Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.
Vrbo is a legitimate vacation rental service.
It lets you rent homes from owners — Vrbo doesn't own the homes itself.
Vrbo is a competitor to Airbnb.
Editor's note: VRBO is now part of the One Key travel rewards program, which you can read more about here. This article is being updated to reflect that change.
Depending on your travel style, family size and destination, you might opt in for a vacation rental property instead of a hotel. More often than not, you’ll have access to a kitchen, more shared space than in a hotel, and possibly a lower price.
Vrbo (pronounced VER-bo) is an online marketplace featuring vacation homes available for short-term rental. If you’re wondering whether Vrbo is safe to use to book a vacation home, the answer is yes.
Here’s what you should know about the website and how to find the best deals on Vrbo.
» Learn more: Airbnb vs. Vrbo — which is better for travelers?
How Vrbo works
Is Vrbo legitimate? That depends on what you mean by "legitimate." Vrbo is an established company with a website that connects homeowners with travelers looking for vacation lodging. Vrbo offers houses, condos, cabins and cottages for family vacations anywhere in the world. But Vrbo has its pitfalls.
Properties aren’t always as described. Some aren’t as clean as a brand-name hotel, and others are in a shabbier shape than their pictures indicate. Check-in can be inconsistent — and thus complicated. Some hosts become unresponsive if issues arrive — and some hosts might cancel your reservation entirely at the last minute with few repercussions (even though you get hit with a penalty if you cancel on them last-minute). Fees are aplenty.
However, that doesn’t mean Vrbo is terrible. In fact, for many travelers, Vrbo can be great. This is especially true for those who want an entire home rather than an individual room, those visiting areas where hotels are nonexistent, or those seeking a unique vacation experience.
To book on Vrbo, type your desired destination into the Vrbo search tool, select your travel dates, indicate the number of guests, and tap "search."
Once options are displayed on your screen, you can filter results by factors such as:
Access to nearby activities.
Filtering with the “instant confirmation” booking option removes the delay in securing your rental.
You can also view a two-month availability calendar with blacked-out dates and prices for the open dates. This view can help you score deals if your travel dates are flexible.
Sift through the available properties and pick one that fits your preferences. Fill out guest information, book and pay.
» Learn more: The traveler's guide to Vrbo
Is Vrbo a safe site?
Vrbo is a reliable vacation rental site; however, wise travelers often do their own research to improve the odds that they’ll have an enjoyable stay in someone else’s home.
Make sure to pay attention to the amenities mentioned in the listing. Read reviews and the details of the cancellation policy. Make note of any additional fees, such as cleaning and service fees, charged by Vrbo itself.
If you’re unsure whether a particular property will suit you, feel free to contact the host and ask additional questions about the accommodation.
Take note of how quickly you receive a response and whether your questions have been answered.
When it comes time to settle the bill for the vacation home, always send a secure payment through Vrbo and avoid sending a direct electronic payment or personal check. This way you’re protected against fraud or scams.
What if the Vrbo owner cancels your reservation?
If you’re a traveler seeking to cancel a Vrbo reservation, you’re at the mercy of that property’s cancellation policy. Policies vary by owner, but they’re not always the most generous (especially compared to hotels, which often don’t require payment until check-in). Vrbo cancellations often only entail a partial refund.
What happens if the host cancels on you? It’s not uncommon. Perhaps the host has a vacation home they post on Vrbo when they aren’t using it, but they decide at the last minute they want to head out there for a mini getaway. If they do, you can get the boot, even if you’re locked into a reservation. This could leave you scrambling to find last-minute lodging. Vrbo will offer you a refund, but you'll still have to find somewhere else to stay.
Vrbo hosts aren't usually fined or banned if they choose to cancel the renter's reservation. Vrbo does say that host cancellations "can affect your ranking metrics," so it seems Vrbo is trying to discourage cancellations, though they don't go as far as imposing a financial penalty. That said, Vrbo spells out that hosts "are prohibited from canceling a material number of accepted bookings." So a host may get banned from the platform for doing this frequently.
Ways to get a good deal on Vrbo
Although Vrbo doesn’t publish coupon codes and you can’t get a traditional discount like you would with an online travel agency or a travel search aggregator, consider the following ideas for scoring a deal on your vacation rental.
Book recently-added properties
It might sound scary to reserve a vacation home with no reviews. You don’t know what to expect from the accommodation, the area or the property manager. However, you can get a 20% discount off your nightly rate by booking a stay with a new Vrbo listing.
This newcomer discount is offered during the property’s first 90 days on the website, and you can be one of the guests helping a host establish a star rating. Everyone has to start out somewhere, and you might as well get a good deal from a newly listed property.
If you’re not afraid of less-than-ideal weather, travel to a destination during either shoulder season or off-season. Depending on your destination, you might score a 25% to 30% discount on travel during shoulder season and a 70% to 75% discount on travel during off-season vs. peak season. Likewise, avoid traveling during popular vacation times or holidays because your nightly rate may skyrocket.
» Learn more: Why 'shoulder season' is the best time to travel
If vacation time is non-negotiable and you are, indeed, traveling in peak season, search for a rental home early, especially if you're visiting a trendy destination. Searching early will mean more listings on the site that haven’t been nabbed yet, and you'll be more likely to find a place in your budget.
Contact the host and ask for a discount
Whether you’re looking to book a last-minute rental or a long-term stay, some travelers have successfully scored a deal by contacting the property manager through the platform and politely asking whether they’d come down on price. Unless the host can risk having a vacant unit, they might be willing to offer a stay discount or a free night, or to waive a cleaning fee.
This may not work, but it can’t hurt to try. For a higher chance of success, tell the homeowner a little about yourself and be cordial.
And if you manage to negotiate a discount, you should still handle payments through Vrbo to protect your finances. Payments made outside of Vrbo’s checkout form or site aren’t eligible for Vrbo’s Book with Confidence Guarantee, which provides a number of consumer protections, including the ability to get a refund if something goes wrong.
Redeem travel statement credits for Vrbo rentals
Some credit cards offer travel statement credits, and those that can often cover certain Vrbo stays. In fact, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers a $300 annual statement credit that can be used to offset Vrbo purchases.
Check cash-back shopping portals
There are a few ways to earn additional cash back for your Vrbo bookings if you know where to look. For instance:
» Learn more: The best alternatives to Airbnb
So, is Vrbo legit?
Vrbo is a legitimate vacation rental website. If you're considering booking through Vrbo, make sure to read reviews so you know what to expect, and pay through the website to be protected by Vrbo's guarantee, which provides a number of protections.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card