12 Crucial VRBO Mistakes Vacationers Should Avoid

Don’t ruin your vacation with these VRBO missteps.
Updated May 17, 2024
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VRBO is in almost every country in the world. Wherever your travel plans take you, there is likely a VRBO rental available.

Short-term vacation rentals are often the choice for large groups or extended-stay type travel plans. However, you should avoid making these VRBO mistakes.

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Not mapping out the location

maya1313/Adobe asian tourist holding a map

If you’re traveling to a new location, it’s understandable you may not be familiar with how close your VRBO rental is to the beach, grocery store, or major highway. If your location is highly important to your vacation, i.e. being able to walk to the beach, double-check with your host about the actual proximity of your rental to your vacation activities.

Only booking because of the photos

Mix and Match Studio/Adobe disappointed man in headphones

Looks can be deceiving. While photos are helpful in getting a feel for the place, it’s possible to make a bathroom or kitchen look much bigger than it is, using a wide-angle lens. If there are items in the images that matter to you, confirm with your host about their availability and access, to confirm your stay will be as you expect.

Ignoring reviews

deagreez/Adobe covering ears

Reviews are a great way to vet the property from other people who have been there. While you may not be able to trust every one-star or five-star review, reading through the reviews should give you a general sense of how well others enjoyed their stay. If the property is a new listing with no reviews, proceed with caution.

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Renting outside the VRBO platform

Joni Hofmann/Adobe green tiled small kitchen

You may indeed be able to save a few bucks by reaching out to the owner directly and booking off the platform — but that also removes all protections you get by booking with VRBO.

By booking through the platform, you’re getting fraud protection, re-booking assistance, security deposit protection, and help navigating any issues with the property not being as advertised. Save yourself the headache and use the platform.

Expecting hotel service

hedgehog94/Adobe hotel chambermaid in uniform

Vacation rentals through VRBO are not the same as a hotel. Each location provides its own listed amenities, and as a guest in the home, you’re expected to be mostly self-sufficient.

Unlike hotels, vacation rentals don’t offer daily housekeeping or meal service. The host may provide basic toiletries as a courtesy, but you should plan on bringing your own — just in case.

Skimming the description

irissca/Adobe female freelancer procrastinates

You are responsible for reading the description before booking a property. Not doing so could put you in a pickle.

For example, if you want to rent a snowy winter cabin and the description says you must have a 4-wheel drive vehicle to access. Attempting to access a cabin on snowy winter roads could result in you being stuck and needing to be rescued — at your own expense.

Not alerting the host to issues ASAP

digitalskillet1/Adobe man with a concerning call

Your host wants you to have a great experience. If, during your stay, you have issues with amenities or the property itself, alert your host right away. They will likely be able to fix it quickly. If not, you can contact VRBO customer service to help resolve the issue.

Not following the house rules

MQ-Illustrations/Adobe businessman holds speech bubble

Guests must agree to house rules before booking a property. If you don’t follow the house rules, you could risk losing access to your vacation rental and will not be entitled to a refund. Make sure all guests in your party know, understand, and follow the house rules.

Not reading the cancellation policy

syahrir/Adobe rubber stamper and cancellation policy

Life happens. In the event you need to cancel your VRBO reservation, make sure you do so within the window set by the property owner. Each host is allowed to set their own cancellation policies. If you’re within the cancellation window, all cancellations must be made by 11:59 pm in the property’s time zone to be eligible.

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Declining travel insurance

photobyphotoboy/Adobe travel insurance documents

Travel insurance can protect you against cancellation fees and damages. VRBO offers travel insurance directly through its platform. While you hope that everything goes according to plan, sometimes that isn’t the case. Travel insurance can help protect you against the unexpected.

Overstocking the fridge

zhane luk/Adobe open fridge with fresh fruits and vegetables

One big benefit of staying in a rental home vs. a hotel is being able to cook your own meals. However, don’t buy more than you need for your stay. It’s likely the host won’t keep any of the opened or unopened food for safety reasons.

Counting on air conditioning

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe woman relaxing under air conditioner

While almost 90% of the U.S. has air conditioning in their homes, in many countries, it’s not standard in homes. Even in the U.S., moderate climates rely on ceiling fans and open windows to cool their homes. If you’re staying near the coast or internationally, double-check if you have access to air conditioning.

Bottom line

Ralf/Adobe vrbo on phone screen

The point of VRBO is for everyone to benefit, renters and homeowners alike. Its dual review system allows for property owners and renters to be held accountable. While you can actively avoid making these mistakes, VRBO offers 24/7 customer support to help fix any issues that may arise with your stay.

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Holly Humbert Holly is a writer who recognizes that there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to personal finance. She is passionate about entrepreneurship, women in business, and financial literacy. With more than four years of experience, her work has been featured on MarketWatch and The Ways to Wealth.

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