What’s your vacation-rental property’s “sleep number.” We’re not talking about a degree of mattress firmness, but about the number of vacationers you can comfortably accommodate—emphasis on comfortably. All too often, we’ve seen owners adopt a “pack ’em in” approach, presumably to maximize their rental income, without giving enough consideration to the quality of the vacation-rental experience they’ll be able to deliver to their guests.

For example, we recently came across a listing with this headline: “Luxurious and Private Mountaintop Retreat. 3 Bedrooms. 2 Bathrooms. Sleeps 14.”

How do they accommodate so many people? Well, let’s see:

  • Bedroom #1: Master Bedroom Suite with King Bed and Attached Bathroom (2 guests)
  • Bedroom #2: Queen Bed + Double Futon (4 guests)
  • Bedroom #3: Two Sets of Bunk Beds (4 guests)
  • Living Room: Two Queen Sleep Sofas (4 guests)

You’ve really got to wonder how much “luxury” and “privacy” these 14 guests will experience with so many people crammed into three bedrooms and sharing two bathrooms, one of which can only be accessed by going through the master bedroom.

And, by the way, what happens when the four guests who’ll be sleeping in the living room want to go to bed, and the rest of the group would like to stay up late talking or watching a movie? And where do those four “sleep-sofa” guests store their clothes and other belongings?

Our recommendation: Reduce the “sleep number” to 8 (2 guests in Bedroom #1, 2 guests in Bedroom #2, and 4 guests in Bedroom #3). Leave the futon and sleep sofas in place, but don’t advertise them as being sleeping spaces.

Pros and Cons of Setting a High Sleep Number

The owner of this property, as well as other owners who take the “pack ’em in” approach, might argue that it makes the property more attractive and affordable because the rental fee is divided among more individuals. They might further argue that this results in more bookings over the course of the year.

That very well may be. But taking this approach is also more likely to attract college kids on spring break or young singles getting together to party. They don’t have much money, and their expectations for accommodations are very low. Most just want a place to crash and play beer pong after a day at the beach or on the slopes. It’s possible that any increased rental income from setting a high maximum occupancy could be eaten up by increased maintenance and repair costs.

The vacation-rental business provides a tent big enough to include every approach. Our own preference is to focus on providing a wonderful vacation-rental experience for our guests. Our property is ideal for a couple and quite nice for a family of four. But we turn down requests from other larger groups, even though, with the addition of a sleep sofa or an air mattress or two, we could theoretically “sleep” more. That is simply not the vacation-rental experience we want to offer.

Factors to Consider When Setting Your Sleep Number

On the other hand, we’re fairly certain that those who take a “high sleep-number” approach would not continue to do so if it didn’t work for them. Should you be tempted to follow suit, please do ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where will your guests store their clothes and other stuff?
  • Are bathrooms equipped with a sufficient number of hooks and towel bars so that guests can hang up their damp towels after taking a shower?
  • Is your water heater capable of providing enough hot water when all your guests want to shower/bathe in succession?
  • How many people can comfortably sit around the dining table?
  • How many cars can you accommodate in your driveway?
  • Large groups (we consider 12 to 14 quite large) often like to party and dance into the night. How’s that going to go over with your neighbors, not to mention the local authorities and zoning board?
  • How much time (and how big a crew) will it take to clean the place, do the laundry, and remake all the beds when you have back-to-back rentals?

We believe in the “Sly and the Family Stone” philosophy of vacation rentals: “Different strokes for different folks” (from Everyday People, 1968, an ideal “soul” addition to your music collection!). Just make sure, if you decide to adopt a high-sleep-number approach for your vacation-rental property, that you have thought through (and come up with good answers to) common-sense questions like these.

Happy Renting,
Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner

Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner are the founders of FullyBookedRentals (www.fullybookedrentals.com), a website focused on helping new and experienced VR owners advertise, market, manage, and make money from their second homes. They also own and operate a very successful vacation-rental property in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (www.buckscountycottage.com).

AuthorAlfred & Emily Glossbrenner