20 Ways to Make a Difference to Your Rental Guests

shout In these heady days of social networking, if someone experiences something negative they will shout it out to the world and in many cases, much of the world will hear. One video posted on You Tube, a photo on Facebook, or a 140 character review on Twitter could be quite damaging to your reputation. On the other hand, a rave review or a spectacular comment about an aspect of the rental can have a ton of visitors beating a path to your web site, many of whom want to have that experience themselves.

There are little things and there are big things that make the difference and you’ll never know what works best until you try. Here’s a few ideas – many of which have been gleaned from the amazing community at Lay My Hat, and if you are vacation rental owner and haven’t visited there yet, I suggest you sign up right now. They are presented in no particular order.

1    Buy the best mattresses you can afford

Don’t skimp on your guests’ sleeping experience. This is what they will remember long after the pictures of sunsets and kids playing in the water have become .jpg clutter.

2    Supply big fluffy towels

If you supply linens and towels, make sure you have some good sized bath towels. The Lay My Hat folks have talked about this one at length and the consensus is that big fluffy towels are important. For anyone who’s ever spend a night in a Holiday Inn or Best Western and tried to wrap one of their skimpy towels around an ample body you’ll know what I mean!

3    Send an inventory of what is in your kitchen.

How do they know what to bring if you don’t tell them what you’ve got? It’ll save on a bunch of emails asking you if you have a blender/garlic press/potato masher/whizzy pineapple corer etc.

4   Supply welcome packs for kids

Find out the kids ages and pack up colouring books and (non-wax) crayons; puzzles and children’s guide books. Get them involved in what is around the property, for example if you have waterfront and there are frogs – download and print a frog recognition guide. Make it cool for them to be there.

5    Be generous with the basics

Supply sufficient paper products (toilet paper, kitchen paper & coffee filters), liquid hand soap, cleaning materials, kitchen foil, dishwasher tabs, garbage bags, light bulbs, plastic containers for leftovers etc.

6    Provide stuff to do on a rainy day

Games (with all the pieces intact) , playing cards ( new packs); scrapbooking box; lots of paperbacks. Include a rainy-day ideas book with creative and fun things to do.

7    Guidebooks and maps

Go to town on the information you provide. Not just local tourist information but your own recommendations for restaurants, places to go and things to do. Include suggestions for half-day and full day driving tours or trips out. Remember that your guests probably don’t know the area and would be delighted with your ideas.

8    Emergency/Power out kit

Don’t leave guests in the dark in a power outage. Make sure they know what to do and where to find your power outage box, which should contain a wind-up radio, candles/gas lamp, lighter, information on who to contact to inform that the power is out, and a reminder about safety.

9    At least one really sharp kitchen knife

One of the top complaints about vacation rentals is the lack of sharp knives. Buy at least one really good knife or spend a little more on a good quality set.

10    Get a universal remote control

If you have more than one remote control for your TV, DVD, Video and stereo, invest in a universal that will control everything. Set it up for all your entertainment systems and leave one clear instruction guide should anything go wrong.

11    Provide a variety of herbs and spices

No-one wants to pack a whole bunch of seasonings, nor will they really want to go out and buy them all, so why not stock up with a comprehensive herb and spice collection. Keep them topped up too.

12    Fresh soap in the bathrooms

Either nicely packaged soaps or topped up soap dispensers will do, but please don’t leave used bars of soap in the washrooms.

13    Leave an ‘ooops I forgot’ pack

Pick up some travel sized items – toothpaste/shampoo/shower gel/razors etc. Put in a basket or box in a cupboard and let your guests know where it is should they have forgotten something.

14    Create the mood

Leave lights on for guests arriving at night; classical music playing on the radio for ambience and the heat up (or fire lit) for cooler times. Make sure the place smells lovely – using natural products where you can. Fresh flowers are a great touch too.

15    Write a welcome letter to your pet guests

There’s nothing pet owners like more than to have their furry friends acknowledged. Writing a letter directly to the pet and adding it to the welcome pack works really well if you want to get across your pet rules in a friendly way. Add a little pack of natural dog treats.

16    Supply a pet pack

Here’s what you need to pamper pets and their owners – Two stainless steel bowls, a bucket, several old towels, a dog brush, some rubber gloves, a ‘skunk kit’ (comprises bicarbonate of soda and hydrogen peroxide), a temporary dog tag with the cottage address and phone number, and a couple of tennis balls as well as a supply of plastic bags.

17    Be creative with kitchen stuff and small appliances

Provide a range of small appliances and bake ware so any spur of the moment cooking idea can be gratified. A bread maker; ice cream maker; Panini machine; juicer; slow cooker are just a few suggestions. Cake pans, muffin tins and cookie sheets are also welcomed. On your checkout list ask your guests what they would have liked that was not there. Then act on their suggestions if you can.

18    A welcome basket

Everyone loves to get something they were not expecting. A small basket with some seasonal items is nice to leave. We usually pick something up from our farmers market on a Saturday morning before our changeover. A fresh pot of basil, some local tomatoes and a small jar of honey in summer; some hot chocolate sachets, maple syrup and scented candles in winter. When you want to create a great first impression, this usually does it!

19    Offer a geocaching pack

Geocaching is fast becoming a really popular activity for all ages. For the price of a handheld GPS, a family can get outdoors and have a fun filled day without any entrance fees to pay. Provide a GPS pre-loaded with caches in a 20 mile radius of your property, and hide one of your own nearby to get them started off, and you’ll have them hooked. Geocachers will tell you they always recall how they got started, and the thrill of the first find. Be the one to initiate this and they’ll remember you forever. More on this on my Cottage Caching site.

And finally………

20    Keep in touch with your guests

Make a quick call or send an email after their stay to thank them for leaving the place so nice (even if it wasn’t quite up to your standards). Ask for some feedback and act on it, letting them know if you make a change as a result. Keep them informed if you make any additions – we let all our previous guests know when we added a hot tub, and got immediate reservations from some of them.

I am sure there are lots of things I have missed out here, so lets see if we can get this list up to 30.  All ideas are welcome!

 

Photo by Afkatws

Penny Caldwell

21. Provide lots of lawn chairs and loungers. Thanks to Jay Teitel who shared this tip with Cottage Life. He rented last year and found there were no outdoor chairs on the deck or dock.

Heather Bayer

Thanks Penny – that is a good one. I too heard of a rental owner who didn’t supply outdoor furniture because his family didn’t spend time outside unless they were in the water, so he didn’t expect anyone else to want them.

Amy

Great post as usual!

Some small things that we do that people like are;

– Putting the outdoor lights on timer so that no matter what time they come to the cottage they won’t be fumbling around in the dark.

– Several types of outdoor seating (lounges, arm chairs, bistro set, and 3 person swing)

– For our basket of cottage paperbacks we have a note that says that if they don’t finish the book feel free to take it with you, if you finish one of your own you can leave it here. People seem to like that and we have more books no than we started!

I love the ideas of the kids basket and the temporary dog tags! I will be implementing those this season for sure!

Thanks,
~Amy

John

Great idea about sending the inventory list before the stay!

Love the temporary dog tag idea too.

We provide free passes to our local leisure club, and also negotiate discounts with a limited number of local suppliers (artists, cycle hire, Reiki massage etc) for our guests.

Karl

Hello – really like this post. Load of really practical and useable tips – i’d like to link to this post if thats ok?

Cheers

Karl

Heather Bayer

@Amy – Nice ideas – we use that one with books too. It’s neat to go to the place after a rental and find some new books left behind.

@John – How do the discounts go down? Do you get feedback from renters about them. I could get really creative with this one!

@Karl – Many thanks and yes, I’d love you to link to the post.

Brian

This is another great post!
#22: Provide a DVD/VHS collection. I usually take advantage of the great low cost Blockbuster deals and I have built a nice DVD collection. I post an inventory to notify the guests of what movies are available and it also helps keep the guests honest.

I am always surprised how much we like watching the movies when we stay at our rental house, so I am sure the guests really enjoy the movie collection.

lkm

We have a small rental house and I’ve always toyed with the idea of asking guests to bring copies of thier favorite dvd to leave in the house collection-and give them a token for their trouble and expense (gift certificate for lunch or discount) and leaving them some sort of form or notecard for them to write a little bit about why they chose this dvd and what they like about it. It would be a way to build a dvd collection for the rental (without having to shop for them) and giving the collection a personalized touch. Just a thought!

Heather Bayer

@Brian Yard sales are another source of DVDs. I love the idea of sending them a list too.

@lkm Like a review sheet – great idea. Add that to the list Brian suggested and you have a super add-on.

Fethiye

Thank you for your great post. I will do this list on my cottage. All the best for you and your web site.

Sarah

Love the Geocaching idea! My family and I enjoy that activity and I hadn’t thought to include that at our cabin. Thanks for a great idea. Your site has lots of wonderful tips and insights.

All the best.

Linda

A great idea is to leave some cheap plastic cagoules for your guests to use in case of summer showers. We also leave a full picnic set including thermos flask. This stops them taking your kitchen stuff out on picnics and losing it

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