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This contest is now closed.

The results are in! TripAdvisor’s first-ever Travelers’ Choice Rentals were announced this week.

TripAdvisor Rentals’ inaugural Travelers’ Choice awards recognize our travel community’s favorite villas, cabins, cottages, beach houses and more across the globe. This year showcases 30 of the top rental homes in the world, ranging from a chic Parisian apartment and a serene beach house in Bali, to an unforgettable houseboat in Amsterdam, and a cozy studio nestled in Yosemite National Park. Winners are selected based on a number of factors, including quantity and quality of traveler reviews.

To celebrate the launch of the Travelers’ Choice Awards, our sister company TripAdvisor Rentals is giving away a FREE bucket-list trip to Bali. You and a lucky companion will get free flights, dates of your choice, and a 10-night stay at an award-winning villa, right in the heart of one of Bali’s most renowned destinations, Seminyak.

**The contest is now closed. See full terms and conditions.**

ABOUT VILLA ZIBA: YOUR BALINESE PARADISE

 

You could win a 10-night stay in the luxurious Villa Ziba, along with return flights and airport transfers for two. Travelers have called the rental “pure bliss,” “absolutely perfect,” and a “little piece of heaven.” Villa Ziba boasts a contemporary style, mixing strong Balinese and Scandinavian influence throughout.

Stunning materials like volcanic lava stone, massive teak wood, and hand-woven ikat textiles create a beautifully modern environment. The open-plan layout allows one room to spill gracefully into the next, as calmness and tranquility seep into every stone. The two master bedrooms overlook a large overflow pool, lush garden, and lotus pond. Picture yourself relaxing on the sun deck with a good book, or simply gazing out across the Lotus pond… Villa Ziba is a luxury retreat in every sense of the phrase.

There’s even butler service included—so no need to worry about cooking, ironing, or cleaning! The location of this property can’t be beat. It’s a short 10-minute walk to the Seminyak beach and less than five minutes to shops and dining.

Here’s what some previous guests had to say about Villa Ziba:

“I cannot recommend Ziba highly enough! We just got home from a wonderful 12 days at the villa, and it was pure bliss! Everything is as beautiful as the photos, so well maintained and clean, and the staff are amazing, so friendly and helpful throughout our stay! We will definitely be back for our next holiday in Bali!” – Kiera T, TripAdvisor reviewer

“Villa Ziba has everything to help make the vacation ‘over the top’. Decorated in the most tasteful and luxurious Bali/Scandinavian style. No expense is spared on this vacation home. Smart, modern and fresh. It has all the extras and special touches you would wish for in a home of your own.” – Agneta M, TripAdvisor reviewer

“We’ve just returned from a week at Villa Ziba and we already can’t wait to go back! … The facilities were top notch, from the huge, incredible pool to the bathrooms and kitchens. Villa Ziba’s location was perfect, just a 5 minute walk from Seminyak’s main shopping strip and the Bintang Supermarket, making it easy to stock up on snacks and drinks… As beautiful as the villa was, the real highlight of our stay was the wonderful team of staff who work from 7am until 10pm. They did an amazing job in keeping the villa spotless and were more than happy to help us with any queries.” – TripAdvisor reviewer

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC OF BALI

A trip to Bali is a once-in-a-lifetime, cross-off-the-bucket-list type of adventure. Peaceful, postcard-perfect beaches dot the coastlines while lush jungle and rolling hills dominate the island’s interior. One of the most visitor-friendly locales in all of Indonesia, Bali not only features flawless beaches and weather, but endless leisure and cultural attractions too.

Soak up the sun on a stretch of fine white sand, or commune with the tropical creatures as you dive along coral ridges or the colorful wreck of a WWII war ship. On shore, the lush jungle shelters stone temples and mischievous monkeys. Tour the famous Tanah Lot and Ulun Danu Bratan temples, explore Kintamani Volcano and the Lemukih village rice fields at sunrise, or stand in awe below Sekumpul Waterfall. Take a cooking class to learn traditional Balinese dishes (sate, anyone?) to bring the unforgettable island flavors home with you. Bali is synonymous with tranquility and calm, so don’t miss out on a chance to visit a local spa or to take a sunrise yoga class.

It’s the perfect time to go, too. Bali was named 2017 Global Destination of the Year by TripAdvisor based on booking & review data from the past year.

ABOUT: TRIPADVISOR RENTALS

TripAdvisor Rentals is a leading platform where thousands of travelers find their perfect rental. Whether you’re looking for a stylish city apartment, spacious poolside villa or cozy cabin, we have the rental for you, no matter what your budget or where you want to be in the world. Using the power of TripAdvisor’s global travel community, TripAdvisor Rentals pairs the insider knowledge of our homeowners with the collective wisdom of millions of reviews. You’ll discover not only the best vacation rentals, but the best attractions, the best restaurants, and the best things to do.

TripAdvisor Rentals travelers always stay the smarter way, thanks to Payment Protection and a wealth of insider recommendations. With over 300 new reviews added every minute, TripAdvisor is an ever-growing resource where you can plan and book every part of your trip in one place. You can know better, book better, and go better. And rest assured that your vacation and your money is in safe hands with our Payment Protection.

Learn more about Travelers’ Choice Rentals.

After much anticipation, the grand prize stay for the ‘Eye Spy a Home in the Sky’ contest run by our sister company, TripAdvisor Rentals, is happening today!

Beatriz P. of Zaragoza, Spain won a once-in-a-lifetime experience, being the first person to ever stay aboard the famed Coca-Cola London Eye overnight. After nearly two decades—and over 60 million visitors—Beatriz will be the first to wake up above London as the sun rises over the Thames, in a luxury home created by TripAdvisor Rentals. After her stay on the Coca-Cola London Eye, she will be staying in a luxury rental in London for three additional nights.

Beatriz has chosen her 15-year-old son as her lucky companion on this money-can’t-buy experience. The pair has never traveled to London before, despite it being a long-term dream.

Stay tuned to this blog for exclusive video, images, and commentary from the event provided by the TripAdvisor team on the ground.

Update: 830am EST – The first ever images of the completed home on board this famous London landmark are in. The transformed capsule, designed by Wayfair, is a rainforest-inspired rooftop garden and offers a slice of serene paradise high above the bustling metropolis of London.

See the final, amazing look of the space!

* All photo credits in this shoot to David Parry/PA Wire

Update: 230pm EST – See our Facebook Live video offering an exclusive tour of our beautiful home in the sky.

Coca-Cola London Eye Capsule Tour by TripAdvisor Rentals

Coca-Cola London Eye Capsule Tour by TripAdvisor Rentals

 

Update 330pm EST – Beatriz and her son, Mark Alexander, enter the capsule and get comfortable. See images from their “check in” below.

* All photo credits in this shoot to Geoff Caddick/PA Wire

Update 400pm EST: Get an exclusive, behind the scenes look at the Wayfair team putting the finishing touches on the capsule during early morning hours.

Our sister company, TripAdvisor Rentals wants you to have the first EVER sleepover on the Coca-Cola London Eye.

If you’ve ever dreamed of soaring over London at night, with a bird’s eye view of Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and St. Paul’s Cathedral, then get ready to pinch yourself.

TripAdvisor Rentals is offering the chance to be the first person ever to spend a night in the Coca-Cola London Eye. On May 17th, one winner and their chosen guest will climb aboard an exclusive sky-high home from TripAdvisor Rentals, decorated by Wayfair.

That’s right: we’re turning a capsule on the famous Coca-Cola London Eye into what’s sure to be the coolest rental home ever. And considering the number of properties available for rent on our site—835,000 and counting—that’s a big statement.

Surrounded by a panorama of the city’s most famous landmarks, this sky-high sleepover promises a night like no other. If you think a champagne toast in a London penthouse sounds like a dream come true, imagine cracking open the bubbly 443 feet above the city streets with a 360° view.

Decorated by Wayfair, one of the largest online destinations for the home, penthouse luxe meets jungle cool in this dazzling pad in the sky. Inspired by a five-star rain forest getaway, this enchanting glasshouse combines natural elements with urban style. Lush green foliage, trailing fairy lights, and tropical touches abound, while a posh bed, luxury linens, and boutique chic décor bring a whole new meaning to sleeping under the stars. It’s like a secret rooftop garden—only this one has views of one of the world’s iconic cities from every angle.

The Coca-Cola London Eye took its first rotation in 2000. But after nearly two decades—and over 60 million visitors—you could be the first to wake up above London as the sun rises over the Thames, the Houses of Parliament, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. You might have seen London from high up, but no one has experienced it like this.

 

Booking your own London getaway? Not to worry, TripAdvisor provides VIP London Eye experiences for travelers every day. Get the royal treatment by booking the “Skip the Line” package on TripAdvisor—you’ll bypass the queue with priority boarding for your rotation in a shared capsule—or the “Champagne Experience” for a special toast while you take in the view.
Travelers looking to take it to the next level can even book a private capsule on TripAdvisor. Capsules fit up to 24 guests, making it perfect for an event or special occasion.

No matter where you’re heading, experience the best your destination has to offer—in addition to rentals, you can book thousands of tours and attractions on TripAdvisor.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to enter:

Go to our Coca-Cola London Eye contest page and submit the required entry information.

When does the contest take place?

The contest is open from Monday, March 6 through Sunday, March 19.

How will the winner be chosen and when?

One winner will be chosen at random on Monday, March 20.

Who is eligible?

Legal residents of the United States, the District of Columbia and the countries of Canada, France, Germany, Spain and The United Kingdom, who are eighteen (18) years of age or older, or at least the legal age of majority in the state/country in which they reside at the time of entry.

Be sure that you’re available to travel to London, England between May 17 and May 22!

What is the Grand Prize?

Winner and one guest will receive round-trip transportation to London, England, one night stay on the Coca-Cola London Eye on May 17th, followed by 3 night’s stay at a TripAdvisor Rental in Central London.

Accommodation and air transportation are all subject to availability. Winner and guest must travel on the same itinerary and on the same dates.

Want to know more?

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and send us a message using #SkyHighStay!

Click for the full terms & conditions.

At FlipKey, we value the importance of travel and cultural immersion as a way to learn about the world firsthand. To encourage this, we are awarding one student a $1,000 scholarship to put towards studying abroad. From tuition costs to plane tickets and spontaneous excursions in between, the scholarship money can be used to cover any of the expenses associated with studying and traveling abroad.

Hundreds of students submitted 1000 word essays describing why travel is important to him or her, and it was a difficult decision for our judges to make.

Congratulations to Morgan Gallogly of John Carroll University in Ohio who won the FlipKey Study Abroad Scholarship and $1000 towards her semester abroad next spring in London!

For those who missed out this year, please submit an essay in the coming year as we’ll be giving away another scholarship in 2017!

The winning essay is printed in full below:

The Importance of Travel

            During an astronomy class my senior year of high school we were taught how constellations and asterisms were discovered and named. We learned how mythological stories attempted to explain human existence to the ancient Greeks who spent their nights curiously looking above and seeing the omnipotent eyes of Zeus looking down on them. It was in this class that I realized just how big the universe was. I understood for the first time that the earth was such a tiny piece of the cosmic jigsaw puzzle that was outer space. I felt small. I felt my problems and worries shrink to microscopic size. If the planet we live on, which itself seems so enormous, was just an infinitesimal part of a system that was much bigger, then why be anxious in the first place? Why worry? In the end, we are all a part of a tiny inner working of a planet that is floating through the paths of not only other planets, but other solar systems. What a beautiful concept, I remember thinking. As I leaned back in my plastic chair in the middle of a room full of other scared-to-grow-up seniors, I looked at the stars not only as celestial balls of heat, but as a reminder that there is more.

            Only a couple of month after my experience in that class, I decided to get a tattoo. The thin, black string of delicate stars that now sits behind my left ear serves as a constant reminder that I am a small part of a bigger picture. My doubts and worries, in the grand scheme of things, do not matter. This concept has helped me through the stress that I place on myself. As someone who has battled anxiety and other forms of mental illness, this simple thought brings me so much peace. My friendly galactic tattoo is there to help me through those times of overanalyzing and self-doubt. I am reminded of my place in this universe. I am reminded to not allow a bout of anxiety keep me from discovering and exploring. Ultimately, I am reminded of my love for travel.

            Travel has always been a passion of mine. I always appreciated how much I could see myself and those around me grow from having an experience one could only have outside of their personal comfort zone. Traveling is one of the only things that has this effect. It is one of the few times I can quell that tiny voice in my head telling me to remain safe and complacent in my own comfort zone. Being able to take that risk to explore reminds me of my astronomy class, which, in turn, reminds me of the true scale of my surroundings. We are only given a short time on a very small part of the universe. It is my true passion to investigate all that I can within my time on earth. When I go someplace new, even if it is just a new spot on my college campus, I try my best to appreciate every aspect of it. Trying and doing something different is not something that I take for granted anymore. Exploration has a great power to change us and travel is a rare and humbling experience in which you are reminded of your humanity. You are reminded that you are a small, but important, part of a large world.

          There are a countless amount of ways that I could pretentiously and abstractly try to conceptualize the power of travel (some of which I am sure I have already utilized here). However, I can definitively say that there is a reason people love to explore. There is a reason why some love to try new foods, meet new people, and see new things. There is a reason that schools encourage students to spend a semester abroad and there is a reason why scholarships are available to help fund those semesters. Though these reasons may differ from person to person, I know that my reason lies within my passion for the world and the inner peace I find when I let myself stray from the ordinary and mundane. Through travel, we can see how different we all are and yet still see the similarities that weave us together as the collective inhabitants of a single planet. It changes us. It makes us grow in intelligence, perspective, and love. It makes us better equipped to understand the world in which we live. It gives us the tools we need to become better humans.

          The stars have been burning in the sky a lot longer than we have been looking up at them. Each pocket of earth and space will go on existing, whether we choose to explore it or not. It is nearly impossible to experience and understand each part of our tiny planet. Imagining that we can see it all in one lifetime is a little farfetched. However, if we keep reinforcing travel’s importance into our cultures, we can slowly transform it into more than just something you may daydream about in astronomy class.  Through my experiences around the world, both past and future, I hope that I will be able to say I made my cliché daydream of traveling the world a reality. Traveling has taught me that our soulmates in life can sometimes be cities, not people.  It has shown me how to broaden my perspective, and it has challenged my thinking. It is difficult to articulate my obsession with traveling. It is hard to describe how much it has helped me.  But it is easy to think about your own future and how you want to define your own success. That success, for me, does not include buying a large house, purchasing a fancy car, or owning all of the latest gadgets and technology. I do not dream of the value of things. I dream of the value of experiences. I dream of the world.

Cleaning your rental property may not be the most glamorous task, but a clean space can improve your reviews online and increase repeat bookings. While the usual cleaning suspects are critical—including vacuuming, cleaning the kitchen, and scrubbing the bathrooms—sometimes the little details can have more of an impact than you realize. Here are a few easy-to-tackle but often-overlooked areas that can make a big difference in the appearance of your property.

  1. Microwave

The microwave can get really dirty in a short amount of time. Since the inside of the microwave isn’t the first thing renters see, it’s often overlooked. But when someone opens the microwave and finds it dirty with the previous renter’s food, it can sour a positive first impression. Even worse, with the amount of food allergies today, dirty microwaves can be dangerous. Here’s a simple trick for keeping it spotless:

  1. Fill a small bowl with about one cup of water.
  2. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl.
  3. Place the bowl in the microwave and cook on high for three minutes.
  4. Let the bowl sit, uninterrupted, for five minutes.
  5. Open the door and remove the bowl. Wipe down the ceiling and walls of the microwave. Sometimes the turntable can be removed and washed in a sink, if necessary.
  1. Dishwasher

Just like the microwave, the inside of the dishwasher can become very dirty, and has the potential to turn a positive rental experience negative very quickly. Take a few moments to clean it out between renters for sanitary reasons, and to avoid mold and future damage to the appliance. The dishwasher can also be cleaned while you are tackling other items around the house.

  1. Remove any excess food particles.
  2. Pour baking soda on any food stained areas and let sit for five to 10 minutes.
  3. Use a small sponge or toothbrush to wipe away baking soda. Some stains need to sit for a longer period of time than others. Bonus: Baking soda also helps cut down on food odors.
  4. Pour two cups of vinegar on the bottom of the dishwasher.
  5. Run the dishwasher on energy saving mode.
  6. Let it sit closed after the cycle is completed for about 20 minutes.
  7. Open and wipe down the inside. Vinegar will help remove food stains as well as hard water stains.
  1. Oven

Lots of renters won’t even use the oven if they are on vacation. Regardless, it’s important to check its condition between renters. If a food spill is left unchecked, it can lead to smoke, odors and even fire. For difficult food spills in the oven:

  1. Place an oven-safe bowl of water on the middle rack.
  2. Set the temperature and 450 and bake for 20 minutes.
  3. Wipe down the walls of the oven. Use towels and sponges as required to remove baked-on food.
  1. Look Up

One of the places most people forget to clean is located right above their heads. Ceiling fans, picture frames and vents all collect dust. No renter wants to turn on a ceiling fan on a hot day, only to create a dust storm. Purchase a long handled duster, and wipe all of these high and hard-to-reach areas down in between rental agreements.

  1. Smell Therapy

Even if a home isn’t perfectly clean, certain smells can give a cleaner impression. Use universally pleasing scents such as vanilla or lemon to make your rental property feel crisp, clean and warm when renters arrive. While you can use air fresheners or candles, you can also dab a bit of vanilla scented oil onto a cotton ball and place it in the air filter of the vacuum. When you run the vacuum, it will infuse the air.

Pro Tip: Create a Cleaning Kit

Most rental agreements specify leaving a space “broom clean.” The act of simply leaving cleaning supplies where renters can see them and access them encourages cleaning. Assemble a small cleaning kit on every floor of your rental home, and stock it with fresh, easily recognizable cleaning products. Make sure the product labels and instructions are easy to read. If you have special instructions on how to clean something, such as the kitchen counters, make sure to include these instructions in written form near the applicable cleaning products.

Here’s what to include in the cleaning kit:

  • Instructions for cleaning
  • Paper towels and rags
  • Window cleaner
  • Dust cleaner
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Bathroom cleaners — toilet, shower, floor, etc.
  • Rubber gloves
  • Air freshener
  • Make sure to exclude anything that could cause damage to your property if used improperly, such as bleach.

Keeping a rental property in top form is easy if you establish a cleaning routine that encompasses all areas of the space. It is important to leave nothing out, and complete the same tasks every time the property is rented. Create a checklist for yourself, or your property manager, to ensure nothing falls between the cracks.

Some bonus cleaning advice, if you have an odor you can’t locate or get rid of, here’s a post about 20 Common Household Odors and How to Remove Them Fast.

About the Author
Bonnie Dewkett is a cleaning and organizing expert who writes for Quill.com and The Joyful Organizer. She is passionate about helping people declutter and loves to see the positive impact that getting organized has on their lives.

Today’s internet audience is likely familiar with the birth of the common travel blog: an individual becomes anxious to explore the world outside of his or her 9 to 5, cubical career and drops all convention in favor of traveling the world and writing about the experience. In fact, this story is likely to become even more prevalent; it is estimated that between 2011 and 2014, the number of blogging individuals rose 31%. Regardless of this growing supply, there is equal demand from readers grasping at the stories and photos that bloggers have to share, and this audience continues to grow. What was once considered a hobby or a way for an individual to share experiences with friends and family is now a full-blown authoritative medium in the realms of travel, art, journalism, education, and business, among others. Relevant travel companies, large or small, would be careless to ignore the potential that these bloggers present towards their goals.

Blogs Build Trust

While many travel companies have cleverly created their own blogs in order to interact with new audiences, full time travel bloggers have something that these companies normally do not – a different set of eyes and ears with the time dedicated to experience those worldly subjects firsthand, taking down observations along the way. According to SearchEnginePeople.com, blogs are the 5th most trusted source for online information. Take that insight augmented by the fact that travel bloggers are writing first-person accounts of their particular experiences and you have a relationship between blogger and reader that is difficult for any associated enterprise to replicate. Dave and Deb, the travel blogging geniuses behind ThePlanetD.com, describe this difference, “Travel bloggers have a lot to offer brands. We lend a human voice to the corporate entity and bring in a new audience to their product or destination.”

More than Just a Travelogue

Maintaining a blog may only incur a business the cost of the time it takes to do the job, but the perspective of any one staff writer is bound to give the blog a nearsighted view. Having access to original photos and anecdotes to feature on a company blog is precious and difficult to attain, fortunately there is an army of inquisitive travel bloggers working every day to share these things with travel companies. What’s more, the power of bloggers doesn’t stop at their domain names; they also wield the influence of social media and may have strength in areas that many companies lack. Nelson Carvalheiro, a seasoned blogger via NelsonCarvalheiro.com, expands on the subject saying, “Travel bloggers can and must offer much more than direct influence and access to their communities for the brands that they work with. They are digital experts and can help travel brands make their digital communication strategies more relevant to their own communities.”

Blogger to Business Relationships

This past spring, my colleague and I had the privilege of attending the Travel Blogger Exchange (TBEX) Conference in Spain. During the event, we met so many talented, enthusiastic, and intelligent bloggers working in the travel sphere. Some of these bloggers have been honing their craft for years, cultivating enormous followings and finding new ways to excite and inspire readers. Many of the bloggers that we met have a definitive brand – in fact, in most cases, the blogger is the brand. They have audiences from all over the world, including every demographic. The most telling observation that I noted after speaking with these bloggers is their eagerness to work with travel brands and help those brands tap into their travel blogs’ audiences. But it doesn’t stop there — they want to create long-lasting relationships with these companies rather than constantly shuffle between off-handed freelance opportunities. They want to align brands, thereby creating a symbiotic relationship that their readers and a business’ customers will both benefit from. “There needs to be trust and belief on each side,” Dave and Deb explain, “It is all about having a willingness to collaborate and discuss the needs of each other.”

Travel blogging is consistently on the rise, so in order to stay relevant in the industry, I would advise corporations to get to know more travel bloggers. Read their work, talk to them about their brands, and include them in ideas. They are a wealth of personalized travel knowledge and many brands will benefit from this fast-track connection to the most relevant audience available. Besides, having travel-savvy friends across the globe never hurts!

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Great photos? Check. Enticing description? Check. “Wow” reviews? Check. Competitive rates? Check.

And yet you still face “The Case of the Disappearing Guest.”

That is: you have a promising early exchange with a potential guest, the ball seems to be steadily rolling toward a booking, and then they simply vanish—never to be heard from again, no matter how many follow-ups you send.

With all these checkmarks working to your advantage, what the heck happened?

In my 20+ years as a vacation rental guest, I’ve been through the inquiry process many times…from the other side of the potential transaction. Allow me to be your case study.

In the below article I’m going to share with you a few of my most memorable booking experiences, and why they’ve stuck with me. (These are real-life examples, but I’ll leave out names to respect the privacy of the owners.)

In The Bookings Race, the Hare Usually Wins

We vacationed in Sandbridge, VA in the summer of 2013. We didn’t want to stay in Virginia Beach (too busy) and OBX was booked. I luckily struck on Sandbridge, a quiet community nestled between Virginia Beach and OBX. Perfect!

I searched, sent out multiple inquiries, and then sat back for the waiting game. Except this time was different. Before I’d even sent out my final inquiry I received a response from a local property manager. It wasn’t the most detailed and personal of responses, but it had one major asset: it was rapid!

Guess what? We booked her place.

When it comes to vacation rentals, ignore the “slow and steady” argument, as well as any advice that tells you to avoid the immediate response for fear of “coming on too strong.” In the race to convert a guest inquiry, the speed of response is probably the biggest factor in locking down a booking. And the easiest, too.

How fast should you respond? As fast as possible, really.

After all, the modern vacation rental guest is generally always “on,” and always ready to book. Especially the millennial generation, who were raised on instant access and fast communication. If you can manage to respond in less than 2-3 hours, then you’re right up there with the best of them (within reason, of course – you do have to sleep!).

Your Guests Have iPhones – Call Them!

It’s the age of the millennial guest, I know. But many of us gadget-crazed guests do sometimes use the phone for its traditional use!

Case in point – I was headed to Sanibel, FL last year with my family. I sent out some inquiries and received a call from an owner who wanted to know if I had any questions about the property.

Wow!

I confess; I was a little taken aback. I didn’t expect a call. But after 10 seconds of adjusting and composing, I settled in for a great chat, and 5 minutes later I’d booked a stay at his 2-bedroom condo. Afterward, I received responses via email from a few other owners. But they’d already lost out to our old-fashioned friend…the humble telephone!

Equally impressive was the phone call I received from the same owner on our first morning at the condo, just to see how things were going. This is an owner who clearly cares about the entire guest experience. Cynics may suggest the owner was somehow intrusive or snooping, but I felt only positive vibes!

(As a related aside… although I’ve never received a video response to an inquiry, I have seen many examples used by owners over at Matt Landau’s Inner Circle. Highly personal and certainly trust-fostering…a great mode of replying!)

You’re Way Cooler Than Any Guide Book

My family is taking a trip this summer to Daufuskie Island, SC. This wasn’t our original plan; I’d been looking at Hilton Head Island, but an intrepid owner sold me on Daufuskie.

If you know Daufuskie, you’ll know there are no grocery stores, and you can’t drive to the island – it’s boat transfer only. Presented with a few logistical challenges, we started to wonder if Hilton Head might be the less-stressful choice. Right on cue, the owner in Daufuskie alleviated our fears with her expertise. From boat transfer choices, to online grocery shopping options—she covered it all.

Had it not been for this owner on Daufuskie, we would almost certainly have favored the easier route of Hilton Head. And on top of that, she didn’t just give functional information; she also gave us a list of local hangouts, and even a couple of local cooks who will bring prepared food right to our rental.

No bookstore guidebook can match this kind of personal knowledge. They almost always lack suggestions for the “Mom & Pop” places that us modern guests like to frequent. After all, we’re looking for that one-off local experience to remind us where we are in the world. It stems from the same value base that led us to stay in a vacation rental in the first place!

All of this is even more relevant when you consider the person tasked with finding and reserving the vacation rental. He or she has the added pressure of the group to find the perfect stay for everyone. So lend that harried person a hand, and differentiate yourself in the process!

Personalize Your Communications

As I said, those of us looking at vacation rentals over more traditional lodging are often searching for a more personal way to travel. Yes, price is important, but it’s very often a unique experience that guests are after. You can only stay in so many essentially identical places before you crave something a little different.

Use this personal angle to your advantage in all your guest communications. For example, if your potential guest mentions or marks that they have 2 kids, elaborate on your property’s kid-friendly features in your response. Something like:

“Dear John,

We’re delighted to confirm that our villa is available for your chosen dates at the price of x.

I notice that you have two kids traveling with you. We’ve spent many happy vacations here with our own children, and we’ve got lots of amenities to keep them entertained! From the large rear garden and heated pool, to the cart of beach gear that we provide to all our guests, to the games room complete with pool table and foosball….”

Etc.

I’ve seen so many inquiry responses that simply tell me the property is available. When I find a personal touch—something that shows the owner has thought about me, personally—I will pay attention, and more often than not, close the whole thing with a booking.

No more “Case of the Disappearing Guest”!

Andy Photo Scaled AltAndy McNulty is Co-Founder of Guest Hook, the web’s first vacation rental copywriting agency, and Touch Stay, a digital welcome book to help you create great guest experiences through modern technology. Having grown up on vacation rentals, he is passionate about the industry and believes its greatest asset is the personal, 1-to-1 approaches of owners and property managers.

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Fine, I’ll level with you – I’m not a millionaire. I’ll give you a minute to collect yourself from that surprise.

All set? Since I’m not a millionaire, and money is most definitely an object, I make vacation purchasing decisions based on affordability and locale. I’d venture a guess that most travelers are like me, trying to find a happy medium between an incredible place to visit without breaking the bank or even robbing it.

We looked at the past 18 months of rental rates and the average weekly cost for a 2-bedroom vacation home for all our destinations in the USA, and we’ve singled out the most affordable location in each state (min. 5 listings). Here’s the list of winners and the top three reasons each is worth a visit.

Alabama: Fort Morgan ($1300 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Fort Morgan Historic Site, Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, Deep sea fishing charters

Alaska: Talkeetna ($798 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Talkeetna Ranger Station, Talkeetna Historical Society Museum, Byers Lake

Arizona: Lake Havasu City ($237 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Navigate Lake Havasu, the view from London Bridge, Casino ferry ride

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Arkansas: Hot Springs Village ($809 per week)

Three reasons to visit: 26,000 acres of the Ouachita Mountains, nine championship golf courses, monthly Rock Porch music sessions

California: Desert Hot Springs ($360 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, a nude spa, Coachella concert

Colorado: Norwood ($690 per week)

Three reasons to visit: the vistas from Lone Cone Peak, proximity to Telluride, ATV/Snowmobile action

Connecticut: West Cornwall ($750 per week)

Three reasons to visit: the covered bridges, Mohawk Mountain, Foreign Mission School

Delaware: Ocean View ($358 per week)

Three reasons to visit: 1 mile from Bethany Beach, 1 mile from the Indian River Bay, proximity to Atlantic Ocean

Florida: Hutchinson Island ($290 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Elliot Museum, House of Refuge, sea turtle nesting

Georgia: Blairsville ($642 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Misty Mountain Model Railroad, exploring Vogel State Park, hiking on Bald Mountain

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Hawaii: Hilo ($624 per week)

Three reasons to visit: watch water cascade in the Boiling Pots, Banyan Drive celebri-trees, Rainbow Falls 80-foot drop

Idaho: Boise ($511 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Go to a Boise State football game, tour the Old Idaho Penitentiary, walk the Boise River Greenbelt

Illinois: Carbondale ($1280 per week)

Three reasons to visit: exploring 280,000 acres in Shawnee National Forest, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, over 17,000 ponds and rivers

Indiana: Michigan City ($2082 per week)

Three reasons to visit: try your luck at the Blue Chip casino, check out the Michigan City Lighthouse, get a buzz on at Shady Creek Winery

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Iowa: Des Moines ($1225 per week)

Three reasons to visit: paddle board on Gray’s Lake, tour the gorgeous Capitol Building, ride the ferris wheel at the Iowa State Fairgrounds

Kansas: Woodston ($1127 per week)

Three reasons to visit: gawk at the world’s largest ball of twine, tour the Garden of Eden, go for a hike

Kentucky: Rogers ($2500 per week)

Three reasons to visit: a taste of the wild west at Whisman’s Hitching Post, climbing at the Muir Valley Nature Preserve, take a Wilderness First Aid Course

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Louisiana: New Orleans ($1348 per week)

Three reasons to visit: ride the streetcars, drink your way down Bourbon Street, dine at the fancy restaurants in the French Quarter

Maine: Stonington ($816 per week)

Three reasons to visit: hike through the 100-acre Crockett Cove Woods Preserve, experience Acadia National Park, visit the numerous art galleries in the area

Maryland: Oakland ($1337 per week)

Three reasons to visit: explore Swallows Falls State Park or Deep Creek Lake State Park, travel through time at the Garrett County Museum of Transportation, hit the links at Lodgestone Golf Club

Massachusetts: West Harwich ($560 per week)

Three reasons to visit: During the summer, take in a Harwich Mariners baseball game, attend a concert at Brooks Park in Harwich Center, and join in the fun of the Harwich Port Musical Strolls

Michigan: Bellaire ($600 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Kayak or boat the Chain-O-Lakes, hike the trails at Grass River Natural Area, Fat Tire Biking or Snowshoeing at Glacial Hills Pathway

Minnesota: Minneapolis ($683 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Catch a Twins game at brand new Target Field, tour the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, stroll around the Lake of the Isles

Mississippi: Biloxi ($733 per week)

Three reasons to visit: take a shrimping tour and cook up your own southern cuisine, gamble at one of the visited casinos, attend an event like the Bluff Creek Bluegrass Festival (spring) or the classic car show (fall)

Missouri: Branson ($1002 per week)

Three reasons to visit: buy something at the Touch of Brass Art Gallery, have a fun night at the Baldknobbers Entertainment Complex, take a tour of the area on the Branson Scenic Railway

Montana: Red Lodge ($1202 per week)

Three reasons to visit: watch 70 species of animals and birds at the Beartooth Nature Center, see the gun collection and interactive cole mine exhibit at the Carbon County Historical Society and Museum, view original art from over 200 Western and contemporary artists at Carbon County Arts and Depot Gallery

Nebraska: Omaha ($1472 per week)

Three reasons to visit: shop ’til you drop at the Old Market, have a fun day at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, stroll through the Lauritzen Garden, 100 acres of botanical beauty

Nevada: Las Vegas ($1106 per week)

Three reasons to visit: see any of the award-winning shows (like David Copperfield or Britney Spears), walk around the gorgeous hotels like The Bellagio or the Wynn (though save costs by actually staying in a vacation rental), get off the strip and see Red Rock Canyon or the Hoover Dam

New Hampshire: Weirs Beach ($1012 per week)

Three reasons to visit: cruise on the M/S Mount Washington, hit and be hit on the Half Moon Bumper Cars, fly up and away on the AeroBalloon for an amazing view of the area

New Jersey: Asbury Park ($1033 per week)

Three reasons to visit: be a wizard at the Silverball Pinball Museum, stroll along the Asbury Park Boardwalk, catch a show at the Paramount Theater

New Mexico: Angel Fire ($721 per week)

Three reasons to visit: hit the slopes at the Angel Fire Resort, pay your respects at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, try your hand at Disc Golf

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New York: Niagara Falls ($474 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Take a boat ride on the iconic Maid of the Mist, gamble at the Seneca Niagara Casino, shop til you drop at the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls, USA

North Carolina: Beech Mountain ($462 per week)

Three reasons to visit: try out some new jumps at Beech Mountain slopes, play sports at the Buckeye Recreation Center, mountain bike around Emerald Outback

North Dakota: Bismarck ($1083 per week)

Three reasons to visit: tour the North Dakota Heritage Center, see the tigers at the Dakota Zoo, look inside the State Capitol building

Ohio: Cleveland Heights ($980 per week)

Three reasons to visit: see a classic movie at the Cedar Lee Theater, enjoy the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, watch a play or concert at Cain Park

Oklahoma: Broken Bow ($1310 per week)

Three reasons to visit: swim in Broken Bow lake, hunt at the “deer capital of the world”, and hike at Hochatown State Park

Oregon: Florence ($749 per week)

Three reasons to visit: see the views at Heceta Head Lighthouse, do something crazy at Sand Master Park, hike at Honeyman Memorial State Park 

Pennsylvania: Blakeslee ($325 per week)

Three reasons to visit: get behind the wheel at the Stock Car Racing Experience, snow shoe at Split Rock Resort, splash around at the Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark

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Rhode Island: Narragansett ($1000 per week)

Three reasons to visit: hit Narragansett Beach, take the ferry to Block Island, tour the Point Judith Lighthouse

South Carolina: Murrells Inlet ($231 per week)

Three reasons to visit: have a picnic in Brookgreen Gardens, lay out at Huntington Beach State Park, take the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk

South Dakota: Hill City ($1326 per week)

Three reasons to visit: pan for your fortune at Wade’s Gold Mill, see a Native American dance Brule concert, see the dinos at the Black Hills Institute Museum

Tennessee: Townsend ($854 per week)

Three reasons to visit: shop and eat on Depot Street, explore the massive Great Smoky Mountains National Park, go tubing down the Little River

Texas: Granbury ($840 per week)

Three reasons to visit: walk around Granbury Town Square, take in a show at the Opera House, get locked up at the Hood County Jail

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Utah: Salt Lake City ($449 per week)

Three reasons to visit: for the best views hike the Bonneville Shoreline trail, listen to the Tabernacle Choir, visit the beautifully cultivated Red Butte Gardens

Vermont: Ludlow ($983 per week)

Three reasons to visit: ski down Okemo Mountain, experience the endless family entertainment at Jackson Gore, swim in Buttermilk Falls

Virginia: Mineral ($700 per week)

Three reasons to visit: boat on Lake Anna, take a day trip to Richmond, ride on horseback through the countryside

Washington: Port Townsend ($810 per week)

Three reasons to visit: visit the funky Kelly Art Deco Light Museum, shop at the local farmer’s market, spend the day at Ford Warden State Park

West Virginia: Davis ($682 per week)

Three reasons to visit: be awed by the waterfalls in Blackwater Falls State Park, head underground at Seneca Caverns, take a scenic railroad trip

Wisconsin: Fish Creek ($1075 per week)

Three reasons to visit: bike through Peninsula State Park, see the outdoor art at Edgewood Galleries, have a few drinks at Orchard Country Winery

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Wyoming: Cody ($1089 per week)

Three reasons to visit: learn about Wild West legends at Buffalo Bill Center of the West, for a unique look at firearms visit either the Cody Firearms Museum or the Dug Up Gun Museum, for beautiful views look for the Buffalo Bill Dam or Teton National Forest

For more top lists, check out our list of Top Rated Vacation Rental Destinations in all 50 states.

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Vacation rental hosting can be time consuming and difficult. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

But you’re not everyone. You have a profitable rental property and I’m going to teach you how to put it on autopilot.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve traveled to several countries and have set a goal of traveling to two new cities every year. I always hit the goal.

When I travel, I stay at a new vacation rental every time, so you can imagine, I’ve seen it all. I’ve stayed in everything from a tiny studio in the grittiest part of San Francisco to villas near Dubai’s Marina district.

Through all this travel, I’ve met several rental owners who have taught me how to maximize my rental income with a few simple steps.

Here are 4 essential steps you should use to manage your vacation rental.

1. Marketing Is Everything

You’re a marketer by default, whether you like it or not. Your listing must stand out among the other 100+ listings in your area. Tenants will travel for a comfortable and appealing rental and you get 3 seconds to win them over. Put on your marketing hat and ensure you have the following done.

Professional Images. Your images can significantly improve your booking rate. Chances are that users are browsing your area through their phone. They’ll stop at whatever catches their eye so make your images distinctive.

Ensure your photographs stand out by hiring a professional photographer using Photographers.com or Craigslist.

Write like a copywriter, not like a professor.

Think of your writing as a readable photograph. Your user’s first positive impression depends on the visual appeal of your writing. A couple tips to follow are:

  1. Two sentence paragraphs, plenty of proper spacing
  2. No CAPS, ellipsis, or exclamation marks
  3. Plenty of numbering and bullets
  4. Triple check your spelling and grammar

Mention the essential details right away.

What would your potential guests ask if they came in off the street?

  1. How big is the space?
  2. What does the rental include? What’s off limits?
  3. Do you have free WiFi? Parking?
  4. What’s near by? How is public transportation?
  5. How safe is it?
  6. Any good restaurants?

Tell a story.

Your renters are humans. We’re illogical creatures driven by our emotions. Don’t sell us solutions, sell us a story about your rental; it’s neighborhood and history, the significance of the paintings in the house, why you live there, and interesting details that would make the stay more enjoyable.

If you want help writing the perfect listing, check out “How To Write A Craigslist Ad” by Noah Kagan.

2. Price Dynamically

Price at the number that is reasonable for your location, date, and quality of your rental. Renters tend to price in three buckets: low price, average, or high priced and if your goal is to have a high booking rate, you can always be the lowest priced listing, but that’s not going to make you money.

Your price should fluctuate based on user demand. For vacation rentals, that means looking at local and major events, the time of season, and especially holidays.

You can predict the prices your renters are willing to pay by looking at rental price changes online through Flipkey, Craigslist, and other sites or you can use tools like Beyond Pricing and SmartHost, pay a small fee and let them handle the job.

3. Automate Maintenance (3rd Party Providers)

As your booking rates and revenue increase from dynamic pricing so will the maintenance and upkeep. Don’t get sucked into another full time job by trying to manage your rental alone.

3rd party services for maintaining your vacation rental are abundant and have a wide range of prices to fit your budget.

If you’re on the lookout for the ideal tool, take a look at Pillow which integrates with most vacation rental sites.

4. Put Your Rental Finances On Autopilot

Finally, make sure you’re proactive with your rental finances. The easiest way to increase your revenue is to actively lower your taxable income and pay less tax.

There are dozens of tax deductions which may potentially be available to you. Your CPA or accountant can help you better understand everything you need to track so that you can lower your taxable income and make more money.

Some of the key tax deductions you can potentially use for your rental are on expenses like toiletry costs, cleaning, maintenance on the area you rent and many more. For a list of tax deductions to get you started, see the Hurdlr landlord and hosts tax guide written by our in-house CPA Matt Breifer.

Many vacation rental owners use tax software and spreadsheets to manage their finances but if you would prefer to save both time and money, you can throw away your spreadsheet and use Hurdlr.

Hurdlr is a mobile finance app for vacation rentals and the gig economy. Hurdlr gives you a better understanding of your finances by automatically managing your revenue, expenses, and taxes.

 

Sajad Ghanizada

Sajad Ghanizada heads growth at Hurdlr, a mobile finance app for vacation rentals and the gig-economy. When he’s not working you can find him exploring DC or off on a weekend trip. He’s an avid fan of Flipkey and prefers the comfort of short term vacation rentals.

Invest in your vacation rental business.

The ultimate goal in listing your vacation rental is to increase its potential for profitability. You place your offer up on a site like FlipKey, get in front of thousands of interested travelers, and start making money by renting it out – right? Not entirely. In order for your listing to work, you have to run your rental like a savvy small business owner would run a successful storefront. Your home and the customer service that accompanies it must provide the things your renters want and need in order for you to reach the highest level of profitability through renting. If you’re still a bit new to the small business mindset, have no fear! Check out these 6 tips to run your vacation rental like a real-life entrepreneur.

  1. Evaluate and Understand Potential Risks

Outlining and covering your potential risks as a vacation home owner is the first step in successfully managing your rental. Small business owners take time to understand possible causes for profit loss, and find practical solutions to cover each. List your concerns first then pair each with a measure of prevention. Whether these prevention measures include contract modifications, additional security, or specialty insurance, take time to research your options and find those with the highest potential for reducing risks.

  1. Invest in Security

Speaking of security, ensuring the safety of your customers will be critical. This holds true in every industry, however, it is especially important for consumers within the hospitality industry. Many home owners fail to see the importance of a home security system. You may hold this personal preference when it comes to your home, but you shouldn’t treat your rental like your home. It’s your business. Investing in a business security system will help you provide the reassurance your guests need to enjoy a comfortable and safe stay. It will also help you protect your profits from break-ins and potentially dishonest guests.

  1. Think of the Consumers’ Needs Before They Do

Successful business owners are constantly thinking of ways they can further improve their product/service to better meet their consumers’ unique needs. Think like your consumer to get a better idea of what they will want and need during their stay at your rental. Think of the things you appreciate having during an out of town stay, and make these available to guests of your rental. Also understand your area and provide information and materials that stand to benefit visitors. Examples of this could include providing bottled water for vacation rentals located in warm climates like Las Vegas or Phoenix, or offering hot chocolate for winter travelers in Park City or Denver. The FlipKey vacation inspiration page could serve as a useful tool here to get ideas from travel guides and “best of…” galleries.

  1. Consider a Third-Party Cleaning Service

A clean environment is essential to the success of any business. As a business owner in the hospitality industry, it is your responsibility to provide a clean home. Unfortunately, you may not have the time to clean your home well enough to meet the hospitality industry’s standards after every guest. This is where a third party cleaning service can help! Online housekeeping guides like Housekeeping.com can help you find quality housekeeping services that won’t blow your rental profits. Find a service that works for you, then schedule regular cleaning appointments in between stays to ensure each guest is welcomed with a spotless vacation home.

  1. Listen to Consumer Reviews

An important part of continuously meeting your consumers’ needs is to actually listen to their reviews following a stay. Smart entrepreneurs pay attention to both positive and negative reviews and do their best to understand reviewers’ comments from the consumer’s perspective. FlipKey provides a section for consumer reviews to help you with this part of your rental management. If you’d like additional feedback from renters who didn’t leave a review, try sending a quick follow up after their stay to say thank you for choosing your listing and ask if there were any additional amenities/resources they would have found useful during their stay.

  1. Keep up on Market Trends

An integral part of managing your rental like a successful small business is staying competitive. Small business owners are constantly watching market trends and making improvements to keep up in competitive markets. Look at successful listings in your area to see what they’re offering. Check out their reviews to see what travelers are saying about their stays. Are you currently doing these things? What could you do to generate the same raving reviews? Additionally, you should keep up on what’s trending in the promotion of successful listings. How can you get your listing out in front of more interested users and by way of which avenues? FlipKey recently published an article with some great tips for using social media to promote your listing.

 

Cosette Jarrett is a contributing writer for several lifestyle and tech blogs. Her current work includes roles as the go-to tech girl at HighSpeedInternet.com and regular contributor to the Lifehack and Business 2 Community blogs. She enjoys creating pieces to help both businesses and consumers find increased simplicity and efficiency at work and on the go.