Is it Time to Update Your Welcome Manual?

welcome We all want our guests to be self-sufficient in our vacation homes; use them in a respectful manner and leave at the end of their vacation with minimal breakage, damage or untidiness. Often this is a case of guest education, and since many are new to the concept of vacation rental, it’s a great idea to offer as much guidance and help as possible. A comprehensive guest guide can do this, but as most seasoned owners know, getting guests to read it is a big issue. Here’s a few tips to encourage them to take a look.

Change the Name

Ditch the word, “Rules”. In the same way you want your guests to respect your property, respect them in turn by making them feel welcome. Don’t title your guest guide “ Rules of the Cottage” or similar – this can have a negative effect and it’ll be put in a drawer and forgotten about. After all, your rental guests are on vacation from their regimented work lives and the last thing they want to do is read your bullet-pointed list of do’s and don’ts. Use the word “Welcome” instead.

Make it Look Attractive

A sheaf of loose coffee-stained notes, or a scrappy plastic binder isn’t very appealing and if it’s the first thing your guests see on arrival, creates a poor first impression. Use a binder with a clear plastic insert on the front where you can slip a colour image of the property and your friendly welcoming title. It’s more likely to be read.

Provide Structure

Your visitors have just arrived and it’s possible someone in the group will pick up the Welcome Guide to take a look (we hope). Organise it with tab dividers and an index at the front to make it easy to find what they need to know. Create sections for different topics such as “In The Kitchen” where you can include brief instructions on how to use some of the small appliances, and “Entertainment” to offer guidance on which remote to use for which piece of equipment. A “Before You Leave” section is the best place for a pre-departure checklist and instructions on how you want the place to be left.

Quick Start Guide

I recently bought a new hand-held GPS for geocaching and was pleased to see a Quick Start Guide in addition to the bulkier manual. I wanted to start using it as quickly as possible and not have to search for information to get it up and running. If you follow this format and condense your most important information in a one-page summary, there’s a greater chance of your guests reading it. Consider laminating a copy and put it somewhere it’s likely to be seen, but is not obtrusive – inside the coffee mug cupboard door is good idea.

Create a Relationship

You can use this document to create a relationship with your guests. Offer a little history on the property and the reason you bought it; what you love about it the most, and why you want to share it. If your guests understand a little about your connection with the property they will be more inclined to respect it, rather than treat it like hotel or resort accommodation

Be Friendly

The Welcome Guide should be a friendly and informative manual for your property and is not the place to list the charges you will impose if your ‘rules’ are not followed. I saw one recently where the first page was written in red, and underlined all the fines for misdemeanours such as losing the remote control for the TV, or not removing all the garbage from the property at the end of a stay. If you must do this at all, your Terms and Conditions of Rental are the place to put them – not in the Welcome Guide.

If you have ever used the well-worn phrase, “Why don’t guests ever read the manual”, it could be that it’s not attractively presented or the text is too dense. Maybe now is the time to give it a facelift.

Craig Mullins

Do you have one? I’d love to see it to get ideas for mine 🙂

Cissus quadrangularis

My wife and I frequently rent cottages and homes from individuals rather than stay at hotels or resorts. I can say that having a lot of information at the cottage, can make or break a vacation. Also, having a nice set guide and instruction for the property makes getting settled in a much less stressful affair. Thanks for the post.

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John Kohl@social security benefits

Appearance is everything. I’m a web designer (in my spare time) and go through a similar process when making websites. Basically, the easiest way to look at it is that you only have a couple seconds to intrigue someone with your design. If it appeals to them then they’re look around and read it. Seems like the same rules apply to creating a Welcome Manual.


Totally agree with you on this one. The Welcome guide/manual shouldn’t be a turn off to the guests. What kind of Welcome is that? Plus nobody wants to read a 5 page manual in 8pt font during their vacation. I know I won’t, so best if it’s condensed to 1 page with all the basic and main points in there – such as What People Love to Do in the Area, Where to Go for Sights, etc. The do’s and don’ts should be in another page, not the Welcome Manual.


I think it’s not too difficult to create an attractive welcome manual for your guests. Just think about what you yourself would like if you were a client, not a host. I think the main point is the language. Don’t be any patronizing or strict. Just address to them as a kind friend, and I’m sure they’ll get it right. And of course make a design unique, so that people would just get interested in checking it out.

Donna L Smith-Seeley

What good information. At our Lake Anna Virginia lake home we leave a welcome book with much of that information as well as another binder with local places to visit and restaurants to eat at as well. We also are near Washington DC, Williamsburg and other historical sites that our guests will sometime like to take a day trip to and have a shelf just for the binders as well as shoe box size containers with brochures, Frommer books, DVD and CD for civil war tours for other points of interest. Each year before our rental season begins we update such from the chamber of commerce and visitors center. Upon check in we also provide a link off our website for our guests with check in/out information and rules/information so that they can access easily on their computers and to share with other family that may be meeting at our home from another location to share a vacation with. I believe the more information you can give the better an experience for the guest.

Donna L Smith-Seeley


Our “house rules” is a two page document which we email to our guests BEFORE they arrive at our home. My experience is that many of our guests print the document, review it, and write or call with any questions they may have. I believe two pages should be the maximum for this type of information; would you read a document of greater length?

This document is also posted on our refrigerator, an appliance that every guest is sure to use (!).

We keep baskets and binder of “to do” information, brochures, and a shelf of books, that are separate from “house info”.

Our rental agreement is where the terms of any breaking of “rules” and any charges to the guest for not adhering to our “rules” are outlined, in clear and easy to understand language.

We have designated locations for instruction manuals for all household appliances including tv/dvd/vcr/stereo and respective remotes in media consoles, food processor to range to gas grill in a kitchen cabinet, washing machine in laundry area, etc.

I update our “welcome/house rules” documentation each year, updating any changes that might be useful for our guests.

I also ask our guests for their feedback each year, on every aspect of their stay at our home, and add or amend house information based on their suggestions.

Providing information is just the beginning – being responsive to guest’s needs is an important step to ensuring the information you are providing IS informative and useful.

Happy vacationing!

Heather Bayer

Looks as though you have it all covered. I totally agree that the rental agreement is the place for rules. One of my pet peeves is seeing notices all over a rental property instructing on the ‘rules of occupancy’. We need to be more guest centric.

Is it Time to Update Your Welcome Manual? - Vacation Rental Times

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Jessica Vozel

I was just browsing some tips for creating a great welcome book for one of my vacation rental clients (I’m a travel copywriter) and landed on this. I love your advice about tone and not overwhelming the guest with stern, scolding rules. Thanks for sharing!

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