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Trek carefully during summer travel season

BBB urges travelers to book smartly when using online vacation rental sites


As online vacation rental sites such as Airbnb, VRBO and FlipKey become more popular, Better Business Bureau warns Oregonians to be wary of online troubles this travel season.

Within the past year, BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington received more than 37,000 inquiries from potential travelers looking for companies to help plan their trips. But with more consumers going online to book vacations, BBB warns of increased risks of costly travel traps.

Before booking a home or room, BBB offers the following tips for traveling safely:

• Read reviews. Be sure the unit has three or more reviews with none of those reviews stating a negative experience. Check bbb.org for vetted customer reviews.

• Examine photos. Make sure the photos accurately reflect the rental unit. Some sites provide professional photographers to take pictures of the rental space. Professional photos usually have a watermark on the picture, giving the unit more credibility.

• Be careful of hidden fees and taxes. Some cities will add extra taxes on top of the rental price tag. Hosts can also charge extra fees such as service charges, cleaning fees and security deposits. Read the fine print ahead of time.

• Get the details. Have a conversation with the host before booking. Understand all the details before booking, including the host’s cancellation policy. It can vary dramatically from place to place.

• Research first. Many sites don’t do background checks. Online travel sites usually don’t screen a user before allowing them to post a rental unit or book one, so it’s up to consumers to do their research before renting out or booking a unit.

• Come up with plan B. Have a backup plan. Be prepared with a hotel to stay at, the money to pay for it and the transportation to get there in case of problems.

Consumers can read reviews and see business ratings of online vacation rental sites at bbb.org.

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