8 Ways to Enhance the Vacation Rental Guest Experience

Lizzie Griffin
Lizzie Griffin

April 9, 2024

The short-term rental space is extremely competitive and, increasingly, guests have high expectations that seem to combine the luxury of traditional hotel service with the autonomy and authenticity typically offered by independent vacation rentals.

To successfully compete with other property managers in your market, you need to understand your guests’ needs as you look to create customer delight with beautifully presented properties and unexpected touches that can set you apart.

In this article, you’ll learn how to provide stunning vacation rental guest experiences that improve your ratings, increase repeat bookings, and enhance your guest relationships. 

We look at:

  • Who your target audience might be and the characteristics of different guest types
  • The guest journey and how you can add value to each touchpoint
  • How you can use operations management software to improve your service
  • Guest communication strategies to make you more responsive and attentive
  • Smart technology so guests associate your brand with convenience and innovation
  • Personalized upsells so guests get more out of their stay as you create new revenue streams
  • Welcome baskets and other creative additions to guest stays
  • Using feedback to improve the guest experience even more

Exceed guest expectations
Breezeway’s automated scheduling, guest messaging, and digital guides drive brand standards and ensure guests always have a fantastic stay.

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1. Identify your target audience: Guest types explained

By understanding your main guest types, you can provide a guest experience that’s better aligned with their needs and expectations. You can also enhance their stay with personalized touches, which we discuss later in the sections on upsells and customer delight.

Here are six common guest types and how the guest experiences they look for can differ:

  • Families with children often seek properties that are safe, spacious, and equipped with child-friendly amenities. They might appreciate cribs, high chairs, games, and secure outdoor spaces. They’ll want nearby family-friendly attractions and related dining options.
  • Digital nomads prioritize convenience, efficiency, and connectivity. They look for comfortable workspaces, high-speed and stable internet, and perhaps a coffee machine. They may also want information on local co-working spaces and convenient dining options.
  • Couples might be looking for cozy decor, secluded outdoor spaces, and opportunities to combine peaceful walks around town centers with romantic dining options.
  • Adventure seekers value expert knowledge of the local area, they often want specialized equipment, and may also be interested in tours or experiences like hiking, biking, and water sports.
  • Eco-conscious travelers and vegans look for vacation rentals that engage in sustainable practices, such as recycling, electric vehicle charging, and using energy-saving appliances. They also look for organic products and vegan-friendly furnishings.
  • Luxury seekers want premium service and high-end amenities. Think plush linens, designer toiletries, gourmet food options, and concierge services.

Airbnb dedicated workspaceA dedicated workspace will improve the guest experience for specific guest types.

2. Understand the guest journey: Enhance each step

By paying attention to each step of the guest journey, from initial inquiry to your post-check-out communication, you can boost guest satisfaction and increase your number of conversions and repeat stays.

Here's a breakdown of each step and ways to improve them:

  • Pre-booking: Ensure your listings are clear, detailed, and showcase your property's unique selling points—especially those that are focused on your ideal guest type. Quick responses to inquiries and a straightforward booking process can reduce friction and increase bookings.
  • Booking confirmation: Once a guest books, send a detailed confirmation immediately. Include essential information like check-in procedures, contact details, and any personalized touches to build excitement and trust. We take a look at the value of digital guides below.
  • Pre-arrival: A few days before their arrival, reach out to your guests with a welcoming message, offer to arrange any special requests they might have, and make sure they have essential arrival information, like directions and parking details.
  • Check-in: Streamline the check-in process so it’s hassle-free and involves zero waiting time. Consider self-check-in options (we talk about smart locks later) or ensure someone is available to greet guests warmly and efficiently.
  • During the stay: Be accessible and unobtrusive. Provide clear communication channels for any needs and check in to help address any issues before they become problems. That said, try to make your guests feel independent and autonomous.
  • Check-out: Simplify the check-out process and provide clear instructions. Offer to store luggage if they have a later departure and ask about their stay, showing you value their feedback.
  • Post check-out: Follow up with a thank-you message and invite guests to review their stay. Consider offering a return discount or referral incentive to encourage future bookings and word-of-mouth recommendations.

3. Operations management: Be responsive to changes & requests

Achieving a stellar first impression is crucial, starting with immaculately clean units and well-maintained spaces where every amenity functions as expected. This will set the stage, but you also need to be able to adapt to changes swiftly and be responsive to guest requests. 

Here's how can use a vacation rental operations management platform to enhance the guest experience:

  • Ensure every unit matches your brand standards, even for last-minute bookings. 
    Software-based solutions like automated scheduling and digital cleaning and inspection checklists protect you from missed cleans and help your housekeepers stay on-brand.
  • Add basic maintenance checks to your cleaning tasks and set recurring tasks for vendors. Anticipating and addressing issues before they develop into something more serious means fewer problems for the guest and can improve your homeowner relationships, too.
  • Implement a streamlined process for responding to requests with simple work order creation and tracking. Whether it's providing extra towels or fixing a sudden maintenance issue, it should be easy for you to answer guests as you coordinate staff.

Breezway platform collageBreezeway’s operations management platform has multiple guest experience solutions, including cleaning checklists, auto-scheduling, and streamlined work coordination.

4. Guest communication: Give guests the autonomy they seek

Effective guest communication is about providing timely information and giving guests the autonomy they desire throughout their stay. Implementing a message workflow that uses scheduled messages and templates can significantly enhance this aspect of the guest experience. 

Here's how to structure this guest communication strategy:

  • Scheduled messaging: Develop a series of scheduled messages for various stages of the guest journey. Use templates that can be customized with shortcodes for stay-specific details like the property and guest names to ensure each message feels personal and relevant.
  • Automated messaging including gap-night offers: You can use messaging software that integrates with your booking information to automatically offer extra nights to guests when you have the availability. This provides guests with a convenient, personalized way to extend their stay that requires no extra work on your part.
  • Pre-arrival communication: Share a digital guidebook before check-in. This can include essential information about arrival (including smart lock codes), how-to instructions for appliances (including the WiFi password), local recommendations, and any house rules. Providing this information upfront helps guests feel informed and independent.

Breezeway digital guidebookProvide guests with local recommendations in your welcome book, like this Breezeway digital guide. 

  • Check-in and stay details: Use your scheduled messages to provide key information, even if you’ve already shared it via your digital guide. This includes check-in instructions and property access details, instructions for using the internet, and your contact information. This ensures guests have all they need without having to ask.
  • Early-stay check-up: As mentioned when talking about the guest journey, a mid-stay check-in gives guests the chance to raise any issues and will reassure them that you’re an attentive and approachable host.
  • Pre-check-out reminder: Provide helpful and essential information about the check-out process. This can reiterate information you’ve already provided in your guide and earlier messages to make sure guests can check out without needing to ask you any questions.
  • Post-stay engagement: After check-out, send a thank-you message, invite feedback (we explore feedback further, below), and ask the guest to complete a review on the relevant channel. This can give you valuable insights, help improve your ratings, and ensure your guest’s journey ends on a positive note.

Breezeway message template with shortcodesScheduled messages can provide guests with helpful information as you show yourself to be an attentive and welcoming host.

5. Smart STR technology: Offer tech-enabled convenience

Incorporating smart solutions into your short-term rentals can elevate the guest experience with convenience and technology that align with your brand. Smart devices not only streamline operations but also provide guests with a sense of control and independence.

Here's how you can integrate smart technology to improve the guest experience:

  • Keyless entry: Equip your properties with smart locks to offer self check-in and check-out, eliminating the need for physical keys or in-person exchanges. Guests can receive a unique access code before arrival, enhancing their sense of security and convenience.
  • Smart thermostats: Allow guests to easily adjust temperatures from their smart device. You can also use this technology to ensure guests always arrive to the ideal environment and protect your business from the costs of guests leaving HVAC systems on after check-out.
  • Connected appliances: Smart appliances can provide guests with a modern and efficient experience. From smart TVs to programmable coffee makers, these conveniences add a touch of luxury and innovation.
  • Voice-activated assistants: Devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home are great for helping guests feel at home and make it easy for them to enjoy music, podcasts, and radio throughout their stay.

Breezeway smart lock code sharingSmart locks are easy for guests to use and avoid the potential wait of a key exchange.

6. Upsell strategies: Create personalized experiences

Strategic upsells aren’t just an avenue of additional potential revenue—they can significantly enhance your guests' stays with personalized options that cater to their interests and needs.

Here are some examples of how to upsell based on the different guest types discussed earlier:

Guest Type

Upsell Example

Families with children

Offer a family fun package including babysitting services, young explore sets, and family passes to local attractions.

Digital nomads

Provide a mid-stay clean for long-term guests. Also, offer a co-working space pass with access to special amenities like conference rooms.


Create a romance package with a bottle of champagne, a bouquet, and reservations for a spa treatment or scenic cruise.

Adventure seekers

Suggest an adventure package that includes gear rentals, guided tours, or tickets to extreme sports experiences.

Eco-conscious travelers & vegans

Provide yoga and wellness sessions with vegan snacks and smoothies. Also, offer vegan-friendly treatments like massages and facials.

Luxury seekers

Offer an airport shuttle service, high-end dining reservations, in-home chef, and personalized concierge services.

7. Customer delight: Surprise your guests and exceed their expectations

Going above and beyond to surprise your guests can turn a great stay into an unforgettable experience. Welcome baskets are a classic touchpoint that can create customer delight and make your services stand out among your competitors. 

Here are some ideas to inspire your welcome baskets and other surprise elements:

  • Themed welcome baskets: Tailor your welcome baskets to the guest type or the reason for their stay. For a honeymoon, include champagne and chocolates; for families, add some local snacks and fun card games.; for digital nomads, gift freshly ground coffee; for pet owners, include treats and toys.
  • Local flavors: Fill the basket with local delicacies, artisanal treats, or handcrafted goods. This not only supports local businesses but also gives guests a taste of the area's culture.
  • Fresh flowers: A bouquet of fresh flowers brightens any space and makes guests feel special and well looked after.
  • Personalized notes: A handwritten welcome note can make a big difference, showing guests you value their business on a personal level. Mention their names, wish them a pleasant stay, and offer your assistance for any needs.
  • Practical items: Depending on your location, include items that guests might find useful during their stay, such as sunscreen and aloe vera in beach destinations or a compact umbrella in rainy locations.
  • Experience vouchers: Go beyond physical items by including vouchers for local experiences, such as a complimentary coffee at a favorite local café, a discount for a nearby attraction, or a free yoga class.

    Vacation rental welcome basketA welcome basket gives guests a fantastic start to their stay.

8. Review & iterate: Get guest feedback & research your competition

Gathering guest feedback and analyzing your competition are essential steps in continuously elevating the guest experience and staying competitive in the market. This process not only helps you understand your strengths and areas for improvement but also enables you to identify trends and best practices in the industry. 

Here's how you can implement this approach:

  • Proactive feedback collection: Invite guests to provide feedback following their stay with direct messaging channels and digital surveys. Make it easy and convenient for them to share their opinions and focus your questions to learn about specific areas of the guest experience. 

    For example, you could use your feedback forms to ask about the clarity of your directions, the usefulness of your digital guidebook, or the quality of your bathroom toiletries.

  • Online reviews: Monitor and respond to online reviews on platforms like Airbnb, Booking.com, or TripAdvisor. This not only shows that you value guest feedback but also provides insights into guest expectations and perceptions.

  • Competitive analysis: Regularly research your competitors to understand what they offer and how they’re perceived. Look at their pricing, amenities, and guest reviews.

  • Implement changes: Use guest feedback and competitive insights to make informed decisions about enhancements to your units and services. Whether it's upgrading amenities or improving your responsiveness, let your findings guide your actions.

  • Communicate improvements: When you make changes based on guest feedback that will affect the guest experience, let your past and potential guests know as part of your repeat and direct booking strategies.

Adding value to the vacation rental guest experience

Going the extra mile to enhance the guest experience is more than a courtesy—it's a strategic necessity.

By understanding your guests needs and expectations, personalizing their journey, and integrating smart technology, you create memorable stays that encourage fantastic reviews and repeat stays.

Also you should look to implement processes that allow you to: 

  • Be operationally responsive to late booking changes and in-stay requests
  • Easily provide essential and helpful information from pre check-in to pre check-out
  • Reduce friction, provide convenience, and create autonomy throughout the guest journey
  • Obtain feedback you can use to inform and continually improve your services as a host and property manager

Exceed guest expectations
Breezeway’s automated scheduling, guest messaging, and digital guides drive brand standards and ensure guests always have a fantastic stay.

Book a Demo