Managing Your Vacation Rental

Managing your rental in another season of COVID

Written by Carrie Hillman
4.7/5 - (3 votes)

Generally speaking, managing a vacation rental in the 2021 rental season should feel a lot less daunting than last year. We know more about how the virus spreads and which activities are riskier than others. Our knowledge, in combination with so many of us being vaccinated, will make everyone feel more at ease this summer.

Also, the US CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting have recently been updated and indicate a belief in a much lower risk of contagion from contaminated surfaces than originally thought.

Effective May 29, gathering limits will be increased to 200 people indoors and 250 people outdoors for event venues, public settings and private settings. There is very little risk of a travel ban or any other restrictions on rentals. So, filling your rental homes, and keeping them filled, will not be a problem at all this year. In fact, the demand from vacationers is unprecedented!

But what DO you still need to do to comply with the recommendations of both the CDC and the State?


According to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, regular cleaning of surfaces with soap or detergent is sufficient. In fact, disinfection is not necessary unless there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID within 24 hours. In most cases, fogging, fumigation and electrostatic spraying is not recommended as a primary method of disinfection and may actually carry several safety risks.

Speak with your cleaners. Communication with your most valuable “rental teammate” is vitally important to make sure that your expectations are understood by them – and that you are aware of their challenges and capabilities.

Bedding and linens

If possible, have extra bedding (bedspreads/coverings and blankets/quilts if you provide them) on hand so every guest has a fresh set. Some homeowners last year alternated sets of bedding between guests.

Keep extra pillow covers and mattress protectors on hand to change out and launder them between guests if you can.

Consider having your guests bring their own bed linens and towels, even if you used to provide them. Doing so will not only save you time and money on your electric bill, but it’s better for the local environment.

We don’t believe a guest log will be necessary for contact tracing this year, but many homeowners request contact information about all guests prior to their arrival anyway.

The Extras – knickknacks and decorative items

This year, you can bring back the extras in moderation. Many homeowners and vacationers enjoyed the uncluttered openness last summer when we cleared out unnecessary items in the house – think the Marie Kondo effect. An uncluttered vacation rental allows your guests room for their belongings, and it makes their exit at the end of the week easier so they don’t have to unwind all of their personal items from yours. But most importantly, removing unnecessary clutter enables your cleaners to do their jobs more quickly and thoroughly. (Read our post about The Problem with Clutter.)

It’s okay to bring some things back: the spare umbrellas, the grocery tote bags, some games, books. But don’t worry about bringing back the bedroom throw pillows, all the knickknacks, and certainly any of your personal items. Vacationers much prefer a de-personalized home, one in which they can envision their own families relaxing and enjoying.

Fresh air and ventilation

Encourage vacationers to open windows and let the fresh air in. The Cape and Islands tend to have incredible breezes, especially in the afternoon. Consider asking vacationers to turn off the AC and leave windows open when they leave. Clean your ventilation system, if you have one, before the season begins. Clean all portable fans as well, and make them easily accessible.

In the yard

Up your game with your outdoor hangout area. Consider providing more outdoor games to encourage everyone to spend time outside. Read our post about Perfecting Your Guests’ Experience for some tips about fun amenities you can fairly easily provide for your guests. If they’re happy, you’ll be happy!

Tips about take-out meals

Suggest that your guests call a few restaurants to find out what their takeout procedures are. For example, some:

  • Require that you go inside to order or to pay
  • Offer no contact pickup or delivery
  • Provide either indoor or outdoor options for in-person dining

Suggest to your guests, if they plan to order takeout, that they call early in the day and order over the phone or via a web order form if available. And expect lengthy wait times.

Suggest that your guests check out which restaurants have recyclable take-out containers.


Have you reviewed your current cancellation policy? Is it any more lenient than pre-pandemic years? See our Blog post about Cancellation Policy Options. Thankfully, given the unprecedented demand for vacation rentals this year, it shouldn’t be difficult to rebook any cancellations.

Tips for your guests about vacationing responsibly

Encourage your guests to check out our Tips for Vacationing Responsibly on the Cape and Islands. In addition to a video, we’ve included some FAQs to help answer any concerns your guests may have about vacationing in your home during the pandemic.

Don’t forget to warn them that this summer could be more crowded than usual and to plan ahead for activities like museum visits, etc., where you’ll need to buy a ticket in advance. Grocery stores, too, will be more crowded than usual, possibly requiring more time due to numbers limitations. And here in Massachusetts, masks are required in all public places, and they most likely still will be in the summer.

Our thoughts about the upcoming season and beyond

Our sense for this year is that, although a heightened sensitivity to cleaning will still be necessary, homeowners are not going to the same Herculean efforts with linens, removing all extra pillows, games, magazines, etc., as many did last summer. The virus is significantly more likely to be spread from person to person rather than by touching a surface. And by summer, most adults will be vaccinated.

The important thing is to communicate with your guests. Let them know you take their health and happiness seriously, allowing them to get excited about their visit in your home without anxieties about their safety.

About the author

Carrie Hillman

Carrie was born and raised in the Northeast. She currently lives on the Cape with her two children and husband. They are a family of four who love to travel, play in the sun, hike and canoe. They enjoy sharing the beauty of the Cape while hosting guests at their home when they are traveling.

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