The Alternative to Airbnb that Savvy Travelers Know

The Alternative to Airbnb that Savvy Travelers Know

Alternative to Airbnb Jamaica airbnb with pool

It seems there are a lot of people who want an alternative to Airbnb.

What’s the ruckus about and what’s a solution? Read on to learn more.

Villas and vacation rentals have become incredibly popular, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic – so much so that AirBnB is now a household name, akin to what Kleenex is to tissues.

But, the love affair with AirBnB for many is on the rocks with many people not wanting to book on the site anymore or from any other online travel agency (OTA) or third party listing site for that matter. Some people even feel like they should go back to hotels (gulp)!

Why? What’s the issue?

Outrageous service fees! I’m not talking about taxes, gratuities or cleaning fees. I’m talking about the booking fee that Airbnb and other OTA’s charge for the privilege of booking through their website.

Table of Contents

Why do people book with Airbnb in the first place?

Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, people are choosing vacation rentals over hotels for the value, comfort, privacy, space, convenience and the ability to form their own travel bubble, limiting exposure to unfamiliar persons.

The main reason many travelers use OTA’s like Airbnb is because of the ease of finding multiple vacation rentals to choose from in one place. The sites are easy to use and to book. All you need is your credit card. Plus, many people feel more comfortable booking with a “large company”.

With their massive advertising budgets, OTAs easily monopolize the first several pages of results on any search engine you would use. This can be true even if you search for the name of a specific property!

These factors, among others, cause many people to think they have to book through sites like Airbnb; but, with the hefty service fees is that always the best approach?

What is the Airbnb booking fee for?

Is it travel insurance? No, that’s different.

Is it a damage deposit? No, that would be separate.

Is it tax? No.

It is the fee to book through their platform. In essence, the fee for introducing the owner to the guest and vice versa.

Airbnb presents the fee as being for extra security and their 24/7 customer service.

Here is the challenge – It is truly difficult for them to realistically deliver on this promise.

What will they do for you if there is a backed up toilet? Or if you can’t find the driver for your airport transfer? They have no on island agents in Jamaica, for example. Who will you call?

You could call Airbnb but why would you want an agent in an office somewhere who likely has never been to your vacation rental or area giving you advice on what to do?

At the end of the day, it’s the owner and or their people on the ground who will be there for you.

How much is the Airbnb booking fee?

The fee varies but could be 10-15%. For large villas in Jamaica that could easily be over $1000.

What could you do with that extra money? Let’s see…

  • Pay for trip insurance, especially the now coveted “cancel for any reason” insurance
  • Spend an extra night at the villa
  • Use it towards the tip for the villa’s staff who would have put in several hours of overtime to give you a fantastic vacation that you will be talking about for years.
  • Hire a van and driver service for a few days to see the sights safely.
  • Indulge in a deluxe spa day – need I say more?
  • Get Club Mobay arrival and departure airport lounge passes for your group
  • Pay for airfare for an extra person to join you depending on where they are flying from
  • Have upgraded meals at the villa
  • Hire a photographer to do a photo shoot
  • Have a decorator create a fab setup one evening to celebrate a special event.

You get the idea.

The problem isn’t that Airbnb should not charge a fee. The issue is that the fee is exorbitantly high considering that it is merely a listing site with no “boots on the ground” to help in an emergency and does not offer any kind of travel insurance.

So what is the alternative to Airbnb and the other OTA’s?

Answer – Book direct from the owner and purchase separate trip insurance!

7 Things You Might Not Know About Booking with Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)

As guest-centric as Airbnb would like to portray itself as being, many guests often don’t realize that

1. Airbnb, VRBO, and the like are websites, simply websites, that introduce guests looking to book vacation rentals with people who have properties offered for rent.

Airbnb’s own Terms of Conditions confirms this to be true.

“As the provider of the Airbnb Platform, Airbnb does not own, control, offer or manage any Listings or Host Services. Airbnb is not a party to the contracts concluded directly between Hosts and Guests, nor is Airbnb a real estate broker or insurer. Airbnb is not acting as an agent in any capacity for any Member, except as specified in the Payments Terms of Service.”

VRBO is no different. The first point in their terms and conditions reads

“The Site is a Venue and We are Not a Party to any Rental Agreement or other Transaction Between Users of the Site.

We urge all users to be responsible about their use of this Site and any transaction entered into as a result of either listing a property or renting a property. We do not own or manage, nor can we contract for, any vacation rental property listed on a Site. The Site provides an on-line marketplace to allow homeowners and property managers who advertise on the Site (each, a “member”) to offer for rent in a variety of pricing formats, a specific vacation or short term rental property to potential renters or renters (each, a “traveler” and, collectively with a member, the “users”).”

Point made.

The only reason for the OTAs to convince guests that they are involved in the booking process is to justify their service fees.

The blind faith that is attributed to these sites is ill-placed. Just go to a website like and read the reviews for AirBnB and VRBO, from guests and owners alike, and draw your own conclusions

2. The booking or service fees are not additional monies that go to the owner.

This fee goes 100% to the OTA. (Please don’t get mad at the owners over the inflated prices that are calculated at checkout on these sites.) It is the fee that is charged to introduce you to the owner.

3. Those OTAs that don’t charge you a booking fee, may charge a higher commission to the owner.

In many instances, the OTAs charge you, the traveler, in addition to the vacation rental owner as well. Subsequently, the owner gets less money for your booking, so less money to spend on you, fewer perks than if you booked direct.

4. If there is a problem during the vacation, the OTAs have no on-the-ground agents.

It is still the owner or property manager on whom you will be depending for help.

5. These agencies offer no guarantee of quality.

They merely allow properties to be listed on their site. It is rare that they actually inspect the property or even check for accuracy of the listing.

6. The OTAs themselves are not immune to scams

and these do occur as unscrupulous individuals may successfully create fake listings. Just search the internet for articles about payoffs by Airbnb and non-disclosure agreements.

7. Your booking fee through an OTA, Airbnb included, does not provide trip insurance and does not mean that you automatically get your money back if you cancel.

There are cancellation policies that have to be respected whether booking through the OTA or directly from the owner.

5 Reasons To Book Directly From the Owner – a Great Alternative to AirBnB

An international movement, Annual Book Direct Day, now celebrated on the first Wednesday in February, aims to educate guests of the value of booking directly from owners. Even hotels, not just vacation rentals, have got on board.

Check out these 5 reasons to skip the OTAs like AirBnB and book directly from the owner.

1. No booking fees.

Not having to pay the OTA’s service fee(s) can add up to significant savings.

If you book direct, there is no service fee! And, your booking can still be secured with a credit card – because this is a service that is offered by many owners.

2. Best rates

The lowest rates are hardly ever found on the listing sites.

The same way guests pay a fee when they book on those sites, owners frequently also pay a fee, usually a certain percentage of the booking. Some of the fees are quite high. charges owners between 10-25%. Expedia charges 15-20% and so on. No way will the owners be able to put their best rates anywhere other than their own sites.

3. Communicate directly with the owner, without barriers, before you book.

Avoid the middle-man. Any vacation that involves a wedding, milestone celebration, or any form of coordination of groups of people, is made more difficult to plan through the OTAs because they limit your ability to exchange pertinent information like photos and documents until AFTER you have booked.

We have requests for destination weddings quite frequently; however, couples often end up frustrated because they want to know about available services and associated prices before they book.

We are not able to send this information to them via the OTA’s contact form nor are we allowed to refer them to wedding planners or even to share links with them unless they book first.

This is the perfect catch 22 situation. Who will book a villa in a foreign country for a wedding before finding out what the estimated wedding costs will be? Answer: Almost no one!

4. Benefit from the owner’s local knowledge.

Owners who book directly are generally very involved in their property and know the area well. Let their insider knowledge help you plan a great vacation.

5. Support small business!

Most vacation rental owners are small operations. Your booking makes a big difference to their survival

7 Ways to Find Vacation Rentals Online and Book Directly from the Owner

The OTAs, especially AirBnB, dominate the first several pages of internet searches making it extremely hard to find websites for true vacation rentals by owner. If you search online for “alternatives to AirBnB”, you will usually get other competing OTAs listed first.

Additionally, the listing sites do not allow websites and or external links to be associated with listings.

Don’t give up yet though.

Here are 7 ways to find vacation rentals owners online so that you can book directly from them.

1. Google is your friend.

If there is a property you like on Airbnb or a listing site, read the description to see if the house has a name. Look to see if you see the name in any of the pictures, for example on a sign on a gate.

If so, Google the name along with the location, in case there are multiple properties with the same name. An owner for whom running their vacation rental is more than a hobby will usually have a website and this is the easiest way to find it.

So for example, to find our villa you would type Mais Oui Villa Jamaica into Google or your favorite search engine. Our own website is usually one of, if not the first, listings just below the ads. There are other sites on which we list but once you visit the site and see our dedicated About Us page, there will be no doubt that you have reached the right place.

2. Search for the name of the house on social media,

particularly Facebook and Instagram.

Even owners who don’t have a website might have social media pages.

3. Search for specific sections of text.

Copy any section of text on the listing site that seems to be very specific to the property and plop it into a Google search. You would expect that distinctive features or tag lines would be mentioned on multiple sites. You might find that same string of text on the owner’s website.

4. Do an image search.

Right click on a photo on the listing site and do a Google search by image. Chances are good that the owner uses the same photos in their advertising elsewhere. This is especially true for money shots – pictures that would make the house recognizable.

Another approach is to right click on an image and choose “copy image url”. Go to Google images at Paste the url then click on the black camera icon on the search bar.

5. If you do not have a specific listing in mind, do a search on Google or Bing for “vacation rentals in Destination X” or “villas in Destination X”.

The first several pages will be listings from the major OTAs such as AirBnB, Expedia, VRBO, as well as villa agencies.

Don’t give up. Keep scrolling until you see the websites of owners who have taken the leap to have their own websites in an effort to be independent of the OTAs. This may be the 4th or 5th page of Google or beyond, depending on how popular vacation rentals are in the area you are searching.

6. Search for singular terms such as Jamaica villa for rent versus Jamaica villas for rent on Google,

which is more likely to bring up villa rental agencies. Do a similar search on social media such as on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

7. Search for hashtags that relate to villa or vacation rentals in the location in which you are interested.

For example, #Jamaicavacationrental or Jamaicavillarental.

Is it risky to book a vacation rental direct from the owner?

Clearly there are advantages to booking a vacation rental directly from the owner.

Yet, there is still often that little feeling in the back of some people’s minds, especially newbies, wondering if the property they are renting is for real, if it is a scam, if it will be as advertised, if they will lose their money, or if the vacation will be a disaster.

With more and more people booking vacation rentals online, it is unfortunate, but not surprising, that scammers have found ways to weasel their way into the picture, taking advantage of unsuspecting vacationers – both on and off sites like AirbNB and VRBO and the like. And yes, unfortunately, although they are in the minority, there are also some bad apple owners in the vacation rental industry.

The reality is that regardless of whether you book with an OTA or book direct, you need to do your due diligence.

Our top tips for booking any vacation rental safely are:

1.  Make sure the property is “legal”. If the jurisdiction requires a license, book a licensed property. Jamaica requires a license.

2.  Have a signed rental agreement.

3.  Carefully read the reviews. Look for recurring themes.

4.  Talk to the person from whom you are renting.

5.  Pay securely with a credit card.

6. Trust your gut feeling

7.  Purchase “cancel for any reason” insurance.

Check out these blog posts for additional vacation rental tips so you can book with confidence whether or not you choose an alternative to AirBnB.

19 Ways to Stay Clear of Vacation Rental Scams

13 Simple Ways Vacation Rental Reviews Can Help You Pick Great Rentals

The Value of Renting a Licensed Jamaica Villa

So there you have it, the blueprint for finding a safe alternative to Airbnb for booking your next vacation rental.

Did I miss any tips? Let me know so I can consider including them the next time I update this article!


Soooo . . . is Mais Oui Villa in Jamaica legit?

Mais Oui Villa in Jamaica offers space galore. Perfect for multi-family group vacations in Jamaica

Mais Oui Villa in Jamaica is a legitimate, professionally run, licensed, Jamaica vacation rental. It is perfectly safe to book this villa direct and save yourself several hundreds of dollars in unnecessary booking fees.

If you have any doubt in your mind that we are legit and don’t feel confident booking directly, go ahead and book through one of the online listing sites that we and many others list with. They will charge you a fee, but if you don’t mind, and it makes you feel better, even safer, then, by all means, go ahead and book through them.

If you love our house and want to stay with us, here is the link to our own website to book directly with us:

If for whatever reason you wish to book through an online agency, here are the links to our listings. We prefer for you to book through them than to not book at all.




We look forward to hosting your group soon!

‘Til next time.

Think and dream Jamaica!

Sherry, Darrell, and Darrian

Considering a visit to Jamaica with a group? Contact us today for more information about, Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa, our boutique 8-BR ocean view Jamaica villa rental experience in beautiful Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Perfect for multi-generational families and groups, retreats, and intimate destination weddings and vow renewals.

Visit our website:

Give us a call: 833-MAISOUI (624.7684) toll-free or 914.709.0457

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About the Author Sherry

Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!

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About the Author Sherry

Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tennis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!