How to avoid Booking Fees---VRBO, HomeAway, and AirBnB Alternatives

VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) was one of the first sites on the web to allow renters to book directly with owners, giving renters direct access to owners while saving the renter money and giving them better quality properties. The VRBO that you used to love was bought out by Expedia, the same one that books flights and hotels. Soon after this acquisition, they started leveraging a hefty “Service Fee” to travelers who booked their vacations online. They are now forcing owners to ONLY use online booking and forcing renters to pay online, so there is no way to use their site and avoid the fee. 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. VRBO withholds contact information for both parties, to protect their fee by keeping us from finding each other directly.

Just how much is this costing you? The “service fee” that YOU pay is not small change. It's up to 20% of your rental cost, usually between $200-$500 per booking. Owners have been in revolt over this new fee, as we pay VRBO to list. You get the same condo and same great service with an owner if you pay VRBO’s fee or not. VRBO provides a listing site. Owners provide your service. Many owners, like myself, are letting their listings expire and finding alternatives.

Be a savvy shopper. Use Google to find the properties on another listing site that doesn’t charge the fee. For example, 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. 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 attempting to provide alternatives. 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 4000 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 ( has also launched 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!