How to Survive the Holidays as a Vacation Rental Owner

Lauren KayeLeave a Comment

Are you feeling the stress of the holiday season? When you’re a vacation rental owner, you have a lot to think about: keeping your calendar updated, setting holiday rates, communicating with guests, creating a festive experience, and scheduling cleaning and maintenance.

It’s a lot to handle, and if you’re doing it all on your own, you might be wondering: “What can I do to make sure that my guests have a wonderful stay over the holidays without sacrificing my sanity? How can I make sure things go smoothly so I don’t have to scramble to answer emergency phone calls in the middle of the night?”

We’re handling 4,920 check-ins this holiday season, and we have seen our fair share of stressful situations in the past. From guest lockouts to double bookings, we’ve identified some of the most common problems homeowners face in this important booking period, and how to avoid them to keep the holiday season stress-free.

Tip 1: Update your calendar early and often

The biggest disaster that homeowners face over the holidays? Double bookings. There’s nothing more awkward and disappointing than having travelers show up at your vacation home, expecting to stay for the holiday weekend, and finding that another group is already checked in.

Double bookings are tough to deal with any day of the year, but they’re especially tough over the holidays when guest expectations are high, and accommodations are particularly hard to come by. Even if your displaced guests can find another place to stay last-minute, they are sure to be disappointed and frustrated with the experience.

While it would be nice to say this doesn’t happen very often, it does.

When homeowners forget to update their calendars after a group has confirmed a booking, another group of travelers can come along and book it for the same dates.

If you don’t catch the double booking, you’ll probably have to refund the second group for their stay. You might have to put them up in a hotel room for the night to make up for the inconvenience, and you’ll likely receive a negative review that will cost you bookings down the road.

You can completely avoid this embarrassing and costly situation by keeping your calendar up to date and committing to refresh it after every confirmed booking.

Check out this blog post for more tips on how to maintain your sanity over the holidays.

Tip 2: Provide clear check-in details and property information

Guests tend to have more questions when they’re staying over a busy holiday weekend, and that can be a headache for owners who want to spend time with their loved ones instead of answering phone calls.

But your guests deserve answers, too. They want to know the specifics about your property so there aren’t any surprises when they arrive.

If you don’t want to spend the holidays anxiously checking your phone for missed calls and voicemails, it’s wise to provide clear, detailed instructions and information about your property in your pre-stay email.

Think about every possible question someone might have about their stay:

  • Where can I find the front door key?
  • Who do I call in case of an emergency?
  • How do I adjust the thermostat?
  • Are there shovels for the sidewalk in case it snows?
  • How do I run the coffee pot?

Provide clear instructions for everything to avoid getting 1,000 calls over the holiday weekend.

For more common holiday problems and how to avoid them, read: 5 Holiday Booking Headaches All Homeowners Can Relate to.

Tip 3: Set competitive rates

If you price your holiday rates too high, you might lose bookings to properties with lower prices. If you price it too low, you could miss out on rental income. This holiday season, don’t stress about your rates.

Jump on a listing website like HomeAway or Airbnb and check out how other properties in your area are pricing for peak holiday dates. Look for some that are comparable to your property – the same amenities, similar location and number of bedrooms – and set your rates accordingly.

If you’re looking for more specific information about setting holiday rates, check out the Ultimate Guide to Holiday Pricing.

Tip 4: Get in the holiday spirit with decor

Want to make your vacation rental a magical holiday getaway without dragging boxes down from the attic and painstakingly decorating your home?

There’s a stress-free way to turn up the festivity level without going overboard. Decorate the exterior and interior of your home with neutral white lights.

The twinkling lights will make your home will look cheerful and inviting. But unlike a tree or a menorah, it doesn’t make any assumptions about your guests’ religious affiliations.

Check out this post for additional tips on how to make your rental a winter wonderland for guests.

Tip 5: Set minimum stay rules

What’s more stressful than preparing your vacation rental for holiday guests? Preparing your vacation rental for holiday guests who have booked a brief 2-night stay.

That’s a lot of work for the amount of money you’ll be earning for the booking.

If you live near the property, and it isn’t that much work for you to get it ready, then a 2-night stay might be just fine! But if you have to make special preparations, coordinate on-the-ground services, and spend a little more money to get the home ready in time, you should decide: Is the rental income from 2 nights enough to justify the work you’ll put into getting your home ready? What about 3 nights or 4?

Once you’ve settled on a minimum stay that justifies your effort, you can set your rules accordingly.

For more holiday booking strategies, read this blog post.

Tip 6: Create a backup plan for emergencies

If you’re not available throughout the holidays, who can guests call for help if the lockbox code doesn’t work? Who can go over to the house to fix the oven if it stops working? Will the maintenance person be available to shovel snow if there’s a blizzard?

To minimize stress around the holidays, you should always plan ahead. Talk to the service providers you work with to let them know you’ll have guests in residence over the holidays.

Confirm whether they’ll be available to assist if something comes up. If not, you’ll have to find another service provider who is available 24/7 in case of emergencies. With a solid backup plan in place, you won’t have to spend the holidays sitting by the phone, ready to jump up if anything goes wrong. You can relax and enjoy yourself, knowing someone reliable is there to help.

Tip 7: Get help!

If you’re the only one responsible for managing your listing over the holidays, you’re undoubtedly going to feel the pressure. It takes a lot of time and energy to communicate with guests, perform maintenance, and do everything in between.

Want to get some of those tasks off your plate? Ask for help.

A trusted local friend might be willing to lend a hand with guest check-ins. A family member may be able to field some guest inquiries for you.

However, you don’t want to exhaust their generosity or compromise the professionalism of your vacation rental business. This is why many vacation rental owners decide to find a professional partner.

Evolve is a vacation rental management service that takes over the hassles of renting your vacation home over the holidays (and year-round). We have teams dedicated to getting your listing the most visibility over this peak booking season, we will fill your calendar with vetted guests, and we provide support if you or your guests have any problems. Click here to learn more about our services.

These tips should help you get the most out of your vacation rental over the busy holiday season! For more ways to make this year the most successful one yet, download our Ultimate Vacation Rental Success Guide. Or, check out these helpful checklists about how to give your guests an amazing experience every time.