Prepare Your Holiday Home For Guests By Test Driving It!

This is something that every new holiday cottage owner must do before taking any paying guests; you must prepare your holiday home by testing driving it.
But even if you’ve been established for a while, how often do you stay in your holiday home?  I don’t mean visit it to check on the changeovers or meet suppliers, but actually stay there.  Once a year, once a month?  Likely, this will depend on how close you live to it, but you need to get into the habit of regularly staying there yourself, to test drive your holiday home.

In other words, to use it, to view it, to experience it as a guest.

You’ll be amazed by what you’ll learn from this experience.  And I should know. Last weekend I packed my overnight bag and headed off into the country on a mission which would ultimately help me prepare my holiday home for guests, in the best possible way.

To turbo charge the test drive I had to get inside the head of a guest, as if arriving and staying there for the first time.  Here’s the results of my test drive.

Getting There

plan and prepare your holiday home for guests arrival

NB: these are not the real keys!

I followed the directions implicitly that I provide to my guests. On the whole they worked but I noted a few extra signs and way markers that will be useful to include.  It also made me realise that it’s easy enough to find the village but once there it’s not so easy to find the cottage itself. So I need to be more specific on instructions for that.  Also, I arrived in the dark, something that many of my guests will do. The automatic outdoor light came on as it should but I struggled accessing the key in the dark because the light from the car headlights wasn’t enough, I needed to use my mobile phone’s torch.

My Action Steps:

  • Add more detail into the directions
  • Record a video of the journey from the village pub to the cottage
  • Remind guests to bring a torch or use the light from their phone to access the key safe

First Impressions

prepare your holiday home from the outside tooFrom the outside – great. The location is just how I describe it and although it was dark, I could see the cottage was well cared for.  The paintwork on the front door was neat and tidy and tended flower pots by the entrance gave a warm first impression.

Once inside I found the cottage to be beautifully clean (as you’d expect).  The welcome hamper was positioned prominently, so I was greeted with that straight away – perfect.

I walked quickly room to room as I’m sure my guests do on first arrival.  Most of the doors were shut, I’d rather they were ajar, to help with the flow and give guests that sneaky peak inside before they enter the room; to build the anticipation

My Action Steps:

Speak to the housekeeper – Ensure a couple of ground floor lamps are left on for guests arrival, to create a more welcoming atmosphere, plus guests don’t know where the light switches are!  Also I need to remind her to leave the room doors ajar.

While staying there

how to prepare your holiday homeNo surprise, the appliances all worked. I had a great night’s sleep due to the black out blinds and quality mattress and bed linen. The power shower was a delight and so too was the water temperature and the cottage’s effective heating system. I did note that the shower was slower to drain.  Nothing serious and a guest may not even notice it, but it needs attention.

Cleaning as previously mentioned on first impression was great but on closer inspection I noticed areas that had been missed – namely some dust on the wooden beams in the bathroom. Only visible if lying in the bath tub. Also I noticed finger prints on the glass in the twin room due to the angle of the sunlight.

The popular log burner just had to be lit. But I realised it’s not as easy to light as it appears. I need to write some instructions to get the best out of it  and leave a larger supply of fire lighters (not just matches) .

My stay did remind  me of what a delight the garden is and just how peaceful the cottage’s location is.

My Action Steps:

  • Draw up a schedule to test appliances, fixtures and fittings  including the shower monthly – add it to my housekeepers list during changeover and have a system for reporting back to me.
  • Cleaner – remind to add above the bath and internal window wiping into every clean.
  • Make the peace and tranquility of the cottage a key marketing message over the next few months.
  • Log burner -rewrite instructions to include using tightly rolled newspaper when setting the fire and to ensure the vents are open.

My test drive came to an end

And I didn’t want to leave (I hope guests feel like this too). I was ultra critical with myself and the cottage during this test drive, but this was the only way to get the most out of this experience.

If you’re just in the process of turning your holiday home into a holiday let then you MUST do this before you start taking paying guests. You need to iron out any snags and fix any issues, no matter how small, before they arrive. This exercise is equally important if your holiday rental business has been established for some years.

Create your own actions steps, as I did and of course you then must action them. I’d love to know how you get on. Please share your findings on my Facebook page. I wonder if any of your action steps will be the same as mine?

So pack your overnight bag, put the key in the ignition and off you go!