7 Vacation Rental Essentials That Guarantee Great Reviews

Astrid LindstromLeave a Comment

First impressions are key to the success of your vacation rental.

Your earliest renters decide whether you’ll hit the ground running with five-star reviews or have an uphill climb overcoming initial negative feedback.

Modern guest expectations are high, which means you’ll need to provide your guests with a professional-caliber rental to earn their good favor.

That doesn’t mean your quaint-but-not-palatial cottage doesn’t have a chance, though. Every size, type, and location of property can earn five-star reviews from the outset.

As long as you’re providing these 7 essentials.

1. Attractive Decor

Your very first impression comes down to what your guests can see in your listing’s photos – and whether it matches what they see when they first open the door.

Creating an inviting space is important. Renters like to feel they’re in a deliberately designed space. If your furniture looks like it was thrown together and you haven’t bothered to so much as hang a picture for a little warmth, your guests won’t feel like the space is inviting.

Taking the time to coordinate your furniture, hang some art, and buy matching linens is a worthwhile use of your time. If you’re not confident in your own sense of decor, ask a knowledgeable friend. If your property is a luxury rental, it may be well worth your while to consult a professional to give your renters the visual experience they expect.

2. Essential Amenities

The importance of the right amenities can’t be overstated. Your guests will filter their searches on the major listing sites by the amenities they want, and if you lack the basic amenities nearly everyone looks for, your rental won’t be viewed – or booked.

The best amenities are the often ones we don’t think of as “extras”. You probably don’t think of a microwave as an amenity – but you definitely notice when there’s no way to heat your leftovers. Plenty of extra linens, WiFi, and a television set are all basic amenities that most guests will expect to see in a rental.

Let’s not discount those “extras”, though – they can make all the difference to your guest. Providing individually packaged soaps and shampoos isn’t expected in a vacation rental, but guests appreciate them! Including fresh-ground coffee or a bottle of wine is another great way to kick your rental off with rave reviews.

3. Effortless Communication

Guests today expect to be able to reach you immediately if they need assistance or have a question about the property. If they can’t reach you, they’ll be frustrated and annoyed, which is not your best route to a great review.

That’s why it’s crucial to establish a fast and reliable way of communicating with your guests from the beginning.

If at all possible, it’s good to have a cell phone where renters can either phone you (for serious problems) or text (for questions like “Is there a spatula in the kitchen?”). If you’re not available yourself to answer such questions, you’ll want to designate someone who can be “on call.”

4. Consistent Maintenance

Your guests expect everything in your property to function. At home, they wouldn’t mind changing out a burned-out light bulb or calling the plumber if the sink backs up – but this is their vacation, and they spent good money to stay at a property where they wouldn’t have to worry about household annoyances.

This means you’ll need a more proactive approach to household maintenance. Rather than waiting until something stops working, you’ll want to perform routine maintenance regularly to be sure everything is in tip-top shape for your arriving guests.

If you stay well ahead of burned-out bulbs, lawn and roof maintenance, and touching up any wear and tear around the property, your rental will always look its best – and your early renters will be pleased to find absolutely no problems to disrupt their stay. We’ve got a great primer on scheduling vacation rental maintenance here.

5. Bare Necessities

Many rental owners try to save money by insisting that their guests supply their own basic necessities like toilet paper and paper towels. Invariably, guests wind up feeling they didn’t receive very good value for money – and their displeasure is often reflected in their reviews.

Provide lots of toilet paper so your guests don’t need to pick up their own. Basic kitchen supplies like sandwich bags and tinfoil will make their lives easier and cost you very little to provide. Be sure they have laundry detergent, dish soap, and sponges to clean with – and they’ll reward you with clean counter tops and great reviews.

Your guests will appreciate that you were thoughtful enough to remember these basics, and they will mention your thoughtfulness in reviews – bringing you even more business.

6. Local Knowledge

You know your area better than any hotel manager could, and your guests will love it if you’ll help them get the most out of their stay in your neck of the woods. A welcome book is a great way to provide them with the inside scoop on where the best restaurants, shops, and adventures can be found.

If you feel like going the extra mile, you can often get your local businesses to provide discounts especially for your guests with coupons or discount codes. All you need to do is explain that you have a rental and ask if they’d like to entice some new customers in the door with a small discount – many will say yes! And your guests will love that feeling of exclusivity.

Local flavor isn’t something a generic hotel can provide, and not every owner takes the time! If you treat your guests like you’re welcoming friends to the area, you’ll find they reward you with great reviews.

7. That Little Something Extra

Your guests expect a professional experience – but they decided on a vacation rental because they liked the sense of connecting with another human being’s home instead of a sterile hotel room.

You can foster that sense of connection by leaving something especially from you to your guest. A note of welcome or a small gift are easy to supply, and they make your guest feel like you were specifically looking forward to their stay. Everyone likes to feel special!

When your guests inquire, keep an ear out for an indication that there’s a special reason behind the trip they’re taking to your area. If your guests are enjoying an anniversary, a birthday celebration, or another special event, mention it in your note or supply an appropriate gift – they’ll be blown away by your thoughtfulness.


Securing positive reviews right out of the gate isn’t difficult – it just takes a little forethought and investment in the small touches that make all the difference to your guests.

Are you an experienced owner? Share how you got your vacation rental off to a great start – or what you wish you had done differently – with us in the comments!

With so many factors to consider, it’s nice to know you don’t have to go it alone. Having a knowledgeable, experienced partner can help you ensure your bases are covered while taking the most demanding aspects of ownership off of your plate. Find out how we make owners’ lives simpler – and their properties more profitable – here.