In the world of vacation rentals, it is customary that each gorgeous home comes equipped with the "Villa Book" or "House Book." This Book acts as a home instruction manual and is provided to guests on their arrival. One of the first things guests seek out when they arrive at a villa or furnished rental, the Book is an indispensable part of vacation property ownership.
The book can be the key to having happy guests. The book saves vacation property owners/agents a lot of time and potential trouble because the guests are able to help themselves to answers and guidance, rather than calling the owner or manager every time they have a question or concern.
Below we list the essential data and those optional enhancements which should be included in the Villa Book. Some owners of Uber-luxurious properties have turned their Villa Books into a high art form, suitable for publishing!
Basic Contact Info should include:
-The Street Address of the home and the home's telephone number.
-Local Number for Police, Fire, Ambulance and/or Private Security in the neighbourhood or building.
-Owner or Manager's phone number, location, hours of availability, alternate contacts for an emergency.
-Numbers for any emergency service providers "on call" to the home, in emergencies, such as: Plumber, Electrician Handyman, Locksmith, Mechanic.
Check-in and Check-Out instructions, if any: Where should guests' leave keys, comments, and so on.
Who has Home Access: Notes and names of any gardeners, caretakers or other service providers who may have access to the home or exterior, their usual schedule or scheduled visit during the guests' stay.
Other essential items for the book are:
Maps, Addresses and Driving Directions to important places such as: Local Hospital Emergency Medical or "Walk-In" Clinics; Bank, ATM and Money Exchange; Airport, Train Station and Bus Stations; Post Office, FedEx, UPS or other Express Mailing Businesses; Grocery Stores, Butcher, Baker, Liquor Stores, or other Essential Stores; Internet Café or Business Centre ; Recommended Restaurants, Cafes, Clubs, or Thoroughfares; Local Places of Worship with phone numbers.
Local Maps and Transportation: Provide guests with multiple copies of bus maps, subway maps, bike paths or other transportation to get around locally.
The Car: If a car is being provided as part of the rental or exchange, do include the instruction manual any registration or insurance documents in an easily found place. Further, makes notes for the guest on the following:
- How to adjust the seats if not immediately obvious
- Preferences for the appropriate or required type of fuel to put in the car and map of locations of nearby petrol stations
- Where the petrol tank is and how to open it from inside the car, if there is a special button; where is a safety and tool kit located within the car.
- If a convertible, how to put the top up and down appropriately
- Any special instructions for key fob, key ignition, unlocking the steering wheel, or other potential problems a new driver may have
- Any instructions to carry out in an accident or emergency (i.e. "use the throw away camera found in the trunk to document the accident, call XYZ insurance agent, file a police report, etc.").
- Always keep a first aid kit, documentation supplies and blanket in the trunk in case of a guest emergency.
Other items for management of the holiday home:
Emergency Instructions and locations: instructions for use of the backup generator, what to do or who to call in an electrical outage, telephone outage, where are circuit breakers, what to do in case of flooding, and so on.
Electrical Notes for the home: If the home uses 110, clearly state this and any special instructions for those who may have brought appliances or equipment of a different current.
Temperature Modification instructions for the home. Such as: Heating Air Conditioning Thermostat; Storage location of free-standing fans or heaters; Location of extra blankets; Heated floor locations and on/off area for floors; If the use of A/C or Heat will incur an extra charge to the renter, clearly state this in the Villa Book. Include approximations or specifications of what various usages will cost and how the financial details will be handled (i.e. deduction from deposit, etc.).
A List of Quirks of the Home. These may include: Issues with running water such as a long time to wait for hot, etc; Non-operational items like windows, lights, inaccessible rooms, etc; Neighbours, their animals, children, or noise issues; Difficult operation of old-style keys, gates, or other potential frustrations.
History of the Home for History Buffs: if you have a historical home or a home with an interesting past or a house that's come down with an aristocratic and long family tree, why not write about it in the book? Many guests are fascinated by both the provenance of mansions and estates and the cast of characters who might have resided in the home prior to its becoming a vacation rental.
Operation and instructions for various amenities: Where tennis court light controls located? What about Sauna or Steam room operations? Jacuzzi controls; Recommended temperature settings for the wine cooler; Grill or barbeque supply locations/instructions.
Wi-Fi, Cell Phone and Internet Access: make notes on passcodes or if there are "dead zones" in the home for reception, note this for the guest. Give instructions on how to "re-set" the wi-fi system or router, including WEP or other passcodes so a guest can be up and running easily after a failure.
TV, remote control, satellite dish, cable, and DVD player: provide instructions if turning them on if it is not a straightforward matter of pressing the "On" button.
Major Appliances: if the knobs and controls do not have explicitly easy-to-understand symbols or markings or are in another language, clarify in the Villa Book what the symbols/pictures actually mean, so that guests do not end up merely rinsing their clothing when they meant to wash them, or reheating their dinner in the microwave when they meant to fully cook it.
Appliances: If staff or services are not part of the home, include instruction booklets (hopefully with multi-language translations already in them) for major or minor appliances like the dishwasher, juice maker, cappuccino maker, crepe maker, etc.
Location of both essential items and extra for the home, such as: Extra towels, blankets, pillows Extra toilet paper, soap, paper towels, bottled water, sugar, tea, etc. Beach towels, ice chest, picnic basket Location and instructions for of any extra sports or fitness equipment - yoga mats, weights, skis, rafts, kayaks, etc. For fully equipped Home office: Fax number at home, location of extra printer paper, electrical equipment such as USB cords, etc.
Passcodes: If the home features a computer, alarm, or wireless system that requires a passcode, be sure to note it in the Villa Book.
Things to Do: Include a list of favourite local activities, contact info for them, and/or brochures for the venues or providers.
Local Customs or "Must-Knows." List any local customs, schedule, or neighbourhood quirks that may be important for the guest to note. For example, in some areas, "Streets close up and get mighty dangerous after 11:30pm," whereas somewhere else, "Cafes and restaurants get going and tango dancing starts everywhere at 11:30pm." Do your guests a favour and alert them of the nuances.
Food: Local Restaurants, Take-Outs, Delivery Food, and Prepared Foods counters in the Grocery Store. Provide a selection of menus for every taste and eventuality, preferably laminated and kept in a bound book for guests' perusal.
Service Providers: Include a list of local recommended chauffeurs, drivers, tour guides, fitness instructors, personal assistants, private chefs, personal tutors, caterer, etc. who may benefit the guests during their stay.
Unique Service Providers: Include a list of any highly recommended "alternative" local professionals or advisors a guest may wish to seek out (and include any special feedback, notes or testimonials from previous guests!):
- Psychics, spiritual advisors, tarot card readers, fortune tellers, astrologers
- Alternative health therapies such as: Colonic or hydro-therapists Chakra, reiki, or spiritual healers
- Chiropractors, cranial-sacral, yoga or pilates instructors
- Qualified psychotherapists, psychiatrists, social workers or marriage counselors
- Massage therapists, foot reflexologists
- Cosmetic surgeons, dermatologists, dentists, hair stylists, makeup artists for special events or "in case of asthetic emergencies"
Local Language: provide guests with a "take away" sheet of local language translations/pictographs which they can use while "out and about" especially if it's a given the locals will not speak your guests' language. Provide the guest with translations and phonetic instructions for expressing various basic needs, wants, or requests that may come up along the way.
When guests are provided with a book filled with all this helpful information, their stay is enhanced and potential problem calls are minimized for the owner or agent. By giving your guests everything they need in one handy place, great holidays are possible both in and out of your vacation rental.