For many vacation rental owners the winter months bring holiday travelers looking to capture the magic that this time of year is famous for, so it’s the perfect time for you to get into the spirit with seasonal décor and treats. Decorating your vacation home and leaving “little extras” for your guests to enjoy will not only make their stay during the holiday season more memorable, but this type of superstar customer service will give you a greater chance of generating positive reviews and referrals. Below are a few simple tips on how to create an even more inviting space for your winter guests.
- Greet your guests with a spread of local goodies and snacks that are reminiscent of the season. An easy go-to for the colder holiday months is hot cocoa and eggnog. You can leave hot cocoa mix and holiday themed mugs as a “little extra” for guests. If a family is renting your home you could provide holiday cookie ingredients and cookie cutters as an activity for them to do during their stay, or if you enjoy baking you can always whip up a batch before your visitors arrive and leave them on a festive platter. Another family friendly activity you can leave out for travelers is a gingerbread house kit. It’s a fun way to celebrate the season and it will help keep the kids occupied for a bit, a gift many parents will appreciate.
- Extend the seasonal charm throughout the rest of your vacation home with holiday scented candles and soaps, flannel sheets, and festive hand towels for the bathroom and kitchen. You can even place some poinsettias throughout your home, and maybe even hang up some mistletoe to help your guests get into the holiday spirit!
- If your home is in a region that traditionally experiences snowfall, leave your guests with a couple of sleds to enjoy your winter wonderland. Along with sleds, consider leaving additional outerwear in case guests are not prepared for a snowy climate. Or, for those who would prefer to experience those flurries from afar, you could also leave out a few classic holiday movies for their enjoyment.
Don’t be afraid to get creative and craft your own ideas for spreading holiday cheer this year. Take advantage of the countless possibilities the winter and holiday themes provide, and relish the fact that you’ll be able to achieve all of this while remaining thrifty and still generate positive feedback from your guests. Leaving out little gifts for guests will put a smile on their face and a 5 star review on your listing.
Meet our featured vacation rental owner, Adam! Through operating 2 homes in Washington’s Chelan Valley since 2011, he has gained invaluable experience as an owner and shares his insight in this interview with FlipKey. Take a moment to read some of Adam’s advice and get to know one of your fellow vacation rental owners.
FlipKey (FK): Can you tell us a little about your vacation home? Do you rent just one property?
Adam Rynd (AR): I own one rental house and one rental condo in Chelan, WA, a beautiful lake resort community that is becoming a popular winemaking region.
FK: How long have you been renting your homes?
AR: I started renting our house in Spring 2011, and bought the condo in March 2012.
FK: What type of travelers do you usually draw?
AR: We get a great variety of guests at the house, including groups attending weddings at the local wineries, groups of women going on “girls’ weekends,” and larger extended families that need the extra space offered by a 3,000 square foot house. The condo primarily attracts couples on romantic weekends and families with younger kids who like the convenience of the on-site pool.
FK: How long have you been a FlipKey user, and what do you like most about listing on the website?
AR: After researching the other home rental listing services in early 2011, I decided FlipKey offered the best experience for potential renters and some great tools for managing my house listing. The connection to TripAdvisor and its great online reach made the decision obvious. Collecting payments and communicating with guests was quite a challenge for the first year, so I’m thrilled with the Payments and Messaging features that are now available on FlipKey. I am now focusing on soliciting more Reviews and eager to see how those endorsements help drive more interest in my properties.
FK: During the off-season what are some techniques you use in order to drum up more business?
AR: The resort area where my properties are located gets the vast majority of visitors in the middle of Summer. I have run early season discounts to drive interest from potential renters in the Spring and I plan to do much more this year to focus on the great Winter recreation opportunities in the Chelan Valley.
FK: If a property owner wanted to add a new amenity to their home in order to entice prospective travelers, what would you suggest as the most effective purchase?
AR: I have found that our hot tub is very popular as an amenity. Buying and maintaining one is much cheaper than a pool, they are usable year-round, and few guests seem to have them at their own houses. We also find that while many people like the idea of having access to a hot tub, few actually use it. Cable TV and wireless Internet are also becoming must-have features on vacation rentals, and they don’t require any cleaning or other maintenance.
FK: Do you ever offer any special promotions to travelers?
AR: I only run specials in the off-season and typically provide a simple discount of 20-30% off my list rates to drive more interest. During the peak rental season, I will offer a big one-night discount if a guest will consider adding an extra weekday night onto their stay (ex: stay 5 nights instead of 4 nights). It doesn’t cost me any more for them to stay one more night, so whatever I can collect is a bonus.
FK: As a rental owner what has been your biggest challenge, and how were you able to overcome it?
AR: The collection of payments was my biggest challenge, until the Payments feature was launched on FlipKey. I do still have a challenge keeping track of the various messages I send to guests before and after their visit, such as directions and door codes, review requests, etc. The work on Messaging is a good start to helping managing that communication flow.
FK: What’s the craziest thing a guest has ever said to you about renting your home?
AR: I have generally been fortunate to screen out guests that might not be ideal. We did have a problem group at our house over Labor Day weekend last year that told me they had a great time and only one drinking glass was broken. The house really had nearly $800 in damage and they lost their damage deposit.
FK: As a traveler there’s always the fear of a property being falsely advertised, but as an owner have any guests turned out to not be what you were expecting? (i.e. addition of children that weren’t mentioned during the booking)
AR: I think most guests are basically honest, and sometimes plans change when a group rents a house. The only time I felt like I was being deceived was when the renter was younger than our age 30 minimum, which he failed to disclose until the night before their arrival. As the father of young children, I think families with younger kids are often the best renters, since they aren’t likely to be too loud or intentionally damage anything.
FK: Do you ever follow up with guests after they stay in your home?
AR: I almost always send guests an email after their stay asking if they enjoyed their visit or had any issues, which helps us constantly improve.
FK: What do you offer to guests that you feel provides the most value?
AR: I receive consistently good comments on my published reviews about my communication with guests. I try to respond to every message (email or phone call) within one day and let them know exactly what to expect from our properties. And if they have questions about the local area, I try to be the best concierge I can be. The property itself simply needs to live up to the expectations I set in the FlipKey listing.
FK: Are there any “red flags” that you look for while screening travelers?
AR: I try to rent to more “mature” guests, young families, and extended families (3 generations). When someone is asking about the local party scene, the maximum capacity for my property, or whether they can pitch tents, I quickly screen them out.
FK: What has been your best experience?
AR: We have had so many great guests that it’s hard to identify a single best experience. In general, it’s a great experience for me when they arrive and depart when expected, don’t have many questions, leave the property in good condition, and the neighbors don’t have any complaints.
FK: Do you leave any “personal touches” around your vacation home in order to impress your guests?
AR: I will leave a bottle of wine if I know someone is celebrating a special occasion (birthday, engagement, etc). We always leave hotel-sized soap and shampoo in all the bathrooms, a binder with local attractions, and ensure the house has been professionally cleaned before every stay.
FK: What’s the best piece of advice you can pass along to vacation rental owners who are just starting out?
AR: It’s very important to imagine how someone else might experience your home. Homeowners should label things that aren’t obvious, de-clutter, and get great local professionals (cleaners, landscapers, etc) who are reliable and will maintain your standards. When marketing your property, be sure the photos are great, descriptions are accurate, and you price it appropriately for the market and guests you want to attract. The FlipKey marketing guide is a great resource to help you do all of those things well.