A vacation rental guidebook should serve as a guest concierge - a member of your property rental team that works as hard as anyone else to ensure that your guests have an outstanding experience…only this is a team member you don’t have to put on the payroll!

When done well, your vacation rental guidebook should make your guests feel welcome and appreciated, giving them the personal experience they are looking for in a private vacation rental.

You can use your vacation rental guidebook to direct guests to your favorite coffee shops, restaurants, parks, markets, and other attractions. You can take it a step further by letting them in on local secrets, like which restaurant serves the best burger and which bakery sells the best cinnamon buns. Taking this extra step to ensure that your guests experience the very best that your area has to offer will make them feel at home in your vacation rental. You’ll be rewarded for all the thought and effort you put into your vacation rental guidebook with excellent guest reviews and fewer interruptions from guests with questions about your property.

Essentially, a vacation rental welcome book should NOT be a tattered, grease-stained list of rules and a stack of take-out menus. It should be a helpful, easy-to-navigate, well-structured manual that contains instructions and tidbits of information about your property that is attractive enough for guests to pick up and read.

So, how do you go about creating an effective vacation rental welcome book?

Key things to keep in mind are presentation, structure, content, and delivery.

Your vacation rental guidebook’s appearance.

Your welcome book should be attractive enough to make your guests want to open it and read it. Think about what you would be more drawn to: a glossy hardcover book with a photo of the property and a warm welcome message or a dog-eared notebook with some pamphlets stuffed inside.

Many property owners choose to use a three-ring binder, and that is a fine option as long as you give it a cover that invites guests to open it. Or, you may opt to create a beautiful hardcover vacation rental guidebook with an online service like Blurb, Shutterstock, or Apple iPhoto software. The benefit to the binder option is that it is easier to keep updated, but the more professional version will likely get more attention.

Structure and content for your vacation rental guidebook.

Now that you have a plan for a beautiful welcome book for your guests, you have to decide what to put inside and how to organize that information in a way that will be easy to navigate. If you choose to present your welcome information in a binder, separate the sections with tabs and an index. A table of contents should suffice for a photo book option.

  • Essential Information. At the very front of your welcome book should be a quick reference sheet that has your contact information, wifi password, emergency phone numbers, what to do in the event of a disaster—anything that is absolutely imperative for guests to know needs to be front and center in your welcome book. You may also wish to have this quick reference sheet printed and laminated to place on the fridge or in another highly visible area.
  • Policies. After your essential information, you should lay out all of the house rules that would have been included in your pre-stay email: where to park, what to do with the key, community rules, pet policies, smoking policies, quiet hours, any areas of the property that are off limits, as well as your check-in and check-out procedures.
  • Inventory. You should include a list of items available for your guests’ use so they know what they’re free to use. If you provide one package of coffee per stay, for instance, you won’t be getting a phone call asking for more. An inventory list will also help to avoid items being mistakenly packed up and taken by guests.
  • How-to information. This will probably make up the bulk of your vacation rental guidebook because you really should address any potential problem your guests may have. You should organize this how-to information in a logical way to make it easy to find. We suggest using tabbed sections to keep things organized and clear. For instance:
    • Include a section about appliances—which setting is best for the washing machine, how to run the dishwasher, any quirks the stove has, where they can find the user manuals, etc.
    • Have a separate section about how to use the barbeque.
    • Add a section about how to adjust the thermostat or air conditioner.
    • Include a section for electronics, stating how to operate the television and the remotes.
    • Add a section about how to recycle in your area.
    • Add a section of bathroom rules including how to use the shower or Jacuzzi.
  • Things to do. If you have a favorite biking trail, coffee shop, or dog park, list it in your welcome book. If there’s a special place of worship, a theater show that can’t be missed, an antique shop visitors love, or any other things to see and do that might be off the beaten path, add them. Your guests will appreciate this touch, and it will really help to enhance their stay.

The information you choose to include in your welcome book is limited only by your imagination. The important thing is that it is organized in a clear way and presented attractively so that guests will read it.

Alternatively - or in addition to - your physical welcome book, you may choose to create a digital welcome book to send your guests so they have a portable version of your recommendations and essential property information. With all of your welcome book information readily available at their fingertips, your guests will be able to plan their holiday ahead of time for an even better experience. Driving directions and property access instructions are much more practical when provided in digital format prior to checking in. Your guests will also find it convenient to have your tips about things to do accessible on their mobile devices so they can refer to them when they are exploring the area.

There are several apps that will help you bring your welcome book to life digitally, including Touch Stay, Yoomondo, and Guidal.

Have fun creating your new vacation rental guidebook and enjoy life with fewer interruptions from guests and more rave reviews.