How to avoid Booking Fees

VRBO, HomeAway, AirBnB, and TripAdvisor Alternatives

VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) was one of the first sites on the web to allow renters to book directly with owners, eliminating the middle man and greatly reducting costs. A few years ago, property managers were allowed to list on VRBO, which greatly increased your choices, but also removed the personal touch and again increased fees for those choosing managed properties. HomeAway bought VRBO and most other relevant sites, almost creating a monopoly in the owner advertising arena. At the end of 2015, HomeAway was acquired by Expedia. So the VRBO that you always loved and counted on, is now owned by the Expedia Corporation, the same one that books flights and hotels.

Soon after this acquisition, VRBO/HomeAway (and all the other sites it owns), started leveraging a hefty “Service Fee” to travelers who booked their vacations online. They are now forcing owners to ONLY use online booking, so there is no way to use their site and avoid their fee. VRBO slides the fee into the total and they certainly don't disclose it in large bold print. The owners have no control over the fee and don’t see one red cent of it. If an owner is caught even MENTIONING the fee to guests, VRBO will remove their listing. Keep in mind the emails to owners and their replies are inside a VRBO thread where they can see everything we write. Owners already pay a fee to list on VRBO/HomeAway, but expedia wants more! Afterall, their CEO makes $264,110 A DAY, yes, every single day, but this isn't enough. They want MORE!

Beginning July 2017, VRBO began withholding contact information for both parties. This was done to prevent an owner from steering the renter around this fee (outside of their system). They say it's for "safety" but that is absolute bologna. We know you are much safer if you are able to google my name and info and see if anything bad turns up. Don't be fooled! This withholding of my contact info is because THEY WANT YOUR MONEY. Just how much, you want to know? The “service fee” that YOU pay is not small change. It's up to 15% of your rental cost. In my case, that swings from about $130-$300 per booking depending on the season. Owners have been in revolt over this new fee, as we pay VRBO to list. VRBO doesn't care. They want your money, that's ALL they see. You get the same condo and same great service with me if you pay VRBO’s fee or not. VRBO provides a listing site. I provide your service. Many owners are letting their listings expire and finding alternatives. In this business, we have a huge investments and risks on the line, and letting VRBO control our business and view us as "inventory" that they haven't invested a dime or a minute's work in just isn't acceptable.

Be a savvy shopper. Use Google to find the properties on another listing site that doesn’t charge the fee. If owners are true to their guests and have their guests’ best interests in mind, they will expand their advertising. Almost all of the owners I personally know are doing this. My website was created just for this reason!

What to do? Say you found one of my units on a site that charges a booking fee. The ad would tell you it is “Waterscape C203”. Search google for “Waterscape C203” (the unit number will be important for specific search results). You will find the unit in other places with no fees. I want you to be able to find vacation properties without unnecessary fees, not just in my units, but for all your vacation rentals! Of course, you no longer have to worry about finding MY properties on VRBO. I'm no longer participating in this guest ripoff! Here are some sites that are just taking off. I don’t know which one will become the “winner” as far as gaining market share because this is a brand new problem owners are trying to overcome. All of these sites allow direct communication with owners and do not charge extra fees to book through their site:

Emerald Coast By Owner (Also known as This site is really taking off with over 2000 listings already. On the gulf, this is your best alternative so far. The owners of this site are MAGNIFICENT! I'm in love with this site and their efforts. You have a lot of choices here so click on over! **Their site Smoky Mountains By Owner ( is almost ready for launch too! (also known as, but if you get the S on rentals instead of owners you will pull up the wrong site, so just use the FlaRBO.) This site is owned by two Florida owners who have their hearts and souls invested in you not paying service fees. This site is good for listings all over the state of Florida (Beaches, Disney, Atlantic, Gulf, Keys, it has it all) and has my blessings.

Vacation Home Rental Network ( This has links to the regional sites that owners are trying to build to fight VRBO/HomeAway. In fact, the above website represents the state of Florida on this site. There are many other states represented and it's still growing.

HOUFY. Owner owned, this is still in development but many owners have parked there already. This is going to be a good thing when all is said and done.

AVROA ~ This is a Vacation Rental Owners' Association. It's for us, by us. So no corporation here! This site relaunched in January 2018 and should be growing.

Home Escape (brand new since the fee was instated but has a ton of listings!)

Tripz (been around but trying to revive itself since the fee was instated). Tripz has a lot of inventory but they aren't marketing correctly, because no one has heard of them but owners.

StaySavr ~ There is one more cool feature that really takes all!! It's called StaySavr and was made by a ticked off owner. This is a browser extension (something you download to your computer) and it will show the phone number of any owner on VRBO/HomeAway. I have used this and it is safe and not a virus or scam. It ONLY works from a computer--not a cell phone. And I think it only works from Windows computers (not Apples). If you like to frequent VRBO, this may be for you. It works on all Expedia owned sites, inclding the ones with hotels. This is all about booking direct! How this works is after you install it, anytime you are on the VRBO website it will show you the owner contact info instead of the useless 800 number to VRBO. By the way, VRBO employees know NOTHING about our properties. They read our ads and answer. If the answer isn't there, they just make something up. Save the phone call. Only an owner can answer specific questions not posted in the ad. (Duh!)
It does have a lookup tool but that isn't as accurate as the browser extension but it's still pretty accurate and since it only takes 5 seconds it's certainly worth a shot.

Likewise, there are a ton of groups on Facebook that you can search. Here are a few links but you can search anything!
Destin Florida Vacation Rentals
Panama City Beach Vacation Rentals
Gulf Shores Alabama Vacation Rentals
Vacation Rentals Florida
Great Smokey Mountains
Got it? Now move those ideas to the places you want to go. Seek and you will find!!

Be cautious out there and don't overpay!