What Makes a Cozy Vacation Rental?

By Kate Riley March 29, 2022

I spent a few days in a vacation rental while looking for a new house to buy in Florida, and the one we stayed in was so welcoming I thought I’d write about why. When renting, I look for cleanliness, comfort, and style offered at an affordable rate. I reason I’m not spending too much time in the abode because I’m out exploring, but I want to feel cozy when I’m there.

When I travel, I often stay in a vacation rental home instead of a hotel for these reasons. I’ve written before about what makes a great guest room for travelers renting private rooms. I thought I’d take a different approach and comment on the decorative choices that create a cozy environment. These are the mental notes I took in case I ever host a vacation rental myself!

Cozy living room furniture is a huge draw since that’s where renters spend a lot of down time. This particular space had a modern leather sofa for lounging and watching TV, one that was equipped with several streaming services for entertainment. The pair of chairs completed the conversation zone and the coffee table was where I set my coffee each morning while I researched local real estate listings.

Notice the pale oak vinyl plank floors which were so easy to keep clean. The woven chairs and baskets add texture, the dark wood tones provide warmth and contrast, and the touches of black make the space feel modern.

Throughout the two bedroom home the owner had scattered really nice faux plants which add an organic feel but are also worry free since they don’t need watering. The artwork was a combination of contemporary art and landscapes.

Both bedrooms included clean cotton sheets and duvets with stacks of fluffy towels for our use. The owners kept the window treatments simple with white sheers on windows that added a breezy feel.


Benches are a thoughtful piece to add to a space, they provide a place for placing luggage or sitting while removing shoes. I’m also a huge fan of tall mirrors in bedrooms for confirming clothing choices! A place to hang sweaters, hats, or purses is also a practical addition to a guest bedroom.


The bathrooms were renovated and very clean. I especially loved the tile inside the showers and was impressed with the hotel style shampoo/conditioner/body wash dispenser, a smart choice that any guest appreciates! I want one for my shower too. :)


The kitchen was clean, recently renovated, and well stocked. My son especially loved the large dining table where he would work on his laptop.


It’s handy when owners include a booklet with wifi passwords, house rules, and local recommendations for dining or activities, I love that!


There was a nice little outdoor seating area in the backyard which we didn’t use much but it was an added bonus.


Overall it was a very pleasant experience due to the decorative choices and finishes chosen by the owner. All the little touches made the home feel clean and cozy during our stay.

For those of you that have stated in a vacation rental home, what do you find to be important in making your stay the most comfortable? Share your tips!


  1. We stayed in a vacation rental before purchasing a home in Florida that became a vacation rental, and we’ve used Airbnb and VRBO since then. We sold that home a few years back, and now rent out a unique round home we gutted and renovated in 2020. From our experience as guests, we’ve made sure to incorporate these aspects into our own rental:

    1. CLEAN. Like, OCD clean. Steam clean the throw pillows, and vacuum-and-steam-the-couch-between-guests clean!
    2. Comfy mattresses and bedding. Soft, clean, and WHITE.
    3. Coffee and snacks. It’s tough to have to travel all day, fall into your rental at night, wake up in the morning, and discover that you have no coffee! We offer plenty of coffee for the guest’s entire stay (Cameron’s Donut Shop), a s’mores basket, an electric kettle and plenty of gourmet hot chocolate and teas.
    4. Plenty of outdoor seating to enjoy the views and gather ’round the fire pit.
    5. Our place is somewhat remote (20 minutes to town,) so we have plenty of toilet paper for guest’s entire stay, feminine products on hand, and extra toothbrushes. It would be a drag to have to trek to town in an emergency for those needs.

    So, we try to anticipate needs, create a welcoming space, and help our guests roll in and enjoy their stay. It’s fun to host new folks, and we always hope they’ll want to come back!

    • Excellent tips!! You are so thoughtful, love the extra touches you provide, especially the added toiletries and coffee. :)
      Thank you for sharing!

  2. As I sit here in my VRBO on Cape Cod, I feel a well-equipped kitchen is key. The avantage to me in being in a VRBO is that we aren’t eating out and have the option to cook. We have hosted several meals for family members here and it is a struggle to cook a complete meal due to the limited pots and pans available. I also travel with our Keurig and have since they came out.

    Plenty of fluffy towels is a must too.

    • Agreed, love the ability to prepare food! My son can’t eat enriched wheat so I have to shop for organic wheat products and prepare a lot of homemade food for him. Definitely a big plus!

    • I’m with you on the towels, for sure. And a real, fully-equipped kitchen is a must-have. I also hate it if a house sleeps 12, but has flatware and dishes for 4, or a dining table that only seats 6!!

      The Keurig – that’s a toughie. I know a lot of folks love them, but my hesitation is the fact that old water sits in the tank to “instant heat,” and a guest wouldn’t know how long that water was there. For me, there’s a bit of an “ew” factor – unless it was my own – so we opted for a basic drip coffee maker.

      • Gotta have great towels! And I’m a fan of a classic drip coffee maker here in the US.
        Can’t find them abroad though, not in Europe or Australia, they only have espresso makers in my experience.
        When in Rome…. as long as it’s coffee I’m fine. :)

      • agree! If I’m at a keurig only place, I pour out the water and add a gallon of my own spring or distilled or fresher tap if I don’t have it.

        You no longer have to decide between pod and pot! Keurig makes a DUO which I have at a studio in Florida. it brews either! Guests choice!

        At my larger vacation rental in Montana we actually have a Keurig and a regular coffee maker. That was before I discovered the DUO….

  3. We have stayed in several and I have found that many (not all) have had shortcomings despite the high ratings. Many issues would not fly at a hotel and would be easily remedied if they occurred in a hotel. A broken bed in a VRBO in Hawaii, a broken a/c in Key West, and bugs in St. Augustine (most recent problem). Getting a refund on the bug house was denied because we “didn’t cancel within the cancelation window”. We didn’t know there’d be a bug infestation until we arrived! VRBO refunded our booking fees and we ate the rest. Overall, it feels like people rate higher than deserved sometimes to avoid a retaliatory guest review.

    • Oh wow so sorry about your bad experiences! Ew bugs!!
      That may be happening, people hiding information.
      I’ve found on Airbnb and VRBO you can message the owner privately about problems.
      Owners need to responsive and accountable!

  4. I nearly always choose a vacation rental over a hotel. I look for comfort at the end of the day. When we return to the rental after a day of sightseeing I want there to be enough comfortable chairs for everyone, a shower that works properly and beds in good condition. You would be surprised at how many places we have stayed across Europe and North America that do not provide enough chairs for the number of people staying in the rental hence somebody sits on the floor. I don’t rate my stay on luxury facilities but on good old fashioned snuggle in comfort. Another pet peeve of mine is when there is too much of the owner’s personal possessions left in the rental. One place in Canada almost put me off vacation rentals for life. I felt I was trespassing. Fortunately the good have well outweighed the bad.

  5. This looks like a really nice rental! My pet peeve with VRBO and the like is all the extra fees added in. Sometimes they add up to as much as the base rental fee! I would rather that the owner add in the fees to the rental fee, so that if you’re searching for a place that’s say, $200 a night, that’s what you get.

    The places that I’ve stayed in that I enjoyed the most are those that were super clean, had lightweight blankets on the bed and not a heavy comforter, had a nice outdoor area with seating, and had a fully equipped kitchen. Also, I like a very minimalist style similar to the rental you stayed in, but with no fake plants to get dusty or extra pillows on the furniture. What would put a rental over the top to me would be finding a pretty flower bouquet, a bottle of champagne on ice, and a basket of snacks upon arrival!

  6. I appreciate staying in an AirBnB/VRBO house over a hotel, but I sometimes wonder if I’m then contributing to our country’s housing crisis. People now strive to have a “second home” to rent out, and those second homes have to be taking away from the inventory of much-needed full-time residences.

    I also wonder if those who operate a rental are fully covered on a legal level too. We own a rental that has full-time tenants, and formed an LLC for it (so it pays its own taxes and it’s segregated from our other assets), insurance (home insurance and a general liability policy), we pay our City for a business tax and a rental tax, have a property managers – basically it’s its own business. I wanted to make sure we’re protected on many levels should anything happen with a tenant/occupant.

  7. Benches! Yes
    Who wants to put a suitcase that’s been drug through an airport on the nice clean bed you are going to sleep in!
    And I love it when there are cold beverages in the refrigerator and a basket of munchies.

  8. The number one issue I have had with AirBnbs in the past is lighting! There are never enough lamps. Sometimes the lighting may be solely recessed ceiling lights, which does not feel cozy at all. If we can, we end up moving the bedside lamps around. I think many hosts just take their photos in the day and don’t even consider what the space looks like at night.

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