Tag Archives: manage bookings

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My eyes drooped constantly.

It was the first class after lunch, and the one in which I learned how to fake taking notes while I was really taking a nap: Intro to Logic.

Seriously, I took a Logics class in college.

And at some point in your life, you end up using what you learned in college, right? So here is my vacation rental logic for 2015:

Time is money.
Faster workflow with your property and guests saves time.
Save money with a more efficient workflow.

Therefore, I am declaring 2015 the Year of the More Efficient Workflow.

Top tools for your vacation rental workfowThe vacation rental industry has literally exploded in every which way, and a part of that explosion is in both new tools and improved old tools that help vacation rental owners with their properties and their guests.

Here is a good list of the top tools for 2015 to make your workflow go smoother, more efficient, and much faster, all from setting up, to marketing, to taking care of your guests throughout their stay with you.

Because time is valuable – for both you and your guests.

Property set up and design

When setting up a property for guests, it may at first seem just like setting up another home for your own family. But it’s not.

My two favorite sites to get the quick lowdown on what you need when setting up your vacation rental property are The Distinguished Guest and One Chic Retreat.

Before you set up the master bedroom, I suggest you read this post first.

Cleaning

Not everyone enjoys cleaning. I sure don’t. But if there is a gadget or a method to help me make it go faster, I am all for it.

Gadgets

Check out the Dyson DC44 Animal Handheld Cordless Vacuum. Makes cleaning under couches and all those baseboards a breeze. Definitely an investment of money, but it saves you time.

Communication

To make communication with your housekeeper more efficient, try creating a Google calendar with your reservations, color coded for each of your properties, and then privately share it with your cleaning team.

You can even add notes for each reservation and have Google send auto reminders.

Checklists

Not sure if your housekeeper always gets every one of the myriad of tasks done on the turn over days?

How about providing a cleaning checklist for your team to mark off tasks to double-check that all is taken care of…The Distinguished Guest and I created one for you – check it out here.

Marketing

Photography
The best method always is to hire a professional photographer.
Hands down.
I promise you.
Cross my heart.

But if that isn’t possible, you do have other options to hold you over until you can get a pro to your place.

- Host a Pro. Check out ShootStay to trade pro pics for a stay at your place.

- Shoot better photos yourself. You can pick up my eBook Create Killer Vacation Rental Property Photos – a Step-by-Step Guide for Owners at my site here.

Then also follow me to get tips (sign up here). Right now, you can read my tips so far here.

Copywriting

Mesmerize travelers with the description of your property…in a way that nearly hypnotizes them. Check out Heather Bayer’s eBook on how to do this.

Social Media

It’s here to stay and ever evolving. Whether you choose to interact with guests and travelers on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, or Instagram, just note that it is time to interact with them somewhere.

Learn the best practices in social media, along with how to boost your reach, with Alan Egan and his social media course Bookings Plus 4G.

Blogging

Have you started a blog for your property yet? There are two undeniably big reasons for vacation rental owners to blog about their property and the general area…here’s the logic:

Number one:
You create fresh content with a blog.
Google search engines like fresh content.
Google serves your blog to travelers searching for information on your area.

Hey – you got found!

Number two:
You provide extensive knowledge about your vacation rental property’s area.
Travelers search for information from an authoritative source.
Travelers trust you as a source.

Hey – you’ve gained authority (and got found again)!

Blogging builds your credibility as an owner and increases your authority on the area. What traveler is not attracted to an owner and a property that provides the information and service that creates a memorable experience?

Want to learn more about awesome blogging? Follow the great Ramsay at Blog Tyrant.

Video

Have you noticed that people in general would rather watch a video than read some text? Or maybe it’s also easier to explain something in person instead of writing it all down.

Myself, I made a quick video about how to use the Schlage lock on our front doors. (See it here.)

The lock is simple to operate, but I had found that guests would have trouble unlocking the door because they didn’t read the short buy phentermine directions I gave them. Now, I don’t get anymore phone calls about getting into the house.

And did you know that YouTube is one of the top search engines? It would be a very good marketing move to have a presence there.

Short videos with info about your property, the area, and you, the owner are another way to market your vacation rental property.

Guides

Whether you print and send it or have it hosted on the world wide web, a guide about your area and your property is another method to woo a traveler to become a guest.

Get some help to create a professional guide from Vacation Insiders.

Education

Blogs and podcasts

If you don’t already follow these vacation rental industry experts to learn from their experience, I highly encourage you to do so. Each leader has a different style of sharing, so enjoy their various approaches.

Summits (aka Conferences)

Whether you prefer to immerse yourself in front of your laptop to gain knowledge or to attend a gathering in person, vacation rental summits are an excellent way to further your business.

The Vacation Rental World Summit is an online summit with recorded presentations that you can view on your own time. Check out the VRWS site here for information on getting the 2014 videos and for when the 2015 Summit is announced.

The HomeAway Summit has grown over the last couple years into intense gatherings in various locations. You will find nuggets of information throughout the sessions, but what I enjoy the most is meeting other vacation rental owners and swapping stories, tips, and tricks.

Listing sites

Is it possible to have a successful vacation rental property without being on a listing site?

Yes.

However, there are many advantages to having your property on at least one listing site. This is another blog post in itself, so I’ll touch on only one big reason right now…

Your property is seen by more travelers (aka potential guests) if you are on a big listing site versus attempting to compete with other area properties with only your own website.

The big guys are:

Besides the big guys, check to see if there are any local area listing websites that travelers might come across during their travel search.

The easiest way to do this is to simply search for a vacation rental property like a traveler and then pay attention to what websites appear on the first page of your search results.

Personal Property Websites

Your own website is important in that you not only have your own piece of internet real estate, but that you also have a place to direct travelers to for additional information about your vacation rental property and the area.

Read more about setting up your own site away from the big listing sites at my blog post here.

Booking widgets

With the big push for travelers to be able to book vacation rental properties online, have you thought about the same feature for your own website?

See my blog post here about several options available.

Mobile apps

Not every guest uses apps, but every guest that does use apps will most likely appreciate an app from the vacation rental property they reserve.

But honestly, the main reason I began using an app for my places was to make my own guest workflow more efficient. The bonus side was that it highly increased my guests’ perception of my hospitality to them.

My New Year’s Eve guest this week specifically made a point to tell me how much he loved the app that I use for our place – that it was easy to use, made the property information convenient, and it was just awesome.

The apps available to owners currently are the following:

Save time with the tools I have listed above, and use that extra time to do something you love.

Maybe even go on a vacation yourself. You are in the business of selling time, you know, but you can enjoy time, too.

Time is something that is gone once it passes…you can never get it back.

Do you have a tool that increases your workflow efficiency? Fancy sharing it with me in the comments below?

I am always looking for ways to improve my workflow so I have more time to play laser tag with my boys or sit on the beach with a good novel in my hands.

By the way, the best way to stay on top of all the good stuff is to get on my vacation rental marketing email list.

You can sign up right here:


Tyann Marcink
Marcink Designs
Create Killer Vacation Rental Property Photos - eBook now available
The Ultimate Guide to Vacation Rental Photography - coming soon

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Have you taken the leap into online booking and embraced it for your vacation rental property yet?

Online Booking Widget Comparison - Vacation Rental Property - www.marcinkdesigns.com/blogThis month I had a website client, we will call him Mr. H,  request that online booking be added to the website that I had designed for his properties.

So, I delved into researching the best options that would work for his booking process and his website design.

My first stop was to look at WebChalet.com and MyVR.com. I already knew that both of these platforms had excellent online booking platforms and were easy to use.

However, both of these sites required that the property website be hosted on their server, and they did not offer a widget that I could simply install onto Mr. H's website. So, unfortunately, these two options, and others similar to them, would not work for him.

So I settled in for some nitty gritty research on a lot of options...eek! After sifting through the multitude of booking software available, I narrowed it down to the top 4 possibilities that would work for Mr. H.

Honestly, every single one of the options would work for Mr. H as far as online booking capabilities go. The goal, though, was to figure which ones would not just work, but also integrate with his current booking process while streamlining his workflow to save him time.

A few things about Mr. H and what I was looking for in the online booking widget:

- Booking requests cannot be automatically confirmed but have to be accepted by Mr. H after he gets a chance to look over the request. His properties are also listed on HomeAway and FlipKey, so he doesn't need a chance of accidentally double booking his place.

- The calendar must sync with his listings on HomeAway and FlipKey so that it all stays current with minimum effort from him.

- The booking request process must be easy and intuitive for the traveler entering their desired dates, seeing a total cost, and completing their info to make a booking request.

- The program must process payments safely, securely, and with current industry standards.

- Payments must have PayPal integration, Mr. H's preferred method of payment.

- The program must be geared towards small owners and not be too expensive, as Mr. H only has 4 properties but on 3 different websites since his places are in different locations in the world.

- Bonus would be to have the  ability for the guest to sign the rental agreement online during the booking process.

So here we go with a visual comparison chart of important features and then just a few points highlighted and summarized for each system (click here for a larger image). Note that each site has their own comprehensive description of several pages about their abilities, so it is not possible for me to go over all of the information and still keep this post a reasonable length.

Online Booking Widget Comparison Chart
*Features as best as I could research - note that the companies are always adding new features and improving current ones. Click here for a larger image.

Bookerville.com

This one has everything my client needs, plus several other cool features like a mobile friendly calendar. The best features are in the Pro version, and that is what Mr. H will need to get all of the capabilities that he wants.

With 4 properties, the Bookervillesystem would cost him $17.50 per month, or even less if he subscribes for two or more years at a time since they give a discount for advance payment.

Bookerville supports collecting a security deposit or damage insurance, or even giving the guest the option of choosing which method they would like to do.

On the automated emails, it is capable of sending everything from guest balance due, cleaning crew reminders, and arrival instructions, like the other three systems, but then you also receive a summary notice each night of what emails went out to your guests and support staff.

If you have buy doxycycline multiple properties, you can set up the automated inquiry response email to include your other available properties besides the one that a guest is inquiring about.

The Bookerville FlexMin is a valuable feature that will override your minimum night stay if there is a hole between bookings that doesn't fulfill the minimum night requirement.

There is even a housekeeping module for your cleaners to let you know from their smartphone when they have finished a property, as well as even upload photos of any damages.

More on Bookerville here.

Lodgix.com

Everything needed by my client, and it has an especially easy and clean back end user interface for the owner.

Lodgix also offers integrated accidental damage insurance and all seasons travel insurance with TravelGuard for your guests.

Other optional features for an additional fee include email marketing, employee tracking, and QuickBooks integration.

And another bonus for Lodgix is that they list your property for free on VacationRentalDirect.com ($99/year value).

More on Lodgix here.

MyVRZone.com

Fulfills all of Mr. H's needs, and it has a mobile version for Mr. H to utilize to respond to inquiries from his smartphone or tablet.

It also has email tracking built into the the dynamic templates to track if an email is opened and which links the guest clicks on within the email, which is pretty cool.

They also have a feature called the Guest Zone for your guests to log into to view their reservation status and payment information, as well as to download any documents you may have uploaded for them.

More on MyVRZone here.

VacationRentalDesk.com

This is the most expensive option of the four systems, but that is because it does include a snazzy property website, along with free web hosting and search engine optimization.

This is the only system I found that gives the option of using either their website or an embeddable widget on your own website.

It also has the mobile friendly calendar, which is a huge plus when so many travelers are using a mobile device to search for a vacation rental property.

In addition, VacationRentalDesk has a built in virtual terminal for you to manually input the credit card info if you have taken the payment information by phone or need to charge the guest's card. The receipts can be automatically emailed to the guest as well.

More on VacationRentalDesk here.

What about customer service with each of these companies?

When I called or emailed them, the owners themselves answered my questions.

As a small biz owner myself, I especially appreciate working with other small businesses.

As you will see when you check out each of the booking software options yourself, any one of these will be an excellent choice for the vacation rental owner with just a single property or a couple properties.

And, they all four expand their capabilities for owners with multiple properties so that an owner will have no issues adding to their inventory of properties in the system.

One more option I thought of...what if HomeAway made their Book It Now and inquiry forms available as embeddable widgets for owners to use on their personal websites?

What do you think?

What if HomeAway promised that the submitted information stayed out of their marketing system since the info was not collected on their site?

What if they promised that they would not recommend other properties to a traveler through this inquiry method?

What if HomeAway wanted to make both the owner and traveler experiences better overall to help further the vacation rental industry as a whole?

What If HomeAway Created a Better Experience for Both Owners and Travelers

Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

Note: To help me to provide you with valuable information and my kids with socks (my boys are hard on their socks), the links to Lodgix and Bookerville are affiliate links, and I appreciate when you use the links. For VacationRentalDesk, please put my name in the referral field. Thank you!

Tyann Marcink
Marcink Designs
Create Killer Vacation Rental Property Photos - eBook now available

P.S. Get my cool email newsletter with exclusive vacation rental marketing tips by signing up right here: