Booking Stays Using VRBO

Booking Stays Using VRBO - TOC

Travel Tips Reference Box

Overview – Booking stays using VRBO (or AirBNB)

We have used the website Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO) on numerous occasions both in the United States, Europe the Caribbean and in Mexico.  Our trip to Italy in 2014 was the first time I had ever used it in Europe.

I now will usually check both AirBNB and VRBO when we are looking for places to stay.  They are very similar.  I believe VRBO was AirBNB before there was an AirBNB.

I have not booked a location using AirBNB yet but I have friends who have, and they have been very satisfied.  Personally, I am still much more familiar with the VRBO website, and their way of identifying and describing their units, so I still tend to go with them first.  However, if I don’t find what I’m looking for using VRBO, that is when I will then look at AirBNB.

When I did start looking for Italy units, I was very surprised by the number of VRBO units available all over Italy.  There were many VRBO units to choose from, even on top of the tiny hilltop village of Orvieto where we stayed.  In fact, we stayed at VRBO units in each of the six different geographic locations where we stayed except for Venice.  When visiting Venice, we took the train into the city and only stayed there one night so I booked a hotel right on the canal.

In Italy, Even though all of the units were owned by either Italians or Germans, I had no problem communicating with them via email prior to booking.

Since I do not use AirBNB that often, I will let you work your way through their website on your own.  However, it seems to have a lot of similar functionality to VRBO.

The following is a step-by-step description of how to use the VRBO website.

Researching and Booking Using VRBO

Accessing the Website

Booking Stays Using VRBO - Graphics 01-1.jpg

  • Log onto the VRBO website –
    • While not necessary, I recommend creating an account and personal login for VRBO. Doing so will allow VRBO to accumulate history of previous rentals which you may find beneficial.

Searching for a Specific Area

Search Destination or Listing #

  • Booking Stays Using VRBO - Graphics 02-1You can enter a general area into this box (such as USA, Colorado, Italy, Tuscany, etc.), or you can get quite specific, down to the specific town.
    • If you enter a general area, the listings returned will obviously be much more widespread.
    • When you enter a name in this box, however, a list of recommended more specific locations will be selectable. You do not have to restrict your entry to a selection from that box.

Enter Check In and Check Out Dates

  • Dates are not required.
    • I tend to enter dates which approximate the times that I wish to travel. But I’m not sure exactly what is limited in your search if you do enter dates.  You seem to still see units that are already rented during that time period, but you won’t know that until you look at the booking calendar for a specific unit.
    • If you leave the dates blank, it appears to default to a week time period about 2 weeks into the future.


  • As with check in dates, this field is also not required.
    • However, if you click on the box, you do have the opportunity to indicate whether or not you are only interested in units that allow pets. It is a quick way to limit your search, although there are other ways to do that using Other Filters.

Search Results

Booking Stays Using VRBO - Graphics 03-1

  • When you select Search, if any results meet your criteria, they will be displayed in the following format.
  • Result summaries
    • On the left, you will see boxes that contain summary information, and a picture, about each of the VRBOs that meet your search.
    • Booking Stays Using VRBO - Graphics 03-2By default, VRBO returns units based upon its own criteria, probably some form of popularity.
    • I suggest changing the sort using the   Booking Stays Using VRBO - Graphics 03-3      drop down.
      • I almost always use the Price: Low to High
    • GPS Map Locations
      • On the right, you will see an interactive map which is based on your initial search location. It shows all of the VRBO units within that area which meet your criteria.
      • You are able to zoom in on the map using the +/- box at the top left of the map.
      • You can target a specific area by clicking and dragging your cursor.
      • To see the summary for a specific unit, click on the  Booking Stays Using VRBO - Graphics 03-4.jpg  icon

Narrowing Your Search Results

  • Booking Stays Using VRBO - Graphics 03-5.jpgSelect a Price Range
    • Click on Price and then drag the circle icons to the amounts desired (left circle for low, right circle for high).
  • Select Number of Bedrooms
  • More Filters
    • You may specify many additional criteria here.
    • If a criteria is not found in your current search location, then the criteria selection will be grayed out.
    • Here are the selection criteria that I typically use.
      • Waterfront (in Location)
        • If I want a water location, I find this to be a little less restrictive than specifying Beachfront, or Oceanfront.
      • Internet/WiFi (in Features & Amenities)
      • Pets Allowed (in House Rules)
        • This is also selectable by clicking on Guests box in the initial selection field.
      • A search I would personally like, but I have not been able to find, is one that only returns units that have a King Bed.
        • Oh well. You can’t have everything I suppose.

View Details about a Specific Unit

  • Click anywhere on the summary box (picture, text) and the detail area for the specific unit will be displayed.

Booking Stays Using VRBO - Graphics 04-1

  • View pictures
    • Click on the left or right arrows on the first picture that is displayed to view other pictures of the unit and surrounding area.
  • Overview
    • This area provides a quick summary of the unit and also provides a description written by the owner
  • Amenities
    • This area provides much more information specifically about the unit. Areas I generally check are …
      • Internet access
      • Parking availability
      • Number of bedrooms. If there is information about the type of beds (such as king, queen, futon, etc.), this is where it will be.
      • Number of bathrooms.
      • Television – Cable/Satellite
      • Local Attractions
      • Leisure Activities
    • Reviewsvery important
      • This area lists tenant reviews from recent stays.
      • I always scroll through these. I have found them to be quite reliable and often very informative.
      • If there are no reviews for a property, that may mean the property is a new listing, but I tend to avoid properties that do not have any reviews.
    • Map / Location
      • This displays an interactive map of the specific property location. You may not always see the exact location (street) for a unit but only the general area.  However, in most of my recent experiences, the specific location has been shown.
      • However, you do not usually get the actual address of the unit until after you contact the homeowner.
    • Booking Stays Using VRBO - Graphics 04-3Rates & Availability
      • This area displays a calendar with the approximate rates displayed for each day.
      • If a day has already been rented, it will be grayed out.
    • Additional Information about Rental Rates
      • While not always displayed, this area will show any additional fees, such as Cleaning, Returnable Deposit, Pet Fees, etc.
      • Be aware, you won’t know the exact total for the rental period until you contact the homeowner.

Contacting the Homeowner

Once you have decided upon a property which appears to be available for the time period you wish, you then contact the homeowner using the VRBO website.

Ask Homeowner a Question

  • First, note the Property # of the unit.
    • This will often be necessary to quickly access and search for your specific unit.
  • Booking Stays Using VRBO - Graphics 04-2Click on Ask Owner a Question from the right hand column.
    • This will allow you send a message directly to the homeowner but through the VRBO site. In turn, they will contact you back through the website.
    • The back and forth messages will appear both on your personal account in the VRBO website and also in your personal email address.
    • The homeowner’s email address will NOT be displayed and you will not learn it until the homeowner decides to provide that to you.
  • Booking Stays Using VRBO - Graphics 05-1Message text.
    • Do not enter any contact numbers, addresses or phone numbers in this text. That information will only be available to you and to the homeowner.
    • Things I typically ask are …
      • Verify that internet is available and the connection is strong.
        • Not always the case just because WiFi is listed in Amenities.
      • Verify the rental fee for the entire rental period, including any refundable fees.
      • Verify that pets are allowed and that the pet fee is included in the quote.
      • Does unit have a king bed?
        • As I indicated earlier, the details listed often do not specify this.
      • Verify the cancellation policy.

The Homeowner Responds to You

  • Almost immediately, you will receive an automated response to your question from VRBO. It will indicate that the homeowner will be contacting you shortly.
    • My experience is that you will normally hear back from the homeowner within about 24 hours, almost never longer than 48 hours.
  • Once again, unless the homeowner provides their email address, you will need to respond from within VRBO.
  • If you have not already received it, be sure to get the specific address of the property.
    • I view the specific location by using Google Maps, and also Google Street View.

Finalizing the Reservation

Verify the Cancellation Policy

  • This is not consistent between properties so always verify the policy for your specific unit before arranging a payment.

Verify the Initial Payment Required

  • This may well be the full amount, or it may be a partial amount, with the remaining amount due by a later, specified date.

Verify How Payments will be Submitted to the Homeowner

  • More and more homeowners are allowing payment either directly by credit card or via PayPal.
    • Setting up a PayPal account is quite easy, and seems to be very secure. I always use it if it is available.
  • Payments to a foreign country may require some other form of payment.
    • As I specify in my general Travel Tips document, I recommend against doing wire-to-wire transfers since there are often substantial fees that will be assessed by your bank.
    • Instead, use a bank-to-bank transfer or PayPal.
    • I have actually asked a homeowner to open up their own PayPal account since that is necessary in order to use PayPal.

3 thoughts on “Booking Stays Using VRBO”

    1. Thanks for taking a look at this post. I wanted to share some things I have learned over the years booking VRBO’s. I was very impressed when we went to Italy. It was amazing that there were multiple locations to choose from all over the country, even in the tiny hilltop town of Orvieto.

      Liked by 1 person

Please leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.