Choosing the right accommodation for your holiday can be an absolute minefield, with so many choices and pitfalls. Where do you start? Alps Accommodation, who have operated in the Grand Massif resorts of Samoëns, Morillon and Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval since 2004, have put together a useful 10-point guide to help you avoid scamming, or fraudulent websites, narrow down your property search quickly and ensure your holiday booking experience is hassle-free and, most importantly, secure.
Is the website legitimate and do the properties really exist? If it’s too good to be true, it nearly always is! Trust your gut instinct. If a deal looks good on a website you haven’t used before, there are 4 quick and easy checks to authenticate the website: 1. Is the site secure, i.e. is the web address https://.... rather than http://... The ‘s’ means the website is secure and the website owner must go through many strict criteria to be able to offer this level of security. 2. Are there contact details, including an email address and phone number easily viewable? Give them a call. 3. In the UK we know ABTA or ATOL give us protection, but in countries like France, Atout France is recognised. These bodies ensure that the holiday companies have a financial guarantee to protect you and insurances in place in case the worst happens. 4. Do they accept credit or debit card? It’s best if they do, often not only to give you added protection from your card company, but a company must go through strict criteria again to be able to accept card payments.
Find a specialist provider based in your chosen area. This will save you time sifting through hundreds of different accommodation listings. They will provide professional support and advice to help you choose the right property and will be situated in-resort, so available for local assistance during your stay.
Shortlist properties with plenty of photos for you to browse through, plus detailed descriptions. For example, a list of contents, bedroom layouts, floor plans and GPS co-ordinates of the property. If details are vague, e.g. “near the ski lift”, ask exactly how near or check the address. It might, in fact, be a 10-minute drive away.
Don’t be afraid to ask! If you are unsure which accommodation to choose, contact the company / owner / manager and ask for help. If you can’t decide between a number of chalets, check the pros and cons of each, depending on your group’s needs. E.g. secure parking, non-feather duvets, whether a cot is available. Everyone has different priorities, so ask specialists who know the properties well to help you decide.
Check that your booking is secure and that a booking guarantee exists - i.e. a protection scheme is in place. Check also that professional terms and conditions are clear with a guarantee to cover you if the accommodation is double-booked or no longer exists. Ask the company or owner for their postal address too – you would be unwise to enter into an agreement with anyone whose address you don’t know.
Choose a company/owner offering a professional in-resort service, including a “welcome pack”. You will normally be contacted before you arrive regarding any special requests you may have, also be offered in-resort assistance. Hopefully, you will never need urgent assistance but if you do, local help will be invaluable.
Look for a well-established company or private property which has been rented out for a good few years – Google them! If the company or owner has been around for a long time, they should have a good local following and Internet presence, reviews, social media listings. If they are well-established, people will know them locally! So, check by asking local suppliers, the tourist office or even the mayor’s office (all rental accommodation in France should be registered with the local Mairie).
Choose a company who care about the accommodation they advertise. They should regularly visit the properties they feature. (This sounds obvious but doesn’t always happen!) A reputable operator inspects every property on its books and liaises directly with the owner to maintain high standards.
Make sure you know exactly what the price includes. Look out for hidden extras such as booking fees, tourist tax, cleaning costs, linen costs and utility bills. In addition, look for companies and owners who offer extra, value-added services such as ski-pass discounts, ski lessons and equipment hire discounts and preferred rates on other services. This can save you a lot of money!
Look for a website which has 100% up-to-date availability. Why waste time trying to provisionally book accommodation which is not available? Choose websites where you can get a quick response, and which have a land line phone number which gives you more security than a mobile.
Happy holidays from all the team at Alps Accommodation.