How to Create the Perfect Short-Term Rental Guidebook (And Why You Should)

A short-term rental guidebook is a reference tool that enables guests to make the most of their time at your property. Previously called a house manual, a guidebook tells guests how to check in and out, use the appliances and amenities, and adhere to safety protocols. Additionally, it provides helpful details about local attractions, restaurants, shopping, and convenience stores.

For your guests, a short-term rental guidebook can alleviate many of their concerns, especially if they are staying with you for the first time. For you, the host, a guidebook can efficiently answer common questions and potentially avoid unnecessary house calls during your guests’ stay. While its primary function is to inform, your vacation rental guidebook is also an opportunity to show off your property and share its unique personality and features.

Choosing a Format

Depending on your preference and budget, guidebooks can be:


• Pros: A paper guidebook gives guests quick access to information. It’s easy and relatively inexpensive to keep updated.
• Cons: Paper guidebooks need to be replaced often as they may accidentally leave with guests or become damaged. Typically, guests don’t receive these until arrival so you’ll still need to send some information, like check-in procedures and directions, ahead of time.

Digital Files:

• Pros: Digital files, such as PDFs and electronic documents, are easy to update and can be sent to guests before arrival to alleviate some pre-trip anxieties.
• Cons: Guests may not bring a printed copy or be able to find the electronic file when they arrive. Just in case, you’ll need a spare paper copy at the site.

Online Pages:

• Pros: Increasingly popular, an online guidebook is essentially a website for your property. Guests can access it before and during their trips via a computer or mobile phone. Fees to update are usually minimal.
• Cons: There are upfront costs for creating and hosting your website or using a third-party site.

Sections for Your Guidebook

Once you’ve chosen a format, you’ll want to focus on what is included in your guidebook. Below are typical sections and why you need them:
1. Welcome: This section includes a warm greeting from you and tells guests how to use the guidebook most effectively.

Pro Tip: Some guests will only read the welcome section and flip to other sections as needed, so point out key sections in your welcome message.

2. Arrival: Your guests will need to know how to get in! Also tell them: check-in time, directions, and parking information and restrictions.

3. About the Property: This is an important section that tells your guests everything included in your property and how to use gadgets and tools, e.g., Wi-Fi, appliances, TV, security system, and equipment. You may include what is stocked in the pantry and cleaning closet so guests know what to pack. Garbage/recycling procedures, safety protocols, and the cleaning schedule are also helpful for your guests to know.

Pro Tip: Remember, guests may skim through this section at first and only return to it if they cannot find or operate something. If you thoroughly cover your bases here, you’ll likely avoid the need for your guests to call you with questions.

4. Guide to Local Activities, Restaurants, Shopping, and More: Your guests will appreciate details on local attractions, dining, and conveniences, like gas stations and grocery stores. Include photographs and links to websites when you can.

5. Departure: In addition to check-out times, let guests know the checkout procedures, e.g., stripping the beds, running the dishwasher, setting the alarm, etc. Ask for feedback on their stay, encourage them to leave reviews, and provide ways to stay connected with them.

While it does take some work to create a thorough guidebook, it is well worth the investment. A well-written guidebook will relieve your guests’ anxiety, save you time, and show off the unique features of your property for repeat visits or referrals.

Alana Calhoun is a digital marketing and branding consultant with extensive experience in the short-term rental market. Her passion lies in helping rental property business owners increase occupancy rates and grow their repeat business. She is also a tiny house enthusiast, accomplished speaker, and promoter with ConTech. If you need help with your guidebook, or any component of your short-term rental business, Alana and her network of industry experts can help!

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