Renting Your Home on Airbnb: A Start-to-Finish Routine

Most of you know that we typically rent out our home on Airbnb when traveling. It is very helpful in offsetting the cost of travel and makes it possible for us to explore as much as we do.
Still, it’s not without its nuisances. There are a few factors that make it a bit of a pain:
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  • We rent our home regularly, so we want to ensure we maintain the highest level of reviews on our home.
  • We, as you know, have 4 little children who have their own things and preferences that we (and our guests) need to respect.
  • I’m a…little anal about cleanliness. I’m not a germaphobe by any means when out and about (all the eating off the ground over here!) but am picky about things like our bathrooms being completely spotless before and after guests.

We’re also very pick about who we accept. We don’t accept groups of friends – we’re not interested in it being a party house at all. We prefer families, either immediate or extended. We often get family groups that need a little more space because they have a parent or sister or someone traveling with them. We occasionally have business travelers stay (and they’re usually great as they tend to be clean and rarely even cook here). Many guests have kids, and it’s nice to feel like we can help out the travel community a bit while also making some money. We’ve benefitted a lot from Airbnb over the years (more space and often so much easier with 4 kids!) so we enjoy being able to provide that to other families.One big note is we do not accept ANY smokers AT ALL. Even if they only smoke outside, we do not want anyone who even has smoke on their clothing staying in our home. We had an issue once with someone leaving a pack of cigarettes. We didn’t smell any smoke in our home, but it was still really frustrating. While Airbnb is great at using their insurance policy to reimburse you for any damaged items, they were NOT great at helping out with this sort of situation where there wasn’t a clear issue.

HOWEVER, the guests were actually super nice and very apologetic. It was actually someone who booked for a friend, so the friend hadn’t thoroughly read through all the rules. They were very sorry and contributed some extra money for a deep cleaning of our home in case of any residual smoke. So it worked out, and reminded me that most people are pretty great. And now we have it in our listing about 8 million times that we don’t accept ANY smokers, and I also make that clear in the messaging right after booking.

With all those notes, here’s our start-to-finish routine for how we get our child-friendly home Airbnb-ready!
– COMMUNICATE. Find out from your guests what their needs are. Will they need a crib or pack n play? Will they be using a toddler bed, or would they prefer the bunk beds to be made up? Do they need the fold out futon, or would they like an airbed instead? Do they need the high chair out or do they need a baby tub? It’s always nice to try to set up the space in a way that works for your guests.
– SET UP CLEANERS. Early in our marriage, we used to do cleaning ourselves – we’d be up super late the night before leaving, and be on tiptoes until walking out the door. Then we’d be on our hands and knees scrubbing the second we walked back in. It was really stressful. Now we hire cleaners to come in right after we leave, before we come home, and in between any sets of guests and it is SO much better.
Over the summer, we had some great cleaners who didn’t do laundry, so we paid a friend to check in on them, pay them, do laundry, lock up, etc. Now we found a great and trusted cleaner who is very communicative and accessible via text and email, and is comfortable doing laundry, locking up, etc. It’s made it a lot easier.
– WASH PERSONAL LINENS. Assuming we’re leaving in the morning, I’ll wash all of our sheets and towels and everything the morning before, as we wouldn’t have time to wash them the morning of departure (and I hate coming back to dirty sheets). If we’re leaving at night, we will still usually wash them the morning of the day BEFORE we leave, because no one needs more to do the day of departure.
– LAUNDRY. Along that line, we wash all of our dirty laundry. We’ll try to do as much as we can a few days before, and then do one last load or two before leaving. Then we fold it all and get it put away so everything is clean and tidy. We also like to put away our personal (fabric) laundry bags.
– FRESH LINENS. We set out fresh sheets, duvet covers (we have a spare duvet for the master bed, as well), and pillows for each of the beds being used.
– TIDY. We tidy all surfaces – putting away papers, mail, random things that have been misplaced and need to be rehomed, taking down all the kids’ artwork that we’ve hung on the wall, etc.
– SWITCH KITCHEN ITEMS. We have an inexpensive set of pots & pans that we switch out for our nice set. We figure it’s not worth the risk of them getting all scratched up. Plus, we’re vegetarian, and we prefer to not have guests cook meat on our pans, so it’s easier to just switch them out. We also switch out our nice knives and just leave a couple good cutting knives – guests don’t typically need a whole array of bread knives, paring knives, etc. We leave small appliances such as the stand mixer, blender, etc.
– WASH AND SWITCH OUT BATHMATS. We have a different set of guest bath mats so we can quickly put our clean ones down for us when we get home.
– CLEAN OUT FRIDGE. We try to eat any leftovers and fresh food the last couple days, and throw out the rest if we’re going to be gone for longer than a few days. We leave things like condiments and such, and wipe everything down. There’s usually plenty of room for guests in there by that point. We also leave all the stuff in the pantry, but do ask guests to bring their own food. They’re obviously welcome to use things like salt and mustard and whatnot, but people are usually respectful about not using all our food.
– REHOME VALUABLES. Honestly, we have very little of major value. Airbnb also has a great insurance policy if something is truly stolen or broken, and if there are minor issues, we’ve never had a guest who hasn’t been willing to resolve things with us. We leave my violin with a trusted neighbor, and store away IDs. We have a small safe for documents. We also leave a spare key with a neighbor in case of an emergency.
– PUT AWAY SPECIAL KID THINGS. Our kids have some things they don’t necessarily want guest children to play with – special LEGO sets, blankets, stuffed animals, etc. We have a couple of plastic bins with lids, so we put those things in there and store them either under beds or in the garage. We leave out toys in their labeled bins, books, etc., and guests with children really appreciate that.
– EXTRA BEDS. If guests need air beds, we make sure to take those out of the garage or out from under the pull out bed and store them in the bedroom closets for easy access.
– UPDATE CLEANING INSTRUCTIONS. We have a standard document for the cleaners to reference, although they are pretty thorough when they’re here, especially since they’ve been here multiple times before. But we update the document with the dates of the cleaning (if there are multiple), which beds to make up each time, and what date to put on our personal sheets. We also ensure a key is in the lockbox for them or that the electronic door code is set for them. Then we print out a new copy and leave it out for them.
– MAKE IT KID-FRIENDLY. If we have families staying at our place, we try to make it especially kid-friendly. For instance, I’ll display some Bay Area-focused picture books up on top of our playroom bookshelf for little guests to read, or I’ll make sure to have a clean crib duvet & cover available. We have our toys organized in labeled bins, so it’s easy for even guests to put everything back in the right place – it makes it so much easier to find things when we come home!

– UPDATE HOUSE RULES/INSTRUCTIONS. We also have a house manual for guests. We update it if it needs anything (make sure the WiFi password is in there!), and print and laminate it (to keep it in better condition for multiple sets of guests). We include things like how to operate the dishwasher/washing machine/DVD player, where the dish soap is, how to lock one of our doors, etc. We include in our instructions to the cleaners to set out the manual along with a bottle of Trader Joe’s sparkling cider for each set of guests.- UPDATE YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS. We have a list of recommendations for activities, grocery stores, restaurants, etc. that we provide to our guests. They really appreciate that!

– UPDATE CHECK OUT INSTRUCTIONS. On the house manual, we like to have a quick and easy check out procedure so it’s clear what they need to do. We ask our guests to:

  • Remove all the linens and put them in the laundry room
  • Run the dishwasher and wipe down counters
  • Clear out any food they’ve brought in
  • Take out the trash
  • Turn off all lights and lock all doors and windows
Sometimes they forget to do a thing or two, in which case the cleaners take care of it, but most people are respectful and try to help out.

– LOCK GARAGE. We typically leave our car in the garage, and have guests park in the driveway. There are two spots on the driveway, and we hardly ever have bad weather here, so it’s never been a big deal. Guests could access our car from inside the house, but it’s never once been an issue…pretty sure no one is going to steal our 11-year old minivan. ;)- WATER THE PLANTS. If we’re going to be gone a long time, we’ll rehome them with a neighbor or friend.

– CLOSETS. Occasionally, if we’re gone for a longer time or if a guest has requested it, we’ll clear out closet/drawer space, and label which sections are for guests.
– SET OUT TOILETRIES. We like to set out a basket of mini toiletries for our guests, including soap, shampoo, lotion, etc. If there’s anything personal/fancier (razors, loofahs, etc.), I’ll put that away. Otherwise, I leave out our big pump shampoos and such, too, so they can use those if they want, as well.
– MESSAGE GUESTS. We always like to message the guests one last time before arrival to ensure everything is clear. The lockbox instructions are set to go to them automatically through the system, but we like to confirm they have everything they need.
– TURN OFF/PUT AWAY ALL ELECTRONICS. We shut down our desktop computer (it’s password-protected), and store away my (old) laptop, the tablet (if we’re not taking it), and any other small electronics.
1 HOUR BEFORE DEPARTURE (or earlier if you can)
– STORE PERSONAL LINENS. Before leaving, we strip our beds and put all the pretty-much-clean linens (since they were washed the day before) in plastic tubs under our bed, and include in the cleaning instructions that those are the ones that should be put on at the cleaning before our return. That way, we don’t have to do a bunch of laundry just to be able to sleep right when we get home. Also, then we also keep our personal sheets separate from guest sheets, which we prefer. We also put our personal pillows, towels, and duvet cover in there.
– RUN DISHWASHER. We try to run the dishwasher the night before if we can, and hand wash the last few things in the morning. But sometimes we can’t quite do that, in which case we just run it before leaving and make note that the dishes in the dishwasher are clean.
– TAKE OUT TRASH. Again, we try to take out most of the baskets as early as possible and limit ourselves to one basket before leaving, and make sure to take that one out before taking off.
– OPEN BLINDS. It’s always nice to walk into a bright, clean home!
Basically, we try to do as much as we can as early as we can – because there WILL be a bunch of last-minute things to do. We’re inevitably up way later than we’d like the night before a trip, but what do you do? We still feel it’s very worth it when it offsets such a big chunk of our travel costs.
What questions do you have? I’m happy to answer anything I’ve missed!


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