A Year of Vacation Rental Learning – Part One

Learn The New Year is always a time for reflection and now that January is just about gone, I’ve already applied a lot of the learning points from 2011 to our marketing and operational plan for the cottage. We kept a log of things that happened during the year as a reminder of the good and not-so-good experiences so here’s the first of my two part article on a year of learning.


When a winter storm brought down a dozen trees on our cottage road we had to cancel a booking because we could not be sure the power would be restored in time. In fact it was, but the family who had paid $1000 for their week had found an alternative.

Learning Point: Since power outages are quite common in our area, the investment in an automatic generator will offer a quick return since each year brings it’s share of cancellations and curtailment.


We went to Maui and stayed in a rental condo for a week. It was a great experience and when we are rental guests I always come away with a notebook full of ideas to bring back and adopt in my own place.

Learning Point: Other owners can teach us a lot. If you can’t get away and stay in other rentals, read their reviews on other sites.


We used the quieter time in March to schedule some renovations – complete redecoration and some new flooring in the kitchen. We cut it very fine since the road into the property became impassable for several days because of spring thaw issues, and nearly had to cancel a booking.

Learning Point: When scheduling renovations build in time for delays. Trust me, they will happen, and if you end up with the work finished and a few empty days, use them for annual cleaning, or offer a really good deal on a last minute break.


April is not a great month weather-wise in our neck of the woods. The snow is still thawing and the ice doesn’t usually come off the lake until mid-month. Roads are often muddy so walking and cycling are not usually an option so getting interest in the property is challenging. We joined forums that cater to groups who spend more time indoors – the successful ones were quilting groups and bridge enthusiasts and got a booking from each.

Learning points: It pays to be creative and to look outside the expected market to find new customers.


Another trip – this time to UK and we stayed in two wonderful rental properties, one in the Peak District in Derbyshire and the other near family in Northampton. We could only stay a couple of days in each one but both were wonderfully comfortable and welcoming.

Learning points: Having a comfortable bed with fluffy quilts and white linens can make a huge difference between an ordinary rental and an extraordinary one.


Osprey Cottage was fully booked for the summer by the time June came around but the enquiries kept pouring in. It was sad to have to disappoint so many potential guests but it seemed the demand was strong because it was so well booked. The positive Trip Advisor reviews brought in many new clients and I didn’t want to lose them.

Learning Point: Create a page on your site about low season short breaks. If guests are not able to book your place for their summer vacation, they might opt for a weekend later in the year, since the desire to book is already there.

Part 2 – July to December will be published tomorrow and covers learning points on handling garbage in a heat wave, dealing with grumpy neighbours, maximizing low season occupancy, and more.


I love the idea of learning something from everything you do regarding holiday rental homes. Great post and look forward to tomorrows.

London vacation rentals

The learning tips are just awesome. Its quite important as a vacation rental owner to stay in vacation rentals and gather tips about the improvements that can be carried out in our own properties.


We really need to develop the approach of using every experience as a learning opportunity. Thank you.

Heather Bayer

Catherine – yes, there is always learning to be done – and sometimes it’s so surprising what it is!

London vacation rentals – I think every owner needs to be a guest in another property to understand what their own guests experience and perceive. It can be an eye-opener

Heather – You are welcome – hope you enjoy part 2 as well

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