Checklist for Setting Up Your Vacation Rental for Success


Pillows: Launder or replace all sleeping pillows. If you rent your property weekly, pillows should be laundered weekly during your busy seasons. If your rooms get light use, then laundering them less frequently is probably ok but no guest enjoys a pillow that smells like head sweat, hair products, or worse. At least quarterly, or after 3 long term rentals, you should replace pillows with new. And, it’s always a good idea to have multiple types of back up pillows available to your guests, including non-allergenic, down, soft, hard, etc. Consider investing in pillow encasement covers to protect them from liquid spills, dust mites and smells. They easily zip on/off for laundering and will substantially prolong the life of your pillow investment!

Bed Linens: High thread counts rule at home, but in a rental, you cannot beat commercial grade! Consider the location, the season, and the way guests use your property. In the colder climates, would your guests welcome the option of a blanket warmer? Flannel Sheets? Heavy comforters? Be sure that in warmer climates you have the right weight comforter to handle a/c and fresh air. Be sure to refresh, repair, and replace these linens at the first sign of wear. And, be sure your guest has a change of linens for each bed so that accidents don’t mean no sheets in the middle of the night. In addition, be sure to cover your mattresses first with mattress encasement covers…you do NOT want to have to replace mattresses if a guest brings in bed bugs or accident…it’s an expensive loss.

Before we leave the bedroom, how are guests using your rooms? Do you frequently find tables moved? How about lamps and other items unplugged? This can often reflect a few common things. Are there ample outlets available and in view? Guests bring multiple devices that require charging now a days. The average guest requires 2-3 outlets simply for chargeable devices. Consider installing a tabletop or flush-mount charging device near the desk or bedside to prevent guests from moving your furniture in search of available outlets. Choosing a charging device model that features Bluetooth speakers allow guests to enjoy their music library from their smartphone or tablet - A nice added touch to personalize your guest experience even more!

It’s also time to think safety. Smoke detector batteries—change them. CO monitors—you need one. Fire extinguisher—every unit should have a small one in either the laundry or under the kitchen sink, and it may need recharging. Finally, install a hotel-style room safe for your guests to feel perfectly comfortable leaving money, jewelry, passports, and small electronics in the room. We have some hosts that also have a second safe that is locked but stores emergency supplies, like extra batteries, flashlights, small tools, first aid kit, light bulbs, etc. This lets the guest call you or your management service, and instead of having to make a midnight visit, you can give them the safe combination, and they can get what they need. Then the next day, you replace those items, and change the combination. Everyone wins.

The Bath:

Linens: Here again, while its tempting to purchase off the shelf, even high end towels, consider the wisdom of hotels…hotel grade towels, white of course, with stand the stains made by makeup, blood, grease, soil, and just about anything else. They hold up to bleaching, hot washes and hot dryers. Take a look at hotel grade bath linen winners like Vidori or Pique Weave. These bath linens are always available to replace just the items needed to keep your bath linen supply on par with your quantity needs and looking great so you never have miss-matched linens on display.

A good rule of thumb is 2 bath towels, 4 hand towels, 4 face clothes per guest per bath. So if you are renting a two bedroom unit with a maximum of 4 guests, then you need 8 bath towels, two bath mats, 16 hand towels, and 16 face cloths. In addition, 2 pool towels per guest is also a good idea if you located near a beach, lake or have access to your a swimming pool. Look for a source for hotel grade pool towels that withstand bleaching and frequent chlorine exposure.

Want to spare your white towels the frequent bleach? Consider having at least one black makeup cloth towel per guest available, and visible for use. In addition, packets of individually wrapped makeup wipes will also go along way to protect bed linens as well.

Amenities: Have you themed your toiletry packages? Economically priced amenities can be aligned to your location, with themes like water, desert, mountains, fresh air, sea side, and more. Consider what a surprisingly special welcome it is to find a nice package of guest amenities in the guest bath. For rentals for a month or more, consider larger refillable pump bottles. You can get themed products for the bath, including hand soaps, as well as refillable pumps for kitchen sink use and dishwashing. As you plan just what you need for your guest’s stay and to prevent waste, consider YOUR average length of stay and plan accordingly. Smaller sizes of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and lotions are fine for overnight, up to 2 guests. Larger sizes are recommended for 4 guests, one night, 2 guests 2-3 nights, and 1 guest up to 4 nights. If your property averages weekly rentals, consider moving to a gallon program where for pennies a night you can have the necessities on the wall ready to dispense (shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner).

Plumbing and fixtures: Check for running water, leaky seals and faucets/handles, and annually, replace all toilet gaskets. If you have a property with a high salt/mineral deposit, have a large container of vinegar under the sink to allow the guest to treat buildups as they occur. An ounce of prevention will save you headaches and costly repairs in the future.

Deep clean the baths and repair or patch any caulking and grouting needs.


Pantry items: Every change of season is a great time to clean out the pantry. Discard all items purchased and left by previous guests. Replace the basics with fresh items for rentals of a week or less, and wipe down those cabinets. For longer rentals, your guest will stock their own basics. You don’t want to manage expiration dates, so tossing is best. As you move from season to season, consider how your guests will likely use your kitchen. If they’ll go from cooking inside to outside, be sure you include bbq items, and that those utensils are still in good order. Take a look at pot holders and kitchen linens replacing any that are worn or damaged.

Pantry basics every rental needs*: *indicates short term rental suggestions; stays greater than 2 weeks omit from the pantry basics as guests have ample time to stock these items.

While part of the excitement for any cooking enthusiast is to visit the grocery aisles and delis of the local destinations where one travels, it is nice to never have to buy the basics…as long as what is in the pantry has been stored properly, has not reached its expiration date, and appears clean.


  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Corn starch
  • Baking soda (two boxes in case the refrigerator needs one)

Everyday essentials:

  • First night’s coffee, even if it is instant
  • A few tea bags
  • Filters for your coffee pot, if it needs one, otherwise, your guests will improvise and you may not like the results.
  • Creamer—consider shelf stable variety and simply leave a handful
  • Vinegar
  • Cooking spray*
  • Olive oil*—replace every 2-3 months


  • Italian
  • Garlic powder
  • Garlic salt
  • Onion powder
  • Onion salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Chili powder
  • Steak or BBQ rubs
  • Vanilla extract
  • If you live in certain areas, you might consider a basic curry powder, ancho chili, Tajin, cumin, Adobo, and the like.

Here is a list of other nice to haves and easy to keep...

  • Ketchup—get the stay clean caps. Or buy small containers by the case from a supplier
  • Simple Mustard—see above
  • Bouillon cubes*
  • Instant decaf coffee*
  • Powdered creamer*
  • Splenda, Truvia, Equal—a handful is enough
  • Hot chocolate*
  • Microwave popcorn (just one package…if they are into popcorn, they probably brought some)
  • Hot sauce*
  • Soy sauce*
  • Steak sauces*
  • Aluminum foil
  • Parchment paper to protect your cookie sheets and pans
  • Paper napkins
  • Paper plates
  • Storage bags for left overs

And, if you want to please the discriminating cook that might visit, don’t forget to stock the cooking tool drawer and pot shelf with the following:

  • At least one good sharp prep knife
  • Cheese knife
  • Paring knife (sharp)
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Garlic press
  • Two spatulas, one big, one smaller
  • Slotted spoon
  • Pasta spoon
  • Citrus juicer
  • A variety of prep bowls---plastic that can take a bounce! W/covers and they do double duty
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Bowl scrapers (large and small)
  • Tongs
  • Bread knife
  • Wine opener
  • Pastry brush
  • Ice cream scoop
  • Zester
  • Can opener
  • Bottle opener
  • Scissors (kitchen, and label them, For Kitchen Use Only)
  • Potato masher
  • Pizza cutter
  • Whisk (I have multiple sizes, and like plastic ones that won’t rust)
  • Cheese board
  • At least three cutting boards, one for bread, one for veggie prep, and one for meat prep---guests will use your countertops otherwise
  • Cookie sheets/trays. I love the ½ sized ones from I keep a couple in my pantry and use at least one at every meal!
  • One each: 13 x 9, 9 x 9 square, and 8” round baking pans
  • At least two sauce pans, one small butter pan, two frying pans (one large and one small) and lids for everything…its your kitchen you are protecting.
  • 3 Mixing bowls, popcorn bowls, serving bowls, including a good salad bowl, and a few plastic storage containers.

Have maps handy for the grocery stores near you. Be sure to include specialty stores that might feature items unique to your area. Also, box stores like Costco and Sam’s Club.

Finally, I appreciate finding Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, World Market, Trader Joe’s and Discount Wine destinations!!!

Appliances: Empty and clean refrigerator (see pantry notes above). Deep clean refrigerator, replace baking soda box, and deep clean stove tops, ovens, microwaves, and dishwashers. Be sure to have a day when you can open and air out the kitchen. If there is an odor build up, do a deep clean and degreasing. Plan to repaint the kitchen annually.

Other living areas:

Furniture: Change of season is a good time to spot clean furniture, treat leathers with protective agents, and replace accent pillows to reflect the season. Touch up all scratches and dings in wooden furniture, and deep treat them with oils and polishes.

Television: Be sure to leave instructions for its use. If you have cable, leave the guest with a cable company phone number for trouble shooting (same goes for wifi access). Simply print the name, the owner’s name, account number, and access information for the guest. It will save you having to call when the cable is down. Leave instructions for the tv’s use, and we recommend preinstalling any connective cables on the back of a hanging TV, so that the renter (especially a long term rental) who may have gaming equipment or firesticks/ apple tv boxes, etc) can connect without removing your tv from the wall.

General: Smoke detector batteries. Replace them at least twice a year. Keep a calendar. Check for overloaded outlets and consider options. Service the HVAC units twice a year. Replace any rubber laundry hoses with galvanized. If you have a pool, or your guests have access to outdoor water sources, consider a fresh basket of pool towels by the door, along with an umbrella, shoe mats, coat hooks, etc.

Menus: Do provide a menu of services, destinations, attractions, and restaurants in the area for your guests: Take a look at seasonally reviewing these as businesses come and go, and many are seasonal. Consider updating by keeping an electronic file.


Furniture: Clean and check your grill. Replace rusted grill services. Make sure auto starters are working. Clean connections to gas tanks, etc. Replace worn cushions, and identify a good storage place for these items if winter temps suggest they’ll be damaged by the weather. Secure umbrellas from wind and storms, making it easy for your guests to use, but not a danger to the people or the property should a storm blow up.

Vegetation: Refresh potted plants with the change of each season, nodding to the opportunity to add curb appeal and reconfirm that your guest chose the right spot. Seasonally, go over the property to remove dead vegetation, replace failing, or trim back areas with too much growth.

Outdoor plumbing: Be sure with the seasons, you service yard sprinklers, pools, fountains, ponds, water features, and in cold climates, turn off outdoor faucets inside the house.

Front door: This is a good time to be sure they are working properly and serviced to manufacturers specifications. Have you upgraded to keyless entry systems? There are a number of models that interface automatically with the Airbnb and VRBO/HomeAway reservation system to make check-in/check-out easy as well as to have the ability to manage house access remotely from your smart phone, tablet or computer.

In closing, it is a great idea to keep a list of life expectancy for everything in the property, so that you can plan for replacements. As a general rule, kitchen appliances: 7-10 years depending upon level of use. HVAC components: 15-20 years. Water heaters: 10-15 years. Smoke detectors: 5-7 years. Mattresses: when used with rental property, depending upon your occupancy 2-4 years. Fire Extinguishers: Check manufacturers recommendations.

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