Whether you’re welcoming people to your home as a host or running a portfolio of properties, one thing is certain: managing a vacation rental business takes a lot of work. Thankfully, vacation rental software is helping hosts and managers operate their businesses successfully with faster processes and less complexity.
Let’s dive into the what, why and how of vacation rental software. Read on as we cover the core features, biggest benefits, your software options, integrations and the questions you should ask before choosing your business’s software system.
What is vacation rental software?
At its core, vacation rental software is any software that helps short-term rental property managers carry out, simplify or optimize their day-to-day operations.
A vacation rental host or manager may use software to help them with tasks such as:
- Managing online bookings
- Listing on multiple distribution channels
- Collecting and handling payments
- Communicating with guests
A key component of many vacation rental software tools is automation. By automating elements of the above tasks (and more), you save time, reduce human error and put more focus on growing your accommodation business — rather than being weighed down by manual processes.
Who needs vacation rental software?
Whether you’re just starting your vacation rental business or looking to grow your existing portfolio of properties, software is available to help you achieve your goals.
Vacation rental owners/hosts
Property owners with one or two vacation rental units may feel able to handle all their reservations manually. Nevertheless, vacation rental software provides invaluable help to smaller operations in many other ways, including:
- Support with pricing.
- Enabling a seamless contactless check-in process.
- Making payment collection easier.
- Getting you set up with a website that drives commission-free bookings.
Guests want to be reassured that their host is available for them even when they’re based remotely. So, the best Airbnb software for property owners should enable you to be a super host, wherever you are.
PMCs (Property Management Companies)
If you’re managing a portfolio of vacation rental properties, you have a higher volume of moving parts to juggle. There are more units, bookings, listings, guests, and cleaning and maintenance tasks to coordinate across properties.
For these reasons, property managers are likely to rely on vacation rental property management software (PMS) that helps them integrate, simplify and automate across their portfolio.
Benefits for all vacation rental software users
Whichever property management model best describes your business, there are clear benefits to using vacation rental software:
1. Save time & create efficiencies
By centralizing and automating multiple tasks with your software, you streamline your day-to-day operations without sacrificing quality.
2. Elevate the guest experience
Using vacation rental software to automate and streamline processes gives you more time to address guests’ needs in the moment. There are also features of certain software systems that are specifically designed to help with your guest engagement and management.
3. Stay competitive
Free up time to focus on strategy! Automating tasks also reduces the risk of human error (e.g. using a channel manager helps prevent accidental overbookings).
4. Grow your business
Using cloud-based software allows you to scale your business with confidence. If you’re eager to expand your portfolio, your software should offer features that help you stay on top of multiple properties and stakeholders. If you’re looking to identify growth opportunities, the right software gives you useful insights through automated reports and analytics.
Types of vacation rental software
Vacation rental software tools can be broken down into two broad categories: all-in-one systems and specialized software.
All-in-one Property Management Systems (PMS)
When people say “vacation rental software”, they usually mean a single software system that integrates and simplifies several elements of vacation rental management. This is often referred to as an ‘all-in-one’ PMS solution or platform.
The all-in-one platform is the preferred option for many vacation rental managers because it offers specific benefits:
- Cost effective – An all-in-one PMS brings together various features in one system, saving you the expense and effort of investing in multiple systems. Similarly, whereas using multiple software products requires you to keep track of costs across varied pricing models and billing cycles, a PMS simplifies things by giving you a single pricing model.
- Ease of use & increased productivity – You don’t want to spend your days glued to a computer screen integrating software and supporting APIs. Thankfully, an all-in-one platform covers most of what you need to run your vacation rental business effectively, with fewer programs to move between and less training required of you and your workforce.
- Compatibility & integration – With an all-in-one platform, you know that the different features you use are going to work well together. For example, if your booking engine and payment processing tools are integrated, you’re able to accept bookings and payments seamlessly. Likewise, direct and OTA (Online Travel Agency) bookings are going to appear on the same booking calendar. More integration means fewer complications.
Specialized vacation rental software
There are also software solutions on the market that specialize in individual aspects of vacation rental property management. For example, there are channel manager products that focus solely on helping you manage your connections to OTAs. Similarly, other solutions focus specifically on certain aspects of your business, like enabling contactless check-in or enhancing your guest management capabilities.
Thankfully, there’s no need to choose between an all-in-one platform and your preferred specialized solutions. A strong all-in-one PMS should integrate with a wide range of partner tools and technologies, connecting your guest and booking data to these solutions in ways that make your job easier. We’ll look in more detail at some of the integrations available later in this article.
Main features of vacation rental software
What you need from your vacation rental software depends on your business. Here is a list of the core features available to help you run your vacation rental’s daily operations more efficiently.
Essential features for any vacation rental owner
Unified and centralized booking calendar
As a vacation rental owner or manager, you need to keep track of all your online bookings, whatever their source. A centralized booking calendar gives you the ability to view and modify all direct and OTA bookings in one place. As a result, you have more control and visibility over your bookings.
We recommend using multiple channels to build your online presence as part of your vacation rental business plan. A channel manager synchronizes your rates and availability across all channels to prevent overbookings. The best channel managers also keep other elements synchronized across your channels automatically, including your policies, content and photos. This gives you more control and means there’s less for you to update manually.
Direct booking website and/or booking engine
Most vacation rental hosts and managers want the ability to take commission-free direct bookings through their own website. Some software providers build customizable ‘instant’ website templates along with an incorporated booking engine that allow you to accept online bookings & collect payments.
Your vacation rental software should give you the ability to automate tasks, thereby streamlining your operations, creating efficiencies and reducing human error. Learn more about the vacation rental automation tools available to short-term rental owners and operators.
Secure payment processing
Security is essential to you and your guests. If your PMS allows you to automate payment collection, make sure it does so with full native Level 1 PCI compliance for total peace of mind.
Being able to manage your vacation rental properties on the go is a must for many hosts and managers. This is especially true for those who manage properties remotely. For this reason, some suppliers offer a mobile app that puts the features of your vacation rental software in the palm of your hand.
Additional features for next-level vacation rental management
Guest engagement features
The guest experience is increasingly seen as the key differentiator for modern vacation rentals and a crucial avenue for success. Specific vacation rental software features allow you to elevate the guest experience by making your service more seamless:
- Answer guests’ needs before they have to ask by automating the sending of personalized communications before, during and after their stay.
- Look for a unified messaging inbox that allows you to reply to messages from popular OTAs like Airbnb and Booking.com via your PMS.
- Collect and handle all your guest reviews in one place to simplify your vacation rental reputation management.
You rely on insights into your business performance to make the right decisions for growth. Some vacation rental software collates data points around KPIs for your business, including insights on revenue, occupancy, average length of stay and booking sources. The best systems then transform that data into easy-to-understand snapshots and informative reports.
A dynamic pricing strategy involves using time-sensitive information and key metrics to update your room rates at short notice. Your vacation rental software may allow you to automate your dynamic pricing strategy and adjust rates instantly according to your pre-defined rules. This helps you to keep revenue and/or occupancy optimized over longer periods.
Features for multi-property managers
Any good, cloud-based vacation rental software is able to scale so that multi-property managers can keep using it as their portfolio grows. The best software also comes with specific features that help with the unique challenges of managing multiple properties, including:
Owner management features
If you manage multiple vacation rental properties on behalf of their owners, look out for owner management features that allow you to:
- Track all booking-related charges that you wish to pass on to property owners.
- Generate an Operational Statement showing all charges, deductions and booking fees for a given accommodation unit, over a defined period.
- Automatically charge management fees, cleaning fees or any other type of fee you want to deduct from booking revenue before sending it to the owner.
A multi-property website allows you to showcase your entire property portfolio. If you find the prospect of developing and maintaining a website yourself daunting, have no fear! Simply choose a PMS that allows you to select from multi-property design templates. It’s a reliable, ready-made solution for showing your properties to the world.
Cleaning and maintenance dashboard
Scheduling cleaning and maintenance tasks may get complicated when you’re doing it for multiple vacation rentals. However, an interactive cleaning dashboard lets you organize housekeeping and maintenance schedules remotely across your portfolio, simplifying the process considerably. Discover more steps to take if you want to ensure smooth vacation rental changeovers.
Learn more about what multi-property managers need to succeed with our guide to effective property portfolio management.
Integrations for your all-in-one vacation rental software
Many specialized tools and technologies can be integrated with the right all-in-one PMS to centralize and enhance your softwares’ capabilities. Here are some of the solutions you may wish to integrate with your PMS.
Adjusting your room rates dynamically is a key way to maximize the revenue from your vacation rental properties. Specialized dynamic pricing software typically analyzes your existing rates and availability via your PMS, then recommends the optimal pricing strategies. These strategies are then seamlessly flowed back to your PMS and updated across your own website and your connected OTAs.
Examples: Pricelabs, RoomPriceGenie
Contactless check-in solutions
Vacation rentals don’t typically have a staffed front desk, so enabling self check-in for guests is a good idea. Whether you use smart locks, lockboxes or physical key collection points to facilitate access, connecting your PMS guest and booking data to your check-in tools allows you to do some or all of the following:
- make online guest registration easier with pre-filled booking information
- collate all necessary paperwork for online check-in and send required info to relevant authorities
- generate and send automatic access codes for guests to open the door of the property on arrival
If you use physical keys for guest entry, consider automatically sending key collection details to guests by connecting your PMS to the right key management provider.
Examples: Duve, Chekin, KeyNest, Operto, Vikey, NUKI, The Keys
Guest support and management tools
Some tools integrate with your PMS to help you enhance your guest engagement and keep visitors satisfied. For example, some solutions enable you to view and respond to guests’ communications via SMS and live chat. Others allow you to provide personalized digital welcome guides for each group of guests. Your PMS can also share direct booking reviews automatically with platforms that use powerful analytics to help identify any causes of dissatisfaction (e.g. a particular room or room type).
Examples: GuestTalk, YourWelcome, GuestRevu, Yaago, Duve
An integration with your PMS enables you to transfer your booking and transactional data direct to your vacation rental accounting software. This saves you hours of copying and pasting accounting entries as well as your invoices.
Examples: Intuit Quickbooks, Xero
Vacation rental insurance providers
Vacation rentals see many visitors come and go, so you want peace of mind whatever happens on the premises. Allowing your PMS bookings to be fully synchronized to your insurance provider software helps by ensuring that insurance is automatically attached to every reservation. Learn more about vacation rental insurance.
Cleaning and maintenance solutions
Ideally, your PMS comes with a solution to coordinate cleaning and maintenance tasks within the platform. However, existing tools automate the scheduling of these tasks. Your PMS typically updates these platforms with your booking and guest data. This enables cleaning jobs to be scheduled and resourced automatically for each booking, as soon as it’s received.
Examples: Turno, PropertyCare
Questions to ask software providers before you sign up
Choosing vacation rental software is a big decision for your business. For this reason, you want to make sure you’re asking the right questions upfront. Get answers to the below questions, as well as any others that are unique to your needs.
What features are integrated in your software?
As we mentioned earlier, the term ‘vacation rental software’ now largely refers to an integrated all-in-one solution. However, it’s crucial you find out what is integrated in the specific platform you’re interested in. Some PMS systems do not have channel managers; others specialize in specific areas such as channel management and offer limited additional features. Identify the features that are must-haves for your business, then see if what you’re being offered matches them.
Do you connect to my preferred channels? How deep are your API integrations?
You want your software to connect to your most popular sources of online bookings. If you don’t have that information, research the most popular channels for your vacation rental type and/or area.
Remember also that the best channel managers update more than rates and availability. They should allow you to keep photos, content, policies and more in sync across channels. This reduces the manual input needed from you while maximizing your control over the connections.
What is your customer service like?
Identify the support that’s available from the software provider. Is there customer training available on top of live customer support? Look for indicators of strong service like a high rating on Trustpilot or other relevant review platforms.
What do you offer outside of your software?
Of course the software should be at the heart of a strong provider’s offering, but it shouldn’t be all they offer! We recommend finding out what else you get from the software provider.
This may include educational resources like ‘how to’ product guides or industry-trend webinars, as well as exclusive programs for customers. For example, eviivo Collective helps to garner free press coverage for eviivo customers with unique and notable properties, including exciting vacation rentals.
Can I book a demo?
This is a crucial question to ask before you make a purchasing decision! It’s very important that you get to view the platform and see its features in action during a live demonstration.
How much does it cost?
Vacation rental software pricing often gets complex, so you’ll want to know the pricing models and options that are available to you upfront. Many PMS providers offer a subscription service to their product. Work out in advance whether you’d prefer to pay monthly or annually, then find out what the provider offers you.
You should also factor in the ongoing cost of any additional charges you will be paying. Aim to get a full picture of all charges, including card transaction and booking processing fees, so you can compare the real cost of different providers’ systems.
How to prepare for (and get started with) your vacation rental software
So you’ve selected your vacation rental software, and you can’t wait to start enjoying the extra efficiencies and seamless integration! Now it’s time to get a few things in order to ensure your set-up goes as smoothly as possible.
Collate your VR information
For the smoothest start with your new software, make sure all the key information for your accommodation is in one place. This includes:
- Property descriptions
- Key information on the local area (things to know and do)
If you’re switching from an existing software provider, you should be able to download all this property info from your current platform.
Get your images organized
Stunning, high-resolution photography is always going to help entice guests to your vacation rentals. Organize your existing images by categorizing them according to room type or feature (‘Double room’, ‘Premium Suite’, ‘Exterior’, etc.). Ideally, you’ll be able to upload your photos with 1 click across all your chosen OTAs once you’re set up on your new PMS.
Choose your channels
Speaking of OTAs, deciding which booking channels you’re going to list on plays a huge part in getting your vacation rentals seen by your target audience. Use our quick OTA options infographic to identify which OTAs may be best for your business.
Think about your pricing
There’s never a bad time to think about your room rates. Before you get set up on your new vacation rental software, consider the pricing strategies you want to implement. Effective strategies help you to maximize occupancy, profit and revenue at different times. Although dynamic pricing tools are available to enhance your pricing automatically, you first want a good foundational knowledge of how to set your rates — and keep them optimized. Download our pricing white paper for a step-by-step guide to setting an effective pricing strategy.
Getting started with vacation rental software may seem overwhelming if you’ve never used a PMS before or are facing an unfamiliar platform. That’s why eviivo offers free onboarding and 1-1 private consultations at your request, so you’re able to make the most of everything our software has to offer.
The Ultimate Guide to Vacation Rental Software 2023
- Vacation rental software helps short-term rental property managers simplify and optimize their day-to-day operations, including managing bookings, listing on distribution channels, handling payments and communicating with guests.
- Vacation rental software benefits owners with one or two rental units as it provides support with other tasks like pricing, contactless check-in, payment collection, and commission-free bookings.
- Property management companies (PMCs) can benefit from property management software (PMS) that helps integrate, simplify, and automate tasks across their portfolio.
- Using software saves time, creates efficiencies and enhances the guest experience. It also helps property managers stay competitive by freeing up more time for strategy.
- An all-in-one PMS that integrates various features is a popular vacation rental software solution as it offers cost-effectiveness, ease of use and built-in compatibility of its various features.
- Specialized vacation rental software solutions focus on specific aspects of property management, such as channel management, dynamic pricing, guest engagement and reporting tools.
- Integration options with vacation rental software include dynamic pricing tools, contactless check-in solutions, guest support and management tools, accounting software, insurance providers and cleaning and maintenance solutions.
- When choosing vacation rental software, consider the features that it centralizes or specializes in, its API integrations with your preferred channels, the provider’s customer service and additional offerings, the pricing models available, and your options to try a demo before purchasing.