Using VRBO: Tips From My Recent Experience

I decided to get away for a few days but to stay on island. Kauai’s North Shore seemed like a good possibility since I love to swim at Hanalei this time of year.  Rather than book a hotel I decided to use Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) for the first time in years to locate a property.

Here’s a report of my experience with the site:

Availability Calendar Mostly a Miss

Some owners do not use this feature which means you’re contacting properties that may already be booked. Those that show their availability do not always keep their calendar current. I contacted 10 properties that showed availability for my dates. Two never responded and seven owners reported (within 24 hours) that they were occupied.

A Good Place to Practice Detachment

It was easy for me to get excited about a particular rental only to be let down when it was not available. Decide on your favorites and send out a blast request to all of them at the same time. My mistake was contacting one property at a time before proceeding to the next.

Photographs Are Important

I was more attracted to properties with good visuals and those that showed a balance between interior and exterior views. Property photos that looked dated did not impress me. I also ruled out those that focused more on the view than interior.

Research Reviews Of Your Finalists

If possible see if you can obtain the address of the property before exchanging money. That way you can do a Google Search for the address to see if reviews have been written. The VRBO reviews were usually not helpful as there was no way to verify if the writer actually had been a guest.

You May Need to Compromise

My goal was a beachfront cottage. When I couldn’t find one available on my dates, I settled on something else that turned out great. Consider what property features cannot be negotiated. I love to cook so a full kitchen was a requirement.

VRBO should have an improved search function

I was only able to narrow properties by location and dates. It would have been helpful to sort on additional criteria like number of bedrooms, price range, amenities and bed size for example.


I almost gave up with seven rejections in a row over the course of a week. Lucky for me I gave it one last go and hit a winner.

In my follow on later this week, I’ll be telling you where I stayed. Here’s a sample of my winning view for $100/night (not including cleaning charge, tax, reservation fee and security deposit which I’ll explain tomorrow).


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13 thoughts on “Using VRBO: Tips From My Recent Experience”

  1. Hi Rob and Jeff!
    I was looking through VRBO rentals for a weeks stay in Oahu. I came across this pretty nice place with great reviews but found they had availablity for only 5 nights. I ended up booking it in case I didn’t find anything else. They offered a weekly/per night rate and a nightly rate. The difference being $10 per night. I wonered if it would be rude to ask if they would apply the lower weekly/per night rate since they did not have the whole week available. What are your thoughts?

    1. Hi Cindy,

      Good question. If it were me, I would not make an issue of the extra $10 per night. I hope you enjoy your VRBO rental on Oahu.

      Best Wishes,
      Rob @Beat of Hawaii

  2. Over the years my husband and I have stayed in Kapoho Vacationland, Kona (HKK), and Puerto Morelos, Q. Roo in units found via VRBO and Home Away — all three times we were able to find reviews of the properties, communicate with the owners before booking, and were happy with our accommodations.

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