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How to Win Guests and Influence Bookings

This morning I woke up in Indio, California, in one of the most splendid vacation rentals I’ve ever booked; in fact, it might just be in the top five best ever. That’s saying alot considering that my family has stayed in over 75 holiday homes in the last 10 years!

Why?

Not because it was swanky, or in the best part of town, or because it had lightning fast Wi-Fi or a great pool.

It was more than that. Deeper.

The owners got the essentials right.

What do I mean by essentials?

They are the simple things that make people happy. The things that seem super obvious when you think about them, but are commonly overlooked in vacation rentals.

To that aim, today’s post is dedicated to the essentials that make a vacation rental better than average.

Better than good.

Epic.

If your vacation rental is epic, you win guests and influence bookings; all because you allow people to have meaningful human experiences, thereby motivating them to book with you again and tell their friends about you. And their friends get to be similarly won over and so on and so on.

That’s true vacation rental success.

Brilliant!

So how do you do epic?

Read the list below and etch each item into your brain. 

These seemingly simple design decisions are easy to overlook, but they all have one thing in common: they powerfully and directly affect human happiness. They make people content, relaxed and happy to be alive, the emotions people most crave on vacation.

  1. Have a Relaxing Place for Your Guests to Sit and “Just Be”

Every vacation rental should have some relaxing places, so comforting, that guests invent random reasons to spend time there, such as “I’m a little tired, I just need a little shut eye,” or “I’ve got to check some emails, I’ll be there in a second.”

It can be a bench in the sun, an armchair with a window view, a hammock, an outdoor loveseat under a tree. Whatever. As long as it’s extraordinarily comfortable and beckons the guest to enjoy it, it’s a goldmine of happy.

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Oh, I just want what we all want: a comfortable couch, a nice beverage, a weekend of no distractions and a book that will stop time, lift me out of my quotidian existence and alter my thinking forever.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

People don’t take enough time out for themselves in their everyday lives, but on vacation? Forget about it! They will positively indulge in “me time.”
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While sleeping in a hammock, with the touch of a warm wind we remember why we are in love with the life!”  – Mehmet Murat ildan

So give them their “just be” moments. They’ll adore you.

  1. Create Natural Gathering Spots

This seems like a no brainer, right? I mean, duh! However, you’d be surprised at the number of vacation rentals that don’t get the whole gathering and connecting thing.

People rank spending time with friends and family as one of the top 5 reasons they rent vacation rentals in the first place, so making that happen in your home is key.
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The thing that makes my generation The Greatest is our ability to hang out. We’re spectacular at it. If you take somebody from my generation and sit them on a couch and bring them food and plumbing, they’ll sit there and talk to you about anything you want until the day you die.” – Lewis Black

Arrange your seating in the living areas so guests are close and can hear one another and don’t have to keep saying “what?” 

U or L-shaped arrangements are best because they mimic our most ancient gathering formations, and allow people to feel closest to one another.

Sofas and chairs must be so awesomely comfortable, that they convert Type A people into lounging Type B’s, at least while staying in your home.

This does not mean spending a lot of money. In fact, I’ve sat in uncomfortable designer sofas that cost $8,000 and heavenly Ikea pieces costing $800. 

The key is to try it out before you put it in your rental. And I mean, really try it out – spend at least 10 minutes in typical human body positions, asking yourself if there’s proper head, elbow and back support. 

Assume people will lie down and put their feet up. The goal is to feel wonderful.

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“The perfect evening…lying down on the couch beside the bookcase and reading himself sleepy…Jim lying opposite him at the other end of the couch, also reading; the two of them absorbed in their books yet so completely aware of each other’s presence.”― Christopher IsherwoodA Single Man

Equally important are the dining areas. Eating together is one of the most divine human experiences so put a lot of thought into how this is going to feel for your guests.

A solid wood table that is pleasant to brush your hands over is my unequivocal favorite. Wood is primal and dependable and, above all, warm and welcoming. 

Avoid glass tables. Not only are they cold, both physically and psychologically, but they need to be cleaned constantly to look good. 

And there’s no way guests are going to whip out the window cleaner on vacation.
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“Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.” – Julia Child

Chairs should contrast slightly with the table, maybe be a different style or color. But above all, they should feel like a solid, trustworthy friend that’s got your back. 

The goal is for guests to want to sit in them all evening if it feels right. Some of the best times happen around a dining table over food with friends and family.

  1. Heavenly Sheets and Mattresses

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Monday is great if I can spend it in bed. I’m a man of simple pleasures, really. – Arthur Darvill

We all remember the tale of the goose that lays golden eggs, right? Well, an excellent mattress with luxurious bedding is much the same.

If you give your guests the gift of deep, comforting sleep, they will love you, plain and simple, and the likelihood of repeat bookings, as well as glowing reviews, skyrockets. 

You’ve hit pay dirt.

Conversely, if you fail in the sleep department, you will fail epically. In fact, you will completely negate any positives you’ve accrued in other areas. 

You could be the friendliest and most responsive host in the world, but if your mattress stinks, you will have a big fat zero on your hands.

Your goal is for your beds to be so dreamy that people will postpone getting up in the morning so they stay in them a little longer; likewise, they’ll think of good reasons to go to bed early.
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There is more refreshment and stimulation in a nap, even of the briefest, than in all the alcohol ever distilled. – Edward Lucas

  1. Sharp Knives and Kickass Pots and Pans

Ten blog posts would not even come close to covering all that I recommend in vacation rental kitchens, but if I had to distill the two essentials that influence bookings, it’s having good sharp knives and high quality pots and pans.

As for the sharp knives, it’s a fact that virtually no vacation rental provides them.

This is good news for you though because it means if you go the extra mile by keeping your knives sharp, your guests will notice and comment, and you’ll be catapulted into the tiny 1% of owners who bother to do this essential thing. Congratulations!
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“Here’s the fact: the biggest problem in home kitchens is dull knives. There is no greater hindrance to the person in the house who does the cooking than dull knives. Almost without fail, every friend’s kitchen I go to, there is not a sharp knife to be found.” – Michael Ruhlman, best-selling author, chef and blogger.

Think about it: cooking with dull knives is frustrating and unpleasant. It’s a chore that takes time. 

When a guest spends 10 minutes with a dull knife, he’ll complain to others in the kitchen, bringing down the good vibes. Conversely, if the knives are sharp, comments like, “try this knife, it’s amazing,” get thrown around, and stir up excitement for the delicious meal ahead.

It’s a no brainer for getting guest love. And good reviews.

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Similarly, good quality pots and pans hugely impact guest satisfaction in the kitchen. Cheap, flimsy pans make it much more likely a treasured favorite meal will come out tasting badly, not to mention the frustration of trying to cook with a terrible pan. 

Always provide high quality pots and pans in your vacation rental and keep them looking well by regularly cleaning and seasoning them. Solid, dependable handles and heavy-gauge metal are key when buying.

Wrapping It Up

My absolute favorite part of implementing these essentials is owners feel the payoff almost immediately, especially if they show them off in photographs. 

A delicious food layout on a dining table or a photo of beguiling bedding will fire up a potential guest’s imagination, foreshadowing the simple, but extraordinary experiences ahead.

What have you found to be a guest happiness essential in your vacation rental? What do guests most gush over in your reviews? I’d love to know. We all would! Please share in the comments below….

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  • Joy

    Hey Mercedes! Thank you so much for this post. When you say contrast the chairs to the table, what do you mean exactly? I love that point, and I want to make sure I get it right so I can implement it well 🙂

    • Hi Joy, I meant that the chairs should not be part of a dining set. It’s always more interesting to have an altogether different kind of chair than the table. The goal is to avoid that “matchy-matchy” look that makes a space look generic.

  • Mercedes, I really enjoyed the part where you suggest for us to create a place to chill. I could picture myself on that chair drinking a coffee and catching up on my social media. I’m not sure how many owners create these “chill spots” for their guests. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Another great post!

    • My pleasure, Jay. Yes, those hang out spots are essential and they are not hard to create. The key is to photograph them so potential guests will want to book.

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