
- Run reports at the end of each month to assist with submitting lodging tax, etc
- Text messaging is also available for a small monthly fee
- Add on a fully functioning, direct book website for just a few dollars each month
Learn more about OwnerRez click the image below*
So why doesn’t everyone use OwnerRez??? As you can imagine, there are a lot of moving parts and it is a complex system. Most owners don’t have the time or energy to devote to setting it up and learning a new process. That’s where we can help! For AlaVHR members, we can set up your OwnerRez account and get you ready to start taking bookings PLUS training and follow up support for a low one-time fee of just $149** – and most accounts can be completed in less than one week. OwnerRez offers a similar service for $500 and they currently have a six week backlog. Our low-cost set up service is ONLY available for members using AlaVHR to advertise their rentals.
Most reservation systems are designed for property managers with ten or more listings. OwnerRez is among the few services that will work for owners with only one or two listings as well as large property managers. You may have heard of Guesty and Hospitable which are great for automating communications, but we have not found any other site that can actually take a direct booking (process payments) and handle all the other steps, such as the rental agreement, like OwnerRez. If you are looking for a complete system, you owe it to yourself to check out OwnerRez.
Not advertising on AlaVHR.com? Sign up today! No added booking fees or site commissions and all owners are verified. Earn more and have more control over YOUR bookings!
Ready to get started? Contact Us
Already have an OwnerRez account? Check out these helpful videos! We also provide support to all of our AlaVHR members at no extra charge – if you have a question about OwnerRez, just ask!
Check out our “Unofficial OwnerRez Support Group” on Facebook – nearly 3,000 members and growing! Ask questions and learn how to get the most out of your OwnerRez account:
How to connect your AlaVHR listing to your OwnerRez account
How to import Spot Rates from OwnerRez to your AlaVHR account – It’s fast and easy!
*One reason we can offer the set up service for such a great rate is that we also receive a small referral fee as an affiliate.
** $149 setup fee only available for owners that list on AlaVHR.com
Another wild ride
Nothing about the past two years has been “normal” for the vacation rental business. Hurricane Sally beat us up pretty badly – recovery efforts took months and for some areas, they were hoping to reopen by Labor Day last year. Owning a vacation rental is not for the faint of heart and yet we saw record sales as new owners poured in. 2021 was a record year for real estate and we said goodbye to many veteran owners and made friends with the “newbies” coming into this business.
Website traffic and inquiries are all UP UP UP! Travelers are getting wise to those ridiculous booking fees and commissions charged by the “big sites” – and owners are getting fed up with all the rules being imposed on them.
- Website Traffic up – nearly 2,000,000 Page Views in 2021
- Inquiries up – over 16,000 Inquiries in 2021
- Listings up 12% – We now have over 430 Active Listings – we are the LARGEST “no booking fee” website serving Alabama. We have TWICE as many Alabama Listings as our nearest competitor.
- We sent out over 600,000 emails in 2021 and our email database has grown 25% to over 20,000 traveler emails.
- We have over 21,000 followers on Social Media, including an extremely active Owner Support Group that is open to anyone who owns or manages a vacation rental in Alabama.
While we are growing, our competition is shrinking. What sets us apart? We pride ourselves in giving exceptional customer service, routinely going above and beyond. We have helped many new owners learn the ropes to set them up for success in this business. We continue to focus primarily on supporting individual owners and small scale property managers. We guarantee that your listing will be seen, not buried under major property management companies or hotels.
We truly believe that this will be an amazing year for our AlaVHR family – and when you join AlaVHR, it really is like being part of the family. Most importantly, we want to thank every owner who treats US like family and continues to put their faith in us. We will continue to work very hard for you in 2022!
Have you noticed when you book a hotel or look at airline tickets they have different rates for each day and if you check back tomorrow, the rate may be different than it was today? This is known as “dynamic pricing” and has been quite common in the travel industry for many years. Recently, this technology became available to vacation rental owners as well.
At this time, approximately 75% of our listings display a rate table and about 25% are using dynamic pricing. Because the rates change frequently, we are not able to show the current rates on our website. When that happens, you will see a message on our quote calculator to contact the owner for a quote. Most owners will display an overall range for their rates where the higher end is for peak (summer or high demand periods such as festivals) and the lower end is for winter or off-season rates.
In the future, we hope to integrate with those services to bring you more accurate pricing. In the meantime, please submit an inquiry to the owner for a quote. If you do not hear back from the owner within a reasonable time frame, please contact us and we will follow up with the owner to make sure they received your request.
The Alabama Gulf Coast in particular is in very high demand for the summer months. Holding out for a “last minute deal” usually backfires – prices tend to go up (way up!), not down, for last minute openings in June and July. If you are on a budget and your dates are flexible, we have great weather and good rates from mid-April to mid-May and the prices start going down again in mid-August. September is a terrific time to visit – the weather is still warm enough to enjoy the pool and it’s less crowded.
And remember, you are already saving up to 20% just by avoiding those high booking fees and site commissions charged by those “big sites” – your vacation dollar goes farther on AlaVHR! Each listing is individually owned and operated. All owners on AlaVHR are verified. Please contact the owners directly through the website for more information or to book. Good luck and have a wonderful vacation!
Never miss an inquiry for your vacation rental with the AlaVHR Owner App! Get instant notifications on your device, update your calendar, respond to reviews and more. It’s never been easier to manage your listings on Alabama Vacation Home Rentals. And remember – there are no added booking fees or site commissions when you advertise on AlaVHR.
- Instant notifications for inquiries, booking requests and reviews
- Quickly scan your inquiries to make sure you have responded to each one
- Review and respond to reviews
- Manage your calendar
- Edit your listing and MORE!
Please contact us to report any issues, suggestions or bugs.
At AlaVHR.com, we do not collect payments from travelers so you get paid directly. Many owners use PayPal for Business to manage their reservation invoices. It’s actually very easy to set up and use with a few simple steps.
We created a series of three short videos to get you started.
Part 1: Create a Template in PayPal
Part 2: Create an Invoice in PayPal
Part 3: Manage Invoices in PayPal
We are dedicated to helping owners succeed – if you have any questions or need assistance with your listing, please contact us.
Thank you for choosing Alabama Vacation Home Rentals!
Syncing your vacation rentals calendar with Alabama Vacation Home Rentals is quick and easy. Once you’re done, you’ll be able to monitor all your booked dates in one place so you can manage them easily and efficiently. This article will show you how to sync your VRBO, HomeAway, and Airbnb calendars with AlaVHR.
How to Sync Your VRBO/HomeAway or Airbnb Calendar with AlaVHR
Step 1: Open Your AlaVHR Calendar Inside the Owner Dashboard
- Log into your account on AlaVHR.com
- If you are already logged in, click “My Panel” at the upper right corner of the page to open the Dashboard.
- Select “Vacation Rentals” on the left menu
- Then click “Manage Listings/Calendar” to view your listings
- Find the property you would like to sync calendars and click “Calendar”
6. On the “Availability” tab, select “iCal Import” – this is where you will paste the iCal Link from VRBO or AirBnB later
Step 2: Copy Your Calendar Link from the VRBO/HomeAway or Airbnb Owner Dashboard
- Open another tab on your browser and log into your VRBO or HomeAway Owner Dashboard
- Find the property that corresponds to your AlaVHR listing and click “Manage”
- On the drop down menu under Manage, select “Calendar” to see your Reservations Calendar
4. On your Reservations Calendar, click “Import/Export”
5. Choose “Export Calendar” – a window containing the calendar link will appear.
6. Copy the entire link and go back to the corresponding listing inside the AlaVHR Owner Dashboard
(NOTE: If you have both VRBO and Airbnb calendars, import from the first calendar before starting the second)
- Open another tab on your browser and log into your AirBnB Owner Dashboard
- Find the property that corresponds to your AlaVHR listing and click “Calendar”
- Select “Availability Settings”
4. Scroll down until you see “Sync Calendars” and then choose “Export Calendar” to view your iCal Link
5. Copy the entire link and return to the corresponding Availability tab in the AlaVHR dashboard
Step 3: Sync Your Calendar
- Return to the corresponding listing inside the AlaVHR dashboard, Availability Tab/iCal Import
- Paste your iCal link to the first available “iCal URL” textbox on your AlaVHR Availability dashboard
- Click “iCal Import”
- Calendar will automatically update once per hour
- IMPORTANT: Verify any cancellations or modified reservations update correctly. Contact us if you need assistance.
You have successfully sycned your calendars!
When you receive a booking through AlaVHR, just go to either your VRBO or AirBnB calendar and manually block the dates – it will automatically transfer to the AlaVHR calendar.
If a reservation is not importing correctly, first try to delete the reservation on your AlaVHR calendar, then click “iCal Import” to refresh. If you still experience issues, please contact us and we will be happy to look at it for you.
About the Region
The northernmost portion of Alabama is shaped by the Appalachian foothills and the Tennessee River. With dense forests and high bluffs overlooking the river, the region is particularly scenic and many Alabamians consider it the most beautiful part of the state. The region is also dotted with numerous lakes and spectacular natural features such as waterfalls and deep caverns. As with the central and Gulf Coast regions of Alabama, tourism is a major part of north Alabama’s economy, although the region’s largest cities, Huntsville, Florence, and Decatur, are primarily dependent on manufacturing. Known by many as the Tennessee Valley, the northernmost part of the state is blessed with remarkable natural beauty and biodiversity and its cities—Huntsville, in particular—are younger, better educated, and more affluent than many other parts of the state.
Though Huntsville is one of the oldest cities in the state, it only became a major economic engine during World War II. In a stroke of remarkable good fortune, the US Army missile research program, eventually named Redstone Arsenal, was established in Huntsville during the war. By the early 1960s, Huntsville was a central part of the space program thanks to the location of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center at Redstone. Decades later, Huntsville is still an integral part of the space program and generations of children have spent part of their summers at the center’s “Space Camp.” With a high concentration of engineers and scientists, Huntsville is, on the whole, a youthful, well-educated, and more diverse than many cities in the state.
In addition to its world-famous Space Flight Center, Huntsville is home to numerous other attractions, especially for lovers of the outdoors. Nearby Monte Sano State Park is a great place to explore the natural beauty of north Alabama. Ditto Landing, in the city’s south side, is a great place to begin a day on the Tennessee River, whether boating, skiing, or fishing. Huntsville is also a city that appreciates the arts, and culture mavens can take advantage of the Huntsville Ballet, the Symphony Orchestra, and Lowe Mill ARTS and Entertainment, the largest privately-owned arts center in the United States. Huntsville may be a modern, technologically advanced city, but it hasn’t lost sight of its past. The history of both the city and the state can be explored at Alabama Constitution Hall Park and in the historic districts of Twickenham, Five Points, and Old Town. And if all of the city’s attractions and activities don’t leave you exhausted, it also boasts a vibrant nightlife with plenty of bars, breweries, and live music.
Located in a scenic spot along the Tennessee River and nicknamed the “River City,” Decatur has been shaped by the river. It began as a river crossing in the early 1800s and remains a hub of river transportation. These days, Decatur is known throughout the state for the Alabama Jubilee, one of the oldest hot air balloon races in the South, which draws tens of thousands of spectators and participants each year.
In the northwestern corner of the state are the “Quad Cities” of Florence, Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia, and Sheffield. It’s a particularly picturesque part of the state and an area rich in culture and history. The general Quad City area, which overlaps Lauderdale and Colbert Counties, is also sometimes referred to as “The Shoals,” which can be confusing for out-of-towners.
Of the Quad Cities, Muscle Shoals is arguably the most well-known, largely because of its role in the recording industry. FAME Studios opened in the 1950s with Muscle Shoals Sound Studio a few years later. Eventually a distinct “Muscle Shoals sound” developed. Some of the biggest names in popular music recorded in Muscle Shoals, including the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and Otis Redding, to name just a few. These are still functioning recording studios but they are also open for tours.
Florence, a stone’s throw from Muscle Shoals, has its own proud musical heritage. W.C. Handy, known as the “Father of the Blues,” was born in the city and a music festival in his honor is held in the area each year. As is fitting for a city named after the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is regarded as a small town arts center, with numerous galleries and museums, as well as the boutiques of two highly-regarded Alabama-based fashion designers.
Things to Do in North Alabama
- Northwest Alabama has more music history than some entire states. Take a look through Alabama’s rich musical heritage at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Tuscumbia
- Unleash your inner science nerd at the Alabama Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville
- Get retail therapy at one of the country’s most unique shopping venues—the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro. If an airline has ever lost your luggage, you might just find it here.
- In Oakville, tour the museum dedicated to native son Jesse Owens, whose performance in the 1936 Olympics humiliated Hitler and the Nazis
- In tiny Phil Campbell, Alabama, hike down into atmospheric and eerily beautiful Dismals Canyon, a National Natural Landmark
- In Florence, see the Rosenbaum House, the only home in Alabama designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright
- In northeastern Alabama, make a stop at De Soto Falls, one of the state’s loveliest spots and home to a state park
- Who needs Aspen? Scenic Mentone, Alabama, is home to Cloudmont Ski Resort, the only ski resort in the state. Yes, there is a ski resort in Alabama.
- Get away from it all with miles of hiking trails and scenic wonders near Albertville.
- Enjoy boat life or take the family fishing on one of north Alabama’s pristine lakes including Guntersville, Wilson Lake, Lewis Smith Lake, Lake Martin and Lake Logan Martin.
- One of the state’s more unusual attractions can be found in Cullman. Ave Maria Grotto is a four-acre, miniaturized version of some of the world’s most famous religious sites, such as St. Peter’s Basilica. A few secular miniatures were included for good measure.
- Tuscumbia’s Rattlesnake Saloon has been featured in publications around the world, and with good reason. The watering hole is wedged underneath a large outcropping of rock, giving it a cave-like appearance. See what all the fuss is about.
- Florence has its own unique dining venue—head up to the 360 Grille, a rotating restaurant perched in a tower overlooking the city.
- Wander through north Alabama long enough and you’ll find all sorts of caves, gorges, and rock formations. Among the prettiest of these is Cathedral Caverns, home to the 45’ Goliath, reportedly the largest stalagmite in the world
- Ivy Green, the birthplace of author and activist Helen Keller, is located in Tuscumbia and is open to the public
- With waterfalls, caves, strange rock formations, and hundreds of miles of trails, Bankhead National Forest is a must for lovers of the great outdoors
- Escape civilization for a bit at Huntsville’s Monte Sano State Park
- Step back in time at the Alabama Renaissance Faire in—where else?—Florence, Alabama’s own “Renaissance City”
Things to do within 60 miles of north Alabama
- Tiny Pisgah, Alabama, is home to Gorham’s Bluff, an elegant Southern inn on a high bluff overlooking the Tennessee River
- Lake Guntersville, the state’s largest lake, occupies an expansive 69,000 acres and offers all manner of water recreation as well as hiking and camping
- A stone’s throw from the Tennessee line is a popular hiking destination known as the Walls of Jericho—a deep cave with a waterfall. Getting there involves a hike which is considered difficult.
- Nearby Gadsden is home to Noccalula Falls, a scenic 90-foot waterfall surrounded by a 250-acre park
- North Alabama is home to several covered bridges, including the Horton Mill Bridge near Oneonta, which is reportedly the highest covered bridge over any US waterway
- Chattanooga is an easy drive from northeast Alabama and offers numerous attractions, including Songbirds Guitars, Ruby Falls, and the breathtaking Lookout Mountain
- Take a tour of the Jack Daniels Distillery in nearby Lynchburg, Tennessee
How to get to north Alabama
- Numerous Southern cities are within easy driving distance to north Alabama. The region is easily accessible by Interstates 65, 22, 20, and 59.
- If you’re coming from farther away, north Alabama can be reached by flying in to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, Chattanooga Airport, or Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
- Numerous taxis and shuttle services operate in the region’s larger cities, as do Uber and Lyft, but transportation within rural areas will likely be scarce.
When is the Best Time to Go to Northern Alabama?
There really are no bad times of the year to visit north Alabama. North Alabama gets the high summer temperatures that the rest of the state gets, but without the humidity, making the summer months pleasant. This is especially true at higher elevations. With a proliferation of flowering trees and shrubs, spring is a particularly lovely time in any part of the state. While Alabama will never get the spectacular fall color of New England, the northern part of the state unquestionably sees more of a change in the autumn months than counties farther south. After what can seem like an endless stretch of summer, renting a mountain cabin in north Alabama as the leaves began to change color and the evenings get cooler is one of the best experiences you can have in the state. Winters in Alabama are generally quite mild, but the northern part of the state is a bit of an exception to that rule. You’ll probably never need snowshoes there, but if snow falls anywhere in Alabama, it will typically be from Birmingham north. turn this
Do you own vacation rental property in communities near the Alabama-Florida state line? We realize that many guests search this entire area when choosing a vacation rental and we want to make it easier for them to find YOU! That’s why we have teamed up with our sister site in Florida to offer you this EXCLUSIVE deal!
Get double the exposure and all the benefits of being on both sites – for a special low rate!
First, set up your subscription on the regional site for your property.
Alabama Properties – Click Here to Get Started
Florida Properties – Click Here to Get Started
Once you have set up your paid subscription, you will automatically be eligible for a 50% discount on the border site! It’s that simple!
You will also be eligible for all rights and privileges awarded to subscribers on both sites – including social media groups, newsletter exposure and other promotional opportunities.
Properties located in the following areas are currently eligible to participate. If you would like your area to be considered for this special program, please contact the main site for your property.
Orange Beach Area, Alabama
Lillian Area, Alabama
Pensacola Area, Florida
Gulf Breeze/Pensacola Beach Area, Florida
Perdido Key Area, Florida
On the Alabama site, all listings will be available under our Gulf Coast Region.
On the Florida site, all listings will be available under their North West Region.
Hear what fellow owners say about listing with Alabama Vacation Home Rentals – we are owners like YOU, first and foremost. We are the only locally owned and operated regional site that serves the entire state of Alabama! We will work very hard for you – give us a chance to earn your business with a FREE trial listing! Get started today
“We listed our Orange Beach condo, Silver Beach 803 as a vacation rental about 9 months ago. We have had a great response with inquiries and bookings and will continue to list our property here. They are heavily marketing in the Alabama region and promoting in multiple areas. Susan is very responsive to questions and issues.” – Brenda B., September 25, 2018 See Brenda’s Listing Here
“Some of my nicest guests have reserved through ALAVHR. This site is great for them as they don’t have to pay a reservation fee and for me because it lets me correspond with them without having to go through a “middle man.” I believe ALAVHR is doing a great job and look forward to a long and successful relationship with them.” Linda G. July 5, 2018 See Linda’s Listings Here
“I am enjoying using your site with its ease of use and no booking fees for guest. With the Industry adding more and more fees (on both sides) and forgetting how they got so large, ie us owners, its refreshing to have a platform to advertise where they keep us in mind. I have gotten several reservations for our condos and know it will continue to grow thru word of mouth. As an owner myself, I really appreciate the enhancement to watermark our photos. Very simple to do and if you are unsure, Susan will assist you to get it done. I had my photos stolen off another site and created a new listing to scam guests on Craigs list of all places. I will use every tool I can find to prevent this again. The watermark does not hinder the ability to see the photo but because my name is front and center, no one will want to right click and save. After asking, Susan was also able to disable the right click and save from a computer (doesn’t work on a tablet or mobile device though) . Thank you for all you are doing to help all rental property owners in the area maximize our earning potential. Being such a young business I have high hopes this can become a games changer for all of us in the future.” – Kathy G., June 24, 2018 See Kathy’s Listings Here
“I love that I can offer guests a legitimate website and have complete control over the booking and deposits! Other companies charge a fee for this, a fee for that, oh and don’t honor your wishes for a refundable damage deposit. It’s like banging your head to get anything from that company of anything happens!! This website saves the GUESTS AND Owners all those crazy fees!! Susan had been amazing to work with as well! Are you an owner!? STOP WASTING YOUR MONEY using those other sites! Guest looking to book- don’t go anywhere else!!!!” – Jami B. July 31, 2018 See Jami’s Listings Here
We are a very new website – launched in September 2017. In that short time, we have become the FASTEST GROWING regional site in Alabama! Join our team and let us start promoting YOUR vacation rental!
Questions? Feel free to Contact Us anytime, or Call Us during regular business hours at (251) 333-6500. We are here to help!
Roy and Susan Forson, Owners