Three families taking a dream vacation to Disney World nearly became a nightmare when their hotel reservation was canceled just 36 hours before their flight. This was no small reservation either. It was a reservation for 11 at the Wyndam Bonnet Creek Resort.
They booked the three-bedroom suite through the vacation rental site VRBO. When their room was canceled with no explanation, they reached out to FOX35 to get answers.
"I’m thinking that the trip is not going to happen. It’s just not going to happen," said Pete Cacavallo.
The bags were packed, and the itineraries booked for the party of 11 from Indianapolis only to get a devastating email just hours before their trip. Their three-bedroom suite at the Wyndam Bonnet Creek Resort had been canceled.
"With five kids involved, there was pressure to make this happen so we started scrambling to find an alternative place to stay," said Cacavallo.
Luckily, the group was able to find three separate rooms available at a nearby rental but it cost double what they originally paid.
Cacavallo booked his original stay through VRBO which is similar to AirBnB. They host a platform for individuals or management groups to post rooms and homes for your stay.
VRBO offers a "Book with Confidence Guarantee" that they tell FOX35 will help find an alternative booking if the host cancels your reservation within 30 days of your stay. The Cacavallo’s didn’t have days though, they had just a few hours.
"I talked to multiple customer service reps and they basically said they will have somebody get back to you, but it may not be until the day you arrive," said Cacavallo.
Vacation Rental Law attorney Charles Brady says sites like VRBO and AirBnB are comparable to places like eBay or Amazon. They are just the middleman offering listings from individuals or in this case a property management group.
"They don’t have control and can’t force people from these vacation rentals to actually honor the agreement so their liability is limited based on that control," said Brady.
Brady says cancelations like this are not unusual. While places like VRBO can downgrade the hosts status or slap them with fees, it can’t stop a last second cancelation. He advises that consumers purchase travel insurance, have a backup plan and research who the host really is.
"Check their ratings. Check their Google reviews. You can see before you book," said Brady. "Sometimes it’s worth the extra couple bucks to book with a company that you know is going to treat you right."
Even so, Cacavallo wants VRBO to better protect their customers by informing them about their hosts and if they have a history of cancelations. He’d also like the Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort to be banned from the site.
"Since you never booked the place because you were canceled, you can never leave those negative feedback so this process is continued over and over and over," said Cacavallo.
Cacavallo says VRBO has offered to cover the difference for second booking. Although, when he sent the, the receipts they didn’t do anything about it. It’s been a month since Cacavallo’s trip and VRBO has only confirmed they received his request but have given no timeline for a payout.
FOX35 has reached out to Club Wyndam Resorts multiple times by phone and email for clarification about their booking and cancelation practices but have not heard back.