No booking fees - Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii

No Need To Pay Service Fees – Book Directly With The Owner

Service Fees

When our luxury home, Kauai Vacation Rental at Honu Point, was completed in 2015, I signed up for a subscription with one of the big name vacation rental sites. I paid an annual fee for the advertising it provided. This site offered the guest the convenience of seeing a variety of choices, and communication between the guest and owner prior to booking was encouraged. Booking my home on this site was free to my guests.

In 2016 a well-known travel company bought this site, and now it is hard to avoid a service fee without booking directly with a vacation home owner. These fees can be significant. Even with the owner paying the listing site a subscription fee, the site now charges the guest a minimum service fee of 4% – 15% of the rental. “Service Fee” sounds somewhat better than “Booking Commission,” but it is simply a fee the site charges the guest for using its services.

There is nothing wrong with a vacation rental site charging a fee for its service, though it tends to irk me that they are getting paid on both ends of the transaction for nothing more than advertising. What is really upsetting, however, is that they make it impossible for me to communicate directly with my guests, outside of their portal, prior to booking. They block phone numbers and website addresses from portal emails. So, there is no way for me to call a potential guest ahead of their booking my home.

For these reasons, owners are banning together to get the word out about how to book directly the next time you want to rent a vacation rental property. I still use the advertising site, but I wanted to bring awareness to my past and future guests of the choice you have when renting a vacation rental property.

#bookdirect - Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii

Free Vacation Rental Sites

As the big sites have tacked on fees, some smaller sites have arisen to compete by charging no service fees. They make their money strictly from homeowner subscription fees and advertising. If you want the convenience of seeing many choices while avoiding service fees, look for these sites. Here are three sites that I list on which do not charge a service or booking fee. Hawaii Chee even does a price comparison between all the listing sites.

Book Direct

Many homeowners are creating their own websites so you may book directly with them. You are reading this article on just such a website: If you book direct, you communicate directly with the owner and will avoid booking fees. But how do you find such a site?

  1. Look at your destination on Google Maps. Some rental homes, including this one, will show up. You can see where it is and whether it has a personal website.
  2. Search on Facebook for the name and location of your destination to see if some of your favorite properties have a website or a Facebook page. From there you may contact the owner/manager directly. You can find our page, for example, by doing a quick Facebook Search for “Kauai Vacation Rentals by Owner” or visiting us at
  3. Use a big name vacation rental site to narrow down your choices and see if your desired home has a name. If so, plug the name and your destination into your favorite search engine or paste the booking site’s URL into Hawaii Chee. Many savy owners name their property for this reason.

Please do your own due diligence.  Read the reviews for the home in multiple web locations. Talk to the owner by phone and ask lots of questions. Then make your choice on how you would like to proceed with your booking.

Do Service Fees Provide You Extra Value?

Vacation rental companies advertise that they will guarantee your stay and give you 24/7 support during your stay. But, they don’t own any inventory they can substitute, and credit card companies can better help with a money guarantee. Many homeowners will accept credit cards, even when you book directly. Furthermore, how will the big travel sites help you during your stay?  Isn’t it better to establish a relationship with the owner? Most owners either live closely to their vacation rental, or have a reliable source ready to help if needed. I take pride in making sure my guests have the best stay possible.

Whether a property is reserved through one of the booking sites or directly, makes no financial difference to most owners. As a guest, consider the pros and cons of each method. The choice is yours. Either way, I am at your service when you stay at Kauai Vacation Rental at Honu Point.

For more of my blogs, or to subscribe, go to our Guides page. For more information about Honu Point, our luxury vacation rental on the north shore of Kauai, go to any other page of this website. We would LOVE you to follow us on Instagram. Mahalo!

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  1. Aloha from NoCal. We are an extended family looking for a large home to rent for a Kauai vacation around Christmas week 2018. All together our group is twelve including my parents, my brother’s family and mine. Kids are young adults and two teen girls. We have rented many houses and condos in Hawaii and around the country and will treat your home with respect and likewise courtesy to your neighbors. We don’t need extreme luxury, maid service or rose petals on the walkways but expect and appreciate cleanliness, quality and responsible owners. Please let me know availability and rate for a stay of 7-9 nights between Dec 22 and Jan 1,2019. Thank you.

  2. Aloha Barrett,

    Thank you for your interest in our home. I will send you an email regarding your questions, but for others who may read this comment, our home sleeps a maximum of six people. There is an availability calendar and rates schedule under the tab “Calendar and Rates” on the website page for


  3. I am so grateful to find your article. Your website is very useful and I will be sure to recommend travelers book your home on Northshore, Kauai. In fact, I know Patrick L. who just got married and stayed at your Honu home. I would like to find listing sites that do not charge our traveler service fee and now will check the listing sites above. So far, I could only have my own websites, the Bird of Paradise home, the Orchid House, the Hawaiian Hibiscus home, they are in the same area, Poipu, the southside of Kauai. Over several years, I have been thinking of a method to offer direct booking to travelers who want to stay in Kauai, Hawaii. Without paying the service fee, it would make our travelers’ trip more affordable. Interestingly, as the homeowner, we treat every traveler the same, however, I have a feeling that some travelers prefer to pay the service fee to get the confidence that the middleman would help to solve their problem if the problem arises, especially with the cancellation. My 15 years of rental experience confirm that none of these listing sites did anything to help out travelers other than calling me. The service fee is now higher than ever. VRBO is charging >$500-$800/booking plus VRBO lodging tax (4.711%) and charges the processing fee to the homeowner. Airbnb fee is higher than VRBO fee. You are exactly right, these listing sites monitor our conversations between the homeowner and travelers. They threaten to take my listings down if I lead my conversation to book direct. I have a few homes (4-5 bedrooms with private pool/AC) in the same area Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii. I will list my homes on the sites that do not charge our traveler service fee. So far, I could only have my own websites,, the Bird of Paradise home, the Orchid House, the Hawaiian Hibiscus home in Poipu, Kauai.
    Mahalo, Ning (734) 223-2209

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