The Hidden Price of Airbnb Rentals

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The Hidden Price of Airbnb Rentals

EmilyThe Hidden Price of Airbnb RentalsMillion Mile Secrets Team

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I’m a fan of Airbnb because it’s easy to find lots of great places to stay for a lower cost.  And you can use credit card miles and points instead of money to pay for your Airbnb stay!

I like that I’m usually supporting everyday people instead of big corporations.  But recently when planning for a trip to Chicago, I found Airbnbs became so expensive that they rivaled the cost of a hotel room, and might even end up costing me more.

The added fees accounted for almost 40% of the total cost of an estimated stay!

Since I’m a mom now, I have to be a bit more flexible with my travel plans because of my daughter, and that means an increased risk of cancellation and change fees.  Airbnb is much more restrictive of cancellations than a traditional hotel.  Even if Airbnb hosts are flexible and agree to refund the accommodation fees, you’ll still be charged the Airbnb service fee.  In one Airbnb listing, the Airbnb service fee is $105!

I Usually Love Staying at Airbnbs, Like This One in Antibes, France!  But There are Hidden Costs I Don’t Appreciate

The Hidden Price of Airbnb Rentals

Fees Added ~40% to the Cost of My Last Airbnb Rental Price

The added fees of a recent Airbnb search in Chicago accounted for almost 40% of the total cost of an estimated stay!  The added costs included the following fees:

  • Cleaning fee, ~$110
  • Service fee, ~$105
  • Occupancy taxes & fees, $190

I don’t mind paying a cleaning fee, but $110 is a little steep for me.  I’m more OK with paying the cleaning fees versus the Airbnb fees and the occupancy fees because the cleaning fees go back to the property owner.  Chicago recently forced Airbnbs to register their rental properties, but it’s not without controversy.

Additional Fees Were ~40% of My Total Airbnb Costs!

Airbnb’s Strict Cancellation Policy Means You Pay the Service Fee, Even If Your Host Is Flexible and Fully Refunds You

The other reason I don’t like booking Airbnbs is because of the cancellation policy.  Hotels allow you to cancel without penalty usually 24-48 hours before check-in, but Airbnb usually charges a service fee for cancelling.  That service fee is refundable, up to 3 times per year, within 48 hours of booking.

Even if Airbnb hosts are flexible and agree to refund the accommodation fees, you’ll still be charged the Airbnb service fee.  In one Chicago listing, the service fee is ~$105!  I understand that Airbnb hosts rely on guest reservations for income, and I’m not one to change my travel plans often.  But since having my daughter, I appreciate the flexibility of having options.  This has made me less likely to book Airbnbs than I have in the past, despite that Airbnbs can sometimes be more family friendly.

This Winter Storm Made it Dangerous to Arrive to My Airbnb

Airbnb does allow full refunds for emergencies or extenuating circumstances, but they are strict about these.

One time I had to cancel a reservation because of a blizzard/ severe winter storm.  I took video and photo footage of my partner and I driving in our car, and received a full refund on the reservation.

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Have you encountered some unexpected higher than anticipated costs when booking Airbnbs recently?  Share with us in the comments below!

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How does Airbnb compare with VRBO on fees?


I think it depends on the property.

Yes these fees kill me. For a 2 night trip, its often not worth it as hotels can be a better deal. $200 a night, and then another $200 a night for fees as its not spread out over an entire week. Sometimes you can find a AIRBNB or VRBO and then google that property and find a direct booking site and save some $$$ or save on fees.


Agreed! Having a baby changes a lot though. I want enough space for her to crawl around, eat her breakfast, and sleep in a separate space so the adults don’t bother her. And sometimes Airbnbs have the best locations!

Hi Trup!

I tried Airbnb for the first time last month and remember being surprised by the extra fees too! Seemed to get lucky though as we weee able to find a few with more reasonable cleaning fees, etc.


Yes, you can find cheaper properties. And it depends on the city/state taxes as well.