Lessons from The Overlook: Why You Should Be a Good Guest

Note: Lessons from The Overlook is a monthly update on lessons learned from owning a vacation rental property in the Southern California mountain town of Idyllwild. It's a hands-on opportunity to apply some of the techniques I advise my clients to use. You can find past updates here.

 The couch has three decorative pillows. They often get moved around to different parts of the house. On a recent inspection, one was in the living room, one was on the patio couch, and one was over the side railing.

The couch has three decorative pillows. They often get moved around to different parts of the house. On a recent inspection, one was in the living room, one was on the patio couch, and one was over the side railing.

One of the chores Sally and I do on our regular maintenance visits to The Overlook is count the dishes and glasses. We make two discoveries nearly every time:

  1. At least one glass is missing.

  2. Some dishes and glasses are dirty.

It's a minor inconvenience for us. We immediately replace any missing or broken dishes or glassware, and we clean any that need cleaning.

I understand that guests won't always clean dishes, report minor damage, or even put things back where they found them. My true worry is how this impacts the next guest.

What some people don't understand when they rent a vacation home is it is genuinely a home, not a hotel. 

Our property manager, Idyllwild Vacation Cabins, does a terrific job maintaining the cabin and keeping it clean and tidy. Yet it's simply not feasible for the cleaning crew to inspect every dish like we do, or to memorize the location of every piece of furniture, blanket, kitchen tool, and knick-knack in the house.

So a dirty dish that's hidden on the bottom of the stack in the cupboard will gross out the next guest who finds it. A broken glass that's unreported will mean the next guest will have to make do with one fewer. The puzzle pieces dumped in a drawer will create extra work for the next guest who wants to work a puzzle.

And the blankets moved to different rooms might stay there, meaning someone else's grandma is going to be cold on a winter night. You don't want grandma to freeze, do you?

If you rent a vacation home, my advice is to treat it like you were staying in a friend's home. Chances are, you'd earnestly want to be a good houseguest.

Here are a few tips that can help you avoid inconveniencing the next guests:

  • Report damage, no matter how small, so it can be fixed for the next guest. 

  • Put everything back where you found it, or as near as you can remember.

  • Clean and dry dishes before you put them away.

  • Take out trash and avoid littering.

  • Follow the check-out instructions precisely. 

We try not to ask too much of our guests. If you break a glass, you won't be charged for the replacement. When you check out, you can even leave the sheets on the bed and the towels in the bathroom. (Many vacation rentals ask you to start a load of laundry.)

The goal is to ensure you have a great time, and our next guests have a great time, too. Here's a positive example from one of our last guests. 

The guests reported that the upstairs toilet would occasionally continue running after it was flushed. This not only wastes water, it creates a hassle for guests who have to jiggle the handle or even take the lid off the tank to get it to stop.

They reported the issue to our property manager, and the toilet was fixed by the time the next guests checked in.