I can’t travel. Can I get a refund from Vrbo?

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By Christopher Elliott

Before Melissa Smith and her family can check into their vacation rental in Hawaii, she suffers multiple heart attacks. She says she can’t travel, but can she get a refund from Vrbo if she cancels?


I have a home reserved in Kauai, Hawaii, this spring through Vrbo. I had multiple heart attacks and was then diagnosed with a rare heart disease known as spontaneous coronary artery dissection. Now I can’t travel to Hawaii.

My medical team advised me not to take the six-hour flight to Hawaii. I asked the owner and Vrbo for a refund. The owner wanted to give us a credit and allow us to rebook for a future date. She would not refund our stay even with medical documentation.

I took the new reservation and decided to gift it to my children. I have messaged the owners to confirm the reservation and have had no response or communication. The listing is no longer on the site, and I’m concerned to book any flights if I can’t contact the owner. She has been very hard to reach. At this point, I think we should be fully refunded due to my health, and mostly the owner’s inability to respond. Her page says she will respond within a few days.

Can you help me get a $2,550 refund from Vrbo? — Melissa Smith, Farmington, NM


I’m sorry to hear about your health condition. When a guest falls ill before a vacation, travel companies often offer a refund or credit as a goodwill gesture. But they are not always required to do so. And in this case, I did not think a refund from Vrbo was in the cards.

And you know what I’m going to say next, right? Travel insurance. (Related: She left her “unsafe” Vrbo rental. Can she get her money back?)

That’s right, a good travel insurance policy, purchased when you made your reservation, would have probably covered you after you had a heart attack and had to cancel. I say “probably” because some policies don’t cover pre-existing medical conditions, so if you had a heart problem before you bought the policy, you might have been out of luck. (A more expensive “cancel for any reason” policy would have been the best option.)

Allianz Travel Insurance has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

What are Vrbo Cancellation policies?

Vrbo cancellation policies can vary from “no refunds” to “relaxed” (bookings canceled at least seven days before the start of stay will receive a 50 percent refund). Unfortunately, you had a “firm” refund policy (a 100 percent refund if canceled at least 60 days before arrival date). You were past the refund window, so it was up to your host to decide whether to let you off the hook or not. Your host decided to offer you a credit, which is much better than keeping all of your money. (Related: His SeaWorld vacation is sunk — where’s his refund?)

Here’s what concerned me about your case: You say the host hadn’t been responsive, and you were unsure if you still had a reservation. Vrbo hosts should always respond to their guests promptly. This host had already done you a favor by offering you credit when you told her that you could no longer travel, so it’s a surprise she didn’t reply to your inquiries. (Here’s our guide with the best travel advice.)

You can’t get a refund from Vrbo, but your rental is confirmed

If you don’t get a response, you can always contact a customer service executive at Vrbo. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of Vrbo/Homeaway’s managers on our site.

When you contacted the Elliott Advocacy team, I reached out to Vrbo on your behalf and it confirmed your reservation. I hope you get better soon.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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