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Navigating the World of Hosting: Lessons from a Guest’s Perspective

Hello fellow travelers and vacation rental hosts!

I recently traveled for 10 days for a mix of business and pleasure and visited two incredible areas - the sandy shores of Navarre Beach, Florida, and the always fabulous Great Smoky Mountains. As a guest, the stays in both of these areas offered valuable insights for both travelers and vacation rental hosts alike, shedding light on the elements that make a stay truly enjoyable! I was traveling with my doggies (Mila and Mazy) this time which always adds another dimension to travel. Here they are ready for adventuring!

dogs ready for travel
Mila and Mazy ready for adventures

Navarre Beach: Embracing Tiny Home Living

My journey began with a short stay in the Navarre Beach, Florida area to be present for the launch of a vacation rental for a client of mine, and while I would have loved to have just stayed in that vacation rental, it was already full with the client’s family. (Be sure to follow them on IG at @bartholomews_bullpen_navarre)

Since I needed pet-friendly lodging, I chose to experience the charm of tiny home living and chose a tiny home vacation rental that I found through AirBnb. Here’s a view of this cute, little place!

inside of tiny home vacation rental

The tiny home rental was impeccably clean, there was bottled water waiting in the fridge, there were basic toiletries provided, and the fact that it welcomed pets was a huge plus!

However, as a guest, I faced some challenges that taught me valuable lessons for hosts. The first hurdle was a delayed response regarding the door keypad code (I finally received it almost an hour and a half after the check-in time and after several attempts to reach the host). This definitely caused some anxiety upon arrival. As a host, prompt and clear communication during the check-in process is vital to ensure a smooth start to your guests' stay.

Another important lesson relates to payment and fees. The host reached out in the middle of the night to “remind me” to pay the pet fees. Unfortunately, she had never told me what the total was and had never charged me for them so that made it quite difficult. The miscommunication surrounding the pet fee and deposit created confusion and discomfort. To avoid misunderstandings, hosts should communicate all costs upfront, providing clarity and transparency to their guests.

Lessons for Hosts:

  • Prompt Communication: Respond to guest inquiries and provide important information promptly, especially during check-in and check-out processes. If you are a host who works full-time at another job and are not always available, you may want to find a co-host who can help!

  • Transparency in Fees: Clearly communicate all costs, including fees and deposits, to avoid any confusion during the booking process. FYI - a fee is kept by the host, a deposit should be returned to the guest if all is well after the stay.

  • Welcome Package: Consider providing a welcome package with essential information about the rental, nearby attractions, and any rules or guidelines to ensure your guests have a pleasant and informed stay.

Smoky Mountains Cabin Retreat: Striving for Perfection

From the Navarre Beach area, I made my way up through Chattanooga over to the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area at the foot of the Smoky Mountains. I have visited here many, many times in the past and always enjoy these mountains. I booked a cabin direct from a property manager I have been in touch with and was happy with the proximity to attractions and a reasonable price, plus it was also pet-friendly However, the experience highlighted some areas that, as a host, would be crucial to address.

The absence of toiletries caught me off guard upon arrival (I know this is a common practice still in some rentals), but it emphasized for me the importance of providing basic amenities for guests. Late-night arrivals could find this particularly inconvenient, so ensuring that essential items are readily available can make a significant difference. Look at how much it truly costs to at least provide starters of shampoo, conditioner and body wash!

Additionally, the cabin's worn-out couch, malfunctioning appliances, and insufficient supply of bath towels and washcloths highlighted the need for regular maintenance and thorough inspections of the rental. Hosts should strive to provide a comfortable and well-equipped environment for their guests throughout their stay. The good relationship with the property manager/host made the little things all more ‘bear-able”. Here’s a pic of the cabin interior from the listing photos:

inside of Bear Haven cabin rental

Lessons for Hosts:

  • Provision of Toiletries: Consider providing essential toiletries to ensure guests have a comfortable start to their vacation, especially for late-night arrivals. There was no handsoap in the kitchen or coffee pods as shown in the listing either.

  • Regular Maintenance Checks: Conduct regular inspections and maintenance to address any issues promptly and ensure a comfortable and pleasant stay for your guests. Don’t just rely on guest feedback to ensure everything is in working order and that the rental will meet guest expectations. Consider having an inspection completed on a regular basis - I'm happy to provide this service for you!

  • Adequate Supplies: Ensure an ample supply of towels and linens, appropriate for the length of your guests' stay and the number of occupants. FYI - 4 towels/4 washcloths is insufficient for a 6 night stay for 4 adults.

Conclusion: A Journey of Growth

My experiences as a guest in Navarre Beach and the Smoky Mountains offered valuable insights for both travelers and hosts. As travelers, we cherish the beauty of new destinations and embrace the challenges that come our way, knowing that each experience shapes us. Please keep in mind that your hosts are human too and many of them are doing the best they can! Reach out to them with questions and concerns.

For hosts, these guest perspectives underscore the significance of open communication, transparency, and attentiveness to detail. By creating a WELCOMING and well-maintained space for guests, hosts can elevate the vacation experience and leave a lasting impression.

As the world of hosting and traveling continues to evolve, let’s learn from each other's experiences and strive to make every getaway an extraordinary one. If you provide your guests with an amazing stay, they are likely to turn into repeat guests and will book direct with you in the future! If you are looking to launch or improve your vacation rental business, contact me at - Vacation Rental Coaching is what I do!

Happy hosting and happy travels!


Suzanne Hacker

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