7 easy ways to make your vacation home rental better for guests

Sep 18, 2020

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I’ve rented many vacation homes via a variety of sites and owners. The homes have ranged wildly from budget-friendly tiny cabins to ski-friendly mountain houses for 22 and $1,000 per night beach homes. But throughout those different experiences, some common themes have emerged that make it easy to love — or not love — the rental you’ve chosen.

And while many factors go into a successful vacation home rental, there are some simple things that vacation home renters can do to make the stay much more comfortable and enjoyable for the guests that don’t involve a kitchen renovation, pool installation or anything major.

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Here are seven easy and relatively inexpensive ways that an owner or management company can make a vacation home rental a much better experience for the renters (who will hopefully the leave you a great review).

Related: Best credit card for booking Airbnb

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Set clear expectations

Tell your guests very clearly, in advance, what to expect. This includes check-in time, check-out time, what will be provided, how the check-in process will work and what items they will probably want to bring with them that aren’t provided. For example, if linens, pans, dishes or silverware aren’t provided (and I’d argue they really should be), that should be made very clear and well-known far in advance of the check-in date.

If parking is limited or tricky, let that be known, too. Also, if there is anything about the home that is under repair or may not be available during the stay, that shouldn’t be a day-of surprise.

Related: How to choose the best beach home rental

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Text the day of check-in and … anytime

I’m sure some travelers love talking on the phone and meet face-to-face to check into an Airbnb-type rental, but most of us don’t. To make yourself available and reassure the guest that everything is on track, it’s great to receive a text the day-of check-in to say something along the lines of, “Everything is on track for your check-in at 3 p.m. but I am available if you need anything during your stay.”

Then, if there is a question or issue that pops up during the stay, the guest has your contact information handy and knows that they can get help from a simple text message. Of course, a real phone number in case of emergency is also good, but most simple questions and normal requests are probably easily managed by text.

Related: 13 mistakes to avoid on your next vacation home rental

Use a code for check-in

It is very helpful — especially in a socially distanced world — to use a key code to access the property or a key box for the rental property. Usually, this code is changed between guests and is provided a day or so before check-in.

(Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

This method of getting into rental homes is already pretty common, but every now and then you may stumble upon a rental that requires a face-to-face meet-up for a key exchange. If you own a property that doesn’t yet use a code to check-in, it will save your guests (and probably you) some logistical headaches so go ahead and get that set up.

Related: How to pick a perfect Airbnb

Have at least 36 hours worth of necessary supplies

Pardon me while I now ascend to my soapbox … that I packed and brought myself into this $500+ per night home rental.

I’m sure you have had a renter make off with your laundry detergent, paper towels, dish soap and anything else that wasn’t tied down, but that’s no excuse to not provide at least 36 hours worth of basic household necessities for each and every renter. This is especially true if it’s a higher-end home rental that people are paying hundreds of dollars per night to enjoy.

You don’t need to provide full-sized versions of all of those things if you don’t want to, but it is in everyone’s best interest if renters can check-in and have immediate access to some soap, toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, a sponge, trash bags, etc.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

A home rental I loved had a double washer dryer and all-you-cared-to-use Tide laundry pods. I wasn’t planning to do all my laundry there before I went home, but I ended that trip on such a high note walking out with all-clean clothes. Those five or six laundry pods didn’t cost the homeowner much at all, but it made a lasting impression on me as the renter.

At a minimum, give your guests the basic home essentials they’ll need to stay the night and into the afternoon of the next day without having to run off to the store. That should include at least one roll of paper towels, a full roll of toilet paper per bathroom, dish soap, dishwasher soap, body wash, shampoo, laundry detergent for two loads of laundry, a couple of trash bags, etc. (I’d even argue that enough coffee for the first morning is essential.)

Related: How to use points for a home rental 

Bath amenities at a Marriott Home and Villa rental (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Bath amenities at a Marriott Home and Villa rental. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Don’t buy cheap toilet paper

Assuming we aren’t operating during another nationwide toilet paper shortage, if you can afford to do so, don’t buy the cheapest toilet paper on the planet for your nice home rental. Again, this rubs me the wrong way the higher the nightly rental rate goes, but super cheap toilet paper is just not … pleasant, so please don’t.

Use nice (preferably white) bedding

While it costs more than a box of good toilet paper, having nice bedding goes a long way in making guests enjoy their stay — and want to return or recommend the home. The beach house we stayed at in July had bedding so luxurious I took a photo of the mattress brand I loved it all so much. In contrast, the beach house we stayed at in August had bedding that was much scratchier, flimsier and some of the beds creaked so loud it was funny.

Bedding can be luscious and fabulous without being all-white, but when in doubt, get some higher quality white bedding and call it a day.

Related: How to make your home feel like a five-star hotel

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Nice hotels now pretty much all use white bedding for a reason. It’s calming, you can easily spot bugs or dirt, and it just helps set the stage for restful sleep. And regardless of what type of bedding you use, please regularly swap out pillows and have some spare pillows stashed away in the closets.

Two flimsy, well-used pillows per bed is simply not enough if you want your home rental to be as nice as you can make it.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
This was pillow heaven. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Leave a book of instructions and recommendations

In an easy-to-spot place, leave a binder of basic instructions and information. This will be a welcome starting-point for your guests — and will probably save you from answering a few questions, too.

Helpful info to include is where and when to take out the trash, the Wi-Fi code (bonus points for a simple code!), check-out instructions, phone numbers in case of emergency, the days of the week to expect lawn service or housekeeping (if applicable) and local area recommendations.

Including some good local restaurants, phone numbers for pizza delivery, recommended retailers for relevant rentals (skis, golf carts, whatever) and any other locals-only tips (like who has the best happy hours deals) are also appreciated.

Related: What it’s like to rent a home from Marriott Homes & Villas 

A little extra goes a long way

This last section is a little more optional and not always necessary, but it sure is appreciated.

If you can, a welcome basket is sure to put a smile on your guests’ faces. This doesn’t have to be a huge collection of items, but it may include a bottle of wine, some local treat (like local cookies!), vouchers for free drinks at the corner pub, a gift card to the local ice cream shop or a s’mores kit for the backyard fire pit.

Airbnb welcome basket (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)
Airbnb welcome basket (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

It’s also really appreciated to have some location-specific amenities that are harder to travel with. For example, at a beach house, it’s great to have a few basic beach toys and chairs. Bonus points if you have a stack of beach towels available for use. (If you don’t, know that your bath towels are probably getting used.)

In a snowy location, a plastic sled or even snowshoes are a fun treat to use.

Related: Best home rentals in Colorado 

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

I’m sure it is very hard, and at times frustrating, to be the owner of a vacation home rental.

It’s also frustrating to be a vacation home renter who has spent hundreds or thousands of dollars and ultimately arrive to a home that feels … less than homey or welcoming. You can’t change where your home is located, and may not be able to make major renovations, but some extra pillows, soft towels, basic home goods, clear communication, streamlined logistics and maybe even an extra goodie or two, can go a long way at setting the tone for a great getaway.

In the end, you’ll hopefully then be on the receiving end of fewer complaints or questions, better reviews and maybe even some referrals or repeat happy guests.

Featured image of You, Me and the Sea by author

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