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  • Writer's pictureEmily

Becoming a savvy traveler: How can I get the best deal?

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

Being a savvy traveler starts way before the bags are packed. It starts with booking.

The good thing is that you, as a traveler, have choices. You'll often find the same listing on Vrbo, Homeaway, Expedia, Airbnb, and on independent websites, like ours here at Fireside Retreats. And, on most of them you'll pay a percentage of the reservation amount as a "service fee", which is basically a convenience fee for using their platform. (It should also be noted that hosts are charged a fee as well.) A simple Google search of Airbnb & Vrbo "service fees" will quickly reveal confusion surrounding the fees charged by various sites. What are they for? How much are they? With all this uncertainty, I thought it might be helpful to clear up some of this confusion with an explanation of these fees.

So, let's get started... Psst.. before we begin, it might be helpful to note that Vrbo, Homeaway & Expedia are all sister companies and operate under the same umbrella.

What is a service fee?

While each company (Airbnb, Vrbo/Homeaway) describes theirs a little differently, the overall explanation is pretty similar. The "service fee" is a surcharge tagged on to a reservation for booking on a particular channel. Most often, a fee is charged to both the host and the guest. These fees contribute to operations costs such as their own customer support, each's website, online transactions, marketing costs, etc.

How much is the service fee?

It's hard to nail down an exact amount or percentage here, as the algorithm used is vague in most cases. And, these amounts aren't advertised or easily found. Airbnb and Vrbo/Homeaway are both similar in that they charge a percentage based on total reservation amount. However, they each do seem to differ in percentage amount. I'll break it down a little further for you...

  • Vrbo/Homeaway describes their service fee as "a percentage of the total amount of the reservation, excluding taxes and refundable fees, paid by the traveler." They are a little vague about how much their service fee actually is, but note that the "amount varies" and that "generally, the higher the reservation amount, the lower the percentage of the service fee." They do also clarify that this service fee is taxed, based on local tax regulations.

  • Service fee up to 11%

  • According to Airbnb, their service fee is said to be "typically under 14.2% of the booking subtotal" with the booking subtotal including "cleaning fee(s) and additional guest fee(s)" in addition to total rental costs. They do note, however, that the "fee varies based on a variety of booking factors and is displayed to guests during checkout before they book a reservation" via

  • Service fee up to 14%

  • When booking direct on Fireside Retreats there is no service fee.

Who collects the "service fee"?

These fees go directly to the third party (Airbnb, VRBO/Homeaway, etc), NOT the homeowner or property management company. And the homeowner has no control over this amount, including the ability to waive, change, or refund it.

So, how can I avoid these fees?

Who doesn't want to get the best possible price and avoid service fees? Fortunately, the solution is simple. BOOK DIRECT!

Not only do we not charge a service fee for booking on our website, we also offer the best rates. Check out a comparison below:


These quotes were generated for a stay at Cottage at the Creek for two nights in February. You'll notice a slight difference in nightly rates. As i mentioned earlier, Hosts pay hefty platform fees as well. Direct bookings allow us to circumvent those charges, making it possible to offer a discounted nightly rates on the website.

The first one is from VRBO


Followed by a quote on Airbnb for the same dates


And finally a quote from the Fireside Retreats website:

So, let's compare:

Cottage at the Creek, February 1-3 2021

VRBO $340.32

Airbnb $344

Fireside Retreats $290.18

I don't know about you, but I'd use that extra $50ish to head to one of the local restaurants in Mountain View for a good meal!

Wherever you book, we'll be here looking forward to hosting your getaway!

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