When the East Coast got hit by Winter Storm Jonas a couple of weeks ago, I first thanked my lucky stars that I’m a lifelong Cali girl. Then I thought, “how many vacations are being ruined right now on the other side of the U.S.?”
For vacation rental owners and managers, winter is a tricky time. A steady flow of guests becomes a trickle (of course, in ski destinations, the opposite is true!) and weather presents new logistical challenges. If you have year-round guests, like we do at our rental in Tahoe, extra winter preparation is a must.
Have a look at my winter checklist, which covers both emergency weather-related supplies and less necessary (but really nice to have) winter extras.
1. Emergency radio (plus a flashlight, LED candles and some matches).
We recently added the emergency radio to our vacation rental properties. Great during a winter storm, these radios provide access to weather information, even if the power goes out…and will help your guests feel safe, even if The Big Storm never quite materializes.
It is also a good idea to add a flashlight, extra batteries, and a few LED candles to your emergency kit, just in case the lights go out. I highly recommend you keep some matches in the kit as well, to get that gas cooktop going!
2. A well-stocked pantry.
Understandably, some vacation homeowners don’t make it a habit of providing food for guests. But in winter, you may want to consider revisiting that policy and keeping a few non-perishable pantry items around in case of an unexpected snowstorm. Store them in a locking bag or lock them yourself with a zip tie and label emergency if you are not comfortable leaving it out.
Bottled water, some pasta and jarred sauce, beans, rice, etc. will save you (or your staff) the emergency trip to the rental in a storm, and your guests will thank you if snow keeps them house-bound. Even better if you add some hot chocolate mix, too, so guests can make the most of being snowed in.
3. Goodies for a cozy stay.
Also consider non-emergency winter scenarios! Sometimes your guests just want to get cozy in a place far away from the stresses of home. Layer your beds in winter-ready downy comforters, soft pillows, and thick blankets. Provide fluffy robes and towels in the bathroom to ease the transition from warm shower to cool air. And I also recommend keeping hand and body lotion for guests. After all nothing dries out your skin like winter’s artificial heat, stinging cold air, and super-hot showers!
4. A up-to-code furnace, fireplace, and a safe driveway/sidewalk.
Add these checks to your maintenance repertoire: are the driveway and sidewalk ice-free? Are the fireplace, furnace and water heater functioning properly? It seems obvious, but sometimes these details get overlooked. Also be sure to provide salt and a shovel for guests who want to take icy/snowy matters into their own hands. Also make sure that you have enough wood for your wood-burning stove! Guest will appreciate it if you take care of that detail for them.
5. Goodies for snow play.
I love these snowman kits for family-friendly rentals. And don't forget a sled and saucer for a day of sledding!
6. A rock solid cancellation policy.
Make sure you’ve nailed down the details of your cancellation policy, because it’s likely that some guests will cancel in the event of a last-minute storm. Encourage your guests to purchase trip insurance (like CSA Travel Protection), and clearly define your cancellation policy for any guest who plans to stay at your rental in winter.