The holiday season is approaching fast, and for vacation rental owners, that means the opportunity to host groups and families looking to gather and celebrate this joyous time of year together.
Hosting someone’s holiday gathering is not a job you want to approach lightly. In some cases, it may be one of the few times a year these people see each other. Needless to say, the smoother everything goes and more time they spend simply enjoying one another’s company, the more likely they are to have fond memories of their trip, which could very well earn you a loyal customer for years to come.
With just about two months until Christmas and the start of Hanukkah, here are some things you can start doing today to get your short-term rental ready for the holiday season.
Market to the Holiday Crowd
Now is the perfect time to start promoting your rental’s holiday availability. Identify your ideal guest or use knowledge of your market to determine the audience most likely to be interested in staying at your rental during the holiday season. To appeal to a holiday crowd, update your official listing(s) on rental sites and apps with new descriptions referencing your interest in hosting groups for the holidays and breaking down the reasons why your rental is great for a holiday trip (e.g., big open spaces that are great for groups to gather in, etc.). From there, create similarly topical content to post on your rental’s social media profiles (assuming you have some, which you really should by now) and even consider promoting or “boosting” those posts to your targeted audience. For just a few dollars a day and less than $20 overall, you can reach hundreds of potential guests who may be looking for exactly what your rental offers.
Offer Holiday Deals
’Tis the season to be a little generous, so consider offering some special holiday pricing packages to entice potential guests. For instance, you can offer a special discount for people who stay through all of Hanukkah or the entire week between Christmas and New Years. Because many people stay in their own homes or with family during the holidays, this could be a great way to bring people out who may otherwise be on the fence about getting a short-term rental for their holiday celebration. Special holiday-only deals also gives you something strong and intriguing to lead with when you’re marketing your rental and helps you stand out from similar options that you may be competing with. You could also consider sweetening the pot by offering gift cards to local restaurants or popular winter attractions as part of your holiday deal and incentivize bookings by only offering these perks for a limited time.
Clean Up and Stock Up
Deep clean the rental before your holiday guests arrive, either on your own or by hiring a professional service. Of course you should be (and likely are) doing this between all of your guest checkouts and check-ins, but when you’re entertaining a group who are spending this special time of year in your rental, it’s important to give it a little extra TLC to make sure everything looks as good as possible. Planning a big holiday gathering is stressful enough without having to worry about doing extra cleaning or worrying about running out of critical supplies like toilet paper, light bulbs, or towels, so make sure you’re also well-stocked on the essentials before your guests arrive.
In the same vein, you should strive to make the arrival and check-in experience smooth and seamless for your guests. That means providing clear directions and instructions at the time of the booking, leaving detailed rules and expectations readily available in the rental, and making yourself accessible to answer questions, both through the rental service platform, as well as whatever personal contact methods you’re comfortable with. The more useful information you give them up front, the less likely it is that any problems (and corresponding stress) will show up later.
Decorate with Holiday Cheer
Now for the fun stuff! Obviously, one of the easiest ways to get your rental in the holiday spirit is to decorate it that way. I would encourage you to consider relatively neutral holiday décor, not leaning too much in the direction of any one holiday or cultural style. Instead, stay general and tasteful in a way that will make any and all of your guests feel comfortable in your rental, no matter their faith or background. This is not to say that you shouldn’t feel like you can get creative and expressive with the holiday-themed decorations, but as we’ve mentioned before, try to refrain from making your rental feel too personal. This is probably even more important during the holidays, when people are gathering together to make their own special memories and will want to feel like they’re staying somewhere that is ultimately unique to them and their experience.
A basic way to ensure a positive rental experience is to design your place to safely and comfortably accommodate the number of guests that you promote in your rental listing. To start, outfit large gathering spaces with enough seating and table surfaces to allow everyone to feel included when they all get together. It also means having a comfortable place for every individual to sleep. A great way to do this is to outfit at least one bedroom with a heavy duty Queen Over Queen Bunk Bed for adults, which provides a comfortable and spacious sleep experience for up to four adults without taking up a bunch of floor space that will leave the bedroom cramped and unpleasant. Of course, depending on the makeup of you rental and the size of the groups you want to bring in, multiple bunk beds or even a triple bunk bed may be a worthwhile investment.
If you’re a vacation rental host who usually leaves small gifts for your guests (and even if you’re not), switch it up in December-January with holiday decorated treats, hot cocoa, egg nog, or cider, seasonal snacks and candies, and maybe even a bottle of wine or whiskey to help your guests relax and get into the holiday spirit. As always, start by looking for local options, so that your guests can enjoy some of the community’s unique offerings and enjoy an authentic regional experience. Seasonal scented candles are another simple and inexpensive way to add a little extra holiday flair to your place.
Stay Ahead of the Weather
Unless your rental is located in somewhere like California or Florida and hosting groups who want to avoid the cold and snow during their holiday vacation, you want to make sure that your guests are prepared for whatever winter weather may appear. Begin by making sure your furnace is in working order, but also take care of smaller things like providing extra (clean) blankets, having firewood on-hand (if you have a fireplace), and keeping items like snow shovels and ice melt in easy-to-access places, should your guests need to use them. Also clean gutters, fireplaces, and heating ducts before anyone arrives for safety and efficiency.
Send Warm Holiday Wishes
Stay in touch with your formers guests (at least the ones you want to remain in touch with) by sending them handwritten or hand-signed holiday cards that show them you appreciated getting to know them through their vacation rental experience. This simple, yet thoughtful, gesture is a great way to maintain a positive relationship with great guests and keep you top-of-mind when they are planning their next trip. For people you’d love to host again, consider also throwing in special discounts or deals that they can utilize for future visits.
Consider the Experience
Remember that as a vacation rental host, your ultimate goal is to provide a foundation upon which your guests can create an enjoyable and memorable experience, and you’re likely already pretty good at doing this. When it comes to helping people have a perfect holiday gathering, it’s simply a matter of putting your guests in a celebratory mindset from the get-go, which can most easily be summarized by making sure there is as little unnecessary work for them to do as possible. Take care of all the big and small things you can think of in advance, sprinkle some holiday cheer on top with your design and the types of gifts, treats, or recommendations you provide, and be available to help out (or find someone who can) in case anything pops up, and your guests will definitely take notice.