How HomeAway Almost Ruined Our Trip to Costa Rica

image: HomeAway Media Center

A few days back, the Michael W Travels family headed out on our final trip of 2016 to Costa Rica. We flew on Christmas Eve to Dallas and had to spend the night before heading to San Jose the following day.

Soon after arriving in San Jose we encountered a major issue in our plans. Find out how Alamo almost ruined our trip to Costa Rica.

After working out our car rental issues we headed to the hotel to rest before getting up early and heading off for our destination close to Manuel Antonio National Park.

We had booked our stay on December 9 through HomeAway in Matapalo, CR. (HomeAway is a site where you rent out homes/ vacation rentals from their owners.) The place sounded really nice and was also a reasonable price which seemed to be hard to come by this time of year.

The room went for $65 per night. With fees our four night stay came to $265.96.

After dealing with Alamo (check out the post at the link above), I figured we were good to go and the rest of our trip would go smoothly. I was exhausted but still fell asleep close to midnight…

Then at 5:30 AM (the next morning) my phone pinged. While I don’t have service out of the US, I did leave WiFi on allowing for some messages to come through. I jumped up and said “what was that?”

Kim was up super early getting ready (her phone was still on NY time). She came out of the bathroom and looked at my phone when I heard some shocking words, our reservation by Manuel Antonio was cancelled!

Now I was really awake, well as awake as I could expect to be at 5:30 am. I picked up my phone and saw the message “I am so sorry but we need to cancel your reservation for today.”

No reason was given, nothing.

I then saw a message in bold which said Reservation Cancelled in the HomeAway App. Next came a message about being refunded for our stay.

This sounded really odd! Who cancels someone’s reservation the day they’re supposed to arrive?

I was exhausted and fuming! My response was WTF followed by “that’s pretty nervy to do this so last-minute“. The host responded, “We are really very sorry“. Again no reason why the reservation was cancelled.

I responded with a nasty message back a bit later on, mentioning how his sorry does not help with the extra costs this caused us.

Once we found out our room was cancelled, Kim and I had some work to do. We booked our room over 2 weeks back and even then it was hard to find something in a decent location for the right price.

We searched and searched, there wasn’t going to be a room for $265 for 4 nights. No chance, at least not if we wanted to be close to Manuel Antonio.

A couple of options on Airbnb seemed to be a bit far away and we couldn’t even think of using HomeAway again right now.

In the end we booked the last room at a property just a few kilometers from Manuel Antonio National Park. The room cost more than double the price of our original booking! Ouch…

Was I pissed? For sure! But I won’t let this ruin our trip.

In the end, Kim and I are very good at keeping the budgets for our travels low. This is one time we were left without much choice and had to pay for it.

As for HomeAway- will I use the site again? I’m really not sure. I filed a complaint, let’s see what they do for me. My guess is nothing…

Have you used HomeAway to book a room/ home? If so, how was your experience?

12 thoughts on “How HomeAway Almost Ruined Our Trip to Costa Rica

  1. Shonuffharlem- Odd? I think your comment is odd! How could I give HomeAway a chance to arrange alternative accommodations? It was 5:30AM when our room got cancelled on the day we were supposed to check-in. Once we left our current hotel, we’d have no internet connection until we reached our destination. I also had no way to immediately reach HomeAway and when I sent an e-mail, I got an automated response.

    Jane Smith- We did get our money back and the guarantee seems to be useless unless the area you are looking for a room has lots of inventory. This was not the case where we were heading. We’ve used Airbnb a bunch of times without issue so we didn’t feel a need to worry with HomeAway. I guess we were wrong and it cost us in the end.

  2. The Homeaway guarantee gives you, if you qualify, your money back, no more, no less. They may, if they DECIDE, give you alternative accommodations for 3 days or find a similar place for you to stay. This is not a risk I would take with a baby and a small child in a somewhat isolated area to save money. This is why I book hotels- more expensive, but safer- especially in someplace like Costa Rica.

  3. This post is so odd. You gave Home away no chance to arrange alternative accommodations. You didn’t say whether the place you booked had lots of reviews or none (which would mean a bigger risk you took). Your really jumping the gun if you wanted a hotel book a hotel.

  4. Carl- I had no real reason to fully explore how HomeAway works. Did I ever think that there was a chance our room would be cancelled? Hell no. And why would I give the renter the benefit of the doubt at 5:30AM? Not once did he mention the reason for cancelling. No it is not the owners only place. He does not live there. From what I recall it is ran by a caretaker. Yes I will write negatively of HomeAway if I want to- that is how I FEEL! I could not waste too much time to try to find a contact # (I was too busy trying to find a new room for our stay). I barely found an e-mail address to write to. I received an automated message how I will hear back in 2-3 days! No, I still have not heard back.
    Negative- LOL. Not really but it sure does seem like you either work for HomeAway or might be having a bad day. Commissions- please send me links to all of my posts selling much of anything.

    William D- I do not write any articles on BoardingArea, I write articles on my site, Michael W Travels. My blog is hosted by BA. I see no reason why I need to be a HomeAway expert- not interested. I tried the site one time and it was a big fail. If you read my post again you will see that I did contact HomeAway and am still waiting for a response. Oh right, they must have awesome customer service that I missed out on!

    bluecat- Sorry to hear about your bad Airbnb experience. You make some really good points when comparing hotels to homestays.

  5. On my recent trip, I booked an AirBnB that was not at all what was described by the owner. Apparently, if you want to complain to AirBnB, you have to do it within 24 hours. I figured it would be very difficult for AirBnB to find us another house with 5 bedrooms on a moment’s notice, so we were stuck.

    I’m trying to work it out with AirBnB now, but they are very slow to respond. And, frankly, they are not motivated (financially-speaking) to force the owner to revise their listing.

    I think your experience (and mine) underline some huge downsides to renting from private parties—downsides that don’t get talked about enough. When you rent from a hotel and you are unhappy, they usually have a way to move you to another room or they have an agreement with another hotel to take—this is not the case with a private party. 🙁

  6. It’s seems odd that you write articles on boarding area and this was about your home away experience but you know almost nothing about homeaway. Not sure how this article relates to homeaway. It seems like your trouble has to do with a particular property and the owner of that property which is listed with homeaway. You didn’t even mention contacting homeaway but you are dissing them like it was their fault. Seems like this article could have been precluded by a bit of research.

  7. Patrick- Ha! It sure did seem that way. Luckily we only had those two strikes and the trip has been going well besides these annoying hiccups.

    Jeff- I don’t know much about the site and wasn’t aware of this HomeAway policy. However, based on what you described there wouldn’t have been a similar property available!

    Rick- I did pay through HomeAway. I’m curious to find out what this guarantee covers. Guess I’ll find out once they respond.

    Carmen- That stinks! Could you have just not accepted the house and then found somewhere else to stay?

    1. Wow, you use a site and don’t even explore how it works??? You don’t look into if there is a guarantee of any sort? You didn’t contact them and ask to be moved? Then you slam the person without thinking maybe a death in the family, a fire or something else and it is their only place? Then slam an entire system because of ONE person canceling, but it is you and you have a big platform?

      Negative much? Or no commissions from HomeAway maybe?

      A fair review or report would have included you using the system’s back-up to save the day rather than just complaining and slamming.

  8. I booked a Luxury Villa at Davenport Florida to spend new year week with my family there. Surprise the villa that I booked do not exist instead I got a small house very basic without all the amenities that I paid for. Nobody at the place or Homeaway help me this ruins my last week of the 2016. Please do not use Homeaway to book ….be aware.

  9. Last minute cancellations are covered under the Book With Confidence Guarantee. As long as you used HomeAway checkout to pay.

  10. Why not use HomeAway’s “Emergency rebooking assistance” which is part of their guarantee if you paid through homeaway using a supported payment method?

    “Rebook another property. If a Protected Traveler’s Reservation is wrongfully cancelled, We may offer to rebook the Protected Traveler at another property advertised on a HomeAway Site, if a substantially similar property is available for the same period and under a new reservation.”

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