Our users support our website. Therefore, we sometimes earn affiliate commissions when you click through the affiliate links on our website. Rest assured that all of our recommendations are made whole-heartedly with the intent of helping travelers like you discover the world authentically and responsibly.

When it comes to traveling, booking a vacation rental through third-party websites such as AirBnb or VRBO can be an attractive option. These properties offer the convenience of easy-to-book accommodations and often tout lower prices than hotels. However, travelers should be aware of the downsides to using a third-party vacation rental before they book.

Risks Associated With Booking Online Vacation Rental Properties

Risks Associated With Booking Online Vacation Rental Properties:

The biggest downside is safety risks. While many third-party sites have implemented some security measures, there are still potential risks associated with using the service. Before booking a rental, travelers should make sure that they read reviews from previous guests and that the property is properly licensed. Additionally, it’s important to ask the host what safety protocols they have in places, such as fire alarms, smoke detectors, security and other safety measures. Ask the host about crime in the area and any recent break-ins or robberies. Many vacation rental properties will not disclose the address until after you book, so asking these questions is vitally important.

It’s also important to be aware of horror stories associated with online vacation rental third-party companies. From used bedsheets, cat urine and cockroaches to hidden cameras, naked hosts, and stolen belongings to being scammed out of hundreds of dollars, the stories are plentiful. There have also been numerous cases of guests finding themselves in dangerous or uncomfortable situations. To protect yourself from these cases, always ensure you deal directly with a verified host and read reviews before booking. Ask to speak to the host before leaving for your trip and inquire about any licenses or certifications they may have.

Hidden Fees:

In addition to safety concerns, there are many hidden fees associated with third-party online vacation rentals. These can include cleaning fees, service charges, and other costs that aren’t always made obvious when you first look to book. It’s important to read the fine print and be aware of any extra costs before you commit to a rental. Keep in mind that along with taxes and added fees imposed by the owners or property managers, third-party websites also add significant fees as a percentage of the total cost, which can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

third-party vacation rental

Service and Amenities:

You will also want to inquire about the amenities that the vacation rental provides. Luxury villa rentals and those offered by vetted travel agencies often come pre-stocked with basic groceries, high-end toiletries and all the comforts found in high-end hotels. However, many third-party vacation rentals found online are not regularly maintained by a professional property manager and may not provide basic necessities, including shampoo, soap and toilet paper. This may be unintentional as properties are often managed directly by owners who reside thousands of miles away and are not keenly aware of the wear and tear their property is experiencing.

While at a luxury hotel, all you need to do is pick up the phone and call down to the front desk when you run out of conditioner, forget a toothbrush or want a late-night snack, online third-party vacation rentals typically do not provide concierge services. Therefore, you may spend significant amounts of time and money running to the store to stock up on basic necessities and even find yourself purchasing items travelers don’t generally bring along on vacation, such as beach towels, sand toys and beach chairs.

Third-Party Travel Booking Websites

When To Consider A Hotel Instead:

When deciding whether to book a hotel or a vacation rental, remember that with online vacation rental companies, you must be vigilant. Travelers need to read reviews and ask many pointed questions. If you’re uncomfortable doing this, it may be best to book a hotel. Hotels are more regulated regarding safety and cleanliness, and there are usually fewer hidden fees. In addition, hotels come with amenities such as room service, daily housekeeping pool access, fitness centers, restaurants, onsite childcare, and activities often lacking in third-party vacation rentals. Most hotels also have 24/7 front desk staff ready to assist you any time, day or night, in case of emergency. Check out our preferred hotels to ensure a great stay!

Ask yourself about the overall experience you hope to have on your next trip. Are you comfortable spending time on vacation cleaning, making beds, grocery shopping and cooking? Or do you prefer to walk down to breakfast, order a poolside cocktail and await as your server delivers lunch as you relax in a cabana? It’s also important to consider your traveling companions. When traveling with small children, a vacation rental may seem appealing for added space, privacy and fully stocked kitchens, but it may also pose added risks such as ungated swimming pools, lack of security, and cleanliness concerns.

Overall, vacation rentals can provide an easy and convenient way to book accommodations, especially for families with young children and couples traveling together. As with all travel arrangements, there are pluses and minuses to consider. Before you commit to a rental, take time to research any potential risks and fees associated with the property and take steps to ensure your safety during your stay, or have a luxury travel agent do it for you.

Property Management:

One point that many travelers may not realize is that vacation rental third-party websites allow for a wide variety of properties to be advertised. While some properties are fully licensed, vetted and professionally managed, others may be full-time primary residences that owners rent out a few weeks a year to earn extra income. The lowest-risk way to secure a vacation rental property is through a reputable travel agency like Boutique Travel Advisors and vetted property management companies.

Vacation property management companies are professional service providers that manage vacation rental properties for owners. They often work in tandem with travel agencies, providing the industry knowledge and expertise needed to help travelers select and book their ideal accommodations. Additionally, they offer services such as 24/7 guest support, local concierge services, and property maintenance throughout the year. This ensures that guests are provided with a safe and clean environment when traveling away from home.

Top questions to ask when renting a vacation rental property:

1. Are there any hidden fees associated with the rental?

2. Is the property properly licensed?

3. What safety protocols does the host have in place (fire alarms, smoke detectors, security)?

4. Have there been any negative reviews from previous guests?

5. Am I dealing directly with a verified host?

6. Are extra charges added on after booking (cleaning fees, service charges)?

7. What is the cancellation policy?

8. What is the check-in and check-out policy for the rental?

9. Are there any noise ordinances I should be aware of?

10. Is the neighborhood friendly toward vacation rentals, or have there been complaints from neighbors?

third-party vacation rental

Rules and City Ordinances:

In response to complaints from neighbors, city councils and negative publicity, many HOAs, towns and cities have implemented strict rules and regulations about vacation rental properties. These range from limiting the number of permits issued to banning short-term vacation rentals in certain neighborhoods. In particular, California and New York City are taking a hard stance. Unfortunately, while many online platforms have taken steps to shut down illegally operated rentals, savvy owners have found ways to continue posting the properties without proper permissions and licenses.

Cities where vacation rentals are highly regulated:

1. Chicago, IL

2. Santa Monica, CA

3. New York City, NY

4. Philadelphia, PA

5. Miami Beach, FL

6. Amsterdam, Netherlands

7. Berlin, Germany

8. Barcelona, Spain

9. Dublin, Ireland

10. Edinburgh, Scotland

In conclusion, whether you choose to book through an online third-party provider or rent directly from an owner via a reputable travel agency, it’s important to be aware of any potential downside of vacation rentals. Take time to research reviews, amenities offered by different properties and fees associated with the rental.

Note: This content is for educational purposes only. We are not affiliated with AirBnb, VRBO or any other web-based third-party vacation rental company. Please do your own research before booking a vacation rental or call our travel advisory team to discuss vetted villa options.

Like what you’re reading? Join Our Luxury Travel Inspiration FREE Facebook Group For Insider Secrets and Special Giveaways!

Boutique Travel Advisors is a full-service, luxury travel agency. We specialize in creating bespoke itineraries for discerning clients around the world. Please visit our website or call 480-787-1477 to speak with a dedicated travel expert. 

Are you planning an international or domestic trip? Check out our other articles to help you come prepared!

We highly recommend the purchase of travel insurance to protect your financial investment and health while traveling internationally. To purchase a policy with our preferred travel insurance company Chubb click here.

At this time, anyone that resides in CA, CO, KS, MN, MO, MT, NH, NY, PA, TX or WA is unable to purchase an insurance policy online. If you would like assistance purchasing a travel insurance policy, please get in touch with a BTA advisor.