Summer vacation time is approaching and you may be considering renting a house instead of a hotel. When choosing which service to use, consider everything from reservation guarantees to guest fees.
Airbnb recently announced what it calls the biggest change to its service in a decade. Four million hosts on the service offer everything from private rooms to full properties for rent. The company’s summer 2022 release adds the ability to search for property rentals by categories such as treehouses, caves, castles and farmhouses. Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky said in an announcement video that one of his favorite categories is called OMG!
‘You have properties where you’re like, I can’t believe this even exists,’ he said, pointing to a yellow submarine available for hire in the middle of the woods in New Zealand.
The company also now offers Split Stays which will create a small two house itinerary whenever you are looking for a stay longer than a week. Chesky showed the example of finding national parks and the app suggested a few days at a property in Joshua Tree, followed by a few days at a rental near Zion.
The final announcement included protections for customers called Aircover. It includes reservation protection if a host cancels your reservation within one month of your arrival, check-in guarantee in case you can’t access a rental for whatever reason, and a Get-What-You-Booked guarantee if tenants have concerns about cleanliness or amenities that are not as advertised. In all three cases, guests will first contact their host to see if they can resolve the issue. If not, tenants contact Airbnb within 72 hours of discovering the issue. If the company finds that the problem is protected by AirCover, it will issue a full or partial refund or find customers a better or similar place to stay.
Airbnb claims to be the only vacation rental company to offer these benefits. It’s true that I haven’t seen the Split Stay option on other vacation rental sites, but Booking.com has the ability to browse by property type, such as farm stays, boats, and luxury tents.
Also, while no other company I researched offered the option of refunds for last-minute host cancellations, check-in issues, or issues with the property, Vrbo says he will find you somewhere else to stay in one of these cases. Guests should let this know within the first 12 hours and are encouraged to contact the property manager first.
Vrbo has fraud protection. If a payment somehow ends up in the hands of someone other than the Host, the Company will reimburse the Guest. And in an email, the company wrote that the majority of properties have the option to pay when you stay “unlike other online travel agencies where customers are almost always charged at the time of booking.”
Now let’s talk about fees. It can sometimes be shocking to see the difference between the first price displayed on a property’s page and the final cost after taxes and fees are added.
Airbnb says its service fee helps cover the cost of services like 24-hour customer support. The website notes that “most customer service fees are less than 14.2% of the subtotal reservation” and tenants will be able to see the charges during checkout before booking.
Vrbo’s website says its service fee covers the cost of secure transactions, product development, and customer service and the amount varies. But a vacation rental marketing company To log in shows that Vrbo charges are usually between 6-12% of the total booking.
Booking.com wrote in an email that he had “no booking fees or hidden and unexpected charges”.
But a comparison of a weekend condo rental in Park City, Utah shows that the website adds a service fee (which all the other companies had as well), as well as destination fees and tourist fees that did not appear on any other website.
Vrbo added damage insurance and all the websites I compared had cleaning fees. The total fees and taxes for this condo ranged from $383.17 (Airbnb) to $442.52 (Vrbo). Both Vrbo and Airbnb showed that Vacasa was actually the property manager for the condo and knowing that, I headed to their website to check the price. Vacasa had no service charge and the total fees and taxes were $350.40; a saving of $33 even on the cheapest option of the big three websites.
Cut out the middleman if possible and check these fees and taxes if price is important to your booking. But also keep in mind the booking guarantees that could make a big difference to the smooth running of your vacation. And don’t forget to scour the websites for those amazing properties you may have thought only existed in your dreams.