Avoid VRBO "User Fees"

You read in my last post that the Vacation Villa Industry is making significant inroads into what was once "hotel territory". Hotels are rapidly becoming less desirable when a vacationer can have his/her private home for the same (or lower) price. You’d think, therefore, it should be getting easier to have your dream home, but HomeAway/VRBO, the largest vacation rental site in the world, seems to be shooting its own best interests in the foot. They just began charging you, The Vacationer, a “User Fee” (~6%) simply for using their website. Fear not, however. I have compiled 7-Highly Effective Habits to avoid them. It will require a few more clicks . . .but these seven "tricks" will save you hundreds.


A VRBO profile still offers a direct link to that villa's website. (If a villa does not have its own website, you likely do not want to stay there). This link will take you to that spot for Casa Tranquila’s VRBO profile, as an example.

  • Find your favorite villa on VRBO
  • Choose “Owner Info” under the lead photos
  • Go to the website of the actual villa
  • Book directly with the owner to avoid the VRBO fee

On your villa’s VRBO profile, you should see a link for the telephone number of the owner.

  • See the box to the RIGHT of the “Villa Description”
  • Click “Show phone number”
  • Call to book directly with the owner to avoid the VRBO fee
  • NOTE: To increase your confidence, Casa Tranquila encourages always speaking with the villa owner him/herself prior to sending money!!

The best villas always have a video on their VRBO profile, and the savvy owner will have his website link pictured somewhere in the video.

  • Find the video
  • VRBO --> Icon in Upper LEFT corner of photo array
  • HomeAway & VacationRentals.com --> Click the BACK arrow of the photo array, and the video will appear
  • Alternatively, search You Tube using the name of the villa + location
  • Book directly with the owner to avoid the VRBO fee
  • Casa Tranquila’s Video on VRBO

VRBO may soon remove the above options. Do not fret. A reputable villa will have the villa’s NAME in its VRBO description. (If they don’t, don’t stay there)!!

  • Locate the villa’s name in the property description. The best villas will have it in the first paragraph.
  • If you cannot find it there, look in the villa’s guest reviews. The past guests will almost always type the name of the villa
  • Google search, remembering to use the location to narrow the search (“Casa Tranquila Manuel Antonio Costa Rica”, for example)
  • Reliable villas will have their own business website
  • Book directly with the owner to avoid the VRBO fee
  • NOTE: When you use a general Google Search such as “Vacation Villas in Manuel Antonio”, the first page will be full of websites for aggregate sites like VRBO & Trip Advisor. You may have to go to the second or third page to find the website link for your actual villa.
  • Any villa that is serious about its business will have a presence on Facebook, including its contact information
  • Type the villa name and its location in a Facebook search
  • Casa Tranquila’s Facebook Page, for example
  • Call, email or F/B message the owner there
  • Book directly with the owner to avoid the VRBO fee
  • If you are returning to an area you have been, reconnect with the accommodation you used before
  • Owners who are proud of their businesses will help you find a suitable villa . . .even if it's not theirs
  • It’s not without its own frailties, but thus far Trip Advisor/FlipKey does not charge its vacationers.
  • Most villas you would find on VRBO also have a profile on Trip Advisor.

These methods may take you five extra minutes and save you hundreds of dollars on VRBO’s “User Fee”

Email me directly at donald@casatranquilacostarica.com if I can offer any further assistance.