How A Vacation Rental Home Is Different From A Hotel

What’s the difference between a vacation rental home and a hotel, motel, or resort experience? Ownership, operations, and property accommodations at a vacation rental home all contribute to providing a uniquely different experience than staying in a hotel.

Hatteras Island Hawaii
Left: Ocean View Dr on Hatteras Island, NC – Right: Honolulu, Hawaii

Vacation Rental Property Management & Hotel Operations

Whoever has ownership of the property in the hospitality industry will play a large role in the property’s operations and standardizations. Individual Homeowners own the vacation rental properties. As a result, Guests can expect more variability in the homes they stay in. The privacy and autonomy during the vacation are typically higher in a vacation rental than in a hotel. In return, Owners expect Guests to assume more responsibility for the care of another person’s home. The rooms are all decorated and maintained by an independent homeowner and not typically standardized. Therefore the items in the home, and experiences a Guest has vacationing there, will vary greatly from one home to the next.


Vacation rental homes are all privately owned. Many of the Homeowners do not live close enough to their rental homes to manage it. As a result, these owners will hire a property management company to oversee the reservations and operations during their absence. The homeowners are primarily the ones who do most of the purchasing and maintaining their homes to accommodate their Guests. After all, this is their home. The Owner typically addresses any major home renovation or maintenance needs during the off-season. However, the property management company will address emergency/immediate needs at the property, but the Owner must approve and pay for most of these actions. Many of the house rules, such as pet policies, are set by the homeowner.

Chalkboard Beach House Rules Sign - Digital Wall Art

Hotels, motels, resorts, and other non-vacation rental properties in the hospitality industry are owned and operated by a single company and managed by that same company. The hotel company sets the rules, standardizes operations, and decorates, maintains, and operates its units.

Cleaning Services Operations

Vacation Rentals – The property management company provides routine cleaning services unless the Owner contracts their own private cleaner. The cleaning occurs between Guest stays during change-over days. In addition, it’s the Owner’s choice to provide linens and towels as an amenity to their Guests. If the amenity is not provided, the Guest may request them from the property management company.

Important Note: There are no daily cleaning or turn-down services when staying in a vacation rental home. The home, and its cleaning care, are the Guests’ responsibility for the duration of their stay (this includes laundry, dishes, and trash removal). Guests can review the specific set of check-out instructions before leaving the property for more details.

Cleaning a home

Hotels – In contrast, a hotel will send cleaners to every unit daily unless requested not to by the Guest. The tradeoffs are easy to imagine. Unless told otherwise, someone will be accessing your unit daily at a hotel. In contrast, at a vacation rental, Guests may enjoy more privacy but are responsible for cleaning up any messes that occur during their stay.

Housekeeping Spooky Harry Potter

Guest Communication Procedures

Vacation Rentals – The property management company manages most Guest communications unless the homeowner chooses to leave their contact information for the Guests to use. Preference varies depending on the Owner. Some homes may include Guest Books for Guests to write in. However, Guests are expected to contact their property management company immediately if anything is damaged, there is an emergency, or the property needs immediate attention due to some property-related issue.

Vintage Film Call

Hotels – At a hotel, the staff is on-site 24/7. The building’s front desk staff typically handles the communication. Hotels generally tend to be more hands-on throughout a Guest’s stay, whereas a vacation rental is more hands-off (unless the Guests request something directly).

Mr. Bean Concierge


Vacation Rentals – Vacation rentals are best suited for long vacationing trips. On Hatteras Island, most homes have a minimum stay requirement of 1-week per booking. The exception is if the Owner specifically offers partial stays.

The property provides many necessities to stay in a vacation rental (kitchenware, cleaning items, in-home laundry, games, and amenities). The common areas in a vacation home are for the exclusive private use of the Guest and their party. Condos are the only exception with features such as a community pool, grills, and parking.

Hotels – In a hotel, the common areas are shared with the rest of the hotel units. The stays can be as short as a single night, and the hotel may opt to provide meals such as continental breakfasts. There are typically no in-unit laundry units available, and some, but not all, may have small kitchenettes. These kitchenettes may contain a mini-fridge, a coffee maker, and in some instances, a microwave.

Discover your perfect vacation rental getaway home today!

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Have questions? Our Vacation Specialists are here to assist – 844-814-7456