How to prepare, protect, and promote your property

Vacation rental homes are more in demand than ever, and not just during prime tourist seasons. The increased ability to work remotely and attend school online has made flexcations a year-round trend. As vacation rental owners and guests ourselves, we’ve observed that the most successful rental homes are in a desirable location, offer the right amenities, have an exceptional online profile seen by many, and are managed extremely well. If you’re considering joining the multitude of homeowners who are generating rental income from their homes, the steps below show you how to prepare, protect, and promote your property.

Prepare your home

Home essentials

In addition to the typical items you might have in a primary or second home, you may want to make sure to add the following items in a vacation rental.


  • Comfortable mattresses (particularly in the principal bedroom)
  • Extra sets of sheets for each bed and sleeper sofa (tip: guests prefer when the sheets are already on the beds upon arrival)
  • Throw blankets
  • Laundry baskets
  • A sound machine
  • Extra phone chargers
  • A fan (ceiling or portable)
  • Playpen (optional)


  • Plenty of towels and darker-colored washcloths for removing makeup
  • Hand soap
  • Trash can liners
  • Bathroom cleaner and brushes
  • Extra shower curtain liners
  • Several bath mats
  • Shampoo and conditioner, body wash, and soap
  • Plenty of toilet paper
  • Plunger
  • Hairdryer(s)


  • Enough dishes and utensil sets for the maximum number of guests you serve
  • Wine and bottle openers
  • A variety of glasses including coffee mugs, wine glasses, and large and small tumblers
  • Cooking utensils including large spoons, spatulas, tongs, whisks, measuring cups, and measuring spoons
  • A sponge and dish towels, paper towels
  • Dog bowl and treats if your home is advertised as dog-friendly
  • Plenty of pots and pans
  • Food storage containers
  • Dish soap, counter cleaner, and dishwasher detergent
  • Spices
  • Cutting boards and a set of knives, including a bread knife, chef’s knife, paring knife, steak knives
  • A trash can with bags, ziptop storage containers, foil, and plastic wrap
  • Small appliances which may include a can opener, blender, toaster, coffee grinder, instant pot, slow cooker, mixer, coffee maker, water heater, and immersion blender
  • High chair (optional)
  • Top-tier rentals often include coffee, filters, sweeteners, and tea and a welcome basket of snacks, waters, and a bottle of wine
  • A grill for preparing food outside


  • Washer and dryer
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dryer sheets or balls
  • Ironing board and iron
  • Laundry baskets and bins


  • Wifi
  • Board games and playing cards
  • Puzzles
  • Books and magazines
  • Bluetooth speakers 
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Bicycles (optional)
  • Television with streaming channels
  • Yoga mats and/or hand weights
  • Corn hole and other yard games
  • Extra foldaway chairs for guests
  • Beach toys if appropriate
  • Guest book

Platforms, processes, and team

You become a business owner when you operate a vacation rental. As with any small business, the right platforms, processes, and team make it easy for you to ensure a high-quality client experience and return customers. Our team model has typically been to hire a professional property manager to handle the check-in and out process, cleaning, on-site repairs, and supply replenishment. This frees us up to take care of bookings and pricing, and to promote the property with reviews, feedback, photos, and social media.  And there’s seasonal maintenance, some of which we perform ourselves, some of which we turn over to the property manager. You may prefer to handle all of these items yourself or none at all. The important thing is to have a dependable crew looking out for your guests’ best interests.

Booking and fulfillment platforms

Where will your guests go to book your home? Will you leverage VRBO, AirBNB,, Expedia, and/or local real estate websites? We’ve used VRBO, AirBNB, and a local rental website and sync the calendars so that guests don’t book on top of one another. 


Some of the platforms listed above suggest nightly and weekly rental rates based on area data and booking trends. You can follow these suggestions or set your own pricing, which can vary by date. You also need to determine your minimum nights’ stay and whether you offer long-term rental pricing.

Check-in and check-out

How and when will guests access your home? Will you automate the check-in and check-out process using keyless entry, an app, or other communication vehicles? What are your check-in and check-out times? What if a guest would like to check in early or late? These are all procedures that you’ll need to determine. You should also prepare a departure process, which would include: 

  • Signing the guestbook
  • Disposing of trash
  • Placing used linens in the laundry room
  • Running the dishwasher
  • Returning keys
  • Signing out of streaming services on the television
  • Leaving reviews

Comments and complaints

Even premier hosts receive complaints from guests from time to time. When this happens to you, It’s important to respond quickly and personally. See if you can speak to them by phone right away to resolve their concern. Phone calls allow people to express empathy and build rapport. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so before you even open your doors, it’s a good idea to plan out your ideal client experience — from the moment someone sees your home profile online, throughout their stay, and to your communication with them afterward.

House cleaning and trash

First impressions are everything. You want your home to match the photos and descriptions that prompted them to book it. We tried three different cleaning crews before we landed on one that delivered the level of quality that we were looking for. We also prepared a cleaning and inventory checklist for the cleaners room-by-room so they know whether we wanted the curtains opened or closed, how furniture should be arranged (believe me, guests will move your furniture), where pillows should be positioned, how to deal with stains on carpet and fabric, etc. It also serves as a checklist for household items. The cleaners know to contact us when items such as placemats, glasses, and mugs, etc. were missing. Email me if you’d like a copy of this document. Also, think about who will take trash cans to and from the curb if you are between guests. We hired a neighbor to do this each week.

On-site repairs

Who responds when there is a plumbing or electrical issue during a guests’ stay? It’s crucial to have a team of tradespeople (handyman, plumber, HVAC contractor, etc.) at the ready who can respond quickly when you need them. Make sure your customers know who on your management team to call, and include a point of contact for outside of normal business hours. Then, let your management team (that could be you!) communicate with your contractors to resolve the issue.

Replenishing supplies

As guests use the supplies you provide, who will replenish them at the end of the stay? We’ll keep an owners’ closet filled with the supplies listed above to make it easy for cleaners to replace them.

Ongoing maintenance and yard work

Homes need a lot of love to keep them at their best, especially in coastal areas. This falls outside of your typical house cleaning. Make sure you have a yard crew to keep your landscaping pruned, fertilized, and fresh. Paint touch-ups are a good idea, replace rugs and linens, and update and maintain amenities such as bicycles, kayaks, and games.

Reviews, feedback, and ongoing communication

Your client experience doesn’t end at the end of the stay. Think about how you will communicate with your former guests to stay top of mind when they book their next vacation. You might create a social media channel for your property and encourage guests to tag your account with photos. You could also create an online newsletter with valuable content about the area and events, experiences volunteered by guests and exciting details of home improvement projects. In addition, be sure to seek reviews from your guests and thank them for contributing. 

In the Part 2, I’ll walk through how to protect and promote your fully-appointed rental home. Stay tuned!