I have always felt that until you work in the service industry, you will never have full compassion and empathy for those who serve you while you are on vacation. When I decided to join my husband in the world of hospitality, it was a very exciting leap for me. Over the years, I watched him enviously as he worked at beautiful hotels that offered employee perks while I struggled through the day to day of social services that offered low pay and high stress. When we found ourselves in the middle of the Colorado Rockies and my husband continued to grow his career in hospitality, I decided to leave social work. The opportunities for me were slim in the mountains, so joining the hospitality industry was a smart move. Initially, I was excited about this new venture until I realized… hospitality is its own form of social work.
While my husband worked for large companies that managed vacation rentals, I learned the industry quickly and joined forces with a small local company to manage vacation rentals in Summit County (Breckenridge area for those unfamiliar). Winters are hectic and summers are becoming just as busy. Unless it’s shoulder season, I am balancing several tasks and running around town making sure owners, guests and my housekeepers are happy. And in the midst of my chaotic days, I am recognizing patterns among travelers that make me shake my head in confusion.
Let’s get to the bottom line: people are weird. And they are super weird when they’re on vacation.
These patterns, I’m realizing, is a shift in the way we travel. With the rise of more people opting for VRBO and Airbnbs, the expectations in a private home are beginning to exceed the expectations of a hotel. On a personal note, I prefer hotels over vacation rentals because I have my own set of preferences. I like having housekeeping come in during my stays to make my bed, I like having a front desk or concierge available when I need something or have a question, and I like consistency among certain hotel brands which sets my expectations for the stay. When I do find myself in a vacation rental, I am aware that I am in someone else’s home and I need to treat it that way.
Oddly, I’m finding that guests in Airbnbs and VRBO are setting their expectations high and treating private homes like hotels. This obviously doesn’t apply to very high-end rentals where luxury and extra service is provided and expected. I’m talking about normal, middle-class houses and condos where the rates are ultimately a better deal than staying at the local hotel. The guests to these homes are often rude, disrespectful and expect to be treated like the queen of freaking England.
I’m beginning to find that the person to person respect is often overlooked and I can’t help but wonder, is this the future of tourism? The ego-centeredness of budget tourists are starting to drive me nuts and in an effort to get this message across (and honestly to vent), I’ve come up with this list on how to be a good guest on Airbnb/VRBO.
1. Don’t Complain About Prices
Here’s a thought: if you can’t afford it, don’t book it. Can you imagine calling hotels to yell at them about their nightly rate, or walking into a restaurant just to complain about the price of a dish? It sounds absurd, but this happens on both Airbnb and VRBO. One time, a man from a small town in Kansas sends me a message asking why the price for December is triple the price of the nightly rate in October. Um, because October is shoulder season and December is in the midst of the holidays and ski season. Basic economics, supply and demand, or common sense all came to mind. I mean, do I really need to explain myself? I’ve had people send me rude messages, literal fighting words because they didn’t like my prices. And every single time, I am dumbfounded by the entitlement of these potential guests.
Overall, there are hotels, motels and other vacation rentals in the area. Choose something that fits your budget. There is no reason to harass people in places you can’t afford. Also, you get what you paid for. If you’re comparing my rentals to a place down the street that is cheaper but with the same sleeping capacity, think about why it may be more expensive to stay with me. I have five-star reviews, I leave a welcome basket with wine and chocolates, I assist with planning itineraries, our beds and linens are comfortable, I provide coffee pods and water bottles, I buy nice toilet paper, and so on… if you don’t want to stay with me, then move on to the next.
2. Factor Cleaning Fees Into Your Budget
About a year ago, I came across an article about housekeeping fees and how hosts are supposedly trying to make revenue by tacking on a high cleaning fee to the overall rate. A woman in the article was outraged by the cleaning fee for her vacation rental in Switzerland because it was significantly more than what she pays her housekeeper in Portland.
Wait… so a woman who can afford a Swiss vacation and has a housekeeper for her personal home is complaining about prices? And why are we comparing Switzerland and Portland? The entitlement in the article made me want to vomit.
Let’s put this into context. I live in a ski town where hospitality and tourism is the primary industry. Housing is very limited due to the expansion of STRs (short term rentals aka Airbnb). The housing shortage has caused prices to soar! Simple condos are as high as the $700’s, homes are at least a million, and renting a room can be $1000 and up! Most of the workforce in these towns depend on tourism to survive. This is why you need to pay your server a decent tip and this is why your housekeeper needs to be paid a livable wage. I’m sorry (not sorry) if you think everything is expensive including service during your ski vacation, but without the workers, these ski towns wouldn’t survive.
When I hire a housekeeper, we agree upon a flat rate clean. I mark up each clean by $10 to pay for supplies such as paper towels, soaps, and shampoos. Some bigger companies will mark up cleans to make revenue, but many of us, like myself are giving the money directly to the housekeepers. If you think you’re being bamboozled, check nearby rentals and see what they are charging, but also keep in mind, you can’t compare housekeeping rates to your hometown. Take into consideration the cost of living, make a decision and work the fee into your budget.
3. Communicate With Your Host
For the most part, my guests are great at communicating with me. After booking, I always send a thank-you note along with information on when I will be sending the home/check-in instructions. Very recently, I’ve had a string of silent guests and as a host, I found that to be very concerning.
Example one: I had one lady who didn’t reply to any of my messages. The last I had heard from her was several months prior to her arrival when she said she was going to be in town for a wedding. After sending her check-in information and sending a message making sure she got into the home, I began to worry. Did she make it? Did she somehow scam me? Is the home currently getting robbed? I sent another message before check-out and again, no response. My anxiety was definitely heightened during her stay because this behavior was unusual compared to my other guests. A simple, “got it, thanks!” would have been appreciated.
Example two: I had a guest who reached out several times the morning of check-in asking if she could check-in early. This was in the middle of the busy ski season, and with one guest checking out that same morning, I couldn’t guarantee housekeeping would be ready before 3 PM. I reached out to my housekeepers and assured the guest I would keep her in the loop. By 1 PM, after yet another text from this lady, I ran over to the house to see if it was ready and completed a final inspection. I then had to create another door code since the code I provided wouldn’t work until 3. I reached out to the guest, gave her another door code and sent my usual “let me know if you need anything during your stay”.. but once I had given her the green light to arrive early, I didn’t hear from her until…
A week after checkout when she left the home its first bad review. The title read, “goog place” with a 3-star review that stated, ” nice place, but the sheets were dirty in the upstairs bedroom…” and I was freaking LIVID. Not only did she not have the decency to spell check her review, but after she inconvenienced my day to let her in early, she didn’t bother to reach out to tell me that she thought the sheets were dirty. I took a day to calm down and think about my response. I just said…”I wish you would have told us about the issue so we could have fixed it for you.” She had been in contact with me that day and ultimately, it wasn’t fair that she didn’t give us a chance to make the correction. Because of this guest, the rating on this property dropped and I had to fire the housekeepers who serviced the home that day.
4. Respect House Rules
Depending on the location of the rental, the rules will vary, but overall the message is to be respectful of the home. My company provides housekeeping and maintenance to homes that are managed by larger companies who outsource their work and I have found that property managers such as these, who have a more hands-off approach and the inability to leave guest reviews, are susceptible to disrespectful guests.
I have walked into homes where parties occurred despite the rules. I have found fur and dog medication in homes where pets are not allowed. I have also witnessed homes packed way overcapacity, the most recent issue where 50 full-size bags of trash filled the garage where bears are active and prone to breaking into homes. I have seen dreadlocks cut and thrown into sinks, feces smeared on the top of toilets, food and dishes piled high in rooms other than the kitchen. And every time this happens, I stand there in disgust wondering if these people live in filth in their own homes. I think the message is clear here, be respectful of the home. Follow the rules and clean up after yourself.
5. Know What To Expect From Your Destination
If you’re heading to the mountains in winter, be prepared for winter conditions. It’s amazing to me how many people will blame their Airbnb host when their 2WD Honda gets stuck in the snow. The argument is always, “but the listing doesn’t say we should have 4 wheel drive”, and that argument makes everyone roll their eyes. Unless a listing is down a dirt road in the woods or has an extremely steep driveway, no one is going to include a warning in their description because not only is it common sense, it’s also the law to have a capable 4WD, AWD and snow tires in Colorado. Also, if you’re here when it’s snowing, be prepared to shovel. Most property managers will shovel decks and walkways, and plow driveways prior to guest arrival but if it keeps snowing during your stay, you can’t sit around waiting for someone to do it for you! Grab a shovel and be proactive, just make it a part of your mountain experience!
To sum it up, I could go on and on about this. I haven’t even mentioned the guests who expected fresh towels every day and refused to use the washer and dryer in the unit. Or the guest who called in and complained that the birds outside were too loud, or the woman who complained the air was too thin in the condo and demanded a refund. Yeah, I’m not even kidding.
The message here is, be kind! Being an entitled jerk will not get you anything extra, but I guarantee nice, responsible, communicative guests not only get perks with the host, but a great vacation to go with it. Any thoughts on my list? Am I out of line or totally on point? Let me know!