Vacation rental best practices

When we first decided we were going to put a vacation rental on our property back in 2018 I spent SO MUCH TIME researching ways to make ours stand out from the crowd. We live outside of Yellowstone National Park so vacation rentals were a dime a dozen here even before the Airbnb/VRBO fad hit the market and now it’s just insane here. So how was I going to get people to click “BOOK” on my rental page versus the other 300 options they had in my area? Here are my tips to get more bookings and happier guests when hosting on any of the vacation rental channels:

  1. Attractive photos. I’m sure I sound like a broken record here but people want to VISUALIZE themselves in your space. They want to look at your photos and feel cozy, comfy, and happy. For me, that meant decorating in a cohesive way and then using the Lightroom photo app to brighten up the listing images and make them look more inviting. Photos by nature look darker than the scene was in real life – so brighten it up! And the Lightroom App is free for your phone so there’s no reason not to try it! (here are some photos from our vacation rental listing at the old house and the one we currently have)

2. So now you’ve lured them in with your gorgeous photos. How do you make them happy? First of all, make sure you communicate clearly and in a friendly manner from the get go. The more information you can provide your guests about how to get to you property, what to expect for check in, and any amenities you are providing, the more comfortable and excited they will feel. We have messages we send out as soon as they book telling them how excited we are to host them, a message that goes out 24 hours prior to arrival with detailed directions and what to expect, and a message that goes out 24 hours after check in making sure they have every thing they need. We always get 5 star ratings for our communication and I truly believe it’s because of these things.

3. Have a clean and tidy space waiting for them when they arrive. When I used to work in hospitality one of the things we said a lot was that while people know when they are staying in a rental or a hotel that others have stayed there before them – they don’t want evidence of it! Your guest should walk into the space and feel like they are the only one who has ever been there. Clean, clean and clean some more. Enough said.

4. Provide anything you can that’s above and beyond a normal guest expectation. For example, we provide hotel size shampoo, conditioner and body wash. We also provide a locally made goat’s milk soap and locally roasted whole bean coffee to each guest as little souvenirs of their stay on the farm. These things don’t cost us much and I would say 9 out of every 10 reviews mention how much they loved at least one of those things.

5. Make things easy to find and label anything that isn’t intuitive. (For example, storing extra toilet paper in your bathroom I would consider intuitive whereas having paper towels in a cupboard would not be, as most folks have them on the counter in their homes) There are a few things that we leave out on the counters in our rental because of guests needing access to these things frequently. For example, paper towels, sugar, and creamer, dish soap and hand soap are all out on the kitchen counter. We also labeled all the light switches in the unit because we have dimmer switches in some locations and found that folks were worrying something was wrong with the lights when they had just accidentally dimmed the lights way down. Ever since I labeled the dimmer switches we haven’t had an issue.

6. Provide a binder or book with local attractions, good restaurants, laundromats (if you don’t have laundry on site), kid friendly hangouts, and other things that your guests may find intriguing while they stay. For us, we just put together a binder with local restaurants, fun facts about Yellowstone, names and information about some of the farm animals and other things like that.

All in all, just make sure that for each guest you are doing everything within reason to make their stay enjoyable. Some guests will need you to be more hands on and other guests will hardly make their presence known; but they all deserve the same courteous and top notch treatment from us as their hosts.

If you run a vacation rental and you use any of these tips I’d love for you to share your listing with me so I can check it out!

checkout our current rental listing here:



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