The Ultimate Spring Cleaning Guide (Part 1)

Written by: Dan Weisman

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, there’s no time warp bringing us back to December holiday celebrations. I’m talking about spring: longer days, warmer weather, and the ancient ritual of spring cleaning. If you own a vacation rental, then early April is a key time for revitalizing your home in preparation for the summer rental season (or for recovering from the winter rental season).

The annual rite of brooms, buckets, and bathroom cleaners can be daunting. But have no fear. If you approach spring cleaning with a good attitude and a strong action plan, then you can not only improve the look and feel of your property, but you can also make future cleaning easier and more productive. To get you started on the right foot, FlipKey presents the following spring cleaning strategy session…

1. Make a Plan
Take charge of your cleaning strategy by planning in advance. Take a walk through your house and make a checklist of everything that needs to be cleaned, put away, replaced, and repaired. Then, determine the supplies you will need and the best order in which to take on your cleaning tasks. Planning in advance will save you time and headaches later.

Tip: You can go out and buy green cleaning supplies or you can make your own. For example, did you know that a mixture of 50% water and 50% alcohol makes a great cleaner for stainless steel, chrome, and glass surfaces?

2. Trash the Place
Don’t be afraid to make a mess when you start cleaning. Start by going through the closets, cabinets, and drawers in every room to clear out the clutter. Sort your findings into items to keep out, items to put into storage, and items to get rid of. Disposing of things that you no longer use can really open up a crowded room. Just remember to think twice before throwing anything away – unwanted clothes and other household items can often be donated to the charity of your choice (with a receipt, these donations could even be written off your taxes against your vacation rental income).

Tip: Spring is great opportunity to reach out to past guests. Send an email that shows off how great their vacation spot looks, and remind them to book early if they’re coming back. Also, consider including a “Lost & Found” section of items that have turned up over the last few months.

3. Keep it Clean
Now that you’ve taken stock of the situation, it’s time to get to cleaning. Before you put items back in place, be sure to clean up. Shelves and cabinets are easier to clean when empty, so wipe down storage spaces before you replace their contents.

Similarly, it’s always a good idea to clean items before you put them in storage. For example, if you are going to store winter clothes and linens, then make sure to put them through the laundry before packing them away. Then, pack them in plastic containers in order to keep them smelling fresh. Storing clean items will make later unpacking easier.

Tip: Wait until your clean linens are completely dry before putting them in storage for the season, and consider storing them in vacuum-sealed bags to keep out moisture and so that they don’t take on the musty characteristics of the storage closet.

4. Write Where You Want It
In your primary home, you can probably find a nail clipper or a new roll of toilet paper with your eyes closed. In your vacation rental, not only do you need to maintain higher degrees of organization, but also you need to let your guests know where they can find supplies (ok, they should bring their own nail clippers). Take an inventory of things like towels, toilet paper, and spare light bulbs, and write down where you keep them. You can then pass this information on to guests so that supplies can be found, and returned, to their proper place.

Tip: Consider keeping track of your belongings on a computer file to make updating and sharing with guests easier. If you put items into storage regularly, then you may consider purchasing a label maker to help keep things neat and organized.

5. Lights out
Check all the lighting fixtures in the house for dead bulbs and faulty wiring. Spring is as good a time as any to make sure that your guests won’t be left in the dark. Make sure you keep spare bulbs of appropriate sizes in an obvious place in case a guest needs to replace a bulb. Also be sure to dispose of light bulbs properly; like batteries, many types of lighting cannot be thrown out with the rest of the garbage. Contact your local waste services provider for details.

Tip: If you need to replace any bulbs, try using compact fluorescent bulbs – they last longer than incandescent lamps and use less power.

Check out the our next post for more spring cleaning tips!

Have some great cleaning techniques or tricks of the trade? Share them in the comments…

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From Worst Travel Nightmare to Dream Vacation

Written by: Dan Weisman

Today, join us for the first part of a series in which we pursue vacation rental perfection by combing through thousands of FlipKey guest reviews to gain insight into the mind of the self-catering traveler. In this installment, we examine factors that worry and scare guests, and what can be done to put them at ease.

Although most of us go on vacation to relax, the planning process for any major trip invariably includes some stressful moments. For some travelers, the decision to stay in a vacation rental for the first time can be daunting; others worry about practical issues such as the size of a home, proximity to the beach, and nosy neighbors. We broke down reviews and found that travelers’ three main worries are safety, privacy, and noise. Here’s what the travelers are saying, and what owners and managers can do to help them achieve travel nirvana.

Safe and Sound

Health, safety, and security are the biggest concerns for families with children and travelers in foreign countries. In some cases, a safety concern can be addressed with a simple repair:

The only thing that worried me was that the railings on the outdoor patio needed some type of netting or an additional safety feature. I was always worried about my kids (2yrs. & 4 yrs.) falling through even with us being right there with them.

This reviewer offers the rental owner/manager a helpful tip: repair the stairs and guests will feel more comfortable about their children’s safety. Other travelers grow concerned about protecting the rental home from their young kids. It is always wise to note a property that is not kid-friendly, and keep delicate décor out of reach of young ones.

In other cases, guests become concerned about the safety of an area and may need reassurance that they will be safe while on vacation:

No complaints. Only concern was the ample notices to lock doors, felt a bit paranoid, but I guess there may be a crime issue on the island.

The issue of crime on the island aside, the best response in this situation is to make sure that guests never become paranoid in the first place. Warn them to keep the doors locked, but try to do it without creating undue stress.

Private Hideaway

Vacation rental guests generally expect their accommodations to ensure a level of privacy above that of a hotel. Many guests who book rentals in more densely populated areas do so with trepidation, worried that they may not get the escape they hoped for:

We had a wonderful time at Buena Vista Cottage and can’t wait for a chance to come back to Key West and stay there again. Having accidentally scheduled our stay during Spring Break, we were a little worried about privacy. This cottage was the perfect oasis for us while still being close to activity on the main drag.

The good news is that the privacy concern almost always turns out to be unfounded. After all, almost any vacation rental provides a kind of privacy unavailable in hotels or other accommodations with populated common areas. In your description, try to assure guests that your vacation property is a calm haven (unless it is not – in which case you should be upfront about privacy issues), but chances are they will figure it out themselves.

Loud Noises

Guests who worry about noise fall into two general categories: those who want to make noise, and those who want to avoid it. Most of the rowdy crowd are concerned about disturbing the neighbors:

This was a great home for a family group of 16 people. The neighbors to the East worried me during our stay. We were told that they will call the police or rental company if we were too loud… I was stressed each evening of my stay that they would call. The homes are within 10′ of each other! How do you keep 16 people on vacation quiet each evening?

It sounds like this particular guest kept his group out of trouble, but he makes a good point: it’s hard to keep a large group quiet when they’re having a good time. Give guests a good sense of what will be tolerated in your neighborhood. Neighbors may object to raging parties, but will have no problem with a raucous family reunion. Other, more sensitive, neighbors may object to the slightest up-tick in volume. Again, the best defense is to give guests clear guidelines in advance.

On the flip side, many travelers come on vacation expecting a peaceful retreat. They worry that the neighbors (or even the scenery) may be too loud, thus ruining an otherwise perfect rental:

Initially, I was a little worried that the resort and beach would be noisy and crowded, as we were traveling at a very busy time of year, but it wasn’t… The resort itself was quiet and relaxing.

As you can see, worries have a way of working themselves out. This traveler’s confidence may have been boosted by the advice that “the beach never gets crowded – even in the busy season.” However, the truth is that vacation rentals tend to speak for themselves. As soon as travelers reach their rental home, their worries melt away.

In fact, we found that most travelers worry only about the most important thing: that the home they loved on vacation remains in good condition for years to come.