Homestay booking site tips


Navigate your way around contact centres, cancellation and guarantee policies for homestay sites such as Airbnb and Stayz.

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Protect your holiday savings


There's bargains to be had on holiday rental sites such as Airbnb and Stayz but the fine print can hold a sweetener or a sting in the tail. Some homestay booking sites have worthwhile consumer guarantees and fraud protection, while others have onerous cancellation fees – and none like handing out their contact details. So save time trawling the booking sites by comparing cancellation policies here or use our quick reference guide to find holiday rental site contacts.

Use our homestay booking guide to get value for money from accommodation booking sites like Airbnb, Stayz, HomeAway, Flipkey and more.

Holiday rental site contacts and cancellation policies

Airbnb

Cancellation policy Help centre

Five standard policies set by the host:

  • Flexible – full refund one day before arrival
  • Moderate – full refund five days before arrival
  • Strict – 50% refund one week before arrival
  • Super strict – 50% refund 30 days or 60 days before arrival
  • Long term – for bookings 28 nights or more cancelled before check-in, the first month of the cancellation is non-refundable

The Airbnb service fee of 6–12% is non-refundable for any cancellation.

airbnb.com.au/help/contact_us

Phone: +61 2 8520 3333

Flipkey

Cancellation policy Help centre

Five policies set by the host:

  • Relaxed – full refund 14 days before arrival or 50%* refund seven days out
  • Moderate – full refund 30 days before arrival or 50%* refund 14 days out
  • Firm – full refund 60 days before arrival or 50%* refund 30 days out
  • Strict – full refund 60 days before arrival
  • No refund – for any reason or timeframe. The TripAdvisor guest booking fee of 8–14.5% is non-refundable

*Booking fee charged proportionately.

helpcenter.flipkey.com/contact_form

Phone: 1 877-FLIPKEY

(+1 877 354 7539)

HomeAway
Cancellation policy Help centre

Five policies set by the host:

  • Relaxed – full refund 14 days before arrival or 50% refund seven days out
  • Moderate – full refund 30 days before arrival or 50% refund 14 days out
  • Firm – full refund 60 days before arrival or 50% refund 30 days out
  • Strict – full refund 60 days before arrival
  • No refund – for any reason or timeframe

If you're entitled to a full refund by the cancellation policy, the HomeAway service fee of 5–12% is also refunded

help.homeaway.com/articles/How-do-I-contact-Customer-Support

Phone: +1 877 228 3145

or +1 512 782 0805

In Australia: (1800 662 594)

Stayz
Cancellation policy Help centre

The host has variable options to set the policy:

  • No refund from 2–28 days before check-in
  • Deposit amount of 20–50% is non-refundable at any time
  • Refundable Damage Deposit is refundable
  • Owners can set special terms and conditions for their property

support.stayz.com.au/contact

Phone: 1800 731 520 or +61 2 8103 4888

Aura
Cancellation policy Help centre
  • The host sets their own policy
  • Regardless of the set policy, the AURA booking service fee of 7–10% is non-refundable

Email: info@aura.travel

Phone: +61 2 8002 5400

Travelling frogs
Cancellation policy Help centre
  • 50% refund if the property can't be re-leased for cancelled booking date
  • Booking deposit is non-refundable unless property can be re-leased for cancelled booking date
  • Any variation or cancellation will incur a $150 Administration Charge.

Email: info@travellingfrogs.com

Phone: 1300 910 10 or 0466 910 100

Booking guarantees

Joe booked accommodation with Airbnb for his holiday in Madrid six months in advance. However, a month out from his booking, the host cancelled his reservation without explanation. Airbnb credited his account with an extra $50 to help cover a potential increase in the price of accommodation, but as it was the peak season, Joe wasn't able to find a suitable alternative on the site. When Joe complained, Airbnb offered to credit his account with a further $200, but it was too late. As more than a week had passed between his email and the response, Joe had already made alternative arrangements.

Some booking and rental sites offer guarantees to ensure you're not left stranded if your booking falls through or isn't up to scratch. Airbnb's guest refund policy, for example, promises (at its discretion) to provide guests with a refund or "use reasonable efforts" to find alternative accommodation in the event that the rental isn't as described, or is cancelled at short notice.

But no matter how good the policies of the site you're using, they won't replace good travel insurance, which is vital. It's important to check the terms and conditions of your cover thoroughly, especially if you're staying somewhere unconventional, like on a home exchange or in an apartment. Check whether you're covered for personal injury, and if the insurer will cover your costs if your booking is cancelled.

How to avoid a holiday rental scam:

  • If a price seems too good to be true, be suspicious.
  • Communicate with the owner via the rental site – don't engage with emails sent from personal addresses with domains such as Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook.
  • Pay using PayPal or the rental site portal – beware of bank transfers and requests for credit card information over email.

The online hotel and apartment booking business can be a lucrative target for scammers and scams can be difficult to detect. Scammers pull swifties by hacking into rental websites, intercepting the email booking inquiry, pretending to be the apartment owner, and responding to the inquirer with an alluring deal. Holidaymakers then transfer money to the scammer, and are left stranded when they arrive at apartments whose owners had no idea what had occurred.

Check if the rental website has a scam protection policy and failing that, process a credit card chargeback.

A cautionary tale

Zoya was looking for a holiday rental in London. Having come across an offer that seemed very reasonable on online classifieds site Craigslist, she emailed "John Fernandez", the real estate agent who was advertising it, and asked for more information.

John offered a discount on the already cheap rate, and the amount quoted was suspiciously low. Interest piqued, Zoya dug around for information on the real estate agency he claimed to be employed by. The company number on the letterhead of the quote belonged to a corporation that was dissolved in 2006, and the website he linked to in his signature was inconsistent, listing two different addresses for his office. Zoya checked Google Maps and found that one was a bath shop, while the other was a genuine real estate agency with a name that matched the one he had given her. But when she emailed them to check whether he was legitimate, they said they'd never heard of the agent or the property he had listed.

Zoya reported the scammer to the UK police, but there were probably plenty of people who didn't pick up on the ruse and ended up hundreds of pounds out of pocket.

Prevention remedy – review the accommodation reviews

Just as you'd check the reviews for a hotel, it pays to check the reviews for a homestay – if they're available. Hosts on sites like Airbnb, Stayz and Couchsurfing all rely on reviews to build a good reputation and drum up more business. A positive review can give you peace of mind, especially when you're considering staying in somebody's home.

Our guide to spotting the fake reviews found user reviews can be difficult to verify even on the most trusted sites such as TripAdvisor. Check reviews about the same accommodation from different sources and beware a sudden increase in positive or negative reviews.


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