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Archive for the ‘vacation rental advice’ Category

Top Five Destinations For A Wild Hen’s Weekend

Two Ladies In A Casino

These days hen dos are about more than downing dubious drinks and watching a dishy bloke stripping down to his smalls. According to The Telegraph the “UK hen and stag industry is estimated to be worth up to £500m a year in the UK. Hen parties are routinely weekend-long (or more) affairs” . While many complain about the cost, which is estimated to be an average of £157 per person, most participants will admit that, “hen dos can be really fun; it’s an opportunity to spend quality time with girlfriends, there’s always the possibility that the random activity you’ve never tried before, say pottery making, might be your secret talent. And it’s a chance to get to know any new faces before the wedding.”

The Guardian listed a range of alternatives for hens sick of the typical debauched weekend. They suggested the “coast of Montenegro, a cheaper, quirkier alternative to Croatia or pretending you were to the manor born by taking over a country house.” But before you head off, be sure to consider the less-exciting but important factors of travelling abroad. Even though it’s only for a weekend, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance. It might seem over-prepared but if you consider the kind of high jinx that you’re likely to fall into, getting some basic medical and accident cover is wise.

Sense and sensibility

Another concern whether you’re travelling a short distance to the Continent or a little further to the States, is to think about money. Buying some euros or dollars in advance, for a fixed rate and loading it onto a travel card is the ideal way to manage your money while overseas. Having a travel card is as convenient as a credit debit card with the added bonus of being safer, because if it’s lost or stolen, your personal bank account won’t be at risk.

Finally, in the interest of those attending, keep the costs as low as possible. Research online with price comparison sites to secure the best deals on flights and accommodation. Often just by asking for a discount for a hen’s weekend, you will find operators willing to knock a little off the top. Consider bringing some of your own supplies like food, alcohol and whatever else you need to make it a memorable trip.

Whether your passion is for food and drink, active adventuring, pure pampering, or just having a grand old time, these are five destinations worth exploration.

Culture Vultures fly to Barcelona

Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona is paradise for hens looking for art, culture and food. Gaudi’s city is a riot of stunning architecture, packed with attractions to sink your teeth into; the Picasso museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and even a Chocolate Museum! Wander Las Ramblas and witness stunning street performance before heading off the main drag for sensational food – and, of course, big jugs of full-bodied sangria. A tapas trail is the perfect, relaxed way to make independent discoveries – ducking in for a drink and a bite to eat wherever takes your fancy, for as long as takes your fancy. Inspired by the food? Book your group into a Spanish cookery lesson to master the dishes you’ve sampled.

Lots of lovely wine in the Loire Valley

Exquisit Wine Tasting

If a tipple tickles your fancy and you fancy learning more about the tipple in your glass, head cross-channel to the Loire and take a tour of the area’s abundant vineyards. The river is the longest in France, wending its lazy way through the ‘Jardin de France’, which encompasses a quintet of wine micro-regions ripe for discovery. The Loire’s output caters for fans of Muscadet, Chenin Blanc, Vouvray, Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume and many more. Visit the area’s Chateaux independently or as part of a guided group – tasting, purchasing, learning, or just soaking up the sun and verdant, vinous atmosphere.

4×4 tour in Poland

4x4 in Poland

Tank Girl-types will be bored by a conventional hen. But there are plenty of destinations offering action-packed, hands-on activities to sate appetites for adventure. Jet off to Poland and discover the picturesque countryside in a 4×4. It’s a great chance to see wilder, unspoiled parts of the countryside, allowing access to minor roads and green lanes. Some tours are eco-friendly, perfect for petrol heads with a conscience. If you fancy learning about wildlife and history, these guided explorations are led by knowledgeable English-speaking guides. Self-driven off-road tours plan in stops at lesser-known places of interest, with participants traveling in small convoys of up to four vehicles. If you’d prefer rough terrain and getting revved up on adrenalin, try Krakow’s ‘off-road rampage’ experience. Just ensure your group has plenty of clean drivers’ licences, or no-one will be going anywhere at any speed!

Casino-hopping in Las Vegas

Hit up Las Vegas, where the stakes are high, the food and drink are cheap and plentiful, and even just playing a few slot machines and watching the weird and the wonderful of Vegas go by is experience in itself. Hotel accommodation is affordable, but the sights you’ll see are priceless. Wander the strip and take in the amazing neon illuminations, and catch a show or two – an Elvis tribute act, perhaps, an all-singing, all-dancing cabaret, or one of the big names Vegas regularly attracts.

Pampering in Phuket

Pampering in Phuket

Your hen weekend may well be the last chance you have to do absolutely nothing for a rather long time. If the thought of being stroked, pummelled, anointed and massaged into submission before being delivered to a stunning white beach to recover from all the relaxation pushes your bliss button, Phuket will suit you a treat. Patong is known for its massage parlours and skilled therapists, many using organic, natural products in their practice. Treatments cover everything from head to toe, quite literally, with both facials and foot massages on the menu. Local herbs often play a part in tonics and balms, treating every sense. A spot of pre-wedding refreshment and revitalisation will leave you relaxed and ready for the big day.

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Featured images:

Jessica Bourne reports from Chester and loves writing about a range of lifestyle topics from fashion and gardening to travel and finance. Jessicas’s mission in these miserable economic times is to help readers budget for life’s little luxuries. You can read more of Sarah’s articles in a wide variety of blogs and websites.

How to spend less than 30 minutes per day on social media [INFORGRAPHIC]

Social media for vacation rental in 30 minutes a dayA crush course to social media

Whether we want it or not but social media takes more presence in our personal and business lives. How to get it under control and use more effectively?

Our friends at Pardot put together an awesome infographic to help you determine which tasks are most important, and how much time you should ideally be dedicating to each of your social channels. Your strategy will likely differ (and should!) slightly from the infographic below, but the import thing is to identify your key channels, plan for a set number of tasks, and allot yourself a set period of time and stick to it!

Let’s have a look:

Rock Social Media in 30 Minutes a Day [INFOGRAPHIC] - Pardot Infographic

Embedded from the Pardot Blog

What is your strategy in social media? What social channel works better for your business?

2 simple ways to update your vacation rental calendar

Vacation rental availability calendar reservation blocking

Don’t Wait to Update Your Vacation Rental Calendar: Time Blocking and Reservations

Like many of my neighbors and fellow owners in Hawaii and Lake Tahoe, I love surfing, skiing and snowboarding, so why would I own property anywhere else?  It comes as no surprise that, like me, most vacation rental owners buy homes in the places they like to visit themselves.  And they visit a lot.

During my first year of owning a pad in Maui Kamaole, Hawaii, I visited 5 times. I stored my two surfboards in the closet, bought an annual pass on ATA airlines and eventually realized the importance of manually updating my vacation rental calendar.

In my previous post I talked about a very simple way to setup automatic calendar synchronization, once and forever. Here we discuss how to update your calendar manually.

At Rentini we have two options for updating calendar:

1)   Create a blocking – an easy one step process

2)   Create a reservation  –  a two step process which requires you to record payment.

There are multiple ways to add a reservation or time block to your calendar. The most intuitive would be by following navigation tabs:

  • Rentals >> Blocking >> Add Blocking
  • Rentals >> Reservations  >> Add Reservation

Another way of adding a time block or reservation would be by opening the monthly calendar page from the Dashboard or on Edit Listing page.

Select a month and roll your mouse over any date until an Update button appears. Click on the Update button or anywhere in that cell. A new window will pop-up, which will let you choose a type of action. Available options are:

  • Add Blocking
  • Add Reservation
  • Add Rate

We will discuss how to add different types of rates in future posts. For now, let’s just focus on blockings and reservations.

Time Blocking

Rule of thumb: Use blockings to mark dates unavailable.

To block, choose your start and end dates and hit the Update Calendar button. You can also put in a note for future reference, such as “My last minute getaway!!!” or “Uncle Sam promised it’s his last trip this year

The process is a bit more complicated with reservations as there are a few different scenarios worth considering.

IMPORTANT: Keep in mind that the dates on your calendar will not become unavailable until payment is submitted by the guest or the homeowner marks the reservation paid manually.

Reservation on Guest’s behalf: You are Expecting Payment

You may create a reservation on guest’s behalf and assign a custom rate to it (optional).  Let’s say someone calls you and says, “I would like to rent your place. How do I proceed from here?”

All you need is their name and email address.  Just open Rentals >> Reservations and click Add Reservation button. Select the Yes option for email notifications. This way your guests will receive an email invitation to pay the required amount as well as all future reminders. This is convenient, as you do not need to remember important dates to remind your guests about payment dues. The system sends out reminders automatically.

If you do not want them to receive automatic reminders,  just select the No option for email notifications.

Reservation on Friend’s Behalf

If a friend of yours wants to visit and you only want to charge them a cleaning fee, they may leave a check for the housekeeper or pay in advance.

To facilitate the pay in advance option, just click Add Reservation and enter $1 into the Custom Rate field (sorry, the system doesn’t allow to enter $0).  Select the Yes option for Email notifications and then hit Update Calendar. An email invitation will then be sent to your friend so he/she can pay online. Once they complete the payment process, the dates will be marked unavailable.

Reservation Payments

If a guest calls you and wants to submit a payment, you may accept credit card payments over the phone. However, it is important to note the recent PCI compliance standards, which do not allow keeping your guests’ card on file unencrypted.

Protecting cardholder data is also good for your business because PCI security prevents stolen customer data, and:

  • Prevents lawsuits
  • Saves you money

Rentini payment portal becomes handy when you need to accept payments and stay PCI compliant. We incorporate all the latest standards, which could also be another selling point for those guests who are concerned about Internet fraud and unauthorized credit card abuse. Working in IT data security for 13 years taught me to keep my hands away from sensitive information wherever possible. When a vacation rental guest offers me their credit card over the phone, I politely refuse to accept it. Accepting payment via a PCI compliant online system gives you the piece of mind that you won’t be liable for any data breach.

If you have any suggestion on how to make our reservation system better, please leave your feedback in comments!

Happy rentals!

My Adventure as a Guinea Pig at a Vacation Rental

A Guinea Pig Vacation Rental Guinea Pig on a missionat a Vacation Rental

There has been a lot of talk lately regarding the best ways to discover if you are meeting your guests’ expectations by going on your own vacation and analyzing your experiences.  Whether you decide to do this in another vacation rental or in your own, applying all you’ve learned can be invaluable.

I decided to try this experiment myself and see what I discover.   I rented a short term rental for one week.  Booking just like anyone else I found a location, looked at photos, studied the cost, checked reviews and then made my decision.

Taking a different approach in property selection

I took a different approach though.  I decided to “go all out” and book a property I would not normally book.  My philosophy was that if I book a property that meets all my expectations, I would take everything for granted.  On the other hand, if I were to stay in a property that is lacking, the conditions would force me to take notice.  So I found one with the following:

  • Location:         Good – Check – (I did want a nice location)
  • Photos:            Rooms missing in photos (bathroom, second bedroom), completely original, 1980s décor, oh….tube TV – Check!
  • Price:               Same as others in the area; no less, no more – Check
  • Reviews:         Could be better – Check

Yes my vacaiton rental getaway is awesome!Booking was a breeze.  It couldn’t have been easier.  The owners were very pleasant and wonderful to work with.  Entry upon arrival was smooth and all instructions for departure were conveniently placed on the breakfast bar.  The guest information book was a bit dated and could have used a cleaning, but some of the most important numbers (i.e. emergency, dining out) were included.  YES!!!

After such a wonderful reception from the owners and easy entry I was very optimistic about how my experience would unfold, but I quickly went

From this:                                                                                To this:

 Easy cooking at vacation rental kitchen                    Kitchen nightmare at vacation rental

in a matter of two days.

Not wanting commit Hara-Kari while I was there (and I’m also not a Samaria) I made the best of it and jotted down anything that I found hindered my vacation experience hoping that my findings will help others and I didn’t expire in vain.  The result was this table.   These are items that were missing from the rental or items that could have used updating.

Complete your analysis and start your own list

Take from this what you will; create your own – add your own missing items.   I hope it helps you get started on your own analysis should you choose to do one.

Kitchen: Comments
  • Cabinets/Countertop
 Not securely fastened
  • Ceiling
 Water spots or stains
  • Sink
 Leaks, caulking
  • Stove, Fridge, Microwave
 Fridge – poor working order, stains, rust
  • Large pot
  • Colander
  • Sharp knives
  • Salt and Pepper shakers
  • Grater
LR, DR, Bedrooms, Hallways:
  • Walls/Trim
Cracks, water damage
  • Closets
Poor alignment
  • Stairs
Loose handrails
  • Door
Misaligned
  • DVD player/Blu Ray
  • IPod docking station
  • AM/FM stereo
  • Television
  • Furniture
Rips, stains
  • Sturdy furniture legs
  • Extra batteries/light bulbs
  • Clean remotes and guest info book
  • Linens free of stains
  • Flat sheet
  • Fitted sheet
  • Mattress protector
  • Pillows (not enough)
Miscellaneous:
  • Washer/Dryer
Stains, rust
  • Fire extinguisher
Didn’t really need this personally, but thought I might for a minute and it wasn’t there
  • Floor fans
  • Broom & pan
  • Laundry hamper/basket
  • Fly swatter
  • First aid kit
Didn’t really need this either, but an after thought when I thought I might need an extinguisher
  • Mop/Pail /Cleaners
  • Beach/Pool/Hot tub towels – one per adult person
  • Cooler
  • Overall cleanliness

So, all in all, yes, staying in a vacation rental and analyzing my experience was well worth it and is highly recommended.  Thank you Mike Bayer of Cottage Rental Services for your article Don’t Just Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk. I took your advice, learned quite a bit and came out winning.  We take many things for granted until they are no longer around.  The best way to know if you’re missing something is to miss it. Here’s hoping all your guests smile like this.

Anita Ericksen Author of FF&E

Anita Ericksen is the author of FF&E, Furnish and Equip Your Vacation or Executive Property in 5 Days.  You can find out more about her at www.anitaericksen.com.  Photos are clip art and the guinea pig is not mine though I wish he was.

An empty vacation rental calendar leads to double booking

Why keeping your calendar up to date is so important?

empty calendar leads to double booking

Empty calendar? Chances are you will be double booked

Updating a vacation rental calendar is a tedious task we all dread.

What is even more time consuming is replying to inquiries for dates that are not available. While I have had clients who were considering changing their dates from time-to-time, it is not common place at all. However, failing to  update your calendar at all is a mistake. Inevitably, you will end up sending replies about unavailable dates and updating your calendar anyway.

To solve this problem, rentini recently released a new version of a calendar synchronization tool that makes it very easy to set things up so you can focus on other priorities.

A New Calendar Synchronization Tool

Here’s how it works, quite simple.

Step 4 of Create Your Listing page flow now has two options:

  • Update manually
  • Setup HomeAway calendar synchronization

If listing(s) is/are already created, then simply click on the Calendar link under Helpful Links on the Dashboard, then you see

update calendar manually or via synchronization tool

Two new options on the calendar page

Who wants to do anything manually nowadays? Let’s discuss how to setup the synchronization.

First login to VRBO or HomeAway and find the Export Calendar section.

Login to HomeAway.com or VRBO.com and find Export Calendar Data

Find the Export Calendar Data section

Then just copy/paste the link – very easy!

copy-paste the link from homeaway or VRBO

As simple as copy/paste

This will create a set of blockings that will show dates unavailable. Along with the existing reservations from Rentini it may look like a christmas tree. See how my calendar for the month of February looks like. I selected two properties to show and the final result is a merge of reservations with different statuses and synchronized blockings. Fun, huh?

Merged vacation rental calendar for two properties

A merged calendar with reservations and blockings for two properties

From the first sight it looks a bit overwhelming but once you know what every color means it becomes very simple to deal with multiple types of entries on your calendar. Check it out here:

Colored indicators

Every color indicates a different status for each entry. Blockings are shown in red.

We are interested to learn from your experience:

  • How do you keep all calendars up to date?
  • Where do you keep your primary calendar?
  • Can you share what are the biggest challenges with your calendar synchronization method?

Capitalize Off Your Reviews and Testimonials

You asked, and we listened!

At Rentini, we develop and improve our product based on feedback from homeowners and travelers who make up our customer base. One refrain we’ve heard again and again from homeowners new to Rentini has been about how to show their reviews from past guests on their new Rentini powered website or listing. Travelers, they remind us, like to see social proof before proceeding to book a vacation home. Namely, travelers want to see positive reviews highlighting what a good time they had at the vacation home and some of the perks of staying there.

Introducing Testimonials

Our homeowners have a point: studies have shown that properties with reviews are far more likely to generate more bookings. On Rentini guests leave reviews after having paid for a reservation via Rentini. This enables us to verify the review by associating it with a paid reservation. But what about all those reviews from previous guests?

That’s where testimonials come into play. Rentini has developed a feature that lets homeowners invite previous guests and friends to write testimonials [read: personal recommendations, or, reviews of the rental]. Testimonials are a good start to getting some of those glowing reviews and established history from previous guests and friends visible on your listing.

On Your Listings page are features including Request Testimonials. Click on Request Testimonials and in the boxes enter emails of friends and previous guests and click send to invite them to write a testimonial for you and your property.

In the future we will develop something more comprehensive –something that will propagate your reviews automatically from the biggest vacation rental sites where you already have most of your reviews. This, we hope, would be the necessary step to show your property in the best light while maintaining Rentini’s verified review system.

What do you think? Share your thoughts below!

Introducing Last Minute Deals on Vacation Rentals by Homeowners

Don’t give up on upcoming vacancies, we’ve got a solution!

It’s never too late to make some memories, or money when it comes to being a vacation rental owner. That’s why we have created a last minute deals program that allows our homeowners to offer travelers last minute discounts on vacancies for their vacation rentals.

Fill vacant dates on your calendar
Each week on Tuesday at noon EST, registration for our last minute deals page will open. There you can let us know your desired last minute dates and rates. We will then publish the new rates for travelers the following day (Wednesday) along with spreading the word about your great deal across as much of the internet as can.

Blog about your last minute deal

If you want to take your deal (and overall listing) one step further, we are accepting blog posts from our homeowners regarding their vacation destinations. Take a look at these posts to get some ideas. Notice how we talk about the culture, activities and overall lifestyle of the destinations. By attracting travelers to the destination itself, your property will be featured as the perfect accommodation for travelers to go and experience everything for themselves. This is done through linking keywords and photos to your listing, as well as simply culminating your post with a “Where to stay” sort of ending.

So feel free to submit your own to blogger@rentini.com and we will review it for publication.

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