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Make Your Home an Inviting Vacation Rental

Thinking of renting your home or doing a home exchange while you travel? It’s a great way to make an extended stay in Europe more affordable. There are many aspects to setting up an Airbnb business or doing a home exchange, but in this post, I focus on some simple design changes to make your guests feel right at home.

Put yourself in your guests’ shoes

No matter how comfortable your home is for your everyday needs, you’ll need to take a fresh look at your space and make some key changes before taking photos and welcoming your first guests. We see our homes so often, we become blind to what’s really there. Walk into your home as if seeing it for the first time. Or enlist the help of a neighbor or friend. What’s their first impression? Would they choose this place for their vacation stay?

Most people choose an Airbnb or home exchange because they want the amenities that a home offers vs. a hotel, including a full kitchen, a homey feel with a unique décor, and perhaps some outdoor space. But they also want a tastefully decorated space where they can immediately feel at home. It’s a careful balance. Follow these steps with your guests’ needs and requirements in mind.

1) Depersonalize your space and clear the clutter

Store away family photos, personal items and knickknacks. You want your guests to feel like this is their home away from home, not like they are intruding on someone else’s personal space. The more of a blank slate you can create the better.

We all have a certain amount of clutter, especially when it comes to decorative and sentimental items. Too many décor items, from throws to bric-a-brac, can make a room appear cluttered and uninviting. Everything you leave out should serve a purpose for your guests. You might think guests will use that wicker basket to store their things, but trust me, they won’t.

A few decorative items provide a homey touch, but keep it minimal. Unless you are renting a house with huge rooms, reserve the decorations to walls and upper shelves and leave the flat services free for your guests to use. That means clearing off shelves, tabletops, coffee tables, bedside tables and kitchen counters. Remove all knickknacks from shelves so guests don’t have to worry about having to move items or risk breaking them. The last thing you want to do is make your guests feel like bulls in a China shop.

Another reason for decluttering and storing away personal items is that you don’t want to leave anything out that you would be heartbroken over if it were broken or went missing. If you’re in love with your China, pack it away before you rent and buy an inexpensive place setting for four at IKEA.

3) Make space for your guests and provide adequate storage space

Guests need space for their own things, both surface space and storage space. The more you can streamline your place, the more space you’ll create for your guests.


No matter how long your guests will be staying, they need a place to hang their clothes on hangers. Provide at least one closet, armoire or free-standing clothes rack per bedroom for your guests. Clear out all your personal items from this closet, leaving only items that guests might need, like an iron and ironing board, a space heater or a fan. Provide plenty of hangers, including pants hangers.

Provide drawer space in the bedroom, either a dresser drawer or two, or a drawer in a nightstand. If there is no space for a dresser, shelves are another option.


Even if your guests are staying for a while, they need a place to lay out their suitcase and unpack. And some travelers prefer to live out of their suitcase. Provide a bench, a desk, a dresser or table for suitcases. Be sure it’s a table that can survive a few scratches. Or invest in two foldable luggage racks.


You can never have enough hooks. Install hooks in the bedroom for bathrobes and clothes. Install them on the back of doors and by your front door if you don’t have a hall closet. My entry closet is now a locked supply cabinet, so I installed a row of hooks by the front door for coats and an umbrella.

In the bathroom, provide enough towel bars and hooks to accommodate the number of guests you will be hosting. Include a hook for hanging a toiletry bag and for hanging a robe or clothes.

Surface areas

As I stated above, clear away unnecessary items on surfaces so your guests have room for their things. Leave only the essentials, like a couple of coasters and the remote on the coffee table and a box of facial tissue and a small bowl for jewelry on the nightstand.

I recently stayed in an Airbnb with a tiny kitchen and minimal counter space and I spent an hour clearing away all the unnecessary decorative bowls, souvenirs, funny signs, etc. from the counter so I could have even a small space to prepare my meals. Especially in smaller homes, allow guests to utilize every possible surface.


Remove all personal items from your bathroom and find another place to store your toiletries while you are away. Use this opportunity to clean out bathroom cupboards, and toss out old toiletries and ones you no longer use.

Provide enough surface area for your guests’ toiletries. If you don’t have a large vanity or a medicine cabinet, you might add a shelf or two.

4) Provide proper lighting

The right lighting can make or break the way guests feel in your home. Too much fluorescent and/or overhead lighting makes a space feel cold. There are three types of lighting, and every room needs all three light sources:

  • General lighting, which is usually the overhead light and lamps that provide enough light to walk around safely.

  • Task lighting, which helps you perform certain tasks like cooking and reading.

  • Accent lighting, which spotlights small areas of a room and provides a warm glow.

The area of lighting most vacation rentals lack is task lighting. Does your kitchen have adequate illumination under the cupboard or over the stove lighting? Do you have a reading lamp in the living room and by the bed? A short, 40-watt lamp is not enough light to read by. A reading light is either a floor lamp, a tall desk lamp or a lamp set on a high nightstand or dresser. It needs to be at least 60-watts, but better to use a 3-way bulb so the lamp can be an accent light when needed or a 100-watts when guests need to read.

Worth the investment

Whether you plan to rent your place or do a home exchange a few days or a few months each year, these tips will help you create a comfortable, inviting stay for future guests. It takes an investment of time and money to transform your space into an inviting holiday home. But the investment will pay off with higher ratings and happy guests. And more travels for you! In the coming weeks, I’ll be highlighting other aspects of a successful vacation rental business.



Hi, I’m Lori Cronwell. As a writer and frequent traveler, I admire the values most Europeans embrace: choosing quality over quantity; residing in smaller, more sustainable homes; working less and spending more time with friends and family.

Those values were key in my decision to drastically downsize to a 700 sq. ft. accessory dwelling unit (ADU) with the goal of creating a simpler, more sumptuous life with time for travel.

Slow travel, that is. Spending more time in one place — even if it’s just a week. You'll not only spend less, you'll discover a deeper and more meaningful travel experience.

Please subscribe below and join me on a journey to find affordable ways to explore Europe in the slow lane and to live a more European lifestyle every day of our lives.

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