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5 Easy Steps to Checking into your Vacation Rental


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One of the nice things about checking into hotels is that they typically provide 24/7 support. You can waltz into reception, see an attendant and be on your merry way to your room, regardless of the time of day or night. Conversely, when checking into your vacation rental, you may be dealing with the home owner him or herself. For example, on a trip to Italy, we didn’t arrive to our destination until around 10:00 at night, only to wait 30+ minutes for someone to know we had arrived. We considered finding a hotel to rest our weary heads, not sure if anybody would show up. For this reason, I’ve come up with a quick list of best practices to make checking into your vacation rental as seamless as possible.


Checking into your rental

1. Pre-trip Property Instructions

Many owners (or management companies) will email you the rental agreement and/or instructions on how to access the property upon arrival. This usually happens at least one week prior to checking into the rental. With our most recent trip to Destin. The property owners sent the check in instructions one week out from our check in date (image below), giving pretty clear instructions on what to do upon arrival. By getting this information ahead of time, it gives you an opportunity to review and follow up with any questions. Make sure you have this information ahead of time, so you’re not stuck outside of your rental trying to get in.

Example of our Destin pre-check in email.


2. Locate the Property

I find it really helpful, even if it’s prior to the check in time, to do a drive-by to get a sense of where you are in relation to shops, restaurants and activities. It helps establish your internal compass and being able to get back to the property more easily the next time. Even though you may see it on your GPS or on your Maps app, it’s just a good practice so you get a sense for the area.

Our apartment in Uzzano, Italy was a 13th century convent.

3. Take Stock of your Property’s Amenities

Even though you may have seen an amenities list, when checking into the house/apartment, I take a look everything, from the cooking utensils, the appliances, to the bathrooms. This helps me confirm my shopping list for any items I may not be thinking about or assumed the property would have. Furthermore, you may find that the cooking utensils are minimal or that they don’t have the wine cork (oh my!) Other things to consider may be pool/beach towels or if you forgot your shampoo, perhaps they have some. On our last trip to Destin, we noticed that the pots and pans weren’t exactly good to cook with. It’s a little extreme, but we ended up getting a new Gotham Steel fry pan because we needed one back home anyway.

4. Make a Grocery Run

I like to plan some easy meals prior to the trip, so that way I have a shopping list started for when we arrive. Usually, I stick with meals that can serve leftovers or feed larger groups of people, depending on our situation. For example, I love spaghetti. It’s easy. It’s good and there’s something for everyone.

Wherever we are, I try to find a Walmart because they have everything. But for food and since we mainly eat breakfast in, I’ll get groceries like eggs, milk, cereal, Bisquick, fruit, bread for toast, etc. For lunch, I’ll typically get cold cuts, cheeses, some small condiments like mayo, mustard, etc. And for dinner, I’ll usually plan two or three meals in (if we’re gone for about a week). Leftovers make a good lunch too!

Our family dog, Moses, approves of our apartment in Destin.

Recipe: Chicken Avocado Burritos

Cook time: 20 min

  1. 2 uncooked chicken breasts (Sometimes I substitute a rotisserie chicken)
    1. Salt and pepper
    2. 1 tbs mustard
  2. 1 avocado; diced
  3. 1 cup mozzarella
  4. 2 tablespoons cilantro; chopped
  5. large tortillas (10″)
  6. Sour cream (I like to substitute with Greek yogurt)
  7. Cooking oil (I like to use coconut oil)
  1. Spread mustard of the raw chicken breast (if using vs. rotisserie) and add salt and pepper
  2. Roast chicken for about 5 minutes per side; add 1/4 cup water and cook covered until finished
  3. After the chicken cools, shred or cut into thin slices
  4. Mix the chicken, cheese, cilantro and diced avocados
  5. Spread about 1 tbs sour cream on each tortilla and add some of the chicken mixture
  6. Roll into burritos
  7. On a medium-high grill pan (a large frying pan is also okay), place the burritos on the pan and cook for about 2 minutes per side.
  8. Serve warm

Optional: serve with salsa and/or beans on the side

5. Assess the property

It’s always a really good idea to walk around the apartment, house or rental property to see if you notice any issues or damage. I, personally, have never come across anything, but it’s good to report problems to the owners or management company so you don’t A) get blamed for the damage/issue and B) get charged. Just like renting a car, you want to make sure than any ‘scratches’ were not done on your watch. When I do my walk-through, I usually look at furniture for stains, tears, dents in wood, etc. and then at the walls for similar issues. Of course if you find anything, make sure to let the owner know and take a picture to send to them.

Enjoying some couch time after a very fun day at the beach. Destin, FL

Bonus: Make sure you know how to use items in the house

On our last trip to Destin, using the keyless entry was a bit challenging at first. The instructions the owners provided were not exactly correct. After we got into the apartment, we all took a turn trying to reenter the house (with people inside of course) to make sure we wouldn’t get locked out. Also, set up your WiFi so you don’t eat up your data plan (if your property comes with it).




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