4 Vacation Rental Upgrades That Convince Travelers to Book

The Evolve Team
The Evolve Team
March 9, 2018

Did you know that even the smallest update to your vacation rental can boost your bookings and increase your income?

Vacation rental owners are often a little hesitant to invest in upgrades to their second homes. They’re not confident the improvements will get them more bookings, and they don’t want to spend money unnecessarily.

While these are fair concerns, Evolve’s Performance Team has found over and over again that owners who make small vacation rental upgrades to their properties see a marked increase in both their rate of booking and positive reviews.

When your property receives more bookings and 5-star reviews, you have the opportunity to raise your rates and recoup the money spent on vacation rental upgrades.

That means your investment doesn’t just provide an immediate return in more frequent bookings – it actually improves the rate your property can command for bookings in the future!

Starting to see the virtue in a quick upgrade to your home? Here are a few home improvements that will help you get the best return on your investment.

1. Create the Perfect Kitchen

One of the biggest reasons that travelers choose vacation rentals over hotels is because they want to have a full kitchen to cook in.

Guests want to be able to prepare meals for themselves and entertain in your rental – making it feel like a perfect home away from home.

This means that a kitchen with updated appliances, a table to dine on, and silverware-stocked drawers can lead to rave reviews, while an outdated kitchen with no room to eat and no supplies to use may leave you with an empty calendar.

Does your rental have ancient cabinets with chipped doors? Perhaps it’s time to invest in new ones. Linoleum looking the worse for wear? You might consider upgrading to a more durable (and attractive) tile or wood flooring. Is the kitchen poorly lit? Invest in some under-cabinet lighting to brighten things up.

Overhauling a kitchen entirely isn’t always the best route. On top of the potentially huge cost, a full renovation can take a long time, and you want your property to be available for rent. By blocking off a week or two to add some quick upgrades and updates, you’ll more than make up for the time and money spent with bookings and happy guests.

The kitchen below is a prime example of how you can “renovate” without completely renovating. Those are the same cabinets and countertops, but the owner has invested in a tasteful colored paint, installed better lighting, and upgraded the floor. Which do you think would be more likely to land a booking?

When travelers rave about your kitchen in their reviews, you’re one step closer to commanding higher nightly rates for your property. Prospective travelers browsing through listings will want to cook in your beautiful kitchen, too – especially now that they hear such great things from those who have tried it!

2. Upgrade Your Bedrooms

Your guests may be wooed to book by the kitchen, but the feature that will have the biggest impact on their stay is the bedrooms.

If your guests have a bad night’s sleep because of an old mattress, itchy sheets, or too much light – you can bet that those poor experiences are going to show up in your reviews.

When it comes to bedding, you want to give your guests the luxury of a hotel bedroom in the comfort of a vacation rental. Linen sheets, comfortable mattresses, fluffy duvets, extra pillows – all of these are necessities for a great guest experience in your home’s bedroom(s).

If you’re looking to go above and beyond for your guests, you’ll need to focus on more than just the bed. Purchase blackout curtains for some shade from the sun on sleepy mornings. If there isn’t an outlet close to the bed, supply an extension cord. Touches like these will show the guest that you had their comfort in mind when outfitting your vacation rental.

Take one of our current owners, Steve, for example. He has a gorgeous property in Breckenridge, Colorado. He already had nice bedrooms, but he invested in beautiful linens, furniture upgrades, and side lamps to make them even more comfortable for guests.

Before and after photos of vacation rental bedroom with upgraded furniture and decor

He also upgraded a twin bedroom to include bunk beds ideal for visiting children, freeing up space in the room to provide a bureau, lamp for the kids to read by, and a chair for Mom or Dad.

Before and after photos of kids bedroom with bunk beds and upgraded furniture

Check out the difference! These vacation rental upgrades noticeably make each room feel more homey. While the previous furniture was adequate for a traveler’s basic needs, it now looks as if each room was more deliberately designed. If the travelers can see themselves “at home” in your vacation home, they’re infinitely more likely to book your property.

There’s a further bonus to comfortable, well-furnished bedrooms: great traveler reviews. When travelers feel at home in your vacation rental, they’re more likely to give you a fantastic review – which ultimately gives you the leverage to raise your nightly rates.

3. Make Your Bathrooms Shine

Bathrooms are often the last rooms in the house to get an upgrade. Renovations can be pricey and a shower’s a shower, after all – as long as it’s clean, the hot water works and the plumbing functions, you won’t get many complaints.

Is a boring bathroom bad enough to warrant a negative review? No. But it’s often enough to dampen their enthusiasm sufficiently that when you ask for a positive review, they decide they didn’t have a nice enough experience to leave one.

So how can you upgrade your bathroom without getting into an expensive renovation project?


    • Invest some money into making sure your water pressure and plumbing are up to date

    • Repair any small cracks or chips in the fixtures

    • If the floor is looking weathered, consider replacing it

    • Give the walls a fresh coat of pain if they’re looking drab or dark

    • Install brighter, more attractive lighting

    • Buy large, absorbent, spa-quality towels

    • Consider adding small touches like candles, nice-smelling soaps, or bath robes to make your guests feel special

Want a bathroom upgrade that allows you to charge a higher nightly rate? Consider making your bathroom ADA handicap-accessible, like Evolve owner Donna. That feature isn’t common among vacation rentals, and those who need handicap-accessible vacation rentals will be grateful.

4. Don’t Forget The Exterior

When guests pull up to your property, they are expecting it to look exactly like – if not better – than the pictures you provided online. If they are disappointed and feel scammed by what they see, their trip will be off to a terrible start.

To ensure that guests don’t have a bad first impression, and to give your rental a helpful upgrade, don’t neglect the outdoors.

Upgrades to the front yard

A fresh coat of paint can do wonders for your rental, and house numbers that are in clear view can lead to a seamless check in. Both of these additions are simple to handle, and  tend to be inexpensive.

If you’re looking to take on an even bigger project than just paint, look into refreshing your landscaping or purchasing some attractive, sturdy outdoor furniture. The more you can do to make the front of your home well-kept and welcoming, the better!

Upgrades to the backyard

Turning your backyard into an oasis for relaxation, play and gathering is a great way to improve your guests’ experience and can lead to good reviews. There is a lot you can do to turn your backyard into your guests’ favorite part of your rental. Big investments such as pools and hot tubs can allow you to raise your rates significantly because they are such a sought-after amenity, while smaller vacation rental upgrades such as fire pits and adirondack chairs will improve your reviews. Check out our detailed article on updating your backyard if you’re in search of some inspiration.

What Will It Cost?

Any one of these vacation rental upgrades might cost between $50-$10,000, depending on your home and what level of investment you’re considering.

It can get expensive, but it doesn’t have to. Setting aside a little bit of money every time you make a booking is a great way to save up for these upgrades and make an investment in your future as a vacation rental owner. Just remember: every upgrade provides a return on investment!

Some upgrades, like a pool or hot tub, can provide an immediate return. Others provide more subtle, but still tangible, returns.

You’ll always be glad to get more bookings, but bookings where the traveler has an excellent experience pays three times: once in rental income, once in amazing reviews, and once in the ability to raise rates.

Great reviews give you freedom to raise your rates, because new travelers can see that those who came before them thought your vacation rental was well worth the price.

More bookings, better reviews, and ultimately higher nightly rates. What do you think? Aren’t those vacation rental upgrades worth the cost of investment?

Our team of experts is always on hand to help you get the most out of vacation rental ownership.

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