How to automate vacation rental check-in

How to automate vacation rental check-in

For many owners and managers of vacation rentals who run their properties from afar, the smaller details of renting, like handing over keys and checking in and out, can be a headache and cause stress. Even if you want to take care of each guest personally, things like flight delays, heavy traffic, and bad weather can get in the way. Even though these things aren’t anyone’s fault, they can throw off your plans and keep you from being there to greet your guests when they check in.

Instead of worrying about this, make sure you have a system in place to fine-tune your check-in/check-out process and make things easier for you and your guests. No matter what is going on, you can take a few paths. Read on to learn about the different ways you can automate the check-in process for your vacation rental.


Changes as simple as how you lock up your property can make the check-in process ten times easier. Here are some things to think about for automated entry and a smooth switchover.

Option #1: Electronic locks

The electronic lock is another option for owners of vacation rentals who want to speed up check-in. You can replace the deadbolt on your front door with an electronic code lock that lets you get in by punching in a code. Like lock boxes, most electronic locks let you set more than one entry code, so you can make a different code for each new guest.

Overall, electronic locks are a little more expensive than lock boxes, but you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your guests won’t lose your house keys. This will save you from having to call a pricey locksmith at midnight.

Option #2: Smart lock

If you think that electronic locks and lock boxes are a bit old-fashioned, there is a new way to check in that you will love. Smart locks are something new. These smart devices can replace electronic code locks with an electronic system that only lets a verified smartphone into a property when it receives a wireless signal (usually via Bluetooth or WiFi) from that phone.

Whether they replace the handle and bolt like a code lock or are just put on top of the handle, smart locks give you control over who is allowed to get into your property at any given time. This means that you can let a guest in from afar a few hours before check-in to make things easy.

There are many good things about smart locks, but some bad things about putting them on your property. First, you think everyone renting from you will have a smartphone. In reality, guests don’t miss out too much if they don’t have a smartphone. Doors can still be opened with a traditional key or from a distance by the owner, which is helpful if the guest’s phone runs out of power. Even so, there shouldn’t be a problem since there are about 2 billion smartphone users worldwide, and 72% of North Americans have one.

Another problem with installing intelligent locks is that you can only put them on one door. So, if you have a locked gate at the front of your property, you’d have to buy and manage multiple smart locks so that your guests could get into all areas as soon as they check-in.

Option #3: Lockbox

Lockboxes have been around for a long time, and they can be a great way to speed up the check-in process for your guests. You can find simple combination key boxes at most hardware stores, locksmiths, or online. They are a cheap way to ensure your guests get their keys and can get into your rental no matter when they arrive.

Lock boxes are a simple option that can be a lifesaver if you need to check in quickly or in an emergency. Just leave the keys inside and set the combination. Make sure your guests know how to get in.

Among these are:

  • The place where the lockbox is (many owners like to keep them hidden out of sight, for example, behind a wall)
  • How to unlock the box
  • How the two go together
  • How to give back the keys when checking out

You should be able to change the combination on most modern lock boxes between guests, so you don’t have to worry about past renters remembering the code.

Option # 4: Safe key drop

Even though this isn’t as common as lock boxes or electric and smart locks yet, vacation rental owners are slowly but surely becoming more interested in key drops. Services are being made to meet this demand.

These services connect owners and managers of vacation rentals with local places like cafes and shops. This gives owners and managers a safe place close to home to store keys between guests and gives guests a chance to check out the neighborhood.

Option #5: Hire an individual

For vacation rental owners who are very busy, can’t install electronic locks on their homes, or would rather greet their guests in person, the best way to automate the check-in process is to have someone else do it for them.

In every place, there are a lot of property managers who are always looking to add to their portfolios. A property manager can not only take care of how your property is run, but they can also be the friendly face that ensures every check-in and key handoff goes smoothly, even if there are delays.

For hosts who work full-time, hiring someone to help with the check-in process and moving it outside of your home can free up your schedule and save you a lot of time without making you lose the “human” touch.

Option #6: Hire a company

We know what you’re thinking: Why would you want to automate your check-in if you still have to do everything else? You’re in luck because the growth of the vacation rental business has led to several companies that do just this. Busy owners, take note!

Vacation rental concierge services can handle key changes and help you automate check-in. They can also give guests a tour of your home, check for security issues, do laundry, and clean up between guests.

Concierge services can be an excellent option for people who own more than one rental property, especially if they are trying to manage their rentals from afar. Hiring a company also has the added benefit that if anything goes wrong during a guest’s stay, the company’s contractors will take care of it. You’ll just have to pay the bill.

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