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.
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