How To Create A 5 Star Rental Review Against The Odds

rainy_day Surfing around Flipkey last weekend I found a review for a cottage which read

“It rained, and rained and rained some more.  Our longed for vacation was a complete washout.  The cottage was OK but there was nothing to do in the rain except watch TV. We hadn't prepared for that. I'm not sure we'll do the rental thing again.”

The cottage received 3 stars out of 5

Poor weather happens on vacation. I recall a miserable holiday staying in an idyllic place near Cahors in France one summer and it rained every day.  It was fairly remote – 20 miles from the nearest town but we'd chosen it for the pool, with thoughts of relaxing in the sunshine; reading books and occasionally flopping into the water for a cool-down.  After we'd exhausted all the indoor attractions in the area (the caves were amazing) which took a day, we spent the rest of the time indoors trying to create activities for the kids to keep everyone happy.  It was really a holiday to forget but reading that review brought those memories back.

What responsibility do we owners have, to ensure our guests are occupied, even when they are confined indoors?  I know of some who would say that is what self-catering is about and renters take that risk when they choose a vacation rental. My take on it is that we have the power to create an environment that is enjoyable in any weather and if I can do something that will generate  favourable review regardless of what nature throws at us, I've done my job.  Wouldn't it be so much better to see something like this?:

“It rained, and rained and rained some more and we had the greatest time!  The cottage was packed with things to do in bad weather.   There were lots of games and jigsaw puzzles (with all the pieces!); there was a ‘dress-up' box and a craft box which kept the small ones occupied for hours; a huge library of DVDs and videos (to suit all ages), and loads of books and magazines.  The kitchen had everything I needed to bake cookies with the kids, down to shaped cookie cutters and a bag of sprinkles and toppers so we could be really creative.  The Rainy Day Box (it was labelled like that) had lots of paper and card, and there was even a digital camera and photo printer so we ran a treasure hunt (which was also included) and the kids took pictures of what they found and had to print and make a poster with them.  When the rain stopped we took the handheld GPS which was also supplied and followed the geocaching instructions and discovered a ‘new sport' which we all loved.  And when the sun came out….we were almost disappointed!  This was the best vacation ever and I give it 5 stars out of 5.”

I think we do have responsibility beyond providing great accommodation, if we want this type of vacation to be seen as a viable alternative to ‘package holidays' where all activities are included.

There's some ideas in this post, and I'd love to hear what you think.  What do you do to create a vacation experience for your guests?

Point Reyes Lodging

We had a similar experience with our vacation rental home in northern California. The gas furnace went out on the first day of a four-day booking over a rainy Thanksgiving weekend. Disaster, right? But our local innkeeper was able to respond immediately with some electric heaters from her house. We still had the hot tub, and the fireplace with a fire made ready to light and a large supply of wood, and lots of games and puzzles and such. It turned out to be a very special family bonding weekend for our guests, and we received one of our best reviews ever. So we were prepared but also lucky. Not all guests would have reacted in the same spirit of “lets make the best of it” .


Frankly, I think vacationers should take total responsibility for their own vacation happiness. Before owning vacation property, my husband and I took 4 children for beach vacations and never expected the owner to provide entertainment in any way. We had and have always had a blast raining or not.

Owners are going overboard to lure vacationers to their properties. I don’t understand why all vacationers every desire needs to be met when they can think and do for themselves. Now, I do feel the homes must be detailed cleaned (‘m a fanatic on providing this) well maintained and problem free with professional maintenance offering quick service. High quality furniture is a must for wear and tear and not dating the vacation home. I like above average kitchens with more than enough cooking equipment, specialty items and dinnerware.

There is so much to do during a weeks vacation and that includes doing nothing, at times. Yes, providing for my every want is nice, but not needed.

Heather Bayer

@bj Thanks for the comment. I’m with you on the entertainment thing. We used to take our 4 kids camping and stayed in pretty basic campgrounds with no laid-on entertainment. We taught them to play crib and canasta and spent hours with a travel Scrabble set arguing over obscure words with no dictionary to help. Sadly, things are not the same and we are finding that more families are looking for a ‘fully loaded’ rental and really appreciate the added value that owners are providing to be competitive. It may not be needed, but the small amount of time and expense to go the extra mile, may give owners a competitive edge.

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