For some vacation rentals, winter means ski season - or, at the other end of the spectrum, a steady stream of snow birds. In other areas, however, the cold weather means it’s solidly off-season. Even if your properties may be more inactive at this time of year, your reservation requests should be heating up for booking season.

Here are a few ideas to help you make the most of low season and get your ducks in a row before guests begin rolling in. Your vacation rental properties will have new guests walking through their doors before you know it!

Get big projects out of the way

Sometimes working through your fall maintenance checklist is all that’s needed to keep your vacation rental properties in top shape. But if more significant renovations and maintenance projects are needed, getting them done during low season helps keep any impact on revenue to a minimum.

This includes switching software and service providers. Changing booking systems, email marketing software, or your bookkeeping program can be a significant - and potentially disruptive - undertaking. Ease into new systems while demand is still low. And if you’re changing service providers, it’s best to work out any kinks before the pace picks up again.

Review your business strategy

When business is brisk, a routine helps keep things running smoothly. But that doesn’t mean the status quo is a good strategy for the long term. And if your property could be impacted by changing vacation rental regulations, revisiting your strategy might be critical.

Here are a few ways you can use the off-season to decide whether you might need to shift course.

  • Conduct a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) is an organized way to consider what’s working — and worth more of an investment — and what you need to do differently. For example: How does your property measure up against its competitors? What hurdles are holding your business back? What changes to the local marketplace could bring new business your way? Is there anything in the pipeline that could deter travelers to the area?
  • Reevaluate your pricing. Are you charging too much or too little for your rental? If you haven’t had a chance to consider a rate change since the end of last season, there’s still time to make adjustments before the end of booking season.
  • Take a fresh look at contracts and policies. Sometimes experience — or new short-term rental rules — can make updating these important documents a smart move. For example, a new parking ordinance could mean street parking is no longer an option for guests. Or maybe you want to limit the number of guests per booking after an uptick in noise complaints from the neighbors. With some governments approving increasingly steep fines to address complaints about vacation rentals in the community, there’s a lot of benefit to being proactive.

How you run your vacation rental business is an evolving process. A regular review can help you stay ahead of bigger changes and trends that could create problems as bookings pick up.

Take a fresh look at your marketing efforts

It’s always possible to create new marketing opportunities, you just need material to work with. If you’ve already reviewed your marketing collateral this year — such as property details, photos, and listings — here are a few other ideas you can use to get fuel for your upcoming promotions:

  • Consider a new audience. Business travelers are increasingly choosing vacation rentals over other options for their accommodations, and that’s leading to new ways to get their attention. Airbnb for Work, for example, targets road warriors as well as corporate teams looking for a space to meet away from the office.
  • Reach out to previous guests. In the travel industry, recommendations are like currency — and you can never have too many. Contact recent guests and ask them to leave a review, or to send feedback your way if there was something they felt could be improved. You can go a step further and invite them to refer your vacation property to others planning to visit the area.
  • Pay attention to Google. Google plays an important role for businesses. But whether it ultimately works in your favor or not can depend upon your actions. Use this time to address negative reviews, if any have been added. And if you haven’t set up Google My Business yet (previously known as Google Places), it’s time to put your vacation rental on the map.
  • Plan ahead. It can also be helpful to create a marketing calendar to help guide your efforts throughout the year: A plan that maps out actions such as social media and blog posts, and includes reminders about key events and holidays so you can incorporate them into your marketing efforts.

If your property doesn’t need the downtime, why not try a new campaign to get more off-season guests in the door? Business travel is one niche that can be active year-round, but there are other ways to attract guests, such as a discount or flat rate, a package deal (offered with other local businesses), or a special rate for weekday rental reservations.

Master your to-do list

Finally, make time for business “housekeeping” — all the administrative work that piles up all too quickly when things get busy. This may include updating your booking calendar and autoresponders as well as making sure your bookkeeping and bill payments are up-to-date.

Looking for other ways to make the most of the season? Check out "10 Learnings from Netflix's "Stay Here" All Property Managers Can Use” and add the series to your Netflix watch list!

While it may be easy to use the low season as downtime, identify which suggestions would add the most value to your vacation rental business. Creating a plan and executing on it will help you make the most out of this year’s booking season!