7 Steps to automating vacation rental check-in: A guide for property managers

Discover the steps to automating vacation rental check-in to enhance the guest experience while saving time.
Minut News
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May 29, 2024
min read
7 Steps to automating vacation rental check-in: A guide for property managers

Managing vacation rentals means there's competition on every corner and every detail counts. That's why you’re often caught in a relentless cycle of tasks that demand your attention around the clock, preventing you from working on growing your business.

If you’re already managing multiple properties, you’ll be familiar with the experience of ensuring each property is primed for its next stay, juggling check-ins, and responding to guest questions you’ve already answered. 

Automating vacation rental check-in frees you up to create more meaningful guest experiences and be more productive with the time you have. 

In this guide, you'll learn seven ways to get started with vacation rental check-in automation. Use these tips to help you shift focus from repetitive tasks to the strategic and creative aspects of property management that allow you to successfully market your services and scale your inventory.

7 ways to automate vacation rental check-in

See our top recommendations on how to automate check-in for your vacation rental business. We'll include real-life examples of efficient self check-in, software recommendations, and how to drive repeat bookings by protecting your property.

1. Use the right vacation rental software

Choosing the right vacation rental software will streamline your check-in processes. For example, most vacation rental platforms automatically manage bookings, send confirmations, schedule maintenance, and speed up guest communications

Before selecting your software, you need to identify the specific needs of your vacation rental business. Consider factors such as:

  • The size of your property portfolio 
  • Complexity of your operation
  • Guest communication needs
  • Any challenges specific to your business

Once you know your barriers to a streamlined process, write a list of essential features you need in a vacation rental software. 

This could include reservation management, channel management, payment processing, guest communication, maintenance tracking, and analytics. It's also crucial to make sure the software offers integrations with other tools you use, provides excellent customer support, and has a user-friendly interface. 

Here are three examples of property management systems (PMSs) you could consider: 

  • Guesty: Provides comprehensive management features, including multi-platform synchronization and operational task automation, making it easier to scale your business.
  • Lodgify: Allows property managers to easily create their own website and accept direct bookings, while offering seamless integration with major online travel agencies (OTAs).
  • Hostfully: Integrates powerful automation tools for check-ins, including personalized messaging and digital guidebooks, to elevate the guest experience.

2. Enable a self check-in process

Many guests want to check in without in-person interaction, especially if they're traveling long distances or arriving in the middle of the night. Contactless check-in gives you and your guests more flexibility and it significantly cuts out the time you spend manually checking people in—which is essential to managing your vacation rental remotely. 

Consider implementing keyless entry systems, lockboxes, or smart locks, allowing guests to check in at their convenience without waiting for a physical key exchange

It's important to install a reliable and secure keyless entry system and provide clear instructions to guests on how to use it. Make sure you also have a backup plan in case of any technical issues and maintain regular communication with guests to address any concerns during the check-in process.

Pro tip: Use Minut’s scheduled messaging feature, Guest Connect, to share your house rules on the day of check-in, as well as information about parking, property access, and WiFi passwords.
Minut’s scheduled messaging feature
Minut’s scheduled messages use shortcodes to auto-fill stay-specific information.

3. Prioritize instant guest communication 

Guests expect quick responses to inquiries and issues. Automated messaging systems, usually integrated within vacation rental software, can send instant responses to common queries and provide essential information. For example, booking confirmations, pre-arrival instructions, check-in details, and local recommendations. Plus, you can personalize these communications to make guests feel valued and excited about their stay.

It's also a good idea to use chatbots on your website or rental platforms to answer frequently asked questions in real-time, and make use of social media platforms and messaging tools like Whatsapp. 

If you're using Minut, you can automatically send check-in instructions after a booking is confirmed. Or you might schedule a message to guests to remind them to take out the trash on the day it’s collected and manage recycling according to your local guidelines. This ensures guests feel valued and supported throughout their stay, and keeps neighbor complaints at bay. 

Pro tip: Include your communication policy in your booking confirmation and welcome messages, specifying available times for instant responses and expected time frames for other inquiries. 

4. Create a seamless guest experience

A seamless guest experience starts with the first interaction and continues through post-check-out. As mentioned, it's crucial to automate welcome messages, provide detailed instructions for property amenities, and ensure guests have easy access to contact information if they need assistance. 

If you want to go above and beyond, create a comprehensive digital welcome book that includes check-in instructions, information about the property, local recommendations, and troubleshooting tips for common issues and make it accessible via email or a dedicated app. A welcome basket filled with treats or coupons relevant to your guest's interests is also a nice touch. 

You'll also need to offer quality amenities in every room and outdoors: Think furnishings, crockery, and linens as well as condiments, teas, coffee, and toiletries. 

On top of that, though, you need to maintain a pristine and comfortable environment. This means making sure the property stays clean, well-maintained, and respected. With an all-in-one noise monitor for vacation rentals, you can ensure more than peaceful stays—Minut protects your vacation homes from cigarette smoke, detects window breakage and motion, and includes a security alarm.

This enhances the guest experience and will convince homeowners you can keep their properties safe. Plus, it helps make sure repeat guests get the same, flawless experience time and time again.

Minut property monitoring dashboard
Use the Minut sensor to detect high noise levels and unauthorized smoking and prevent damage to your property.

5. Invest in automation tools to speed up repetitive tasks

There's a lot more to automation than making guest communications easier. For example, automating guest screening can help you maintain high standards for your property and reduce the risk of problematic guests. This can also help you speed up your check-in process, since you're more likely to trust new and repeat guests. 

Let's take a closer look at some other automation technology you can use to enable a smooth check-in process.  

Property protection automation

This includes smart home technology for your vacation rental that monitors for damages or unauthorized access. For example, Minut protects your properties from noise, parties, smoke, break-ins, and environmental hazards, messaging guests in the case of an issue and keeping your business safe. This lets potential guests know you prioritize keeping things clean and in top condition, which can influence their decision to book. 

Payment gateway automation 

Automating the payment process ensures all transactions are handled efficiently and securely, so you can get started with a seamless check-in. Automate payment processing to handle bookings, security deposits, and refunds without manual intervention.

Dynamic rates management automation

Dynamic pricing tools like Beyond Pricing, PriceLabs, and Wheelhouse automatically adjust your rental rates based on market demand, seasonality, and local events. This helps you maximize your revenue while keeping you competitive—getting you more bang for your buck before the check-in process starts.

6. Ensure your website captures direct bookings

Having a user-friendly website that encourages direct bookings can significantly reduce your reliance on third-party platforms and increase your profit margins. But there's more you can do than making sure your website is optimized for SEO, mobile-responsive, and has an easy-to-use booking system. 

Here's how to automate vacation rental check-ins through your direct booking website: 

  • Create an online check-in form: Develop an online check-in form that guests can complete prior to arrival. This form can collect essential information from guests, like estimated arrival time, any special requests, and verification of guest identity.
  • Use analytics: Track your website's performance and guest booking metrics like average stay duration and peak booking times, for more informed decision-making on the check-in and out process. 
  • Get instant feedback: After check-in, send an automated message asking guests for feedback on their experience. Use this information to continually refine and improve the process.

7. Use a channel management system

A channel management tool lets you list your property on multiple booking platforms while making sure your availability and rates are synchronized across all sites. This prevents double bookings and saves time on manual updates. 

To get the most out of your channel manager, make sure it integrates with your PMS and/or booking platforms. 

Two specialized channel managers you could consider are NextPax and Rentals United.

Automate vacation rental check-in with more peace of mind

You can automate vacation rental check-ins, improve the guest experience, and save more time by using the right tools. For example, vacation rental software makes it easier to automatically manage your listings across channels—staying on top of pricing and inventory. 

Plus, when you take advantage of STR technology like Minut, you can improve the check-in experience for guests and streamline it for your operations. Keep your vacation rentals safe by detecting parties, noise, and cigarette smoke—and reduce your workload with scheduled messaging and automated alerts.