TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Print_Logo_COE2014_en_US2014 is the first year that holiday rental properties have been included in the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awards. And it’s all in recognition of your hard work.

The results are in for the cream of the crop, so congratulations to all of you who won – you’ve provided consistently excellent holiday experiences for guests over the past year. Take a look at our champions.

Winners will see a ‘Certificate of Excellence 2014’ stamp on their TripAdvisor and Holiday Lettings listings. You can see an example on Greenbank’s advert, one of our fantastic Yorkshire winners. Here’s proud owner Linda.

Linda. Owner of Greenbank Home 503822

Make sure you’re in the running for 2015

It’s all about the reviews – how many you’ve gained and the ratings you’ve received. Simply collect them from guests every time they check out.

It’s easy to do and it shows you’re committed to providing great holidays.

More about collecting reviews

Getting your certificate

We emailed the winners with all the details and they should have received their certificates by now – read our FAQ if you’re still waiting.

If your certificate got damaged in the post and you’ve contacted us about resending it, you should hopefully receive it next week.

Things to consider when setting your prices

Rowena, Cyprus holiday homeownerWhat do you consider when setting prices for a stay at your holiday rental? Rowena, who owns and runs a holiday home in Cyprus, tells us about how she’s already setting her prices for the 2015 season.

When you factor in the mortgage, maintenance fees, management fees, cleaning and laundry charges, plus electricity and water bills, it can sometimes be difficult to break even and make money from your holiday home. So it’s crucial to set a price that will cover your costs.

It would be great to be able to offer our house at a bargain price, but in reality it’s not possible, and especially in a hot country like Cyprus. Our prices are higher in the summer and this is not because it’s a popular time of year to go, but because the price of running the air conditioning in the hot summer months is extremely expensive – we have to make sure the price we charge covers this additional costs.

Check the competition

We always check to see what prices other people are offering in our area and although we have to ensure we are covering our costs, we also want to be competitive and not price ourselves out of the market. At the same time we don’t want to undervalue our home and guests may question the quality of our property if our prices are too low.

It’s also not always possible, or viable, to match what other people are offering. We had an enquiry last year via Holiday Lettings from a guest. They enquired about our property and another in neighbouring resort in our village at the same time, and told me that (although they preferred the look of our property) the other homeowner had offered them a deal they couldn’t refuse. I weighed up all the factors and came to the conclusion that we just couldn’t match the price they had offered. It wouldn’t cover our costs and, as tempted as I was to reduce the price and secure the off-peak booking, I still believe I made the right decision.

The guest went to Cyprus and viewed our house while they were there. They’ve subsequently stayed with us twice since, as they are regular visitors to Cyprus and much preferred the look of our home. So although we didn’t get that particular reservation, we have as a result got further bookings from them and are still able to cover our costs when we quote.

When are the flights released?

Another point to consider is when to set your prices. Ideally you need to do this as soon as possible as many people like to book in advance.

Next year I have three potential bookings, who are all waiting for the EasyJet flights to be released for 2015. So for me it’s very important to ensure our property has up to date prices when those all-important flights are launched. Plus, at this time we will put some extra effort into advertising and promoting via our social media channels.

What about your prices?

I would be interested to hear how you set prices for your holiday rental and what your reasoning is behind them. 2015 seems a long way off, but in reality it’s just round the corner!

Why updating your calendar is the key to securing bookings

Keep your up to date to avoid disappointing travellersEvery week, we’re contacted by travellers who’ve found their perfect place to book but are worried about the accuracy of the availability calendar. And who can blame them? Booking a holiday is one of the biggest commitments of time and expense people make each year so it’s no surprise that your potential guests want to feel confident that everything is present and correct before booking.

If they can see that the calendar hasn’t been looked at for several weeks, it also raises a question about when the advert was last maintained and no one wants to book a place that has out of date info.

With this in mind, we’ve made a few changes to how your availability is displayed and we’ve got some invaluable tips so travellers feel reassured when booking with you.

What we did:

  • We’ve moved your ‘Calendar last updated’ date to the top of the availability calendar section so it’s more obvious to travellers.
  • The ‘Calendar last updated’ date now also appears next to your name and response rate so browsing travellers can see at a glance when the availability was last looked at. They don’t even need to click on the availability tab to be able to see this.

What you can do:

  • Update your calendar often, ideally every week. Log in and go to Properties > Update calendar. If you’ve got no updates to make, it’s still worth making a small change to the calendar (and then changing it back) so your ‘Calendar last updated’ date is refreshed.
  • If you’re using our online payment platform: don’t rely on our automatic updates, especially out of peak booking season when you might not have confirmed a booking for a while.
  • If you’ve got an annual listing and aren’t using our online booking system, you’ll be solely responsible for updating your calendar so it’s even more important to be logging in often to update.
  • If you need to close your place for refurbishment or maintenance, mark this off your calendar so you don’t have any disappointed holidaymakers on your hands.
  • You’ll soon be able to sync your Holiday Lettings calendar with other calendars you have on the web, making updating multiple calendars at once quick and easy. Go to Properties > Update calendar > Sync with other calendars.

Follow these tips and travellers won’t need to worry when making a booking.

More like this:

How to fill those last minute gaps in your calendar

Fill up your rental calendar with short breaks

Do you know your audience?

From intrepid walkers to loved-up couples, there are many different types of traveller out there, all with their own specific needs. We’ve identified the most common groups to get you thinking about your audience, how you can accommodate them and how to encourage them to book with you, whatever your property type and season.

How romantic is your place?Romantic escapes for couples

Did you know that you can display up to three different price tables on your advert for different group sizes? Even if you normally accept larger groups of four or six, adding a price table for two can increase your bookings. Log in and go to Properties > Update prices to add new tables.

Many couples are flexible and are often happy to travel out of season so encouraging couples to book is a great way to fill off-peak weeks.

More on marketing your home to couples.

familiesFamily fun

Most families will want to get out and about as soon as their holiday starts. Go to Properties > Update location info and write about places of interest nearby on your ad. It’s a good way to remind travellers why your place is great for families and will encourage them to book.

Are you only accepting couples when you’ve got space for more? Investing in a sofa bed and a few z-beds could really widen your audience if you have the space to accept larger families as well as smaller groups.

dogPet friendly

Before agreeing to accept pets into your place, ask yourself: is there adequate outdoor space? Are you prepared for the odd ‘accident’ on your furnishings? Are there places nearby where dog owners will be welcomed?

According to a poll by travelsupermarket.com, two in five Britons now take their pets on holiday so the potential market is definitely out there. Log in and go to Properties > Update description > Suitability to change your pet preferences.

child-friendly-holidaysBaby and toddler safe

Demand for safe holiday homes for babies and toddlers is growing; there are even websites dedicated to helping travellers find suitable places for their little ones. Describe your baby-friendly credentials, such as a cot and highchair, by logging in and going to Properties > Update description.

Child-friendly holidays: are you stocked up?

Hen and stag parties

party

From our experience of talking to owners about accepting stag and hen parties they tell us that, despite their initial concerns, these groups have been some of their most considerate guests and have been a pleasure to host. As more and more hens and stags are taking a break with friends before their big day, accepting hen and stag parties can expand your audience and increase your bookings.

wildlife Walkers and wildlife enthusiasts

It doesn’t matter where your home is, wildlife is all around us. Parks and nature reserves are usually only a short walk/drive away even in busy cities. Photos of the local wildlife and green spaces look great on your advert and help to conjure up the feeling of getting away from it all. You can add photos by logging in and going to Properties > Add/update photos.

quietThe quiet life

Many of us look forward to our holidays simply for some peace and quiet. If your place is in a secluded spot away from traffic noise and pollution, describe its serenity in your advert. Recommend local ‘hidden gems’ including museums and restaurants. These travellers will be looking for places to visit away from the tourist trap. Go to Properties > Update location info to talk about what there is to do nearby.

Top Tips for Discovering Ireland

Ireland post

With endless rolling hills dotted with sheep and any number of medieval castles ready to explore, Ireland is a stunningly beautiful country. Alongside the wonderful scenery, the rich history and the friendly locals make this a great place for a weekend away or family holiday. To ensure you make the most of your time in the Emerald Isle, here are five top tips for visiting the country.

Forget the fancy restaurants. There’s no need to pay over the odds for a meal out when nearly every pub in Ireland sells delicious, home cooked meals. Forget the limp burgers and soggy bread buns that are too common in most pubs in England. Here we’re talking about ground steak hand-pressed into delicious burgers, cooked to perfection and served in fresh rolls straight from the bakery. The chips are made out of potatoes and the onion rings actually have onion in them. It’s simple stuff, but when it’s done properly it can make all the difference.

Be ready to drink. I hate stereotypes but sometimes they exist for a reason. Just like the French love their garlic, the Irish love their alcohol. Guinness is the star of the show, but whatever your poison there’s no excuse not to have a tipple or two, or even three or four. There’s no better way to spend an evening in the Irish countryside than in the local pub with a pint in your hand, especially if there’s a traditional band playing in the background.

Get to know the locals. Irish people are without a doubt some of the loveliest folk you could ever meet. It will never cease to amaze me how friendly and welcoming they can be, whether it’s a stranger saying hello as you pass them in the street or the locals going out of their way to make sure you have the best holiday possible. The pub is probably the best place to meet them, but wherever you are there will be someone who will be more than happy to strike up a conversation.

Make sure you’ve got a car. Unless you’re planning on just staying in Dublin, you’re going to need some wheels. Part of the beauty of the country is the open space and empty fields, but unfortunately that means everything is rather spread out. There are a few trains and buses between the major cities, but that’s as far as it goes when it comes to public transport. It’s not a problem though, as every airport will have a selection of car hire options available and if you’re getting a ferry over from the UK you can bring your own car with you.

Take the scenic route. When I was a kid every holiday to Ireland involved at least one occasion when we got lost on some narrow winding roads or got the car got stuck in a muddy field, but that was all part of the fun. These days the road network has come on quite a bit, but I would still recommend getting off the motorway and taking a detour through the countryside whenever you get the opportunity. Your chances of getting lost might increase, but so do your chances of discovering some unexpected wonder.

Author bio: Catherine is a recent graduate from Yorkshire who is currently making plans and preparations to start a life on the road as a permanent traveler. You can follow her journey from the workplace to the world on Ever Changing Scenery. Alongside the tips for travel preparations and destination guides for several cities and countries, Ever Changing Scenery is full of information about Ireland and great ideas for things to do and places to go in the Emerald Isles.

Online security checklist

Occurrences of fraud on our website are extremely rare, but it’s important to be aware of the risks. The last thing you want is a fraudster (or ‘hacker’) accessing your email account, posing as you and requesting payment from your guests.

So it’s vital to watch out for warning signs of phishing attacks and put some simple security measures in place. Use our security checklist to keep your online accounts safe.

  1. Find out about phishing
  2. Look for signs of a fake enquiry
  3. Protect your email account
  4. Log in to Holiday Lettings regularly
  5. Use different passwords for each online account

1. Find out about phishing

Phishing is the practice of sending emails that appear to be from a trustworthy source to get sensitive information (e.g. login/passwords, credit card details) for fraudulent purposes.

These emails may contain a link directing you to a site that looks like Holiday Lettings, but actually has a slightly altered or misspelt URL (e.g. holidaylettttings.co.uk). You enter your login details and the scammers then know how to access your Holiday Lettings account.

For more information and to report an incidence of fraud, visit the ActionFraud website.

2. Look for signs of a fake enquiry

Holiday Lettings has security systems in place to identify scam emails. However, fraudsters are always inventing new ways to trick us, so it’s important that you’re on the lookout too.

Our top anti-phishing tips:

Tip #1 Only respond to emails that you know are from us

We’ll only ever contact you from email addresses that end in:

  • @e.holidaylettings.co.uk
  • @bm.holidaylettings.co.uk
  • @holidaylettings.co.uk

Here’s an example of a valid enquiry address format: Alison.Jones_290ppkn@bm.holidaylettings.co.uk

Tip #2 Never enter your details on a non-secure website

We never misspell or add words to our core website address. We’ll only ask you to log in to your Holiday Lettings account with a website address starting with:
https://www.holidaylettings.co.uk

The Holiday Lettings login screen

You should be suspicious if:

  • The sender asks you to click on a link that takes you to a website address that doesn’t start with ‘https’, then asks you to enter sensitive information.
  • The sender asks to pay by cheque, sends too much money and asks for a refund of the difference.
  • The sender is overly keen to move the conversation away from our secure Holiday Lettings site.
  • The enquiry is written in poor English and overly formal. (However, please note that you may receive legitimate enquiries from travellers who don’t speak English as their first language.)
  • The enquiry includes a lot of the traveller’s personal circumstances, which are irrelevant.
  • The enquiry is for a noticeably long period of time.
  • The sender wants to pay by Western Union, banker’s draft or cashier’s cheque.
  • The sender asks you to phone them on a premium rate number – often beginning in 09.

3. Protect your email account

  • Think about setting up a designated email address just for enquiries from travellers – your other online accounts won’t be affected if this address is hacked.
  • Some email providers, like Google, have an additional security measure called ‘2-Step verification’. If you access your email account from an unknown device you’ll receive a pin code via text message to complete your login. If a hacker tries to access your account, you’ll be alerted by the text message and the hacker won’t have the code to get any further.
  • Check the settings on your email account to make sure nothing has been changed. Fraudsters often set up redirects on email accounts, which means they could be receiving your enquiries and requesting deposits.

4. Log in to Holiday Lettings regularly

  • Every enquiry you receive will appear in your Holiday Lettings Inbox as well as your personal one. If you notice that any of them haven’t been delivered to your personal email address, contact us immediately.
  • Set up SMS alerts. If you receive a text alert but don’t receive an email enquiry, you’ll know to contact us to investigate (the SMS and the email won’t necessarily arrive together, so please don’t worry if they arrive a few minutes apart).
  • Download the app and make sure push notifications are turned on (do this via the Settings app on your phone).

5. Use different passwords for each online account

This way, even if a hacker gets hold of one password, your other accounts will remain secure. Remember to log out straight away after using any online account.

A good password is:

  • Hard to guess.
  • At least seven characters long including letters (uppercase and lowercase), numerals and, where possible, symbols.
  • Changed regularly.
  • Not stored on your computer or any other electronic device that can access the internet.

We’re here to help

We don’t want you to miss out on any genuine enquiries, so if you receive one that you’re not sure about, just get in touch.

New look Inbox

The art of conversation is important, especially when it comes to securing bookings for your holiday home. Responding quickly can often be the difference between securing a booking or having empty weeks. That’s why we’ve reorganised and highlighted the important bits of your Inbox to make it work even more like a well-oiled machine.

Read on to find out about the new features and log in to see them for yourself.

Easier to view on mobile phones

The new Inbox has been simplified so it works much better on all devices, but especially if you’re using our mobile app.

Your new look Inbox

A smoother booking process

We’ve smoothed out the booking process by leading you through it every step of the way. Whether you’ve received an enquiry or a booking request, we tell you simply what the next step is to progress the booking.

enquiry

New countdown timer

When responding to a booking request, the countdown timer at the top of the page lets you keep track of how long you have to respond. Don’t be beaten by the clock! Find out more about why it’s important to respond quickly.

New BR (2)

You can check the details of your bookings, holiday dates and how much could earn at a glance in Bookings > View your bookings.

Common questions
How do I use my Inbox?
24 hours to respond to enquiries and booking requests
How do I view the conversation between myself and a guest?
What is an enquiry?

Watch our short video
Responding to enquiries with a quote

More like this
The step-by-step guide to securing bookings
Response rate: time for 24 hours

6 holiday homes with hot tubs

There’s nothing like a good soak in the tub to clear the mind and sooth aching muscles. While most of us aren’t lucky enough to have a hot tub sitting in our garden, on holidaylettings.co.uk you’ll find 100s of cottages, lodges and apartments with hot tubs up for grabs.

To kick off your search, here are some fabulous holiday homes with hot tubs.

Where:  Andalucia, Spain

spain

Nestled in the picturesque village of Canar, this light and spacious home boasts traditional features including chestnut beams and slate stone floors. The hot tub is on one of the terraces with spectacular views of the mountain. Chill out in the tub with a good book, an eye on the views and the smell of your lunch coming from the barbecue.

The owners tell us that on a clear day, you can see the Rif Mountains of Morocco! And if you lose track of time relaxing in the hot tub, you can see the village clock tower from here too.

Where: Reykjavik City, Iceland

Iceland

Located in a quiet area of Reykjavik city, the house boasts stylish and unique features including a dedicated “Congac area” (you’re unlikely to find many of those!) The hot tub is heated with spring water to a very cosy 39° – 41° so there’s no need to worry about getting cold when taking a dip on a chilly day.

After a good soak, visit the Viking museum, dine at one of the many traditional Icelandic restaurants and take a walk near the scenic harbour.

Where: Loch-Tay, Scotland

Scotland

If you’re looking for a lodge with a hot tub and a bit of pure escapism, then this is the place for you. With spectacular views across Loch Tay, the lodge is set in an acre of beautiful grounds near a secluded shore and harbour.

Spend the day outside in the hot tub admiring the views, then cosy up inside near the log fire as the light fades over the loch. The lodge is great for walkers, families who just want to relax and couples who’re looking for a romantic retreat.

Where: The Brecon Beacons, Wales

wales

The owners of Ty Peren pride themselves attention to detail throughout this log cabin set on a working farm in the heart of mid Wales. Handmade Tiffany lampshades and original artwork ,picturing local landscapes, adorn the rooms. Sit on the balcony and enjoy a morning cup of coffee. The patio loungers are great for laying back and listening to the birds in full song.

The hot tub is situated in a lovely spot with views of the luscious, green countryside. Far away from light pollution, stargazers will enjoy long evenings unwinding in the hot tub.

Where: Brasov, Romania

romania

If you prefer to soak in the tub indoors, try this recently refurbished apartment located in the heart of the medieval city of Brasov. Sleek and stylish, the apartment is bursting with mod cons including Wi-Fi, flat screen TVs and a dishwasher (ideal when you’re self-catering!).

If you’re looking for an active holiday, there’s plenty on offer here including hiking, skiing, horse riding, climbing and fishing. It makes the Jacuzzi all the more welcoming after a long, busy day.

Where: Newquay, Cornwall

Newquay

If you’re looking for Newquay accommodation with a hot tub, then this cottage just 300 metres from Fistral beach could be for you. Dine al fresco on barbecue food before taking a dip in the hot tub or swim spa with sea views.

The local area is very popular with bird watchers, anglers, picnickers and walkers due to its tranquil and scenic setting. There are plenty of options for eating out too, from sea food restaurants serving up the catch of the day to fine dining experiences.

 

Top-5 Happiest Countries in the world

Collage2

The latest World Happiness Report (2013) has declared Denmark the happiest country in the world, followed by Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands and Sweden (in that order).

Within the last calendar year, I have been lucky enough to travel to all 5 of these countries. At the time, I didn’t know the “official record” that these were the happiest countries in the world. But looking back, it makes perfect sense.

Each and every country is so welcoming that I never wanted to leave. The people are extremely friendly, the economy seems to be just right, and the positive vibes in the air are just too good to be true.

So, why should you add these countries to your travel list?  Read about them below and find out what makes them the Happiest Countries in the world!

1. Denmark

I knew that Denmark was a special place from my first impressions of Copenhagen. Everyone is beautiful and has a giant smile on their face. Copenhagen is one of the most biker-friendly cities in Europe, so I recommend renting a bike ($10USD per day) and roaming around town.

The people are friendly, outgoing and extremely welcoming. No matter where I went around town, I had a positive feeling and I was eager to explore around.

Head over to the Tivoli Gardens or the King’s Garde to get a taste of what I am talking about. Both of these places are so inviting that you can spend an entire day there and never be bored!

2. Norway

It may just be a coincidence, but Norway is the most naturally beautiful country that I’ve ever seen. It would only make sense that the people are just as easy-going and fantastic as the environment.

If you want a natural experience, then I recommend going to a Western city called Bergen. Bergen is the second largest city in Norway, and it is known as the “Gateway to the Fjords,” because many of the Norway’s most spectacular fjords are located in the area.

Everyone that I met there was first to say hello and greet me with a smile. It was one of the happiest trips of my life!

3. Switzerland

Another beautiful country amidst the grand Alps Mountains is Switzerland.

This country is pretty small, so I highly recommend taking a train throughout its entirety. The countryside is hard to beat anywhere in the world. The Swiss landscape is so beautiful that it looks like a drawing out of a Dr. Seuss Book.

Switzerland is not a member of the EU, and just seem to have their own fantasy world compared to the rest of Europe. The people are relaxed, joyful and friendly.

Head over to Interlaken if you want to experience true bliss. It’s sandwiched in between the Alps and 2 giant freshwater lakes. You won’t regret it!

4. Netherlands

The Netherlands is a special place. Of course, the most talked about city is Amsterdam, which is also one of the most visited cities around the world.

The Netherlands, as a whole, is a remarkable place with a thriving culture that is full of life and happiness. Dutch people are just about as kind as they come, and you’ll find that out by every local that you meet.

Amsterdam is another bike-friendly city, so most of the transportation is via bicycle. When I was there, I just lost concept of time and was in complete shock by the beauty around me.

Spend an afternoon in Vondelpark for a picnic and enjoy the incredible atmosphere. On any given nice day, thousands of people will be hanging out and enjoying life to the fullest.

5. Sweden

Sweden is an amazing place. I was lucky enough to go to both Malmo and Stockholm, and it sparked my appetite with the urge to explore more around this beautiful Scandinavian country.

People frequently approached me on the street and asked me if I needed help getting around. It made me feel very welcomed into their country.

I also realized that Sweden is a very accepting society, which has positively shaped their culture to one of the finest in the world. It’s very easy to figure that out just after a few hours of being there.

Stockholm city is really the place to be. It’s the capital city of Sweden and is the place where all the biggest activities are happening. I found lots of relaxing parks around the city that were excellent places to hang out for a few hours.

Author Bio: Owner and founder of www.thehungrypartier.com – Drew Goldberg is a recent college graduate who has visited 43 countries since the beginning of 2012. His favorite things about traveling are eating the local foods, meeting awesome people and experiencing the nightlife scene. Drew is currently teaching English in South Korea and he blogs about food, culture and nightlife at the Hungry Partier. Follow him on Twitter @Drewbinsky7

Help managing cancellations (annual listings)

It’s unfortunate, but sometimes things get in the way to scupper holiday plans and you, or your guest, might have to cancel. If you do, it’s vital that you have a plan in place to make it as pleasant as it possibly can be. After all, your guest might have been looking forward to their stay at your place for weeks!

Read our top tips to help make cancellations as smooth as possible:

  1. Always provide a booking contract that will ensure you and your guest are on the same page should either of you need to cancel. You can use our sample booking contract as a starting point.
  1. Act fast if you need to cancel. The sooner you can let your guests know, the easier it will be for them to make alternative arrangements. Go the extra mile and recommend some alternative places with availability nearby: it will be worth it when they are talking to others about their dealings with you – especially if they’re social media users.
  1. Offer guests an alternative date if possible. They’ll really appreciate that you’re trying to accommodate them and even if they don’t take you up on the offer this time, they’ll be more likely to consider a stay in the future.
  1. If your guest cancels, ask if they know anyone else who may want to stay in their place. You’ll need to alter your booking contract if they take you up on this.
    1. Encourage them to check their travel insurance as – depending on their reasons for cancelling – your guests may be covered by their policy. For instance, circumstances such as flooding, heavy snowfall or illness may all be covered in the policy.
    1. Check to see if you’ve received any other enquiries for the same time period and see if those people are still hunting for a holiday. It’s a great opportunity to offer a discount too as you would with last minute offers.