How to Book a Fabulous Beach Vacation Without Unnecessary Service Charges


Have you ever found yourself in this situation before?  You decide to buy concert or sporting event tickets for your family.  You check out the seat and price options and decide what you are willing to spend.  You settle on your exact seats, and before you know it, service charges and convenience charges have turned your $50 seats into $80 seats!  All of a sudden, you are paying more money than you had planned to spend, and you have no idea what that extra money is actually paying for. All you know, is that you are not getting better seats for the extra charge! No one wants to deal with the same thing when booking a vacation.  When you book that dream getaway, don’t you want all of your charges to be straight forward, with no hidden or unnecessary fees?  I bet you do… and luckily, I have some simple tips for you to follow to make that vacation rental as stress free and as economical as possible.

When we built out first rental house in OIB, listing our home with VRBO was the logical thing to do.  Yes, we had to pay to have our home listed, but we were able to be found and quickly connected with travelers who were interested in renting their dream vacation home.  There were never any extra fees because after finding us, you booked directly with the owner. Life was good! Unfortunately, VRBO is no longer a listing service, and that doesn’t necessarily add any additional benefits for the renter.

Here is the new reality renters face when using listing services like VRBO:

  • VRBO is now acting like a middle man between the owner and the renter. In the past, once you found a listing that interested you, you were able to contact the property owner directly. However, VRBO now wants to make sure that you book the vacation through them, and to be sure that they can collect their fee, they do not want you to speak to property owners outside of their system, until after the vacation is already booked. 
  • In addition to the annual fee that owners must pay in order to have their properties listed, VRBO is now adding a percentage to the rental and charging YOU, the renter, a ‘service fee’ of anywhere from 4%-9%. Property owners don’t see any of that fee and are powerless to remove it from the reservation.

We understand that many people book vacations through listing sites like VRBO, airBnB, etc. because they are a one stop shop and may give customers a sense of security.  But, what are you really getting from that extra service fee? Little to nothing.  So, how can you book your trip without those extra service fees?

  • When using a listing site, once you find a property that you are interested in, do a little research. Search the web with the name and address of the property.  It’s likely that you may find other avenues for booking that same vacation.  Booking direct with the owner is always the best way. 
  • A simple web search will often find you a website for the property that you are interested in. There you’ll be able to contact the owner directly, get additional information about the property and the area, and view more photos and videos.  Best of all, you’ll likely be able to book your vacation without any extra fees. 
  • Today, Social Media has been embraced by many home owners as a great way to reach and stay in contact with current, past, and prospective guests. Be sure to check if the rental property has a Facebook or Instagram page.  Besides finding the owners contact information, you’ll be able to communicate directly through the site as well as have access to a wealth of information often not found anywhere else.

Booking a vacation for your family and friends can be very stressful, especially when you are going someplace for the first time. You want access to the owner so they can answer your questions and tell you more about the home and the area.  You especially don’t want to spend more money than necessary. Take a small amount of time to do some extra research and it can lead to you saving a lot of money and ultimately leading to a more enjoyable vacation experiance.



3 thoughts on “How to Book a Fabulous Beach Vacation Without Unnecessary Service Charges

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  1. We’re always looking to save money and service fees are a big racquet. However, with VRBO, Airbnb, etc., isn’t there a sense of security in knowing the property is valid? There are a number of fake listings on these sites and if you do find an owner that will book direct, you are generally paying cash versus a credit card. How do you guard against such when dealing directly with owner and cash?


    1. Joe,

      Thanks for the reply! You do bring up a very legitimate concern when doing business over the internet. Buying things such as office supplies is a lot different (and less riskier) than committing to a vacation rental. How can you trust your going to get what you think you’re paying for? How can you be sure your payment is going to the actual owner? Scammers often go after people who aren’t that savvy. Here are some tips to stay savvy and to be able to better tell when someone is trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

      1) Does the owner offer alternate payment methods besides cash? A request for you to pay with MoneyGram and Western Union is a red flag. Use a credit card instead. Most legitimate rental home owners offer credit card payment as an option. If you decide to pay by check (and a lot of our renters do to avoid extra credit card charges), normally, you should be asked to make it out to the business/ LLC. If you are asked to make the check out to a name you can’t verify, that’s another red flag. If a credit card payment provides you with the security you require to move forward with the booking, and the owner doesn’t offer it, move on.

      2) Before you give ANY credit card numbers or payment information, ALWAYS request and receive a rental agreement or contract. Be sure it specifies the dates you will be staying in the property, the cost of the rental, any deposits, taxes, cleaning fees, and the cancellation and refund policies. Without a signed rental agreement DO NOT move forward. If an owner refuses to use a contract or written agreement, find one that will.

      3) Make sure you contact the owner and ask questions. Email is great, but pick up the phone and have a conversation. Does anything sound too good to be true?

      4) Ask to see additional photos. If it’s the owner you’re talking with, they should be easy to produce.

      5) Use Google Maps (particularly Street View) to make sure the property you are looking to rent actually exists at the address advertised.

      6) Is the price right? We all love a bargain, but is it priced too low for the area and the quality of the home? Some deals are just too good to be true. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

      7) Confirm legitimacy. For ownership and all documents, confirm that the owner’s name or Business name on the lease is the same as the one shown on public property appraiser records.

      8) Go with your gut!. Be a skeptic during the rental process and you’re more likely to see red flags. You’re also more likely to catch suspicious behavior.

      9) Does the owner or the rental company/ LLC have a wide presence on the internet? Besides a website, do they have a Facebook page? An Instagram account? Are these pages active? Does all the contact information “tick and tie” across all platforms? Often, other renters are interacting through these sites. What are they saying? Read the reviews? Follow. Interact. Ask questions. These sites take a lot of work to maintain and maintain well… often a scammer can’t and won’t go through the trouble.

      10) And probably the best bit of advice I can give you is to be a repeat renter! Do you vacation in the same area often? If you find a home that you love, keep going back! Developing an ongoing business relationship helps you not only avoid the risk of being scammed on a new property but also can net you a repeat renter discount.

      While no method is 100% foolproof, using some of these tips with a healthy dose if savvy skepticism can help you avoid the unfortunate pitfalls of falling prey to a scammer.


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