Every year when the temps soar above 90° my dream of buying a little vacation cottage by a lake, or the ocean, or anywhere gets re-ignited with a vengeance. But, the only way we'd even possibly ever finance such a purchase is to rent it out for the summer. After having stayed at more than a few vacation rentals in my time, I've started keeping a list of dos and definite don'ts for opening your house up to strangers for the summer.Ditch the china. One of the benefits of staying at a vacation rental versus a hotel is being able to cook your own meals and entertain. Providing a nice set of dinnerware makes guests feel good about eating in, but if it's too nice (or potentially breakable) they may not feel comfortable using it. There are any number of well-designed melamine tableware options (some that look a heck of a lot like porcelain) and hard plastic drinking cups that look classy without being too precious. Don't skimp on ceramic coffee mugs though — there's nothing better than sitting outside with a steamy cup of joe and that just isn't the same in a paper cup.
Hide the knick knacks. It's tempting to add some personality to a space with decorative accessories, but just don't do it. It's nerve wracking for guests to worry about knocking things over, losing them and most likely they prefer a little extra space to spread out with their own stuff.
Leave instructions. Print out instructions for all appliances, where to leave trash, and any other tasks or issues that may come up during someone's stay. The more information the better and extra copies attached to the appliances themselves can be a huge help. Laminate the print outs and keep them together with o-rings so they don't get lost or damaged.
Provide lightly used books, toys, and games. Leaving a few things for guests to use on rainy days is always appreciated. Donate your own used items to the vacation home or pick up them up at Goodwill so it won't be the end of the world if a few game pieces disappear.
Use washable slipcovers, pillow covers and mattress pads. Accidents and sandy feet happen and the easier they are to clean up the better.
Provide cleaning supplies. When things do spill or stain, leaving all the necessary cleaning supplies means guests can take care of the problem quickly and without too much stress — plus this makes it easier for guests to tidy up before they leave. Provide brooms, mops, vacuums plus surface, glass, wood and upholstery cleaner. You can buy these in bulk and fill re-usable containers.
Don't stop by. Tempting as it may be to check in on guests and see how they (and your house) are doing, give them a little space. Provide contact information to them in case any problems arise and be ready to help out in a pinch, but let them feel at home in the space by not showing up unannounced.
Image: Sarah Rainwater