Make Your Vacation Rental Shine

Local Touches and Instagrammable Details

Credit: Courtesy

As travel returns to our semi-post-pandemic life, what we are seeking in a vacation has altered. Despite spending so much time at home during 2020, I’m craving a slowed-down getaway with all the comforts of home. Certainly, I can’t be alone. 

Not surprisingly, bookings of vacation rentals rose at a faster rate than bookings at hotels, according to a study done in August of last year. Great news for owners of short-term rentals, but if you want to keep it booked regularly and command a hefty nightly rate, you’ve got to put in some effort. Here are my top five tips to help you differentiate your rental property so it stands out above the rest:

Credit: Courtesy of Rebecca Farmer

1. Provide local amenities. Guests are coming to the Santa Barbara area to enjoy our top-notch climate, dining, beaches, wine, and more, so greet them with local treats they won’t find elsewhere. Stocking your rental home with towels and robes from The Riviera Towel Company, soaps from Santa Barbara Company, or truffles from Jessica Foster Confections will go a long way in helping guests feel they are getting a true local experience. Be sure to include close-up photos of these amenities on your website or vacation rental listing.

Also, many travelers are looking for unique gifts to bring home, so you win extra karma points for including a list of your favorite local shops and businesses in your welcome guide! Details matter, and people will remember these touches when they’re writing a review or telling their friends back home.

2. Make your rental Instagrammable. Yes, that’s a word now. Statistics show that millennials make up about 60 percent of all guests who have ever booked Airbnbs, and this means they will likely capture their stay on social media. Give your listing a competitive edge by providing features which become the backdrop for great photos. Guests will love posting selfies while cooking pizza in your outdoor pizza oven or riding your beach cruisers along the bike path. Don’t forget to mention your business social media handles in your welcome guide so guests can tag you!

3. Decorate your property for your guest. Many travelers are looking for modern, neutral homes with minimal decor. If your short-term rental is a studio or bungalow, decorating with a boho beach vibe will help attract younger travelers. Alternatively, if your vacation rental is a four-bedroom home with a pool, you’ll want to decorate it to appeal to families and stock it accordingly. 

4. Help renters have a local experience. One of the top advantages of staying in a vacation rental over a hotel is getting local expertise. Providing guests with recommendations to your favorite restaurants, activities, beaches, and hikes in your welcome guide will help contribute to their overall experience, and they’ll likely write top-notch reviews once they leave. 

5. Please, please, please hire a professional photographer. Please. This may seem obvious, but a quick scroll through most of the local listings on Airbnb or VRBO and you’ll notice that this point may have been missed. Well-lit photos of a home will help garner more bookings, and it’s best to include both wide-angle photos showing the entire room as well as detail shots of your home’s unique features. Be sure to also include photos of our area’s iconic spots, like the mission, wharf, courthouse, and beaches. 

Christine S. Cowles is owner of Styled & Staged Santa Barbara, offering home staging and interior styling services. She is a certified Staging Design Professional™, member of Santa Barbara Association of Realtors and Real Estate Staging Association, and a proud WEV graduate. She can be reached at


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