Summer is upon us again, and with it comes travel volumes that meet or exceed pre-pandemic levels. To better understand what today’s travelers consider the ideal summer vacation rental experience, we asked 6,169 VacationRenter users what draws them to a property and, conversely, what deters them from booking. Following are their top six expectations.

1. Cleanliness First, Convenience Second

Cleanliness and convenience are high on the priority list for would-be renters. The most desired add-on services respondents “would be willing to pay for” are:

  • Additional cleanings
  • Contactless smart home technology
  • Complimentary park or recreation passes

Concierge services, like grocery shopping, similarly rank high with respondents.

Aerial view of a gated community.

This is an opportunity for hosts to grant renters’ wishes. By giving them add-on options, you provide convenience while simultaneously going above and beyond in your guests’ eyes. If your vacation rental property has access to recreational facilities onsite or nearby, such as a private beach, state park, pool, or tennis court, be sure to work guest passes into the deal. Lastly, consider listing a menu of concierge-like add-ons for your renters to ponder — from pre-arrival grocery delivery to shuttle services.

2. First Impressions Matter

Why would a potential guest automatically pass on a listing? The top instant turn-offs include:

  • An unappealing or outdated appearance
  • A perceived lack of cleanliness
  • Poor photos
  • Location
  • Price

As travelers scroll through listings, you only get one shot at making a good impression before they finalize a reservation. Posting quality images that do a rental justice is an obvious and vital first step. Consider clutter and cleanliness, lighting, and views when snapping your pics. Updating decor and furnishings may also go a long way to attracting renters.

While you can’t do much about location, bedroom configuration, and parking, be sure to address concerns noted in reviews, such as noise levels, cleanliness, and amenities. Lastly, keep an eye on the local market to ensure prices are in line with comparable properties.

3. Getting Outside Is Still In

The outdoorsy travel surge that started in 2019 doesn’t show signs of slowing. Travelers are still looking for close-to-nature experiences. When asked if access to nature or the outdoors is important for their travel, 69% of respondents said yes. Hosts can capitalize on that trend by promoting nearby outdoorsy attractions in their vacation rental listings and offering access to recreational amenities.

A family on a hike.

Guests appreciate an insider’s perspective, so consider offering tips on how to avoid crowds, where to go, and what activities to pursue at whatever natural attraction is within striking distance.

As an added bonus, stock your rental with simple outdoor-inspired amenities — beach towels cropped up in our survey in a big way — or heftier investments like a kayak.

4. Keep Your Promises

Since travelers often book a vacation rental based on amenities, double-check that those listed are actually available. According to our user data, the “most used” amenity filter over the past 12 months is pool, followed by internet, kitchen, pet-friendly, and parking. Delivering on these amenities is important to folks who are attempting to work during their stay in particular. Since today’s remote work environment often requires quality, high-speed internet, be sure to be upfront about your property’s Wi-Fi speed as well as access.

Guests expect to experience all the amenities included in a property’s listing — and more. According to our survey, the number one thing a vacation rental host forgets is towels, followed closely by high cleaning standards, Wi-Fi access, keys or proper check-in instructions, and good communication. It would be a shame for a property’s ratings to tank, simply because it wasn’t stocked with towels, or the host failed to leave the right key code.

Lastly, hosts and vacation rental homeowners need to stay on top of providing the basics, because renters feel that these items should be included before they arrive:

  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Bed linens
  • Extra pillows
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee and tea
  • Trash bags

Be sure to communicate well with guests and avoid poor reviews by delivering on promises — and, whenever possible, going above and beyond. For example, making your property wheelchair accessible is not only a nod to inclusivity, but it may also boost bookings and bump up guest ratings.

5. Rentals vs. Hotels: Quality Comes First

This modern-day competition is all about practicality. It’s no surprise that if you’re vacationing with more people for a longer period of time, a vacation rental’s additional space and affordability are nearly impossible to beat. And for business travelers, the convenience of a hotel stay satisfies the basic necessity of having a place to rest your head for the night with an early bird breakfast waiting for you in the lobby.

When surveying our users, we posed a question targeting their desire — or lack thereof — of staying at a hotel. Interestingly, the top three reasons travelers dislike most about hotels are the following:

  • Not having a kitchen
  • Low quality for the price
  • The noise

What pertains to hosts, in particular, are the top three things travelers dislike most about rentals:

  • No free breakfast
  • No daily maid service
  • Low quality for the price

While the first two might be considered unfair expectations set by hotels, the third is a relatively low bar to clear by focusing on our last section.

5. The Little Things Make a Big Difference

It doesn’t take grand gestures to win over guests. In addition to the obvious, like cleaning, respondents indicated that special touches, like handwritten notes, flowers, wine, coffee, snacks, welcome baskets, well-stocked kitchens, plus ample towels and linens improved their guest experience. Pleasant interactions and good communication with property managers and hosts also made the list.

Neatly organized bathroom linen closet with bamboo toothbrushes and white towels.

For comparison’s sake, these are the items that renters don’t typically expect to be included in a house rental:

  • Sugar and sweeteners
  • Tea kettle
  • Aluminum foil, plastic wrap, resealable plastic bags, etc.
  • Baking sheets
  • Ironing board

While the above doesn’t appear to be expected, stocking your rental with them may go over well for future reviews if you make them available.

In other words, if you make guests feel special, you’ll likely see repeat bookings and great reviews!

Methodology and Limitations

VacationRenter conducted the original survey in June 2022 of 6,169 VacationRenter users from around the world about their rental search experiences. The data are not weighted and are based on self-reporting. With self-reported data, there are limitations, such as over- or underreporting of information as well as exaggerated numbers and answers.

Additionally, a national online survey of 1,004 U.S. employed consumers ages 25+ was conducted between 6/13/23 and 6/16/23. Survey responses were nationally representative to the U.S. population for age, gender, region, and ethnicity. The maximum margin of sampling error was +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.