With holiday rentals it’s the little things that make a difference to your stay, the thoughtful extras that can set one property apart from the next, and help to make an experience special.
When you check into a hotel, you come to expect certain amenities depending on the class of hotel you’ve booked. Hotel ratings exist to give you an idea as to the standard of facilities and what you can expect to find in your room, so there are generally no surprises.
At a minimum, you expect some toiletries, a mini bar, and tea and coffee-making facilities. You might then find yourself getting excited by little things like beautiful bath crystals, a fluffy robe, glossy magazines, or a good bottle of wine and quality wine glasses.
With holiday rentals, however, there is no rating system, so everything is a surprise.
While it’s nice not to have any expectations and therefore, theoretically, no disappointments, there are some basics that, after almost four months staying in holiday rentals as part of our year-long grand tour, we have come to expect and believe every host should provide. And then there are the little things that can really make a difference to a stay.
Our HomeAway home in Sardinia is the inspiration for this post, although this is a subject we’ve been mulling for some years, to be honest. In Sardinia, Casa Teulada is one of those properties crammed with so many treats intended to make your stay as comfortable, enjoyable and as special as possible, that you can’t help but be delighted whenever you open a drawer or cupboard.
So what are the basics that we have come to expect in a holiday rental and why should the owner provide these things?
Toilet paper, soap, towels
We’re not asking for a six-pack, just one roll, please. After a long flight and a taxi ride, some things simply can’t wait for a trip to the supermarket, and do you really want guests with dirty hands opening the fridge afterwards? And, yes, we have stayed in a couple of properties where not even a single roll was provided. At the very least, provide one cake of soap, one towel per person and a hand towel.
It’s no fun arriving late at night, or on a Sunday when shops are closed, only to have to wake in the morning and get organized without a cup of caffeine. Hotels offer breakfast or are at least in the vicinity of a café where you can buy breakfast, but some holiday rentals are located in the countryside or suburbs where there aren’t shops on every corner. Coffee, tea, a loaf of bread, butter and jam is all that’s needed. However, go with the local customs and local produce if you want to offer a more memorable breakfast. Here in Sardinia, Antonio and Christina left us Nutella and Italian biscuits, in London we were left delicious free-range eggs.
Sugar, salt and pepper
People staying in holiday rentals often love to shop the local markets and love to cook, or at the very least, they like to buy nice local bread, cheeses and cold cuts. Leave them some salt and pepper for their tomatoes and to season their meals, and sugar so they don’t have to buy some. We find we never use all of what we’ve bought and leave a lot behind. These things are cheap, so cost owners little, and can be stored for a long time. Here in Sardinia, our hosts provide both fine and coarse-grained salt! But they’re Italian.
Holiday rental owners who love food know how to fit out kitchens. In London, Dubai and Ceret, we had every kind of kitchen utensil conceivable, from wooden spoons and whisks to spatulas and graters, along with plenty of plates, glasses, cutlery, and pots and pans. In Sardinia, Antonio and Christina provide all the basics plus they have a secret stock of supplies that they make available to foodies who they know will appreciate them. All of these owners enjoy eating and entertaining and it shows. However, we’ve stayed at properties where not even bowls were provided.
So what are the basics? If cooking is not your thing, you can’t go wrong with an IKEA dinnerware starter kits (or two), which includes big white plates, bread plates, bowls, cups, and glasses. IKEA also has sets of utensils and pots and pans.
We’d also add good knives, including a bread knife, a bottle opener, can/tin opener, wooden spoon, tongs, scissors, mortar and pestle, bread board, colander, grater, a tea-pot, an Italian espresso-maker and espresso cups to our essentials list. Fit out the kitchen the way you would your own.
And don’t forget to provide the most basic of kitchen essentials like a plug for the sink, dishwashing liquid, a cleaning cloth, and tea-towels. Think you might have forgotten something? Stay a few days and you’ll soon find out.
THE LITTLE EXTRAS
These are things that aren’t essential, but they’re things that make a difference to the guest experience and show them that you care.
Bottle of local wine/champagne/beer
Could there be a nicer gesture to welcome people to your home? Your guests have had a long journey, and with everything travelers have to deal with these days from volcanoes to airline strikes, it’s probably been a stressful one. Who doesn’t feel like a drink? See it also as an opportunity to highlight local produce and show off your destination. Here in Sardinia, Antonio and Christina left us a bottle of wine from Santadi winery, a 15-minute drive away, along with local cheese and crostini.
Thoughtful extras include an ice bucket, ice containers in the freezer, a range of good wine glasses, beer mugs and champagne flutes, and a cocktail shaker.
Include the sort of items you like to have at home. Imagine what would come in handy if you were taking your own family away and cooking for a group. Think: paper towels, utensils like a peeler, soup ladle, a sieve, a potato masher, meat thermometer, a rustic juicer, etc. An apron can come in handy. A nutcracker is a nice thought, especially around Christmas time, as is an egg poacher if you’re offering good local free-range eggs, a fish scaler if the house is near the beach. Think about the local specialties and what people will need to cook and eat them.
No matter how many great restaurants there might be in the neighbourhood, if your guests have arrived late or after a long journey they might be tired, jet-lagged or just don’t feel like going out. Leave the basic ingredients so they can whip up a quick meal: pasta and a can of tomatoes or pasta sauce is the best thing. In Sardinia, our hosts also provided olive oil, onions and garlic, a local specialty, bottaga, and even a Sardinian cookbook to give us some ideas.
In the days of 20-kilo luggage allowances, even less for low cost airlines, and restrictions on taking liquids on board planes, some basic hotel-size toiletries will be appreciated the first day, especially by families or people who are settling in for a while who intend to buy large-size products when they get to a supermarket. If you really want to make an impression buy some products from a local specialty producer or handmade soaps from the local markets.
People need down time, even when they’re staying in some of the world’s most engaging cities, or it may be that the weather is unexpectedly miserable and they’re just not in the mood for battling the same rain they do at home, families might want to bond over board games, or groups of friends are fed up with charades… games, books, magazines, DVDs and CDs will all be appreciated.
Picnic baskets, cookbooks, hot water bottles and bicycles… some holiday rental owners think of everything. The properties we stayed at in Ceret, London and Dubai were also impressive when it came to attention to detail. Like Casa Teulada, they not only offer the basics above, intended to make their guests’ lives a little easier, but also offer little luxuries that make a stay really special. At the London property, we had an iPod docking station and espresso machine; Dubai had a TV room with entertainment system, video games and DVDs; and in Ceret there were guidebooks, maps, decks of cards, dice and board games. In Paris, the DVDs, CDs and books were Paris-themed.
Have you stayed in a holiday rental before or are you planning to? If so, what are some of the things that really impressed you and what are the things you expect next time? If you are an owner of a holiday rental, we’d love to hear what you think too. What are the essentials that you provide? Is there something unusual you offer that sets your property apart from the rest?