Your listings are set up. Your properties' titles are enticing, you spent hours crafting the perfect description and you're using a dynamic pricing tool. But you aren't gaining the number of inquiries you were hoping for. So what's wrong?


The first photo a traveler will see of your vacation rental is your listing’s thumbnail. That tiny thumbnail offers a quick glimpse of your property - a mere sliver of a peek to convince a guest that your property is worth their time to consider. If they don’t like it, they’ll move on to the next one.

A great thumbnail stems from the work put in to staging your vacation rental and your investment in a professional photographer. Using your phone to shoot your properties won't cut it.

So how do you give them a reason to click? How do you make a traveler want to click?

1. Less is more
Less is best when it comes to your thumbnail. Inspire a traveler to want to learn more. Take a peek at this chalet in Canada: Snow, trees, log cabin. Simple. Striking. The warm lights at dusk draw you into the photo—and into the listing itself.

MyVR vacaiton rental thumbnail example log home in snow

By reducing the photo to as few elements as possible, a traveler will be able to better register the thumbnail in their brain.

Another thumbnail with just a few elements: water, sand, mountains, and sky. Additionally, using the compositional element of leading lines, the sand and waves begin in the foreground and lead you into the photo.

MyVR vacation rental thumbnail beautiful landscape

One odd trick to know if your thumbnail window is overloaded: make the photo blurry by squinting your eyes at it. If your photo is simple enough, the main elements will still stand out. If you have packed your thumbnail with too many elements, it will all blur together.

2. Match the photo to what the traveler wants
Are your guests looking to escape from their real lives to a wide open space where they can see nothing but nature for miles? This thumbnail immediately tells you that this is the perfect place to be.

MyVR vacation rental HomeAway thumbnail Dexter Peak Cabin

3. Invite guests to join in
The perspective of this photo behind the beach chairs and looking towards the ocean in this thumbnail, encourages a traveler to kick off their shoes and have a seat.

MyVR vacation rental thumbnail Airbnb beach view

4. Get up close and personal
If you have a unique feature—a detail that is very distinctive about your vacation rental—don’t be afraid to zoom in on it. Look at the beautiful lush garden shown in this thumbnail. You can imagine relaxing on the lawn chairs or curling up in the swinging chair.

MyVR short-term rental thumbnail backyard photo

How these thumbnails could have more impact

Too much crammed into one small photo
This thumbnail is for a fabulous property with a furnished patio with a flat screen TV, outdoor speakers, an outdoor sauna, and more resort-like features than you could imagine.

Backyard pool vacaiotn rental thumbnail

But there is so much going on in such a tiny picture, including a distracting reflection from the pool, that even though it’s a beautiful photo, travelers could easily miss key details that could convince them to click.

Leave bland for the competition, don’t feature it in your photo
Don’t mistakenly highlight a cinder block wall or other drab feature of your property.

Vacation rental Glendale, Arizona thumbnail

There is an overwhelming amount of gray contributing to the lifelessness of this photo overall, so it is easily passed over.

Highlighting uninteresting standard features
Unless your kitchen is absolutely spectacular, don’t use it as the first peek into your vacation rental.

Short-term rental kitchen thumbnail VRBO example

This same listing had the photo of the pool below as one of the additional photos. It would have worked better as the thumbnail.

Vacation Rental pool thumbnail VRBO

Move the car
Have someone help you out with this one by standing guard if necessary. If the vehicle is a regular, politely ask the owner to give you five minutes of car-free zone.

Car in front of house thumbnail

If a car-free zone is still impossible, choose another lead photo.

There is no reason to cram as much information as possible into the listing thumbnail, the window to your vacation rental property. Show a glimpse and create a desire to see more.